For many pastors stepping into Facebook usage is the ultimate compromise. Their sermons of days gone by have often described the dark side of the internet and warning after warning have been given to steer clear of any form of usage. But now that congregational usage is ubiquitous and predatory pedophiles are far outnumbered by smart phone wielding grandmas, social platforms like Facebook deserve another look.
For pastors and church leaders who are now recognizing the power of social sites and public acceptance of these platforms, I have assembled this easy to understand list of Facebook priorities. Whether you are dabbling in Facebook usage or jumping in head first, here is a list of activities that will help you see and use Facebook as a positive and powerful local church outreach and communication tool. (Free Report- 15 pages, 37 examples)
One of the easiest ways to use Facebook is to just sit and watch. It is like sitting on a bench at the mall and watching people. You can learn a lot by just observing. Who is having a baby, what kid just got an award, who had a grandparent pass away. All of these items are valuable to the man who considers himself a shepherd of the sheep.
- Here is how. Create a list of friends from your congregation. Ask them to “friend” you, or gather their names from signup cards and other church folks. Pick a night (Friday and Saturday’s are best) to go online and just scan the Facebook feed that is generated automatically by the activity of these people. Ten to 15 minutes will be all that is needed to give you ample information for Sunday morning. When folks arrive at church, casually mention their new baby, car, award etc… People will be thrilled that you noticed.
The next level, just adds to the step above, but with one important addition—a click of the mouse. Facebook has created a simple way for people to acknowledge each other entries. It is called the “Like” button. At the bottom of each persons post there are a options that are available for the reader. The first and simplest to use is the word “Like”.
- Here is how. When you hover your mouse over the “Like’ button, it allows you to select it with a click. Basically, this is the way of acknowledging you have seen the post. Your “Like” is added up with others and a number appears that indicates how many folks have “Liked” the post. For the originator and all others who have liked the post, these numbers carry a level of acceptance and significance. It is just a good way to let folks know you have noticed their contribution. NOTE: The “Like button” is used more of acknowledgment, than actually approval. For example: Someone may have wrecked their car or lost a loved one. In that case “like” means you simply have gotten the news. They will know that you know.
#3 Casual Comments
This is the third step and is one of the most effective steps a pastor can do. It takes a tiny bit more of commitment, but has much greater benefits. Next to the “Like” button there is a “Comment” button. As you might guess, clicking this allows you to make a comment about the post directly above. This comment will travel with the post wherever it may go in the tangled web of social media. This can be a great blessing, because it allows your comment to be of tremendous influence. A word “fitly spoken”, an offer for prayers, or a Bible verse may be seen by thousands of people. This it some of the true power of the internet at work.
- Here is how. You cannot post a comment on everything. There is just not enough time. But you can make simple, yet strategic remarks. Keep them short. Our tendency is to “preach”, but this is not the place for that. A short, well thought out post will be read by far more people. (These comments can be Liked” as well). Don’t paste in Bible verses, but rather summarize what a verse may say and possibly give a reference. Comments are more for the “caring” side of the shepherd rather that the expounding side and correcting side. The “comment” option is an excellent place to love, encourage and congratulate folks. NOTE: As a side bonus, once you have commented on a Facebook post you will get a notification of all other comments as well. This allows you to see who else is directly interacting with your friend.
This is where the power of online marketing really shines. Facebook allows you to multiply your announcements exponentially beyond traditional means of print, direct mail or even word-of-mouth. A well written promotional piece with a nice photo can be spread all across your community in a matter of a few hours. Upcoming special meetings, prayer requests and even emergencies can be quickly and easily spread to your church members and friends.
- Here is how. Just as in traditional promotional channels, you will need to think ahead to get the best results. Short and concise is always best. Photos that support the announcement can be posted to your “status update”. It is often best to pre-write your announcement in a word processor ahead of time. Check it for typos and especially correct dates, phone numbers etc… When applicable, paste in a link to your church’s website. This will allow the readers to get all important data like service times and directions. This will help keep your announcement shorter and to the point. If you have other active Facebookers on your staff, ask them to “share” the announcement. This will greatly multiply its distribution. Facebook even allows you to “boost” a post for a small fee. Here is a link to 37 great announcement ideas that you can copy and use for free.
#5 Event Reporting
Taking time to summarize an event or period of time, such as the summer months, is a great way to positively position your church in the eye of the readers. Facebook readers often casually browse the feed and it seems that things that have happened carry more “eye appeal” than announcements. For example, far more people will look at (and “Like”) pictures of a birthday party that has happened than will “Like” an announcement about a birthday party that is yet to come. You will want to make sure you really leverage this great tool.
- Here is how. Pictures! Pictures! Pictures! It is far easier to show pictures of an event that has happened that one that is yet to occur. Assign a specific person to take pictures during your event. Make sure you gather the the photos by email, camera chip or even have them post them to Facebook. Pick a few of the best ones and write a summary of what happened. Try to add some personal quotes, numbers or stories. Usually the amount of text on these type of posts can be much longer than other forms of Facebook communication. (Click here for a free 15 page report with 37 examples on how to make effective Facebook announcements.)
#6 Personal Message
This is the email portion of Facebook and can be used to send special notices, reminders and even digital prayers. The message goes directly to the person you select and nowhere else. It is really very simple and very private.
- Here is how. Anywhere you see a person’s name in bold, blue text, click on it. This will take you to their personal page and what is often called their “wall”. You can also find folks by typing their name in the search bar at the top of just about every Facebook page. Somewhere near their name and accompanying photograph will be the word “Message”. Clicking on that button will bring up a box to type a personal message into. Always type a short message at first and ask for a response. Wait until you get a confirmation before sending a longer personal message. Some folks do not use this feature or have privacy settings that will keep you from messaging them.
Social media is here to stay. Its power is amazing. Its saturation of our society is obvious. Wise leaders, with passions to reach their communities, will be mastering tools like Facebook. Are there dangers? Certainly. Will you be frustrated with the learning curve? Probably. But will the benefits outweigh the hardships? That will have to be your decision. Pastors all across the world are effectively using this tool for good. Today is a good day for leaders to take the challenge, open the digital doorway and master this extremely effective new communication tool.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure you give more than ask. Ten to one or even twenty to one is a good ratio to aim for. What that means is for every “ask” (event announcement/report) make plenty of comments, and click plenty of likes. Remember, Facebook is not a marketing tool, it is a conversation tool. It can be used effectively for marketing and promoting, but its primary design in for more personal interaction.
To buy the 18-page supplement Smart Facebook for Churches click here!
Comments: What is the one of the most inspirational posts you have ever read on Facebook? Leave your comment below.
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