This is the fourth post in a series about practical ways social media can help your church do what it already does better.
Will anyone show up?
Is this it? All that volunteer time and effort for two people? Maybe worse yet is looking around at a “public” event and seeing only familiar faces. A lot of work goes into planning church events (learn how to make church event planning them easier here) and it is always a shame when the event falls short of its potential to reach more people in our local community. Behind every missed church outreach opportunity, are a lot of invitations that were never extended. Blame it on the event fliers.
Stop printing church event fliers.
Social media and other web-based tools are changing the way we plan and promote church events. So much so that the church flier is becoming an endangered species. I won’t pronounce them dead just yet, but they are certainly on life support. When is the last time someone handed you a flier, inviting you to an event? Chances are it was at a conference, community jazz festival, or business expo. They are great take-a-ways in those settings, but under “normal” circumstances, are grossly out of place. They are impersonal, two-dimensional, and disposable. For this reason, event flier invitations are seldom accepted. I know, I know. You print them so that folks on Sunday can grab them and hand them to their friends. Few, if any, will actually take you up on that offer. Unless you are planning on peppering the streets of your community with thousands of fliers, it’s best to stop relying on them as your primary tool to get the word out about your next church event.
Thank goodness, for Facebook events.
Facebook events offers the church a more personal and engaging alternative for event promotion.
I took some low blows at event fliers, but I do not want to mislead you. Personal invitations are the single most effective way to actually get people to come to your upcoming church event. To help make the invitation process “easier”, we need to provide church members tools to spread the word (i.e. printed event fliers). Facebook events should, at the very least, supplement fliers as one of the tools you put in your members’ hands make your next event a huge outreach opportunity. Before I provide you with some helpful tips for creating Facebook events, I need to write a disclaimer: Facebook events still requires that people in your church “do” something. In my humble opinion, they are far more likely to do it and do it well if you choose to use Facebook to promote your next church event.
Get started with Facebook events
In order to begin using Facebook events, you are going to need to be sure you have the following things in order:
- A church Facebook fan page (click here to create a church fan page)
- You need to be an “admin” of your church’s Facebook fan page (Look on the top right of your fan page, if you don’t see your picture, the fan page admin will have to give you admin rights.)
- You need to make sure the events app is enabled on your Facebook fan page (If you don’t see it listed in the menu under your fan page profile picture, select “Edit Page” on the top right and then select “apps”.)
How to create an awesome church event listing using Facebook events.
Once you have everything setup, the next step is to create an event. Simply click on the “events” link under your fan page profile picture and follow the instructions to “create event”. Click here to see what the Facebook event form will look like. The following are some tips to ensure that your church event listing is awesome:
- Find or create a compelling image. This is key. The event image will be the first thing people on Facebook see when your church event is displayed in their newsfeed. Make sure your event image, if not “branded” for the event, gives people a clue as to what the event is all about. If you don’t have a staff or volunteer designer, find a great picture on istock photo or flickr creative commons.
- Write a great event title. Try to come up with a creative title for your event. It helps if you have already thought of how to brand your event. For example, if you are creating an event for a New Year’s Eve party, you might want to try something like “Say Goodbye to 2011 with The Journey” (The Journey is the name of my church).
- Set date, time and location. Be specific about when and where the event will be held. That way there is no doubt people know when to show up and how to get there.
- Details. This your chance to draw people in further. Share some highlights. People want to know what you will be doing to make the event special and what they need to bring. If you are using a tool like Lucky Potluck to manage who is bringing what to the party, be sure to list the link to signup.
- Show the guest list and allow non-admins to post the event wall. There will be two check boxes to allow people to see who is coming to the event (those who have said they are attending) and non-admins to post on the event wall. I recommend you leave both boxes checked. People, especially if they are not a part of your church, will want to see who is coming and if they will know anyone else. Also, if people have questions, they can post them right on the wall of the event to get answers.
- Invite people. As the event creator, you have the opportunity to get the ball rolling. Before you create the event you can select people who you would like to invite. I recommend inviting all of the people you are “friends” with who go to your church from the start. You do this by clicking on “Select Guests”. This will pull up a pop up window (pictured here) where you can select guests. You can select guests by entering their name and clicking on their profile picture. The best way (and most efficient) is to have already setup a list of the all of the folks who are part of your church. If you have a list created already, click on the “Select by Name” box to choose a friends list to filter your options. This will pull up all of the people in that list, and from there, you just start clicking! For help creating lists visit this link.
What should I do after I have created my church event listing using Facebook events?
Once you have created your event two things will happen. It will appear on all of your fans’ newsfeeds and the people you invited will be notified that they have been invited to your event. The rest is up to them. People can then say the are attending, maybe attending, not attending, or do nothing. You need to make sure they do “something”. When someone says they are “attending” your event, that notification will appear on all of their friends’ newsfeeds. People, many of which don’t go to your church, will see your event picture, title, and snippet of your description along with a notification that one of their friends is attending your event. In this way, word about your church event will spread naturally through your church members’ social networks. Pretty cool, huh?
Challenge your church to invite friends to attend your upcoming church event through Facebook.
The word will spread naturally through Facebook about your event as people say they are “attending”. This likely won’t be enough to get their friends, who aren’t a part of the church, to show up. Typically, (my church does this all the time) we ask people to invite their friends to events. A small portion do every time, but I bet we could be a lot more effective if we were more specific in our instructions. Try giving them a challenge. During Sunday morning announcements and in your community email newsletter, try something like this:
We need your help to make this event a success. For those of you on Facebook, please RSVP on Facebook (share the link to event here if you are sending this via email). If you are attending, we’d like for you to personally invite five friends to join you through Facebook. Simply visit the event page (share link again), and click on “invite friends” at the the top of the page. Select the friend you would like to invite and be sure to add a personal message. Say “hi” and share with them why you’d like them to join you. With your help, we can reach and serve more people in our local community.
Think of how many people your church could reach through an event if every member invited five people. If you try this, I’d love to hear how it all worked out. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below to share your story or ask a question.