There are a few companies that have sprung up in the last few decades and have dominated their markets. Amazon is one of them. Amazon is now larger than Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, JC Penny, and Sears… combined.1 Facebook stepped in about a decade ago and quickly eclipsed the other social media platforms. Facebook now has 2 billion monthly active users. That’s over a quarter of the world’s population on a platform less than two decades old. As far as financials go, this social media site is worth more than Wal-Mart.2
We share these statistics to show that new doesn’t mean fleeting. The world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailers have far less fiscal value than the largest social platform. Facebook has become just as much a staple in our culture as Wal-Mart.
So, what does Facebook do? Their mission statement puts it this way, “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”3 All of their services hinge on that mission. When you set up a page for your church, you’re acquiring a digital meeting place for your congregation and creating another venue to connect with those outside of the church.
Who Uses Facebook
The Pew Research Center discovered that 68% of all Americans are on Facebook. That means 7 of 10 people in your church and your community are on Facebook, and about half of them check their profiles everyday. The age range for Facebook users is heaviest for 18-29 but followed closely followed by 30-49 year olds (82%, 79% of online adults respectively). Half of all online seniors are also on the platform.4
What to Share
Facebook transcends typical social media categories; the four main types are publishing, commerce, entertainment, and communities. Facebook has all of them. Some churches make the mistake of only creating a group for their church – a community-oriented use – and neglect building a Page (publishing).
“Groups should be decentralized, given to specific leaders of particular groups, but your church’s official Page should be the voice of the church’s leadership to the congregation and the community.”
Groups can be helpful, especially for churches who don’t want to use other third-party platforms for small group and team management, so use them for all they’re worth. Small group leaders, Sunday school teachers, and team leaders can use Facebook groups to get people connected and keep them involved outside of Sunday morning. Small groups can share prayer requests, talk about life issues, and recommend resources – all in a private setting. Teachers can use them as a platform to recap lessons, provide further reading, and link to relevant videos, as well as continue the conversation throughout the week. Facebook Groups are a free option for coordinating volunteers serving in different areas of church ministry; shifts can be covered and updates can be given within a system that people are already using daily.
Groups should be decentralized, given to specific leaders of specific groups, but your church’s official Page should be the voice of the church’s leadership to the congregation and the community. You can think of four post categories for Facebook: text, photo, video, and link.
- Text posts are super simple. They could be long-form messages from the pastor, or quotes related to a sermon or class being taught. Questions also do well to boost engagement and create conversations.
- Photos are a bit more complex, but they also get higher engagement. Photos can be just that, photos, or they can be infographics, memes, gifs, and quote graphics. An eye-catching graphic can be what stops someone from scrolling past your information. Any last minute reminders for events should be in a graphic form, because plain text can drift to the background.
- Video is quickly becoming the most consumed type of content. We’ll have more to say about video in a later post, but Facebook has its own video rules. The first is that videos uploaded straight to Facebook – as opposed to Youtube – get better engagement. The second is that Facebook’s algorithm prefers Facebook live videos, so they’ll get better organic reach.
- Links are great ways to point people to other resources and to specific pages on your church’s website. Articles and videos are the most common referrals for churches, but sign-ups, event info, and sermon links are excellent for inbound traffic.
The drawback of all social media platforms is that they are rented space. Facebook could change their terms of service tomorrow and ban all religious organizations from their platform; or they could decide to start charging for even basic use. They’re great landlords and have never shown any sign of massive terms of service changes, but they’re still landlords.
The second is that we’re bound by the algorithms. The adage, “you have to have money to make money,” applies here, just switch money with attention. This can make it difficult for new accounts to get traction among their followers.
“When Facebook sees that people are interacting with your content, then it ranks higher in their algorithm and more people see it naturally.”
These may seem major, but they doesn’t change how useful Facebook is. It proves that a church’s communication strategy should not be based on a single platform but a combination of several. There really is no concern about Facebook shifting its strategy so drastically that large groups of people are cut out of it, but seeing it as a rental property helps us value our owned goods all the more.
As for the algorithm and getting attention, churches have the benefit of a following that we interact with digitally and physically. We can ask our congregations to turn on post notifications, so they stay “in-the-loop,” but we can also ask a handful of people to share our posts at least once a week. When Facebook sees that people are interacting with your content, then it ranks higher in their algorithm and more people see it naturally.
If you would like us to simplify everything and have us manage your social media accounts, reach out and let us know! You can email us at Chris@1646.media