Thinking beyond Facebook

Having over 1,000 likes on your Facebook page is great, but what is your retention strategy? How are you actually engaging with these people? How can you take Facebook to the next level of connection?

Although Facebook can be a valuable tool for ministry, it is important to keep perspective about what your purpose is in maintaining a presence on Facebook. Getting a large number of likes is awesome, but likes are not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal of Facebook (or any social network) for a church is relationships: online relationships leading to or enhancing offline relationships. It is really fun to get lots of likes, both on a page and on individual posts on that page. Therefore, I think there’s a real danger for church leaders to get distracted by pursuing likes rather than pursuing relationships.

As in all of life, there is a delicate balance on Facebook between posting status updates, photos and videos; keeping up with the lives of your members; having fun; and pursuing deeper truths. Not only that, but there is a limited amount of time to spend because Facebook is just one small tool in an entire ministry strategy. So here are a few tips for how to truly engage with people in order to take relationships to a deeper level and to impact lives.

I think the basic truth to remember here is that all of your followers are people. That may sound overly simplistic, but just think about it. Treat them the way people want to be treated. Treat them the way you want to be treated. A few simple but effective things to do:

  1. Answer all wall posts and direct messages. Nothing makes people feel insignificant more than being ignored. And I am confident that telling people they are insignificant, even unintentionally, is not one of your ministry goals.
  2. Acknowledge all comments and tags/mentions. Facebook makes this simple for you because all you have to do is click “like” on a person’s comment to show you read it.
  3. Reply to or like others’ statuses on their own walls. If you are only active on your own wall, that seems pretty self-centered. Scan your news feed and comment on what your church and community members post too.
    • If you have a wide variety of friends on Facebook who are not all church-related, then make a list (click on “Friends,” then “Create List”) of only church folks. That list will then show up on your left sidebar, and you can click it to see only what has been posted by that subset of your friends.
    • Block annoying applications that clutter up your news feed and waste your time by making you scroll through them. If your church members are totally into Candy Crush but you do not like seeing all of that in your feed, just one simple click will hide them. Next time something you do not want to see comes into your news feed, put your mouse over the post and a little arrow will pop up at the top right of the post. Click the arrow, and the very bottom menu option will be something like “Hide all by Candy Crush.”
  1. This kind of fits in with the previous point, but it is important enough to have its own point. If a person posts something about a concern, issue or struggle they are having, leave a comment that you care and are praying for them. Then actually pray for them. If it seems appropriate, follow up later to see how they are doing with it.
  2. Acknowledge birthdays. Facebook makes this one really easy on you since it will tell you whose birthday it is each day. Then just click on the person’s name, and write a message on his or her wall. No excuse for not doing this.
    • For more advance warning, click on Events, and it will tell you all the birthdays coming up in the next week.
  1. When you see a person in real life, mention something awesome you saw on his or her wall. This helps connect online relationships to offline relationships.
  2. Focus on the story of your church and ministry and help people to engage in the story. Use your timeline to let people know your history and where you hope to go in the future, and make sure to include how they can join in. Everybody wants to be a part of something valuable, so they’re more likely to interact if they see the purpose and story your ministry is living out.

These are just a few simple tips for actually using Facebook to build relationships rather than just blasting out information about your ministry. Just like in real life, nobody wants to be your friend if you only talk about yourself all the time. And nobody wants to be your friend if they feel ignored or used. Take time to interact with people and show them you care, both online and offline, and your ministry will be more effective.

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