Can Memes for Good Work for your Nonprofit's Content Strategy? Not on Facebook! | Beth's Blog

Can Memes for Good Work for your Nonprofit’s Content Strategy? Not on Facebook!

Digital Strategy

This “Keep Calm and Shine On” t-shirt is a riff on the popular “Keep Calm and Carry On” meme used by Autism Speaks to help promote the annual World Autism Awareness Day.

The California Coverage and Health Initiative used this variation to promote enrolling in health care coverage as of October 1st.

And the American Society of Civil Engineers used it to promote the profession.

Many charities are often stretch to find the time and resources to feed the content beast and riffing on popular memes can an efficient and effective way to create content, especially with the plethora of  free “meme creators“available

But if  Autism Speaks  or any of the other countless charities continue to use twist popular memes to support their good causes on Facebook,  they be punished for using “crappy memes.” Last month Facebook made some algorithm change for Pages that gives more visibility to timely, relevant, sharable content from trusted sources and punishes Pages that ask people to Like their posts or that post “low-quality” memes.

In this TechCrunch post, it explains how the Facebook newsfeed is changing for brands.  Facebook did research of users to find out what would make a page worth seeing in its newsfeed.  Facebook integrated this user feedback into its computer generated algorithm that identifies high- and low-quality posts, and places the best ones higher in the feed.   The most important thing for Pages to know about the change is that posting popular memes with overlaid text on images might not be the best strategy going forward.

According to the post that quotes Facebook officials,  pages that would most likely suffer are those that exclusively post low quality content such as “like this” content or memes.    But the rewards are higher for those pages that post high quality content.

But it is Facebook’s role to judge what is or isn’t good quality content?   In this opinion piece from Convince and Convert, author Brian Carter lays out a good argument against Facebook using an automated method to curate (or censor) content in people’s news feeds.    He says, “The newsfeed algorithm’s job is to surface what people interact with, thus improving the quality of their feed. Now, Facebook is saying you’re wrong. ‘You are too stupid to recognize quality posts. Even though you interact with these memes, we’ll help you be more sophisticated by not showing them to you.’

He also goes on to make the point that this Facebook changes punishes small businesses (he could also insert nonprofits) – “Many companies, especially small ones, are at a disadvantage in this new world of publishing interesting content EVERY day.   How does the understaffed, undertrained, and underfunded small business create something new and effective every day?”

He also takes Facebook to task for not defining what content is and that makes this a slippery slope.

More analysis of the Facebook changes from Mari Smith.

What do you think of this Facebook change?  What is the impact on your nonprofit’s content strategy?




8 Responses

  1. Joseph Gunn says:

    Glad to see you chimed in on this. I really want to know more specifically how this algorithm works. Is it really sophisticated enough to only affect “low quality” memes like lolcats or will it affect all images with any text overlay? Where exactly does Facebook draw the line between low quality and high quality memes? There is a vast difference between lolcats and say a picture of MLK Jr. with the quote “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Again, I am not yet convinced that this algorithm won’t mistakenly reduce the visibility of content people want to see.

    I worry that some of the inspirational and informational images from orgs like Outdoor Nation whose mission is to inspire people to get outdoors will increasingly disappear from the timeline.

  2. I really enjoyed this post, and the way you used Memes as an example. In general, I can see both a positive and negative side to Facebook determining the quality of posts. By working with local nonprofits, I’ve experienced first hand how some smaller organizations with less volunteers and members are pressed for time and are unable to consistently create “high-quality” content for their websites and social media platforms on a consistent basis. For example, this local nonprofit, Monongalia Arts Center (, has over 700 likes, but only 18 people are talking about it. Does this mean their posts are low-quality? Just scanning their post, they post often, and try and engage users as much as possible. I doubt they show up in the News Feed as often as larger art nonprofit organizations though. On the other hand, this updated Facebook algorithm news feed challenges smaller organizations to push the creative envelope and produce high-quality content all of the time, even if it’s less frequently. The more nonprofits are forced to be innovate and produce higher quality content, the easier it’s going to become for them. I don’t directly work with a nonprofit currently, but I think a good start would be a brainstorming or “plussing” session on how to improve content quality and how to divide responsibility so that everyone is involved in making sure the organization has the best social media practices possible. That’s easier said than done, but I think it’s worth the effort.

    Whitney Godwin


  4. […] to a blog by Beth Kanter, Facebook recently updated their news feed algorithm ranking. Facebook says it’s a movement to […]

  5. […] This "Keep Calm and Shine On" t-shirt is a riff on the popular "Keep Calm and Carry On" meme used by Autism Speaks to help promote the annual World Autism Awareness Day.  […]

  6. […] and still produce high quality content. For example, Beth Kanter goes into detail in her Blog, “Can Memes for Good Work for your Nonprofit’s Content Strategy? Not on Facebook” goes into great detail about how Facebook is changing its News Feed Algorithm and how it can […]

  7. […] This Keep Calm and Shine On t-shirt is a riff on the popular Keep Calm and Carry On meme used by Autism Speaks to help promote the annual World Autism.  […]

  8. […] Post: Can Memes for Good Work for your Nonprofit’s Content Strategy? Not on Facebook! – This “Keep Calm and Shine On” t-shirt is a riff on the popular “Keep Calm and Carry On” […]