Late last year, I changed roles at my church. I moved from being a student minister to being the discipleship pastor. This change has brought me a lot of different responsibilities, one of which includes developing our social media presence. Now, I’m not totally new to social media, but I never used it strategically. Now that I have to, I’m learning a lot that I’d like to pass on.
The Page: Your Facebook Website
Every church/business/organization needs to have a Facebook page—but not for the reasons you might think. Facebook Pages are terrible for communication purposes, even though many people assume that they were designed as communication tools. Facebook has become become increasingly hesitant to help you take advantage of the billions of users they constantly boast about. They want more from you (i.e. money) in order for you to truly connect with your fans in the way that you originally told you could.
You see, Facebook has changed the rules regarding pages, and is effectively holding your fan base hostage. It’s not enough for someone to like your page; they have to actually engage with your online for them to continue to see your updates. If you want to get around this and boost your page’s reach, you have to pay. For this reason, our Facebook page is simply used as a Facebook version of our website. We post links to our blog posts, post some announcements, and occasionally share photos. Our goal isn’t to disseminate information. Our goal is to create a solid presentation of who we are on Facebook so that if someone searches for us, they can easily find us.
The Group: Your Family’s Bulletin Board
However, to communicate with our people, to make “behind-the-scenes” style announcements, we have a Facebook group. In a group, everyone can post, and everyone gets immediately notified, unless they’ve changed their account settings. What’s nice about this is that it helps us to keep our page looking nice and professional while our group can be full of what makes a church into a family—housekeeping. When people search for your Facebook page, they don’t need to see “how the sausage is made.”
Keep the random, not universally important info in the group, and use the page for announcing things that the rest of the world might find useful. In this sense, the group is kind of like the family bulletin board: there’s a calendar that’s been marked over far too much, a few random flyers pinned here and there, and a crowd of people gathered around asking questions that were already answered. (That might be a bit cynical, but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve posted an event in my Facebook group only to have someone comment with a question that my original post already answered.)
Your church needs to have both a page and a group. The page is your public face for the “searching,” and the group is your family rallying point for the “found.” Engaging people on Facebook with only one these is like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with only peanut butter or only jelly: it’s not really what you set out to do. Until Facebook changes the rules, which will probably make it harder, this is the best approach to Facebook that I’ve found so far.
And don’t worry: when I find a better one, you’ll be the first to know.