mobile phone with facebook app displayed and scrabble pieces spelling out social media

Photo by William Iven @firmbee

At the beginning of 2018 Facebook announced one of its biggest changes to date – a move towards making the platform ‘more about connecting you to the stories and people that matter most’ – in other words Facebook is going back to basics.


The changes

These changes are part of a wider trend towards ranking the interactions we have in our day-to-day lives, whether ‘IRL’, or those that take place online.  As the ways we interact continue to multiply and evolve, we can’t give them all equal attention – there are only so many hours in a day – and so we prioritise. Scrolling through newsfeeds full of adverts, soundbites and video clips before we reach something personal to us means we’re getting less, emotionally at least, from our interaction with that platform.

Public content – anything from businesses, organisations, brands and media – is to be deprioritised on Facebook. Content which does make it through will need to ‘encourage meaningful interactions between people’.

So what does this mean for charities, and the wider sector in general? Well, as some have already proclaimed – this is actually great news for non-profits – and the more local the charity is, the better.


The ‘local’ formula

When deciding how ‘local’ a post is and which of its users to show it to, Facebook will ask two simple questions to determine where to place it in the newsfeed:

  1. Is this domain local?
  2. Is this domain a news source?

Facebook will work out if your domain is local by looking to see where your followers come from – if your organisation is based in the same area as the majority of your followers or ‘readers’, then it is considered ‘local’ to them. 

Secondly, Facebook looks to see if your domain is considered a ‘news source’. They use a variety of ‘signals’ to check if your domain is a trustworthy news source – again, the key here is local – are you posting about local events, or interacting with local organisations? Do local people share your posts? Perhaps you write a neighbourhood blog? All of these ‘signals’ help Facebook recognise that your domain is a ‘local publisher’ within your community. 

Once Facebook has assessed whether you are a local domain and a news source, they use a simple formula to determine where your post will appear in your followers’ newsfeeds:

Local news + news source = local publisher

So the more local you appear to Facebook, the higher your newsfeed priority and the more coverage you get in your community’s newsfeeds. 

This presents a great opportunity for local organisations, as the majority of their content is designed to connect people and communities.


So how do you make it work for you?

Now is the perfect time to make sure your Facebook activity is as local as possible. Here are four ways to start thinking local:

  • Show your connections to the local area and local organisations – how many local organisations do you follow? Are you following local news sources such as the local paper or radio station?
  • Give the stories you share a human interest angle – this is second nature to most local charities – emphasise how the work you do changes people’s lives on an individual level, and get local people to sing your praises, (and share your content!)
  • Boost your interaction with your followers and readers – it’s worth having a look at your Insights tab and asking yourself which posts attracted the most comments, likes or shares. What was it about these posts that sparked people’s interest? You can use this information to create more meaningful posts in future.
  • Consider the ways you currently share local news – are you sharing posts from other local organisations, or do you act as your own news source? You might want to consider starting a neighbourhood or community blog on local news and events to strengthen your profile as a community news source.

Working through these steps should provide a quick audit of your current Facebook activity and help you to ensure that it is as local as possible going forward.


The future is local

The trend towards local news looks set to get bigger – Facebook is currently testing a new tool called ‘Today In’ which is a section users can click on to find local news, events, and announcements. Currently it is being trialled in several US cities, but there are plans to expand this feature over the coming months.

How these changes will play out remains to be seen, but this does present a great opportunity for local charities to boost their social profile on Facebook – so why not get started today?!