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Facebook: you reaching out to the community

Statistics about social media before we dive into Facebook tips…

  • According to a December 2010 survey from Pew Research, two-thirds of online adults (66%) use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn. 58% of those who participate in religious groups use sites like Facebook and 11% use Twitter.
  • 73% of teenagers who are online are users of social media sites (Pew Research, February 2010).
  • 750 million photographs are uploaded over a single weekend to Facebook. (The Atlantic, May 2012, Is Facebook Making Us Lonely)
  • More than half of Facebook users – one of every 13 people on Earth is a Facebook user – log on every day. (The Atlantic, May 2012, Is Facebook Making Us Lonely)
  • Among 18-to-34- year olds, nearly half check FB minutes after waking up, and 28 % do so before getting out of bed. (The Atlantic, May 2012, Is Facebook Making Us Lonely)
  • People over the age of 55 are the fastest growing group joining Facebook, according to research from Nielsen – and a survey by Kantar Media’s TGI MobiLens claims that people over 50 are more likely to use social networks on their mobiles than people under 30. (The Atlantic, May 2012, Is Facebook Making Us Lonely)
  • The ‘over 65’ group spends a reported 42 hours online every month, more than any other group. (EConsultancy)


So if we want to engage with the community, we’re going to need to be using social media sites.

Of all that exist, Facebook is the most popular, with almost a BILLION users (July 2012). But it’s also the least understood, and the one that changes the most.

White boardIt is important to realize WHAT Facebook is – a bulletin board/white board outside your college dorm room.

If you didn’t have this experience at your school, let me fill you in. When I was in a college dorm in 1994, we didn’t have cell phones, computers in our room, and the Internet was just released to the public. It was great for communicating with my friends at other colleges, but I never used it to send a message to my friends on campus. So if we wanted to connect, we either called each other’s room phones, or more likely, we went by their room to see if they were home. If not, we left a message on the white board outside their room to tell them we stopped by. We could also check out photos they had added to the bulletin board, any messages other friends had left or messages they had shared about where they were or what was going on in their life.

That’s Facebook…or at least how it began. Current changes to Facebook to find revenue through advertising and organizational Pages are moving it away from this model, but this is how it started and why people joined up.

It is a connection hub – where you can check in on others and where you can be checked on.



Privacy and Security settings

Before we get into tips and tricks, you need to make sure you have set all of your privacy settings correctly. The default settings for Facebook is to not protect you or keep anything private. In fact, their terms and conditions state:

 “We cannot guarantee that only authorized persons will view your information. We cannot ensure that information you share on Facebook will not become publicly available.”

Watch a quick how-to tutorial on a few essential settings:

Another great resource is the Lifehacker website. Search for “facebook privacy settings” anytime something changes over in Facebook land to be sure you know the latest.


Understanding Facebook’s System

Knowing a few details about how Facebook works will help you become more successful at using it.

  • The New Edgerank System – In September 2010, Facebook made major changes to the site, which most of us saw in the addition of Timeline. Behind the scenes, though, was the most significant shift. They introduced “edgerank” – a system that determines what you see in your news feed.
    • This means that Facebook now determines for you what you see – based on a secret algorithm.
    • We do know that pages you have liked are more likely to appear if OTHER people think they are interesting and the page gets lots of interaction, as well as your own interaction with the page.
    • This means you should no longer assume people have seen any status updates, photos, events, etc that you share – personally or from your page.
    • Personally, here is a how-to video to help you attempt to tailor your newsfeed to see the friends you want to see

    • Of course, you can always pay for a status update, which is Facebook’s ultimate goal. They can guarantee your post will show up in the news feed of everyone who has liked your page for a few bucks.
  • Applications– Applications are through third-party organizations  – you know “Birthday Calendar”, “Family Tree”, “Mafia Wars”…
    • While Facebook does have a privacy policy the apps are supposed to follow, it is much more likely that your information is being shared where you don’t want it to be if you have allowed apps access to your information.
    • Do you even know all the apps you’ve allowed to have access to your account?
    • Here’s a quick how-to video to check and see:

  • New Features– as much as Facebook changes things, I’ll try to keep this section updated. Anytime you log on and something seems different, it probably means they’ve changed privacy settings (so check there first) and that you will now need to learn another trick for engagement with your fan page.
    • Here’s a how-to video on features you should know about as you interact as a page.


Best Practices and Reminders

I’ve provided a list of some best practices and reminders for both using Facebook personally as well as professionally.

  • What do you write about?
    • Be authentic. If you want to write about the great salad you had for lunch, by all means, do it. But take it to the next level as well. What have you been mulling over lately? What are you reading or watching? Share quotes from authors, movies and music. Link websites and articles you find. Tease about upcoming sermon ideas. Ask questions of faith. Challenge for social justice. Probe for actions to your sermons after they have been preached.
  • Don’t just stalk – if you want Facebook to be about engaging with others, take the effort to show them you stopped by to check on them. It can be as simple as “liking” a status update or a photo.
  • Be sure you put your church website & church details in the “about” section on your personal profile.
  • Don’t over comment. You should not feel like you need to comment on everything you see.
  • Don’t feel you have to reply to every comment sent to you.
  • Don’t nag, especially to anyone younger than you (or to your children). Not only is it embarrassing to the person receiving the nagging, it will strain your relationships (with them and with others).
  • Assume you ARE having a private conversation. Approach your interactions with people with the same genuine interest you would provide in person. However, this private conversation is happening on stage in front of a live audience who may or may not be listening. So while it’s private, it’s never private.
  • Use it to enhance relationships with those for whom you have a weak relationship. Create an intentional strategy – Facebook should enhance real-life relationships, not replace them. Approach someone in person at church whom you barely know and ask if you could be Facebook friends in order to get to know one another better. Then once you learn more about them from their profile, occasionally leave them a note, comment on their pictures, tell them you are thinking of them. And when you see them in person, reference something you learned about them from their Facebook account.
  • On the church’s page – comment to one another. When you see someone leaving a comment, reply back. Share photos – both from the page itself, and as an individual tagging the church. Talk about what is coming up, but more than that, celebrate what has already happened. Remember – it’s about engagement, not messages. The Facebook page should not primarily be an announcement board.
  • Should you have a group or a page? I recommend both. A page is more like a web page – a central place where people can learn about you and see the kind of relationships that exist at your church. A group can be more intimate though. Groups can be set to private. You can invite specific people to a group. And groups can message members and, for now, have a better notification system.
  • A group could enhance a Bible study, prayer group, and Sunday school class. You could prep the group about what is coming up or talk about what’s past. It could be a place for sharing a syllabus or a change in schedule.
  • As mentioned in the “new features” video above, get someone who is already a regular Facebook user to be an administrator, especially since now administrators can have different levels of access. I recommend 2-3 non-staff admins. Ask them in person and discuss your policy and that they are now representatives of the church, both personally and as the page.
  • It’s ok to do Facebook at work, which may be a  shift in thinking for some of you. Remember though, even though we use Facebook for entertainment, it is more than that. It is about relationships. So “meeting” some one on FB is the same as meeting them at the coffee shop. Do use moderation and discernment about your time, though.
  • It may take some time commitment from some of you at the beginning. You may have to literally schedule it into your day or add it to your to-do list.
  • Anytime you post about religion or politics, you are going to get some heated reactions. Be mindful of this before you post and if needed, set some ground rules from your friends. Don’t be shy about deleting comments you don’t want others to see, and private message people when you need to step in and reprimand.


Deeper Strategies

Here is a how-to video of how to take your Facebook page interaction to a deeper level:


Final Word

The bottom line is that Facebook is about engagement…if you don’t engage, you won’t get a response when you finally do ask a question. The fastest way to tell if you haven’t been engaging enough is to ask for advice on something. If you don’t get many responses, then it’s because you haven’t been responding to others enough.

Facebook amplifies relationships. It lets you learn good and bad news faster, gives you a reason to talk to someone at church and deepens relationships – probably not your significant close friends, but at least your “weak ties”.

The hardest hurdle may be getting over the assumption that others care what you have to say. They do! Of course for others of us, the hardest hurdle is realizing that not everyone cares about everything we say. Moderation!


Communication during a transition:

Social media platforms like Facebook can be an effective means of online communication. Relationships and boundaries should be established before serious discussions begin. It is important for the congregation to encourage friendly engagement, learn about one another’s lives, and when meeting in person, reference status updates and photos seen online. It is a good idea to create a church covenant of guiding suggestions for online interaction. Set all of this in motion now, while your church is NOT in a transition, so that when you are, Facebook can still be a safe place to engage.


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