I’ve met with lots of churches over the years to talk about expanding their digital platform. One of the biggest questions I get is: “How can we use Facebook to help our church?”
Like any other communication tool a church uses, from a Sunday bulletin to mailer to a newsletter, a church has to answer one critical question before even getting started utilizing Facebook to help the church:
What is your church’s reason for having a Facebook page?
This seems like a simple enough question, but how leaders answer this question will impact the conscious and subconscious choices your church will make in how this social media platform will get used. Though answers may vary from church to church (and should), let me begin by making a suggested list of goals.
Three valuable social media objectives:
- To communicate timely information to the congregation about events, services, and content.
- To provide a window into the personality of your church to newcomers and outsiders.
- To develop a sense of digital community through the sharing of encouragement, ideas, and content.
If your church simply has the goal of having an active Facebook page “because we want to be relevant,” that page is doomed to be forgotten. Conversely, if your staff and leadership chooses to be intentional about your social media presence with clear goals, Facebook provides unparalleled visibility and instant connection with people inside and outside your church.
In light of the goals stated above, here are the four types of updates your church should post:
- Reminders for events, sign-ups, time-changes, etc.
This is the easiest and most obvious kind of post. Whenever something is happening within the church that people need to know about, inform people about it on Facebook. As opposed to Twitter, Facebook gives you plenty of room to type out any relevant details you need to share.
- Links to content hosted elsewhere.
Share last Sunday’s sermon audio on Facebook. Share a playlist from last weekend’s worship set via Spotify. Link to a pastor’s blog post or an online newsletter. Whenever you have content that you’d like for everyone to engage with, share it on Facebook. Many more people are likely to click a link through social media than in an email. Encourage engagement with the content. Rather than saying, “Listen to the sermon here,” post a quote from the sermon that might invoke a response from your online community.
Pictures trump text, and video trumps pictures. Facebook now has an autoplay feature as well for video–so when people see a video from your church’s page in their feed, it will begin play without them clicking. You’d be surprised how many more views you’ll receive when people don’t have to choose to click! Sharing pictures from events, stories via video, etc, engages your online community in ways that mere text will not.
Facebook is an incredible platform to share love and encouragement. It can be refreshing to people to see things from your church on Facebook that isn’t an ask. You’re not asking them to come to something or give to something. You’re not asking them to watch something or click something. You just want to say something to them; something that encourages them to make it one more day. Let Facebook be one more place where people can say, “My church loves me well and is spurring me on to love and good works!”
If you’re the person in charge of keeping the church Facebook page current, it can be a daunting job. Your personal page gets neglected because you’re fresh out of ideas of things to post. It’s okay. I’ve been there. Keep that list of post types on a little post-it on your desk. When you can’t think of what to post, look at the list and look at your feed. What haven’t you posted lately?
Knowing why your church wants a Facebook page was step one. Step two was determining the types of updates your church should post on Facebook. Step three is taking stock of the following insider tips to make Facebook work for your church.
Here are eight insider tips to maximize your Facebook influence:
- Schedule your posts in advance.
Yep. Schedule them. Why? Because you’ll forget to write them. A meeting will run long or an unexpected phone call will come up. You’ll get tired, or you’ll simply let it slip your mind. Plan a time to write Facebook posts and schedule them in advance. For my business, I use Buffer. It’s a simple tool with free and premium versions that will even follow a predetermined schedule so you don’t even have to pick the times. The free version is more than enough for your church. This doesn’t mean you won’t post in-between your scheduled posts–it simply prevents Facebook page neglect and causes you to be more intentional about the kinds of posts you’re putting up on a regular basis.
- Regulate your posts.
Facebook has its own weird algorithms, and to be honest, I don’t understand them… at all. Here’s what I can tell you, though. Less is more on Facebook. The sweet spot for posting on Facebook seems to be 2-3 posts per day according to research. Don’t share ten things one day and nothing the next three days. Space it out strategically and shoot for 2-3 posts daily. The best times of day for interaction will vary based on your community. One of the benefits of a tool like Buffer is that it will provide analytics on your posts, so you can determine which times of day result in maximum engagement with your church audience.
- Reply, reply, reply.
If someone comments on a photo, reply! If someone shares a post, like it! People want to know that you noticed, and they’re more likely to engage more frequently if anyone seems to care that they commented. Encourage staff to engage, too. However, if they’re an administrator on the page, be sure that they switch to “Posting as (Staff Name),” so it doesn’t look like Reedy Community Church commented six different times!
- Consistent voice.
Speaking of multiple staff being able to post as the organization… keep tabs on this. Staff need to have clear expectations and guidelines set down for what they can and cannot post and when. It’s absolutely helpful to have multiple staffers involved in keeping the Facebook page from getting lonely. However, if three people post on a Thursday morning, Facebook’s algorithms will prevent any of those posts from getting maximum exposure. Use a similar voice, proper grammar, and consistent messaging. Some posters are punctuation abusers (!!!!!!), and some people don’t use the pre-determined terminology (sermon vs. message, worship service vs. Sunday gathering, etc). Be sure anyone with administrator privileges is up-to-date on the standards your church sets.
- Know when to pay.
Having a Facebook page is also having access to a top-notch advertising engine. When your church is about to have its biggest outreach event of the year, pay to promote on Facebook. The cost is minimal, and the payoff is immense. By being smart and specific about targeting your ad, your church can reach people with information about your event via Facebook that you’d have no shot at speaking with through any other medium. For $100 or less, your church can have a very successful Facebook ad campaign. Perhaps more effective than the sidebar ads is promoted posts. Simply take a post about your event that you’ve crafted for your church already, and pay to have it show up in people’s feeds. I wanted to test the effectiveness of promoted posts with my own business. A one-day $5 campaign tripled the post’s reach and more than tripled link clicks. Know when the bang would be worth the buck and don’t be afraid to use Facebook’s advertising power.
- Encourage sharing and inviting.
Your website is still the digital front door for your church. Most people start at your church’s website before choosing to visit. However, more and more people are spending time on your church’s Facebook page before choosing to visit. Understand this and lean into it. Encourage the people at your church to not only like your page, but to share the content, media, and links. Whenever someone tags your church or shares a post, unchurched friends see this and may get excited about what God is doing at your church. Be vocal about asking people to share your church online.
- Press on, and don’t get discouraged.
Facebook has a tab for pages called “Insights.” This will tell you about new page likes, post interactions, page un-likes, and also allows you to compare your page’s performance against similar pages in your area. All of these tools are helpful to give you tips on how to do better and better stewards of your Facebook platform. However, don’t get discouraged. Building an audience on any social media outlet takes time and effort. Just because 500 people attend your church doesn’t mean you’ll have 500 page likes instantly. Do the work faithfully, and the results will come.
- Have the right metrics.
A high number of page likes shouldn’t be the goal. It could be a goal, but it shouldn’t be the top goal. Shoot for higher engagement: more link clicks, more comments, more post likes. Shoot for better engagement: Facebook event RSVP’s getting closer to actual attendance, more registrations, more subscribers to the email newsletter, etc. The effectiveness of social media is not determined by the size of the audience but the participation of the followers.
Know the reasons why your church wants to be on Facebook in the first place. If you don’t know why your church has a page, don’t have a page. It will get neglected. You can say it won’t, but I know it will. I know because I’ve worked with lots of churches with lonely Facebook pages!
Secondly, know the kind of updates your church should be posting. This is half the battle. This will prevent you from sharing horrible Facebook memes and meaningless nothings. Know the post types, and have a point for posting.
Finally, utilize the tips I provided. All of these I’ve learned by making a lot of mistakes and trying to correct them. Side-step the mistakes and utilize these key tips to maximize your church’s influence on Facebook.
This was a church’s guide to Facebook, but hardly comprehensive.
Have a specific question about how your church can grow its social media profile? Did I miss something important? Contact me!