This week, a friend was telling me a story about a family in the area. Because they were looking for a new church, she said, “they were looking at a bunch of local churches’ Facebook Pages.”
This sentence didn't surprise me, but it was a good reminder. People now church shop on Facebook.
Way back in the 90s when I moved to a new town after college, I spent a Saturday morning driving around neighborhoods looking for churches and writing down their service times. Now, church searches happen not in a car but online. This is exactly why Church Juice has frequently encouraged investing in a quality, updated website.
However, your online presence extends beyond your website. In fact, because so many people are already on Facebook, that can commonly be where someone first encounters your church. Similarly to how you upkeep the front of your building or invest in a good website, you should give some thought to how your Facebook Page represents your church at first look.
Of course, a primary step is to make sure that the Page is being updated. When checking out a church once, I saw they had a Facebook icon prominently featured on the front page of their website. I was discouraged when I clicked through to find the last post was from over a year earlier. This can communicate a negative message on a social media platform that is known for connection and activity.
But it’s not just about posting regularly. Have you noticed that some Facebook Pages have a notation above the “send message” link that says how quickly they respond to messages? To some users, this says a lot about who you are — are you responsive to needs? I’ve seen notes on church pages that say “typically replies within a few hours,” “typically replies within an hour,” and “typically replies within minutes.”
OPTIMIZE WITH VISUALS
However, optimizing your Facebook Page goes beyond just upkeep or response. Does your cover image/video make sense to, attract, or give valuable information to a newcomer? Is your “about” section completely filled out with up-to-date information? Do you have relevant, inviting, and interesting videos appearing in the video tab?
At our church, we are trying to focus on a specific aspect of making Facebook a suitable and welcoming front door: Does our Page give an authentic picture of our church life? And we mean picture literally. It can be so easy for us to only post ministry logos, stock photos, graphics, and word-heavy posts that we forget to show our church life happening.
Photos and videos are powerful on Facebook. They grab user's eyes as they scroll. Pictures give a person something important that nothing else can — a tangible understanding of what your church values and what he or she can expect if they walk through your doors. I heard a former atheist say recently that one reason it took him so long to walk into a church was that he couldn’t for the life of him imagine what happened inside. His fears took hold of him when he thought about what could occur in there. Imagine if he’d just been able to see some pictures on Facebook.
Visit your church’s Facebook Page once in awhile and test this: How long do you have to scroll to find a photo or video of real life taking place at your church? I know I am often unhappy with the honest answer. One easy step to pass that test every time: Post inviting pictures that show church life (serving, fellowship, etc.) and then pin that post to the top of your page.
Hopefully these tips help people find your church as they window shop.
This article was written by Todd Hertz for Church Juice. Church Juice is a ministry of the CRCNA, focused on helping congregations energize their marketing and communications. For more from Church Juice, and to subscribe for the latest, click here.