Sohini Baliga posed an excellent question in a social media session at Nonprofit 2.0: how hard would it be for you if Facebook went away tomorrow? In that context, “you” meant “your nonprofit,” but we can extend the question to cover corporate brands, political campaigns and anyone else trying to persuade or inform the public.
Facebook’s unlikely to evaporate anytime soon, of course. But, the question’s a good way to estimate how vulnerable you are to future changes along the lines of the recent algorithm evolution that’s crippled the reach of most pages unless they pay to “boost” their content. If Facebook disappeared/raised rates, many groups wouldn’t suffer much at all, since Facebook (and perhaps the social web entirely) isn’t essential to what they do. But some advocacy campaigns aren’t really much more than a Facebook page, making them highly vulnerable to the company’s future attempts to please shareholders with higher revenue.
The natural remedy? Diversify your communications channels, and move supporters onto ones you control (like your email list) as often as you can. Still, most campaigns and brands can’t affort to ignore Facebook entirely, particularly since it’s becoming many communicators’ de facto mobile channel (more on that soon). In some sense, Facebook’s steady extension of the pay-to-play model is analogous to a natural disasters: you can’t completely avoid either, but you CAN act preemptively to mitigate the worst of the damage. How’s THAT for an inspiring take on the power of social media to transform the world!
As for how we’d be hurt personally as people rather than organizations if Facebook went away? Many of us, a lot — a development with real cultural consequences. Chew on that while you’re uploading 4th of July fireworks photos next week.
While we’d all cheer and cry at the same time, the key lesson is that you should never put all your eggs into one social media basket. These are Other Peoples Property. And while I am down with OPP, I always hedge my bets.
You have to build channels on socnets where your audiences live in order to be effective at outreach. That said, your audience is probably on at least 2 or 3 of the big socnets (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+), so you should be there. If Facebook goes away, then you have the others still available.
Also, the general strategy for outreach on all of these socnets is essentially the same (keep your message visible, correct opposition message and recruit supporters). While the tactics vary from socnet to socnet, if one goes away and another rises up, you should be able to make the transition (even if you have to rebuild your audience).
Fortunately, if you had an engaged audience on Facebook and it went away, a lot of those people will come looking for you on other networks. That helps, as long as you are ready to be found there.