“Vary what you post: interesting blog posts about faith and spiritual growth, especially if written by one of our members, items from local newspapers… interesting events at other venues in our area…”
Facebook as a Door into your Church
A year ago I made a change in my personal Facebook (FB) use and began following newspapers, periodicals of many kinds, blogs and other churches. This increased the ideas that I was exposed to, and it affected how I now understand my church’s FB page.
There are many doors into a church, and at the church where I work we realized that FB is an evangelism door that we needed to use more to our advantage. Currently we have two strategies: to reach people who are not members and in our community; and two to reach our members and engage them in learning about our church, our denomination and their own spiritual lives. Remember – engagement drives attendance.
How to actually do this was the next conundrum! I quickly became overwhelmed with all of FB’s tricks, tools and rules. So instead I focused on developing our own FB best practices. We learned most of these by trial and error, and I’m sure they’ll change over time. I share them here to encourage you:
1. Get the word out: Advertise your FB link and put the “Like” button in all your publications; tell your members to click the “like” and “share” buttons and invite their FB friends to do the same; offer classes on how to use FB. We did all this – it worked! In the course of starting this work we added 500 likes to our page.
2. Make your Facebook page attractive: Choose quality photos for your cover and profile pictures. Change them every few weeks.
3. Use the “About” tab: This section allows you to put information on your church: location, phone number, parking, service times, Nursery times, and your church’s website.
4. Have multiple admins: We have 6-8 administrators for the page, some staff and some church members. Only administrators can post to the page though anyone can send us suggestions for posting.
5. Use pictures: Facebook is increasingly image driven. For churches, pictures are always a hit, especially people pictures. We post most of our pictures in albums. For example, we just finished a renovation and we posted weekly updates on the construction – big hit! Historical photos of the church and community are also big hits.
We follow a few rules regarding pictures. We don’t tag people (you can turn off this option); we rarely name people in photo captions; we do not post member’s contact information; and pictures of children are posted only with parents’ permission.
6. Post at least one thing a day: Posting everyday keeps your page in the FB algorithm. An active page, one that has updates, “likes,” and comments, is more likely to be seen by parishioners and those looking for a church.
If you have more than one item on any given day, spread your posts out over the course of the day.
7. Vary what you post: We do church events (though the FB event sign up feature has not worked for us); news and faith items from the wider church and our diocese; interesting blog posts especially about faith and spiritual growth and especially if written by one of our members; items from local newspapers especially those that mention us or a member; interesting events at other venues in our area; articles that can stimulate interest about spirituality and faith.
8. Drive Facebook traffic to your website: Why? Because once on your website people can learn even more about your church. Add lines to Facebook posts such as: “To learn more…” then the link to your website page.
9. Use Facebook to advertise special services: Obvious examples are Christmas Eve and Easter. Keep the post short and informational with an eye to what a visitor would want to read. Pin the post to the top of the page so it doesn’t get lost. Unpin it when the event is over.
10. Pay to boost: The Facebook boost feature works for posts that you want as many people to see as possible, for example posts about special services. This surprise finding is still working well for us. This past Easter I spent $40 and reached 20,000 people.
Tips for boosting: do this just one week ahead of time; keep it informational; include nursery information; select your target audience by age range and neighborhoods/other towns near you (I do a 25 mile range); and select your own keywords. The “boost post” set up will walk you through all these options.
I’m sure you have developed other best practices and I would love it if you’d share them!
Carolyn Moomaw Chilton writes and blogs as a spiritual discipline and an invitation to conversation with others. She is currently on staff at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia as the Assistant for Evangelism and Stewardship.
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