I’m a fan of Facebook … it really is a fantastic tool for connecting people. As a church leader looking to make an impact in the world around us I think we need to concern ourselves with how we can leverage tools like this for the gospel. Here are a few stats about Facebook that jumped out at me …
- 84.6% of smartphone users use the Facebook app.
- 1,010,000,000 people use Facebook mobile every month.
- 82% of all Facebook traffic now comes from outside of North America
Facebook presents a massive mission field for churches looking to make an impact in today’s world! It really is unparalleled in it’s ability to connect with so many people in your neighborhood and around the world so quickly. Did I say that I was a fan?
However, over the last 6 months I’ve been increasingly frustrated with this platform and the way it’s shifted how it handles the content we share.
Snappy Chart Showing Why Facebook Frustrates Me:
Over the last few years we’ve been building up a healthy following on Facebook … we’ve asked our people to join us on Facebook … we’ve told them it’s a great place to get updates on what’s happening at our church … we leveraged the social capital we have with our people to get them to use Facebook … and in the last 6 months we’ve watched as the percentage of our audience that actually sees our content dwindle to a minuscule amount.
In fact … one study showed that on average this number has dropped from 50% down to 5% between October 2013 to March 2014. This is a significant shift in the way Facebook works with organizations. I totally get it … from my seat there are a few reasons why they’ve made this change:
- Duh! It’s a business! // Facebook is a publicly traded company and needs to report to it’s shareholders how it’s maximizing profits. They are clearly shifting towards a “pay to play” approach with organizations like churches … if we want our content to be seen by our people we’re going to need to pay for that access.
- It’s about people … not businesses. // Facebook is protecting it’s users with this move. It’s making sure the content from people’s friends and family is showing up more in their feeds. Totally makes sense … Facebook is primarily a platform for people to connect with each other. (Hint: Pastors it’s more important that you are engaging with people on Facebook that what your church does “corporately”.)
- Let’s be honest … we spammed. // We all did this to ourselves … let’s be honest for a moment … we posted spammy stuff that didn’t help our people at all. “Click Like if you Love JESUS!” Facebook took action against all organizations because on a whole it was becoming junked up.
- They’re worrying about the future. // My daughter turned 13 almost 5 months ago … you need to be 13 to have a Facebook account … she hasn’t even asked about setting one up. That sort of thing freaks Mark Zuckerburg out … that’s why they bought instagram & whats app. I applaud them for trying to figure out how to take the next hill … and limiting businesses access to their users helps that. Remember MySpace?
What does that mean for churches wanting to leverage Facebook for their communications?
We need to get a lot smarter with the content that we post on Facebook. We need to do everything we can to ensure that our posts are seen by as many people as possible on the network. [Here’s some advanced learning … take some time to learn how Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm works and the impact it’s having on your content.] Here are some current tips for ensuring you are maximizing your organic reach on Facebook:
- Help People // When you post a piece of content ask yourself “Is this helping my audience?” Weed out content that is just pushing people to come to your stuff.
- Share Other People’s Content // Find content from like minded ministries or people and share it with your audience. Add a small comment and then let your people see it! The Facebook algorithm will see that you are looking to spread ideas around and reward you. As well … the people who put that content up will be more likely to share your content in the future. (It’s a social network … reciprocity is a social thing to do.)
- Ask Questions // Ask intriguing questions that engage your people to interact. Ask something a little controversial to stir a bit of a conversation. Point out a tension that you’re going to resolve in a message and ask them to comment on it.
- Try Different Times of Day // Don’t always post at the same time of day … change it up. Some people always do early morning posts … others say that they get the best traction during evening “primetime” hours … still others swear by posting when the least number of their people are online. Don’t always post at the same time!
- Behind the Scenes // Give people a sneak peak about something that’s coming up … take a picture of your leadership team praying together on a Tuesday night and post that. Use Facebook to share moments in the life of your church that are normally behind closed doors. Let them in. Transparency is a virtue of the social generation.
Experiments in Paying Facebook to Access Our People.
We have been taking some initial steps towards paying to have pieces of our content be seen by more of our people on Facebook. Even though I was whining about it above … it really is a simple and effective way to get in front of people who have self indicated they like you.
Imagine if you could pay Gmail to have an email open up in front of people who attend your church … that’s what you’re paying Facebook to do! You give them a little bit of money and they’ll ensure that people will see your content. In the lead up to Easter this year we experimented with a few different “pay to play” models:
Boosting Posts //
A few weeks before Easter we produced a fun “man on the street” video that engaged the theme of the series we kicked off on Easter. Here are a few things we did to drive engagement with this piece:
- Explicit Insider Ask // When we posted this content we emailed our core leadership community and asked them to “like, comment or share” on the video before we “boosted” the post. You’ll notice that this post reached 46k people … only 28k of those came through that money we spent. Only “boost” content that is already getting traction on Facebook … it will push it even further!
- Value Spend // You’ll notice when you look at the options for what you can spend on the “boost” that you get more value the more you spend. Resist the urge to spend the smallest amount … look at the higher rates and the reach it will get you.
- Call to Action // We were asking people to “get free tickets” for Easter. It was important to me that if we were spending money on this post that it drive behavior that brought people into our services rather than just “branding”. (This is an area I want to do much more in the future … you can track a lot on this stuff.)
Retargeting Ads //
This year we also experimented with “ad retargeting” on Facebook. In it’s simplest terms … retargeting is about putting a small piece of code on your website that tracks all the people who visit your site … when those people arrive at Facebook it will display an ad to them. The service we used is to manage this process is called Perfect Audience … it’s pretty straight forward to set up plus they are giving away $70 in FEE ads to just try out the service. A few things we learned through about retargeting …
- It wears off // You can see by the statistics at the top … after a day or so the ads start to loose their effectiveness. When people see the ads repeatedly they are less likely to click on them. In the future I would set up a different ad for each day of the campaign to help fight against this.
- It’s robust // This is a powerful technology. We used it to not only “recall” people on Facebook but on the Google display ads network as well. Our ads where surrounding our people as they went about their business online. In total we ended up serving about 450,000 ads to the 10,000 people who had been to our web site in the 30 days before the campaign … that means our people were on average seeing 45 of our ads while they were surfing the web on the week leading up to Easter.
- There is more here. // In the future I want to leverage this more for our church. The level of granularity you can get is breath taking. We can track how many free tickets we “sold” through this technology. We could display different ads depending on where they have been on our site … as an example if people have been on our kids ministry pages we could send them ads on Facebook about our special kids stuff at Easter. We’ll be investing more in this in the future.
We’d love to hear about how you use Facebook at your church! Here are some potential questions you could answer in the comments:
- How has your church used Facebook to reach out to your community?
- What’s been your most viewed piece of content you’ve shared in the last month?
- What did I miss in this post that you’d like to add?
Big Ideas to Chew On
- If you haven’t updated your Facebook strategy in the last 6 months … you are missing an opportunity to reach people.
- It’s about people … not brands. Think about how you can engage as a human on Facebook.
- Help … don’t spam.
- Experiment with paying Facebook to access your people … it won’t kill you.
- Track everything … data is your friend and it can help you understand how to communicate more effectively.