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In the church world, there are lots of things we do for the sake of communicating with first-time visitors.  We add snazzy “I’m New Here” buttons to our website.  We create slick brochures as part of a welcome packet.  Now there’s one more thing to add to the list: Facebook Timeline.

If your church has a Facebook page, you probably know about Timeline. It lets your page act more like a website home page.  You can add a big cover image to the top.  You can create milestones that talk about the history of your church.  You can pin important information to the top of the page.  All are debatably nice features.  But I believe all of the work you put into your Timeline isn’t for the fans you already have, but ones you hope to get.

A new study closely looked at 3,500 Facebook profile pages using Timeline and discovered, on average, that only 2 percent of people ever go back to a fan page after their first visit.  And if you think about it, that makes sense.  Most of the interaction you have with your fans after that initial visit is through their news feed.   You post something and they see it—along with all the stuff their friends are doing.  And then, your post is not pulling them back to your Timeline; your content probably links elsewhere or is a photo or video they can consume without leaving the newsfeed.

This insight about how people use your page isn’t bad news.  It just helps clarify what sort of tool Timeline is.  It’s your first impression.  It a first chance to say something about who you are.  It’s your opportunity to show your church in action.  That’s why it’s important to put the time into making the most of your Timeline.  (Here are a few tips from a post we previously wrote.

Sure, people may come back to your church's page when you post a new cover picture, but the novelty of that will probably wear off.  The key to reaching people once they’ve like your page is to get them to interact with you.  Facebook itself recently admitted that the content of organizational pages on average only appears on 17% of your fans’ news feeds.  The best way to improve that percentage is to have people interact with your content.  The more they comment, like or share your stuff, the better.  As more people interact, Facebook looks at the content as more important or interesting and give it more priority in peoples' news feeds. 

So here’s the quick summary.  Timeline is for the first-time visitor to your page.  It has to compel them enough to hit the like button.  Once they do, your chance to reach them again depends on the quality of your content and how people are interacting with it.

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