This is the first  follow-up article to the March 12, 2012 article Stepping Out with Social Media At Church.  If you haven’t read it yet, and you a social media newbie, please read it!
Facebook for My Church

Facebook is all about relationships and dialogue. So is church! Let’s look at how different kinds of interaction on Facebook can help us build community in our church and reach people outside our church.  
Become Facebook friends
Add people you know from church as friends, if indeed you are friends, or if you are interested in becoming friends. Facebook relationships can indeed be very casual.  
Message a person who is not one of your Facebook friends
Reaching out, making connections is a natural getting-to-know-you step. Be Facebook-friendly, just like you are friendly at church. Search for a church newcomer’s name on Facebook, and introduce yourself with a short message. Point a newbie to church resources – our website, Facebook page, church groups, preschool website. Reach out!
Interacting with our church Facebook page
Many people have asked exactly “who sees what?” with interactions on a Facebook page. This is an overview:

  • Page information and all content on pages is public and available to everyone on the internet, not just in Facebook.
  • People who visit our page cannot see a list of all fans, but they can scroll down and see all posts on the page, and the profile picture and name of who made them.
  • Pages communicate with you by posting status updates, which appear in the news feeds of users that like the page (fans’ news feeds)
  • A story is published on your timeline & in the news feed for the page when you…
    • Like a page
    • Post on the page
    • Like a post
    • Comment on a post
    • Are Mentioned in a post
  • If you Like a post from a page, your profile picture and name will show up in the stream for that post, along with any comments you make.

Given that broad overview, let’s look a little closer at the details as it relates to our church. When you Like a page, a post is published on your timeline and in your news feed, where your friends can see it.  So, if you Like our church page, your friends see it, and they can also see our church in the Likes on your timeline.
The more people who Like our page, the more “reach” we have.  So go ahead, Like our page, so you can get updates from church while you’re in Facebook! And encourage your friends at church to Like the page, too.

When you, as a fan, interact with our church page, through a post or a comment, or if the page mentions you, that interaction shows up in YOUR news feed where YOUR friends can see it. Your interaction on our church’s page extends our church’s reach by being presented to your friends through your feed.
When you post on the wall of our church page, or when you like a post from our page, it will encourage others to interact there. Chime in!  Ask questions! Start discussion on a relevant topic. Talk is good! It shows our church is a place where real people interact.
One of the most important things you can do to promote our church’s Facebook presence is to Share posts by the page.  Sharing is important because of the additional reach your post has – Sharing is how things “go viral” on Facebook. When you Share, you can add a message to the post, adding your insights or comments. When you Share in your own timeline, all your friends see it. When you Share on another page that you manage, that page’s subscribership receives the post.  When you Share in a group, all the group members can see it. When you Share it on a friend’s timeline, your mutual friends see the post. When you Share in a private message to a friend, only your friend will see it through the Facebook messaging system.   Sharing helps us connect more people to the activities and ideas of our church.

Interacting with a Church Facebook Group like “St. Martin In The Fields Episcopal Church
This is an overview of what happens with interactions in a Facebook Group:

  • Group information and all content within the group is accessible to members of the group. In an Open Group (“St. Martin In The Fields Episcopal Church” is an Open Group), Facebook users who aren’t group members can view the wall posts, photos, and videos, but they cannot post comments or see who belongs to the group.
  • Group members communicate with the group by writing a post on the group wall.
  • A story is published in the news feed for the group and in members’ news feeds when you…
    • Write a post
    • Like a post
    • Comment on a post
    • Are Mentioned in a post
  • If you like a post from a group, your profile picture and name will show up in the stream for that post, along with any comments you make.

Interacting with a Facebook Group has a lot of the mechanics of interacting with a Page. However, what goes on in the group largely stays within in the group, and that is the fundamental difference between pages and groups.  If the group is an Open Group, as is our church group, all posts can be seen on the group wall. Posts and comments go out to group members’ news feeds, but no group discussion appears on your personal timeline.
Now, let’s look a little closer at a proactive way to use group interaction to reach others.  First, the more people in the group, the broader its reach is, so… invite a new person to join the church Facebook group! Message them with the group title.
Consider adding one or more of your friends to your group. Friends have the ability to add other friends to a group, so if you Friend someone at church, you can add them to any church Facebook group. Be considerate, though, because many people do not like being added to a group by someone else; consider this option carefully.
Share, share, share! Sharing works the same as on Facebook pages.  It gives us the broadest reach!

Check-in to a Facebook place
When you check in to a place, like our church facebook page, several things happen. A post goes out in your news feed, so your friends know you are at church. Maybe later you can compare your experiences, or you can comment on your own check-in story, even in your own timeline.   You can also tag friends who are also checked in.  If you have turned on push notifications for the Facebook app on your smartphone, you’ll be notified of friends who have already checked in.
Having a healthy check-in history is good for our church. It shows visitors we have people who intentionally mean for others to know their presence at our church. Checkin when you arrive!

Interacting with Facebook events
When you see an event from a page or group, either because it was in your news feed, or because you saw it under Events on a page or in a group, interact with it!    You can Like or Comment on the event; ask questions if you like. You can Join the event and Invite Friends. Inviting Friends can be done by clicking on their profile picture or by entering their email addresses to invite non-Facebook friends.  What a great way to invite people to good things happening at our church! You can also RSVP to the event – yes, no, or maybe.
Stay tuned -St Martin will be having some in-person, in-house Facebook tutorials soon, where you can get started and ask questions and see examples in person!  
Author: Susan Kleinwechter