Practical Advice on How to Use the Social Media Powerhouse to Boost Religious Meetings.
Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has become a worldwide communications phenomenon. It's being used by millions of individuals, organizations, businesses, and groups to share information.
Facebook is the favoredoption for building community, making it well-suited for religious organizations. Indeed, some of the most vibrant and vital Facebook pages are from religious groups.
With discipline and focus, your Facebook page can become the content hub for your event. Here we share the consensus of opinion from religious meeting planners and social media experts on how to make the most of your event's Facebook presence.
KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING. Establish the strategic goals you are pursuing. Are you trying to increase attendance? Do you want to increase overall attendance, or attendance among a specific demographic? How much do you want to build attendance?
GET BUY-IN FROM YOUR EVENT'S LEADERSHIP. It's very likely that the members of the policy board who oversee your event are on Facebook already. Get them engaged and involved in the process.
HAVE YOUR CONTENT AND SITE READY TO GO. It's a bad idea to launch your Facebook page and then not update it for weeks. Social media has a short shelf life. Old news becomes stale quickly. Set up a routine to create the content for the coming week or month.
BUILD YOUR FAN BASE. Begin by searching Facebook for people you know who are already part of your event's community and “friend” them. Use Facebook to conduct searches of people, pages, and groups to identify people in your denomination who might be interested in your content and your event; then “friend” them. Encourage them to do the same. Promote your Facebook presence on other sites to attract people to become your friend or fan.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR PAGE AND STRIVE TO UPDATE IT DAILY. You must give people fresh reasons to spend time with you on the Web.
LET FACEBOOK DO WHAT IT IS BEST AT DOING, creating buzz and facilitating participant involvement.
OFFER PARAMETERS TO FOCUS THE CONVERSATION. For example, the idea for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's 2012 Youth Gathering theme came through constituents' conversations on Facebook. Youth Gathering Director Heidi Hagstrom presented the parameters for a theme and then invited the Facebook community to join the staff in prayer and discernment. “The wisdom shared via Facebook was astounding,” Hagstrom says.
USE TRIAL AND ERROR. Testing is a key part of refining your Facebook presence. If something is not working, change it. If it is working, improve it.
POST YOUR MOST VIRAL CONTENT. Post the stuff you think your attendees will be most interested in. Your online presence should not be limited to announcements. Provide links to content that can help fans take the next step in their spiritual journey.
DIRECT FANS TO YOUR ORGANIZATION'S WEB SITE. Add value and make your social media fun, but also provide links to send people to spiritual-growth resources on your organization's Web site.
KEEP REVIEWING. Take time to examine what you are doing. Keep asking: Is our content aligned with our mission?
REMEMBER THE HIGHER GOALS. Align your Facebook page with your denomination's mission, and make the mission known to page visitors.
CELEBRATE SUCCESSES. Thank your team and fans and gear up for the next challenge.
THINK LONG-TERM. Facebook can do more than just build attendance for your event. Use your page as part of a strategy that will make your event a vital component of your faith community.
DO NOT SHUT DOWN YOUR EVENT PAGE AFTER AN EVENT ENDS. Instead, use the page as a perpetual tool for building connections and generating interest for future events.
LEARN FROM THE BEST AND LEVERAGE THEIR KNOWLEDGE. There are many people with a lot of Facebook experience; many are on the congregational level. Ask them to help you improve your Facebook presence.