By: Rachel Cross
When Facebook introduced Pages back in 2007, businesses jumped at the opportunity to engage with the tens of millions of users on the network to promote their goods and services. Creating a Page was free, easy, and organizations could suddenly reach people they would never have access to otherwise.
Churches soon followed suit, and realized that having a Facebook Page was a good way to attract potential visitors, share current series information, and more.
And, while Facebook is still a powerful tool used by many churches for the purposes described above, I’ve come across many who don’t understand the nuances of Pages versus Profiles versus Groups. So here’s a way to think about the three categories, and suggestions for how to use them.
A Facebook profile is meant to be set up and used by an individual – that is, a real life person. Not the personification of your organization, and in fact, businesses who set up profiles are in violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service. Additionally, setting up your organization’s presence on Facebook as a profile limits much of what you can do, including running ads.
Facebook Profiles should be used by individuals who want to connect with other individuals and
businesses. Currently, there is a trend, especially among youth, to disengage with Facebook, but anyone who will be an admin, editor or moderator of your organization’s Page needs a profile, even if they don’t actively use it.
When you post an update from your personal profile, your friends will see it in their news feed. Even if all your posts consist of the most mundane details of your life (read “no cute cat videos here”), Facebook will not punish you for a lack of engagement with your posts.
Unlike Profiles, Pages are designed specifically for public figures, organizations and businesses to promote their services and goods in a media-rich way. Pages do not have friends, they have “fans.” You can schedule posts, decide who can interact with your Page and how (ex: you can limit the ability of fans to post directly to your Page), create events, run ads, engage in contests with approved 3rd party apps, and more. Pages are publicly viewable, meaning that people without Facebook accounts can see them. They also give you the ability to track and analyze activity and interaction.
One important thing to be aware of is when and how a Page’s posts get displayed in fans’ news feeds. The simple fact is that Page posts are not guaranteed to appear in news feeds. Instead, Facebook uses a complicated algorithm to determine the level of interaction posts get over time and rewards those Pages who generate content their fans like, comment on and share. They also punish Pages whose posts get little to no interaction, which is why I’ve heard confusion from churches whose fans never seem to see their once-in-a-while posted content. (See this article from Tech Crunch for more details.)
This is why I don’t recommend Facebook Pages for every church. Even if your church does have a Page, if you don’t have a dedicated person creating amazing content on a consistent basis, I would advise against relying on your Page to communicate important updates to your attendees. There’s a good chance they’ll never see it. (Check out “3 Questions To Ask Before You Engage In Social Media.”)
Groups are designed specifically to create open or closed communities around shared interests. You can create an open group where anyone who is a member can invite anyone else, or a closed group where only administrators can invite people to join. Groups allow you to brand the group with a logo and/or cover photo, post updates, create events, and more.
The main advantage of Groups over Pages is the fact that every group member can be notified when there are important updates. Unlike Pages which rely on the algorithm mentioned above, Group posts will show up in members’ news feeds so that nothing is missed.
Groups should be used by MOST church ministries, including mens, women, student/youth and others, and even by some churches as a form of internal communication if other digital marketing tactics such as eNewsletters aren’t being used. Groups provide a great way to communicate updates and also allow friends to invite friends, which is still the main way people tend to visit churches today. While Groups do not require the high level of resources Page need to create content, it is important that groups assign facilitators to moderate any discussions that might appear in the Group.
To recap, here’s a quick chart of some of the features of the 3 different types of Facebook presence:
Rachel Cross is a marketing sherpa for churches, nonprofits and small businesses. She considers herself a sherpa because she enjoys the challenge of guiding her clients to where they want to go while helping to “carry their packs.” Plus, sherpas get to wear warm, fuzzy hats! Learn more at rachelkgroup.com.
Image credit: http://ignitordigital.