Justin Waldrop
Mar 26, 2023

Breaking the Filter Bubble

How Nonprofits Can Thrive on Social Media

Nonprofits face unique challenges in leveraging social media for organic community building. The algorithms that power platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have transformed the way content is surfaced to users, making it increasingly difficult for nonprofits to reach new supporters without resorting to paid advertising (Rieder, 2017; Kaplan & Haenlein, 2020). As a result, nonprofits must find innovative ways to break through the “filter bubble” and foster genuine, diverse online communities.

One of the most pressing issues facing nonprofits on social media is the decline in organic reach. A study by HubSpot found that organic reach on Facebook has dropped from 16% in 2012 to about 2% in 2018 for pages with more than 500,000 likes (HubSpot, 2018). As platforms prioritize content that generates high engagement, the algorithm inadvertently creates a “filter bubble” effect, where users are predominantly exposed to content that aligns with their interests and views (Pariser, 2011). Consequently, nonprofits struggle to engage with new and diverse audiences instead of only reaching those who have already expressed interest in similar topics.

To counter the silo effect of social media algorithms, nonprofits must rethink their content creation and community engagement approach. Collaborating with influencers, partner organizations, or other community leaders can expand their reach and diversify the audience that interacts with their content (Aaker & Chang, 2010). Furthermore, engaging in meaningful conversations with supporters and using audience insights to create content that resonates can help increase the likelihood of content being shared organically, thereby increasing its reach (Waters, 2017).

Another strategy for fostering organic growth is leveraging platform-specific features like Facebook Groups, Instagram Stories, and Twitter Chats to encourage discussions, share updates, and engage supporters in real-time (Obar, 2014). Additionally, creating interactive content, like polls, quizzes, or challenges, can help increase engagement and organic reach (Waters, 2017).

User-generated content also presents a powerful opportunity for nonprofits to break through the filter bubble. By encouraging supporters to create and share their content related to the nonprofit’s mission, organizations can tap into the organic reach of their supporters’ networks and foster a sense of community (Mansfield, 2012). As content shared by friends and family members may be more likely to be shown in users’ feeds, user-generated content can help circumvent the constraints imposed by algorithms (Pariser, 2011).

Finally, nonprofits must stay informed about changes to social media algorithms and adapt their strategies accordingly to maintain visibility and reach (Kanter & Fine, 2010). Diversifying their social media presence across multiple platforms can help nonprofits mitigate the risks associated with algorithm changes and expand their audience (Stengel, 2019).

The current social media landscape presents both challenges and opportunities for nonprofits. By adopting innovative approaches and remaining agile in the face of algorithmic shifts, nonprofits can continue to foster genuine, organic community building and drive meaningful change in the digital age.

In conclusion, the nonprofit sector must navigate the complex world of social media algorithms to build genuine, organic communities that support their missions. By employing innovative strategies, such as partnering with influencers, leveraging platform-specific features, and encouraging user-generated content, nonprofits can overcome the challenges posed by the filter bubble and declining organic reach. As social media continues to evolve, nonprofits must stay agile and informed about platform changes in order to adapt their strategies and maintain visibility among their supporters. By embracing these approaches, nonprofits can harness the power of social media to drive meaningful change and create lasting impact in the digital age.


Aaker, J., & Chang, V. (2010). Dragonfly Effect Workbook: The Power of Stories. Retrieved from http://dragonflyeffect.com/blog/resources/workbook/

HubSpot. (2018). The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2021. Retrieved from https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics

Kanter, B., & Fine, A. H. (2010). The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change. John Wiley & Sons.

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2020). Rulers of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of artificial intelligence. Business Horizons, 63(1), 37-50.

Mansfield, H. (2012). Social Media for Social Good: A How-to Guide for Nonprofits. McGraw Hill Professional.

Obar, J. A. (2014). Citizen and stakeholder participation in social media-enabled governance. In Social Media, Politics and the State (pp. 177-202). Routledge.

Pariser, E. (2011). The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You. Penguin UK.

Rieder, B. (2017). Scrutinizing an algorithmic technique: The Bayes classifier as interested reading of reality. Information, Communication & Society, 20(1), 100-117.

Stengel, M. (2019). Social Media for Nonprofits: A Comprehensive Guide. Wild Apricot Blog. Retrieved from https://www.wildapricot.com/blogs/newsblog/2019/03/26/nonprofit-social-media

Waters, R. D. (2017). Social media planning and evaluation for nonprofits. In R. D. Waters (Ed.), Public Relations for Nonprofits: Key Concepts and Cases. Routledge.

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