Often congregations will say, we’ve got a Facebook page but it doesn’t do us any good. Just having a page or merely posting information about your congregation’s programs or worship times assumes that people will come to your page to find out about you. While that may have be true of the Yellow Pages, and it is somewhat true for your congregation’s website, Facebook is a “social network” and it requires interactivity for it’s effectiveness. Building a relationship is what Facebook is about, not broadcasting information.
So, how does a congregation build a relationship on Facebook?
- Post regularly … every time you post something to you’re your congregation’s wall it gets “pushed” to the newsfeeds of those who have “liked” you. But, the newsfeed is very crowded, and yesterday’s or this morning’s posts are quickly buried and not seen anymore. Plan posts throughout the week (at least one per day for even the smallest of congregations). Use a tool such as Hootsuite (Hootsuite.com) to schedule your posts.
- Post links to interesting and related articles, photos or videos. Don’t just share what’s going on at your church. Sharing news of other congregations, the presbytery, pastors of neighboring congregations, the local food pantry, or other missions, etc. is a great way to stay connected and show how involved your congregation is in the larger Church. It also keeps your congregation’s page active and shows you are a congregation with vitality and effective mission.
- Comment on posts and on other people’s walls. When someone posts on your wall or comments on your post, be sure to respond. It doesn’t have to be long or deep, a mere “thanks for sharing” goes a long way to build community. Stay positive in your comments … particularly if someone says something that seems like a complaint, don’t get defensive, but that them for their input and give more information if it’s needed. Commenting on other people’s status, particularly if they mention the church or people associated with the church, is also very important.
- Ask questions. Questions encourage people to share their thoughts. Asking a question like “what are you thankful for today?” or “what are your favorite advent traditions?” or “do you say grace before meals with your kids? “ is a great way to start building conversation and dialogue. Try to make the questions relate to what’s going on in the life of the congregation.
- Take polls/surveys or quizzes. There are polling apps you can put on your page, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated. You might ask for people to post their favorite hymns or praise songs in a comment. Tell them that the top four hymns or praise songs that get the most “likes” will be used during worship next month. You might also ask trivia questions about the congregation or theology or the Bible …. The first one to comment with the correct answer could get a free download from iTunes of their favorite Christian song. Use your imagination … look to see what other organizations are doing to build traffic and interest in their page.
- Encourage people to post photos or videos. Whenever the church has an event, encourage people there to take pictures and post them to the congregation’s Facebook page … or post to their own profile and “tag” the church in them.
- Create events. Use the event app to create events for your congregation. They could be “real” events like the hanging of the greens special service or “virtual” like a day of prayer for the congregation, or season of giving, etc. Be sure to invite people to the events, and to encourage others to invite their friends!
- Think about your Facebook page as “being” church, not just getting people to “come to” church. Create an event for a “virtual” Bible Study. Use the page to encourage prayer and reaching out to those in need. Consider everyone who “likes” your page or sees you on Facebook as a child of God.
- Plan Facebook “campaigns.” Plan times of the year when you’re going to have specific goals for Facebook. Use the themes of worship seasons or preaching series to plan your campaigns. Goals could be to increase our “likes” by a certain number, or to post and comment every day.
- Yes, it takes time. Some Social Media experts have given the rule of thumb of an hour a day for building your social network effectively. I don’t think most congregations will need to spend that much time, but 30 minutes three or four times a week seems reasonable for even the smallest of congregations. Building relationships take time, making friends takes time and energy in real life as well as on Facebook. But, once those relationships are formed, they are valuable. We don’t witness the love and compassion of Jesus Christ through ads or marketing, but we can be great and powerful witnesses through relationships.
I put the packet “Your Church and Facebook” together to help congregations learn to use social media. The packet has this article in it as well as including information on how to create and build a Facebook page, etc.