We’ve all felt the pressure. We don’t want to be left behind. We want to show we’re involved with social media. So we put up a Facebook page for the church, we invite everyone we know to ‘like’ the page – and then what?
The vast majority of churches (and small businesses) haven’t come close to harnessing the power of Facebook because they don’t understand the fundamental principle of Facebook: it’s not about you, it’s about your friends. Knowing how to harness the power of Facebook may transform it from being just one more thing you feel obligated to do into being one of the most cost-effective evangelism tools at your disposal.
So here are four steps to an effective Facebook presence:
1. Understand How Facebook Works
Beyond being a forum for pictures of kittens, the reason Facebook is free for users is that companies want to push messages to your friends. Why are your friends important? Your friends have at least something in common with you – or they wouldn’t be your friends. You work in the same industry, or live in the same town, or went to the same school. Whenever you have an interest in something, there is a greater than random chance that one of your friends will share that interest.
Here is how a social media-savvy business uses Facebook: A restaurant gets you to ‘like’ their page in exchange for a discount coupon on your next meal. Perhaps you get entered into a sweepstakes by liking a page. That company can now pay Facebook to push their posts onto your friends’ newsfeeds.
You’ve seen these posts and perhaps not even recognized them. It is a post in your newsfeed that has a heading such as “Jane Doe likes Target.” This means that your Facebook friend Jane Doe liked Target’s page, and Target then paid Facebook to push their post onto your feed. If your friend Jane shops at Target, there’s a good chance you might want to shop there also.
2. Reach Your Followers’ Friends
Let’s say you have started your church’s Facebook page and gotten many of your members to like it. Great! But if all you do is post things on Facebook for your members to read, this is no different (and probably less effective) than sending them an email. Being on Facebook has done nothing for you to this point.
When you post something as the page administrator, in the lower right corner is a little pull-down tab that says “Boost post.” It presents you with some dollar figures and other choices. You can generally “boost” your post (push it through to the friends of people who have liked your page) for a cost somewhere around $5 per 1,000 people. And each time it shows up in someone’s newsfeed, it is preceded by the notice that one of their friends has liked your church. So it doesn’t just show up “cold” – it shows up “endorsed” by someone they know.
Therefore you need a small budget for these “boosts”. $10 can reach about 2,000 of your followers’ friends. A budget of merely $100/year could boost one post every month of the program year. This is extraordinarily cost-effective.
Facebook only shows your post to people who are online. So you are only paying for people who actually see the post. While your post is being boosted, Facebook will show you how many people have seen the post and how much of your budget remains. After a few tries you’ll get a feel for how long it takes a thousand people to see your post.
3. Boost the Right Posts
Now you’re ready to start using the power of friends. But which posts are the best ones to boost? Posts advertising a specific event are often less effective because many church events are social events and a newcomer is reluctant to attend. The best events to publicize are those that are less social in nature, such as a concert or a lecture.
The most effective posts are effective in the long run. Boost posts that build up a favorable impression of your church over time. Publicize what you would like the world to know about your ministry, such as a description – with a great picture – of your church engaged in service in the community.
People generally don’t decide to go to church because they saw an ad. An ad rarely triggers a person’s desire to go to church. More common is that the day comes when someone feels a need to take a step on a spiritual path, and then visits the church that comes to mind. If you have been successfully cultivating a positive image, yours will be the church they check out.
4. Get the Right Friends
One mistake churches make is to create their page and then you, the pastor (usually), asks everyone you know to ‘like’ it. The reason this is actually counter-productive is that your old seminary friends probably do not have Facebook friends who would be interested in your church. You probably don’t want to boost your church’s posts to the members of your colleagues’ churches – and you especially don’t want to be paying to do that. Only ask people who have a real connection to your church to be the ones to like your page, because their friends will be far more likely to be the people you want to reach.