You and your church need to be on Facebook.
That’s right. I used the word “need”. Facebook is the leader in social networking with over 800 million users. Each week more than 3.5 billion pieces of content (status updates, photos, videos, and comments) are shared, making the platform the most visited site on the internet. Even more interesting is that each user is connected to 130 friends and 80 fan pages. Nearly every non-profit organization and education institution is on Facebook. Check out these and other fun social media stats here.
Sadly though, a Lifeway Research study revealed that only 47% of churches were “active” on Facebook in 2011 with 40% not involved in social networking at all. In a world that is becoming increasingly more connected through social media, it is sad to see the church really lagging behind. We need to be sharing our story of faith in the social media era, and Facebook is the perfect place to start.
Your church needs to do more than create a fan page on Facebook.
The real opportunity for growing your church and reaching people in your local community through Facebook is staring back at you on Sunday morning. Every church member has a platform to share their story of faith through their personal, Facebook profile. Collectively, your church members are meaningfully connected to more people than you can reach on your own through a fan page.
This is not to say that fan pages don’t play an important role in your church’s Facebook strategy. They are important, but reaching your community and growing your church is going to require that everyone in your congregation get involved. Pastors and church leaders need to take leadership and model Christ-like Facebook engagement. Use the following guide to help you get started sharing your faith and growing your church on Facebook.
A quick word on Facebook’s culture.
Your Facebook profile should be primarily used for connecting with people you already know. It’s about sharing stuff you like with people you like. This is the primary reason the platform has been so successful. People want to share their life with their friends even when time and space separate them. Used right, Facebook is a great place to build existing relationships and keep in touch with the people we meet.
1. Create a great Facebook profile.
I addressed some this in my post about the only church outreach strategy your church will ever need on Facebook. However, your profile is your opportunity to share the basics about who you are, where you’re from and what you do. Be sure that you add the following information:
- Profile picture
- Work and education history
- Spouse and family members
- Brief bio
- Contact info
2. Connect with your friends.
Once your great profile is created, you are now officially “on” Facebook. People will be able to find you and connect with you. For those of you who are concerned about privacy, Facebook has done a really nice job with privacy settings to limit what the “public” can see. Check out Facebook’s Privacy Help Center here.
People will naturally start to find you on Facebook. However, there are several ways for you to find people you know and care about:
- Use the search bar. Type in people you know in the Facebook search bar at the top of the screen. Facebook will show you relevant friends. Click on their profile picture and select “add friend”.
- Find friends tool. From your own profile, click on your “friends”. At the top of the screen displaying all of your friends, click on “+ Find Friends”. This is a powerful tool that will automatically recommend friends to you based on your mutual friends and other profile information. Use the settings in the left column to find friends who went to your college, worked with you, or who share mutual friends with someone you already are friends with on Facebook.
- Casual search. As you check your Facebook newsfeed, you will see people interacting with your friends in the comments section. When you see people you know, click on their name and add them as your friend.
Remember, you have to approve friend requests. When people add you as a friend, you have to confirm. To view pending friend requests and approve, click on the “people” icon on the top left of your screen, right next to the Facebook logo.
3. Share your life one status update at a time.
Once you have a great profile and some friends, the next step is to start sharing. The primary way to share your story is through “status updates”. On Facebook, you can share the following kinds of content:
- Text. Have a great thought? A bad day? Write brief updates, commentary, quotes, statements, etc.
- Link. Read a great article online? Want to support a friend’s blog? Copy the url (website link) and paste it into the status update field. Facebook will automatically recognize it as a link and pull in a thumbnail photo as well as a brief page description.
- Photo and video. Did you go to a killer event? Have a great time with friends? Make an awesome meal? You can upload pictures and video from your digital camera or mobile phone. Select “add photo/video” and Facebook will walk you through the process of adding photos or videos. These uploads will be stored in albums and appear on your friend’s newsfeeds.
- Questions. Want to know what your friends think? Ask them a question. This is a fairly new feature but can be pretty cool. However, they seem to be “on the way out”. I haven’t seen too many of them recently.
Not sure what to share? Check out my post about what Christians should share on social media here.
4. Interact with your friends.
Sharing your own story is only half the fun on Facebook. Through your newsfeed, you can see what is going on in your friends’ lives and find ways you can be helpful, supportive, and encouraging. When a post hits your newsfeed that you would like to respond to, you have one of three options:
- Like. “Liking” something is the simplest way to engage with content on Facebook. Your “like” on Facebook is your personal symbol of encouragement, endorsement, and agreement. Only like things, well, that you really like. Likes are public.
- Share. Often people will share articles or fan pages that you may want to share with your friends. If you’d like to pass something along to your friends, just click the “share” link and add a personal message. This button only appears on certain kinds of content.
- Comment.You can comment on everything in Facebook. Click on the comments field and type in your thoughts, encouragement or feedback. After you comment, you will be notified of additional comments others make, giving you more opportunities to jump in the conversation.
Profile. Friends. Share. Interact.
These are the basic components of sharing your faith on Facebook. Through your updates and interactions you have the opportunity share your life and faith with your friends. They can see first hand that faith makes a difference in your life. Your commitment to interacting with people daily on Facebook will open up doors for deeper conversations, opportunities to serve, and of course, chances to invite people to church.