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I decided to take an ad out on Facebook this past Christmas season. Here are some of my thoughts on the experience and results.

The first step in the process was deciding what to advertise. After some discussion with the staff here at First Trinity, I decided to focus on Christmas Eve/Day worship services. We wanted to use our “Hope Restored” sermon series graphic as the picture. Because of limited space and some ad restrictions, we only listed the service times without other information. Clicking the ad would take you through to our First Trinity Facebook Page.

Here was the final version of the ad:

FT-Facebook-Ad---Christmas-Eve-2012

Because the Facebook page would be the landing spot for our advertisement, I decided to do a quick redesign of our cover photo to match the look of the advertisement so people would know they landed on the right page. I ended up going with this design, which also highlights the service schedule:

FT Facebook Cover Photo - Christmas Eve 2012 580

After deciding on the content and updating the landing page, we narrowed down our target demographic. We wanted to try to find people who would be responsible for making the decisions about Christmas Eve worship. We decided on the following demographic:

  • Lives within 21 miles of Tonawanda, NY
  • 21 years or older
  • Female

This resulted in a potential audience of 5,560 people. The ad ran from December 12 through the 24th. Here’s what happened:

  • There were 67,563 impressions. This is the raw number of times the ad was displayed for the 5,560 people.
  • 18 people clicked the ad and performed 37 actions. This is a click-through rate of .027%.
  • The 37 actions were:
    • 20 viewed our photos.
    • 7 liked posts on our page.
    • 3 liked our page.
    • 7 performed other actions of some sort (video plays, commented on posts, mentioned our page to someone else)

The total cost for the ad was $30. Overall, I found the process a little confusing at first, but once I figured out the system it was fairly straight-forward. I think our next series of ads will focus on something more digital (resource on our website, posts on our page) rather than a specific event or worship service at our church, though I’m not certain yet what it will be or when we might do it.

I am teaching a workshop at the National Lutheran Youth Ministry Conference in San Antonio this summer. The workshop is titled “Leveraging Social Media for Your Church’s Mission.” This post is part of a series relating to that workshop. Here’s a full listing of the topics.

Overview

Social media is so large that it’s difficult to talk about everything that exists. The for purpose of this post, the “Big Picture” will be limited to blogging, social networks such as Facebook and video sharing. They are influenced by how we use each of these platforms at First Trinity.

Blogging

Blogging continues to be a fast-growing sector of social media. It’s not as “social” as something like Facebook, but still serves a valuable purpose for churches. The platform is great for extended posts that go deeper into a topic or are a little less “conversational” in nature. Blogs are great for sharing your views or ideas about a topic. They can be wide-ranging in topics, but it’s generally best to let blogs have one distinct “voice.” In other words, there is one author and face for the blog. The good thing is that you can have any number of church leaders blogging (we have 4 regular bloggers).

Setting up a blog is pretty painless. There are a number of options available:

While there are some really great things to say about all of these options, WordPress is by far my favorite platform. If you sign up for a blog at WordPress.com, you’ll have limited customization options with a few added options you can pay to use. The free account was my blogging platform of choice for several years. Recently, I moved this blog from WordPress.com and used their free software to host my own. It also runs the First Trinity Website.

All of our staff bloggers use WordPress. It’s a powerful, fast and easy-t0-learn. Google’s Blogger is a fair alternative, but not nearly as good. When I compared TypePad and WordPress, I felt like WordPress did everything TypePad did and more, all for free.

Social Networking

Social networks are really about building relationships with people and interacting together. The strength of any given network is largely determined by the size of the user base and if your circles (to borrow from Google+) are using it. It’s not unlike cell phones and the free “in-network” calls. If everyone in your family uses Sprint, it’s hard to get out because you lose the free minutes you experience from being in the same network. Social networks are similar. If all your friends use Facebook, Google+ won’t be as attractive to you because you won’t be able to communicate as easily.

Some of the major social network players include:

At First Trinity, we have chosen to focus most of our efforts on Facebook, because that’s where a great majority of our people are located. Google+ tends to have a smaller audience than Facebook, but provides similar features. Twitter is a supplement to the two that we often use for communicating in short bites (140 characters or less) on mission trips to Haiti, youth Workcamps or others that we do.

Video

Posting videos online can be a great tool for helping people understand who you are as a church. Whether it’s a welcome video on your website, a video “advertisement” for an event or just a video of something that happened at your church. There are really only two major players in the hosted video market:

Several years ago when I first looked at hosting video online, YouTube had a limit on video duration that was shorter than what we needed, so we decided to go with Vimeo. Over the years, however, that limit was removed and we use YouTube exclusively for hosting video. It’s easy to use, fast, and easy to embed in other projects like our website, blogs and Facebook. Vimeo is an excellent alternative, though the lion’s share of the traffic goes through YouTube (3 billions hours/month watched at time of publication).

If you’re looking for livestreaming of events, there are two companies that I’m familiar with:

I have not used either service extensively. Both are ad-supported for free accounts and come with some restrictions. Both have paid accounts available as well.

 

I am continually amused when people come to me for help with Facebook. I’ve been asked to talk about social media to others because I’m perceived to be good with this stuff. The truth is, I’m good with computers and technology, and I can usually figure out something if I have to, but Facebook (and social media in general) has never been an interest or passion of mine. Truth be told, if I didn’t work for a church, I probably wouldn’t spend any time on them. By all accounts, I appear to be an extrovert, but my heart’s desire is to be an introvert, or at least an internet hermit.

So it’s funny that part of my job at First Trinity is to manage online communications strategy. Thankfully, I have some much more competent staff members here like Bekah Freed and Sue Steege. They’re gracious in helping to manage our Facebook Page, but I still have to be involved. So, in the interest of helping others, here are some of the steps we took, and the things I learned, for getting your church on Facebook.

Have a Strategy

One of my biggest challenges with social media is being strategic and adding value. I don’t want to just share fluff about my life or what I’m eating at any given time. It was hard for me to think about creating a strategy, so Bekah, Sue, Pastor Chuck and I participated in a webinar on the topic. I can’t recommend it enough as a starting point for you. Waterbrook Multnomah put it on. Click here to participate. With the change to Timeline view on pages, some of the information is outdated, but it’s still worth your time.

We’re still formulating a formal strategy, but we’re working under the guiding principle that we want to use the page to foster conversation and connections, while sharing news and happenings in a more story-based format and less informational. We also want to contribute to people’s spiritual growth through things like our daily Bible thoughts.

Convey Your Story

A while back we hired a communications consultant who helped us discover God’s story in this place, who He shaped this congregation of believers to be. It was a great process and we ended up with some solid content to help convey who we are. These three statements have become core to how we communicate and do ministry. Your Facebook page should be a reflection of who God has created your church to be in the world.

For our cover photo on the new timeline, we chose to use a collage of pictures that tries to convey our story. The “Celebrating Life Together” is the summary form of one of our three story statements linked above. I used Photoshop to put it together, but Google’s Picasa can do a collage fairly quickly as well. I got the idea from this article on Church Mag.

Your cover photo is the first thing people see when they land on your page. It should be bright and attractive, setting the mood for your page. Your content, however, is what will reinforce and develop your story. What you post and share, and the conversations you have, will refine and shape that first impression.

Develop a Routine

Sue likes to joke that I’m “Mr. Try It For A While.” I like to test out the new technologies and websites that appear, but I rarely stick to them. In the case of Facebook, one of my challenges was always remembering to go there and continue using it. I’d get on for a while, then forget about it and not update. The thing about social media for churches, especially Facebook, is that once you start, it’s really hard to stop. People will start to expect updates. So don’t be afraid to develop a routine for your social media use.

We use HootSuite to batch-post updates to Facebook. It can also do Twitter and their working on Google+ Page support as well. You can write several posts in advance and schedule them to go out at later times. You can also create a file to upload in bulk. I currently have scheduled updates for our Daily Bible Thoughts at 7 a.m. (hoping to catch people for morning devotions) and a 1 p.m. Thursday update with the Scripture readings for the upcoming weekend’s worship.

The scheduled updates are supplemented with “as we can” posts that are done when we think of them. This insures there will always be some content coming, but we’re also not beholden to the schedule and can post updates immediately if needed. These updates tend to be re-posts of staff blogs when they happen, pictures from an event, special videos and events, etc.

Twitter and Blogging

October 11, 2009

For a while now, I’ve Tweeted (and by extension, Facebooked) my blog posts. They’ve taken the format:

Blog // Title of a Post // Address to find it

I’m uncertain if this is a good practice. Instead, I’m going to try asking a question in a Tweet that might get people to tune into the blog. I’m trying to help people find valuable content that’s relevant to them rather than just shamelessly promoting myself.

Hopefully, if people are interested in the question, they’ll click through. If not, that’s cool too.

I’m not sure you wanted to know this, but now you do.

My New Startup Page

August 20, 2009

Ever since I started using Firefox and discovered the joys of tabbed browsing, I have had my browser start with multiple tabs open to my most commonly accessed websites.  For about three years, there were only two: Slashdot and ESPN. About two years ago, I added Google Reader to the mix for blog reading.

What pages make it to my startup screen is a delicate balance. Slashdot could be an RSS subscription in my Reader, but I found that it was easier to just scroll through the website for a couple minutes and pick out the articles I wanted to read. The same was true for ESPN.

Lately, Lifehacker has been high on my list of sites I read, but it too is starting to clog my Reader screen with too many posts. As a result, I’ve decided that after two years, it’s time to update my startup config for Firefox. The list, from left to right:

  • Slashdot
  • Lifehacker
  • Facebook
  • ESPN
  • Google Reader

The other notable addition is Facebook. I still hate their design for the most part, but it’s becoming a critical tool that if I don’t start with it open, I won’t make it to Facebook somedays, and there are too many youth there to forget a day.

What website(s) do you include in your startup screen?

Multiplies Indeed

August 17, 2008

Loved getting to spend some time with my church family this morning, bring God’s Word to them as we explored the Love Out Loud theme from Workcamp.  The 3rd point was Love Out Loud Multiplies.  At least one of our youth who participated in Workcamp connected with the sermon and posted to his Facebook:

Akanimo Facebook

Must-Have Facebook App

May 31, 2008

Yes, that’s correct.  I found a Facebook App that you must install.  It’s called fbCal. Once installed, it creates an iCal file for your friends’ birthdays and another for events you register for on Facebook.  The events aren’t useful to me, but the birthdays thing is great.  I subscribed to the iCal file in Google Calendar, then set up default reminders of 2 days and 15 minutes for every birthday.  Great stuff if you’re using Google Calendar or any number of other calendar softwares that support iCal imports.  MySpace needs something like this now.