Charities are being urged to take advantage of the marketing and communications opportunities available through Facebook’s recently launched video chat offering
At the end of April, Facebook launched Facebook Messenger Rooms in response to increasing demand for free video chat amid COVID-19 lockdown.
The video conferencing tool is free to use, on both desktop and mobile, and is being marketed by Facebook as an alternative to other video chat tools. Most notably it has been set up as a free alternative to Zoom, which has a time limit on calls of more than two people for those that are not subscribers.
On Facebook Messenger Rooms, up to 50 people can use the room at one time.
This new tool presents charities with significant opportunities around their marketing and communications with supporters, donors and volunteers.
It also offers another video meeting option for home working charity staff amid COVID-19 lockdown.
Firstly, with such a recent offering, it makes sense to briefly outline how it works.
On desktop, any charity worker can set up a Facebook messenger room by clicking on the ‘create room’ function when creating a post. There you can name the room and choose who to invite. This offers the option to invite specific friends, such as other charity workers or supporters. It also offers the option of inviting all friends to dip in.
Further options include scheduling a time for the call or starting straight away. Further people can be invited and the link can be shared.
On mobile, the process is very similar, with ‘create a room’ options available on both the Facebook and Facebook Messenger apps.
This Youtube video by digital marketing expert Ali Mirza offers a good and accessible quick guide to using Facebook Messenger Rooms.
In addition, Messenger Rooms have also been created via Facebook-owned Instagram, as part of the tool’s rollout. This offers further accessibility for users around the rooms.
One use of Facebook Messenger Rooms for charities amid COVID-19 is to communicate with supporters and volunteers who are mobilising frontline services. Many charities are already using video chat and conferencing tools in this way.
A recent example is Cornwall based GROWing Links, which is using social media to get food to those in need through its Street Food Project. Zoom, Skype and HouseParty are already used by the charity and now similar projects can add Facebook Messenger Rooms to their online marketing and communications strategies.
Charities can also use Facebook Messenger Rooms for staging support and fundraising events as an alternative to Zoom. Already a number of charities are pivoting such events and support online, such as Migrateful’s Zoom cookery classes that are led by refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.
In addition, there are marketing, communications and support opportunities for charities looking to target older supporters, who are more likely to use Facebook than a younger audience.
As of April 2020 the largest age groups using the social media platform in the UK were 25-54-year-olds. Facebook is more popular among these groups than among 18-24-year-olds.
It is also worth noting that around one in ten of those over 55 in the UK use the platform. Worldwide the 55+ and over 65+ age groups are twice as likely to use Facebook than Instagram.
To help charities better understand how to use digital to support and target older people a raft of resources have been made available. This includes Age UK’s free technology guides as well as support from charities such as Help Hub, which offers free sessions for older people, including how to use video chat.
While Zoom has dominated the video chat room market during the COVID-19 outbreak, the platform has also been subject to concerns around security. It is worth noting that action has since been taken by Zoom to tighten up its processes and prevent breaches.
With this security debate in mind, Facebook has sought to allay such concerns with its Messenger Rooms.
Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, Policy says: “We built Rooms with privacy in mind and designed controls to let you manage your experience”.
This includes offering the option to lock or unlock rooms once a call begins. This means no one else can join. Unwanted participants can also be removed. Anyone feeling unsafe can leave at any point, even if the room is ‘locked’.
Those taking part can also report violations of Facebook’s community standards. Users can also block people that have a history of trolling or bothering a charity.
Charities are urged to familiarise themselves with these security functions to ensure they and their call participants are safe.
Zoom and Microsoft Teams are already being used widely by charities to communicate with staff and supporters alike. The free Facebook Messenger Rooms, with its focus on security and user-friendly functions, looks to be another vital tool for charities’ marketing and communications toolkit.