Do you know how to use Facebook to attract standing-room-only crowds to your Christmas services?
Facebook and other social networks offer so many new and free ways for churches to reach out and touch thousands of people this holiday season, and churches’ Facebook walls soon will be filling up with posts about holiday events. However, simply putting up announcements about your events on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will not get you what you want — not if your goal is to grow through this holiday season.
To help churches make the most of time spent on social media, Outreach offered a webinar, “5 Ways Your Church Can Win at Social Media This Christmas,” last week. For our clients who missed the webinar, here are a few of my notes from that session (with gratitude for the Outreach team who put together an excellent presentation) and a few other ideas I’ve picked up while setting up and managing churches’ social media accounts the past few years. (Friends of Ministry presented its first social-media-for-churches training more than five years ago.)
First Things First: Get Your House in Order
- Make sure your ministry’s Facebook Page is complete. Use the Settings tab on your page and make your way through every item you see on the next screen. Reason: Facebook rewards complete pages by showing them more often to Facebook users.
- Make sure you have a good cover photo for your Facebook Page. Your cover should be a high-quality image that communicates, in an instant, who you are as a community. Use photos of people, not buildings. Reason: The large image you choose to represent you at the top of your page says LOTS about you to people looking for a new church home.
- Make sure the profile photo at the top of your Facebook Page is correctly sized. The profile image should be square, 200 by 200 pixels. If your profile photo shows only part of your logo or name, have a graphic designer resize the image so it fits correctly, or use an image that does. Reason: Messy graphics make a poor first impression.
If other people are not liking and commenting on your Facebook posts, Facebook figures, “No one cares,” and Facebook stops showing your posts, even to those who matter most — people who have “liked” your page.
You can fix this. Post often, at least twice daily, and get your staff and volunteers involved; ask them to like, comment and share on everything you post.
Engagement is the key to success on social media!
Through announcements, newsletters and email, ask your congregation to support your efforts by becoming “digital ambassadors” for the church. (You can make “digital ambassador” a completely informal, voluntary position, or you can invite people to sign up and give them a specific responsibility, such as “visit our Facebook daily and like, comment on and share something you see there.”)
Here are a few more ideas for holiday-season posts on Facebook and other social networks:
- Recognize volunteers. Consider featuring a “Volunteer of the Week” with his/her photo, name, and info about his/her volunteer service.
- Post pictures from your latest event, along with thanks to the volunteers who made it possible.
- Invite people who attend services, classes, concerts and other events to “check in” to your location on Facebook.
- Publish announcements/reminders about good works you’re doing during the holidays. Having a food drive? Post: “Remember to bring in canned goods for our Christmas food drive tomorrow.” Include a photo of canned goods or one of baskets waiting to be filled.
- Create graphics featuring scripture, which get shared a lot on Facebook.
- If you do not have a budget for images, use free images from online image banks. Four to try:
- Use Google’s Advanced Image Search to find images that are in the public domain (okay for you to use, without worry about copyright infringement). Here are instructions.
- Create a series, “Countdown to Christmas,” with a different post each day. Example: For your “10 days until Christmas” post, use an image of a frazzled shopper with an invitation to de-stress, and a link to a meditation published on your website or elsewhere.
- Create other Christmas-themed posts. Example: Use a Christmas image with a verse from the Christmas story in one of the gospels.
- Show how you’re giving back to your community. Use photos of volunteers packing Thanksgiving food baskets, members taking tags from your Christmas angel tree, members of your choir singing at a nursing home.
- Create Advent posts featuring the themes of hope, joy, love and peace.
Keep most of your posts timely, relevant to what’s happening now and next.
Now that you know how to use Facebook to attract more visitors to your Christmas services, consider measuring the results of your efforts this year. In any program you hand out at any service, include a leave-behind card, one that asks, “If you are visiting for the first time today, how did you find us?” And then make it really easy on the new folks; let them know they can simply leave the card on their seat as they leave the sanctuary. You’ll get more feedback and more coming back if you don’t publicly single them out by asking them to raise their hands or stand during the service.
Here’s a little information about Outreach, which presented the webinar:
Founded in 1996, Outreach, Inc. has quickly grown to become the largest provider of church outreach products and services in the world. With a mission to share God’s love and empower the Church to share the message of Jesus Christ, Outreach provides cost-effective, proven methods and resources in a variety of forms, including books, media and film, postcard invitations, banners, bulletin covers, curriculum, church campaign materials, and more. Located in Colorado Springs, the company has established five divisions under the umbrella of Outreach, Inc.
— Post by Cheryl Harrison, Director, Friends of Ministry