In churches I’ve worked with as a social media consultant, I’ve come across some consistent misunderstandings about Facebook. They know they’re missing out if their church doesn’t have a page, but they don’t really understand what they’re supposed to be getting out of it.
I’ve seen megachurches which want to give the management of their Facebook presence to the part-time person running the reception desk. Why? A lot of it stems from the fact that, because we all have our own personal Facebook profiles, we assume the content of our Facebook pages requires the same (tiny) amount of forethought and strategy.
Unlocking Facebook’s Potential for Your Church
Imagine if you could hang out every day with the people of your congregation—and their friends. You could tell them what you’re up to, get to know them better, and discover more about them and their passions. What church would pass up that opportunity?
That’s exactly the potential that Facebook offers. Over one billion people log into Facebook every day, and the average American is logged in for 40 minutes. You quite literally speak to the people you want to reach every day.
Nearly everyone in your church has a Facebook account, and so do their friends and families. This provides you with an unprecedented opportunity.
Rediscovering Facebook’s Purpose
To discover what Facebook really has to offer your church, you need to come to the platform on its own terms. Simply put, Facebook is a marketing tool. And until churches learn to approach Facebook that way, they won’t be able to tap into all of its benefits.
If you just had a negative internal response to the word “marketing,” don’t worry! I’m not advocating marketing the gospel. I’m simply saying that if you want to get the most out of Facebook, you’re going to have to understand how it works as a marketing platform.
So, here are 10 suggestions, tips, and reminders for getting the most out of your church’s Facebook page:
1. Figure out what makes you unique
You’re not the only church on Facebook. In fact, you’re not the only church that most of your congregation follows. It’s important that you are bringing meaningful and valuable content to the people who “like” your page.
When churches decide to take Facebook seriously, they’ll start looking at what successful churches are doing and emulate them. They’ll read blog posts on how to run a popular church Facebook page and run their pages accordingly.
But here’s the catch: Other churches are reading the same articles, and eventually all church Facebook pages start looking the same.
It’s good to know what is working for other churches, but the hard work is you figuring out ways to put your own distinct spin on it. When it comes to social media, predictability is nearly unforgivable.
Coming up with your own unique voice and strategy represents the lion’s share of the work in cutting through Facebook’s noise. Don’t skirt this important step.
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2. Remember that nobody is visiting your Facebook page
As of 2013, the average US Facebook user likes 70 pages. Beyond that first visit when they liked your page, most Facebook users don’t come back. In fact, you can like pages from shares and promoted posts, so some people who have liked your page will have never visited.
It’s important not to think of your page as a destination. While you might want to have some information accessible (address and service times, for example) for people who are new to the area and are looking up your church’s Facebook page, your real goal is to send people to your website where they can really get to know your church.
When it comes to Facebook, you’re going to need to figure out how to get your message to them and not expect them to come to you.
3. You’re going to have to spend some money
There was a time when a page’s posts were seen organically by nearly everyone who followed it. That’s not the case any longer. Every time you post an update, it is seen by about 2–3 percent of your fans.
Facebook has ratcheted down the organic reach of pages because they expect pages to pay for the privilege of reaching their followers. The nice thing is that it’s not too expensive. For five bucks, you can reach upwards of 2,000–6,000 people, and you have some control over who they are.
You can target your fans and their friends, people by interest, or locations within miles of your church. It’d be difficult to find another way to get the kind of marketing return for the money you spend on promoting your content on Facebook.
4. You can retarget people from your website
With a simple code that you can copy and paste into your website, you can retarget people who have visited your site. When they open your webpage, Facebook is sent information about their browsing session—including the pages they’ve looked at.
You can create rules around their behavior and retarget them later. You can target everyone who visits your Christmas page or create a rule for people who have visited both your “about” and “beliefs” pages.
Imagine the ways you could reach out to people with custom content based on the pages they looked at on your website! The potential is virtually unlimited.
5. Forget about going viral
The worst ROI that I could imagine would be churches spending their limited time and resources on trying to create viral content. Despite the fact that you can find many “How to do social media for churches” blogs that suggest creating viral content, you’re going to get a much greater return by creating interesting, unique content which you pay to target to your ideal audience.
Your priority isn’t to create easily consumable content that can appeal to people 1,000 miles away from you. It’s to systematically and regularly speak to the people who could benefit from getting to know your ministry better.
6. Take advantage of events
Quite honestly, events are Facebook’s secret weapon. While they can be overused and annoying, they can be quite effective for important, high-profile events. You can invite your congregation, and they can invite their friends, and you don’t have to pay to reach everyone who is invited to an event (don’t abuse that fact, though).
Use them for special services like Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas Eve, and train your congregation to use them for special occasions like baptisms, child dedications, and catechisms.
7. Don’t just talk about you
It’s a mistake to use your church’s social media channels to simply talk about what you’re doing, what you believe, and what’s coming up. It’s important to use your channel to tell stories about your congregation, to share (when appropriate) prayer requests and significant life updates.
Not only does it communicate that you’re a community, but it becomes a touchpoint for the families of people discussed in the story or update. People are genuinely more intrigued and moved by stories that contain human interest elements than by impersonal news and updates.
8. Christians aren’t the only ones watching
Even in your best attempts at targeting, you can’t control where your content goes on Facebook. That’s generally a good thing because it means likes, shares, and engagement can take your content further than it can get on its own.
So you need to remember that you’re casting a wide net, and that net doesn’t include people who already think like you or understand a lot of the language you might use. As you create your content, look at it through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know anything about Christianity—and don’t take anything for granted.
They might not understand words like baptism, Good Friday, or fellowship. Think about the best way to say stuff so that when others see it, they might be intrigued, too!
9. Use Facebook for research
A fantastic way to use Facebook is for research. Planning out your sermon series for the year? Spend some money asking people in your town what kinds of concerns or thoughts they’d like to hear addressed from the pulpit. Thinking about outreach ideas? Ask people in your community what issues and services that think could be more helpful.
This is a nice way to keep your finger on the pulse of your community and to generate interest in what your church is doing. Don’t simply use Facebook as a megaphone when you could also be using it as a telephone.
10. Capitalize on your Facebook insights
Facebook is the ideal place for pictures and videos. It seems that videos have a better organic reach, but the time and effort spent creating them can be a bit prohibitive. So, instead of investing in videos, a lot of churches will focus on images.
But did you know that Facebook insights will give you an incredible amount of usable info about your content? You can see the reach you’re getting both organically and paid for from your videos. You can even find out how specific videos are performing. Do people drop out after 45 seconds? You can go back and figure out where you’re losing people and capitalize on that for your next video.
The level of information that Facebook supplies you about the types of content you produce and the people who consume it is incredibly helpful and valuable—and they want it to be. The better you know what kind of content is working and how to improve it, the more you’ll use their platform. It’s a win/win.
With insights, you can get a better understanding of your likes and unlikes, your reach, pageviews, and so much more. If you invested in someone to spend time looking at the info in insights and comparing it to the content you’re creating, you could be creating better and better content in no time!
Putting Facebook to Work for You
There’s no question that Facebook provides opportunities to look at community, engagement, and outreach differently. When you spend some time understanding how Facebook works, and why it presents information in the way that it does, you can really begin to create a strategy that leverages Facebook’s strengths and puts them to work for your church!
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