Imagine you spend weeks planning a youth event at your church, only for no one to show up. Or envisage countless hours dedicated to organising your Christian Concert, that no one turns up to hear. For some churches, unfortunately this sounds all too familiar. They plan incredibly exciting events, but for some reason the message doesn’t seem to be getting out, and they aren’t reaching enough people.
It is increasingly evident in the church community that using a church website and newsletter isn’t enough - the more platforms you can get your message onto the better. There is a general shift taking place which is seeing people spend less time on browsers and more time on apps. They’re also getting their information from different sources - whereas they previously might have picked up a physical newspaper or used a BBC website, social media such as Twitter and Facebook has become one of the main distributors of news (albeit not without its controversy).
The church, as ever, must move with the people. People want information fast, and they want to be able to share it among their peers without much hassle. Charities have already cottoned on, and if you look back at the most successful campaigns in the last few years, they often involve social media and the ability to “share” - think the ALS Ice Bucket challenge or Cancer Research’s #nomakeup selfie.
To become more visible the church should turn to social media. Facebook is great for sharing information quickly - it literally only requires the push of one button. If a member of your congregation shares a post you write, this will be instantly distributed across their network, which is especially great in terms of reaching new recipients outside of the parish. Suddenly, a group of people who have never really interacted with the church and pulled into its world. If you can then grab their attention with interesting posts and events, you can lure them from the Facebook page to the website, to your mailing lists and soon you’ll be saying hello in person at you services!
Whilst churches with little experience using a Facebook page might shy away, this would be a great shame. Facebook is notoriously easy to use, and takes very little time to set up.
So what are the 5 steps to a lively church Facebook page?
1. Shared goals
It is important that all those involved in the life of the church get a feeling of ownership for the page, so they feel like they can contribute with content. Therefore, there must be a shared understanding of why the page exists, and also a shared vision of what you’re hoping to achieve.
2. Create, manage and invite
Social media is great because it can have such a wide reach and help you interact with people you would never normally have exposure to - however, in order for this to happen you will need quite a few ‘Likes’. Make it an internal competition to see how many ‘Likes’ each person can bring to the page, or set monthly targets in order to incentivise your staff to keep inviting people to the page.
3. Keep the page alive
Once you have followers, it is crucial that you keep the page updated and write posts. Otherwise, people will get bored and unlike the page, or forget to keep visiting. You want your page to be at the top of their mind when they’re thinking of where to get their events information.
A great way to make sure the page stays active is to ask questions and have little surveys or competitions. It is important that the page has a different feel to the newsletter - people don’t want a duplicate. The vision for the page is to have a more lively channel of communication, so the content must match.
4. Notice what works - then evaluate
It’s important to notice what your followers like and don’t like. What do they share? What are they commenting on? What have they reacted to? Trying to find a pattern for what makes a successful post is key. Once you know what it is your congregation like, you know how to engage them with higher intensity (and conversely, how not to disengage them). A tip to help you get started: Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without!
5. Integrate the page with the rest of your church’s communication
A Facebook page is not to replace newsletters, your website or printed communication. It should simply be a compliment to your other channels of communication. The links on the church’s Facebook page can easily be shared in a newsletter, or vice versa. In the same way the Facebook page can be shown directly on you ChurchDesk website, and maybe the page can be used for collection of data for the People application, or other channels such as the calendar.