Q and A: How to increase Facebook views

Q. I’ve taken many of the suggestions about doing church Facebook better (InterConnections, March 1, 2014) but am very frustrated by the rate of views allowed by Facebook algorithms. Last year I regularly got 100 views, sometimes 1,000 or more, and now they are very small. Someone told me that about one in five posts get through to the news feeds, more likely the ones with videos. I always have a photo. I can see the content is not reaching my own news feed. What can we do to change that? I changed the option on my website to receive notifications from the church website, but still am not getting all the posts.

Sara Morrison Neil, membership program director, First Parish, Framingham, Mass.

A. Facebook changes privacy controls, news feed algorithms, et al. per its own business needs, not per the user’s needs. Only when user needs tie directly to its bottom line will Facebook suit UU needs, let alone any special interest group.

Sara’s not getting the traffic because she has no control, not only over what Facebook does but over how friends or followers to her page set their Facebook accounts. Unless everyone on both sides of the dialogue identifies each other as “close friends” or “followers,” there’s no way for her content to be viewed consistently by those she’s trying to reach. And therein lies the crux of the Facebook problem. Forget about covenant because the technology works against it. Even with the setting of “followers,” there’s no guarantee people will see her posts.

June Herold, former executive of AOL, member of the UU Church of Arlington, Va., and author of REACH: A Digital Ministry Program.

UU Social Media Lab a place for questions

The UU Social Media Lab on Facebook has included the following discussions in recent weeks:

• Whether to make worship services available on DVD, livestreaming, or by posting the files onto websites and Facebook pages. And if posting to websites, to be mindful to omit music that is copyrighted unless permissions have been obtained.

• From a congregation that loans its folding chairs for public events: How can the chairs be creatively marked to promote the congregation’s mission?

• Locating email newsletter software that will allow creation of PDFs so it can be added later to a website.

• Reviewing and rating your congregation on Yelp as a way of attracting seekers. Try this. Go to yelp.com, put in the name of your congregation, and see what comes up.

Join the lab (registration required) for discussions about a variety of topics around how congregations can and do use social media.

Email lists, Facebook labs facilitate discussions

Need a place to engage in in-depth discussions of UU topics or simply pose a question that’s on your mind about church management, growth, worship, etc.? In addition to UUA-sponsored email lists, UUs on Facebook have recently created more than a dozen “labs” for such discussions. Topics include growth, use of social media, religious education, evangelism, stewardship, small group ministry, and governance. Find them all here, or below.

The Hub, a site for young adults on Facebook

UU young adults have a new place to connect on Facebook. The Hub: Young Adult UUs includes  a map where participants can add campus ministry groups and other organizations. It also includes a calendar that young adults can add events to.

The Hub describes itself this way: “Young adult UU’s are a big, diverse group, spanning ages 18-35. In fact, maybe the only thing that unites us is that we are UU’s going through transitions and discernment. That’s why The Hub embraces a diverse vision of young adult ministry that includes religious communities for college students, young families, working young adults, spiritual seekers and young religious professionals, just to name a few.”

The Hub, which also includes items from the Young Adult blog Blue Boat,  is hosted by the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the UUA.

Carey McDonald, Youth and Young Adult Ministries director, noted, “A lot of young adults who are involved in congregations may feel isolated from other young adults. The Hub can connect them and give them ideas about what others are doing. It’s all about connecting people who are fairly spread out.”


Congregational Life Facebook page supports leaders

The UUA Congregational Life Facebook page currently features links to articles on the following topics, written by staff and lay leaders of various UUA districts:

Communication: Keeping it Real—Taking steps to ensure that information is shared openly and as widely as possible. Using transparency to defeat rumors, gossip, secrets, and third-party complaints.

Another Bridge to Nowhere?—A call to action to make the transition from youth to young adulthood within Unitarian Universalism feel like a bridge to somewhere by coming up with innovative ways to keep young adults interested and involved.

Why is Everyone Talking About Mission?—Helping leaders define a congregation’s purpose and mission. The article notes that many people now no longer join congregations just for warm and friendly relationships, but rather they want to know that the congregation has a purpose and a mission in the larger community and that it can help them find meaning in their lives. Congregational leaders need to be able to define that meaning and purpose.

Check in with the UUA Congregational Life Facebook page frequently for articles about deep discussions taking place in UUA districts about a variety of topics important to congregational leaders.

UU leaders share tips via Facebook

Here are resources that people have recommended on Facebook that could be useful to leaders of congregations:

  • Kathy Burek, president of the Prairie Star District Board of Trustees, recommends the book Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. “It’s been my favorite conflict-resolution book for decades.” UUA Trustee John Blevins recommends a 19-minute video talk on it by Ury.
  • UUA Moderator Gini Courter recommends an online column by Bruce Epperly, author and theology professor, about taking our faith seriously and reclaiming Christian education.

Facebook can be your friend

The Rev. Christine Robinson, senior minister at the First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, N.Mex., has written on her blog, iMinister, and on her Facebook page about the ways that Facebook can be useful to ministers. Lay leaders will also find the information helpful.

She notes that “friending” one’s minister on Facebook is different from being a friend of the minister. “Facebook friendship is to real friendship what coffee hour is to an encounter group. Facebook is a way of keeping in touch, briefly and pleasantly, with aspects of people’s lives in one sentence, one picture, one ‘read this that I’ve linked to’ bites.”

Robinson also explains ways ministers (and by extension lay people) can keep Facebook from becoming a “time sink,” including “hiding” people who continually post trivia. One can also click “like” to acknowledge a post, rather than writing a response.

She notes: “Like all new technologies, Facebook has a learning curve. This one is a little less user-friendly to newbies than, say, Google products are. Be patient with yourself, and ask questions of your Facebook friends. After you’ve learned, Facebook is much more manageable and much more fun than email.”

Beyond Robinson’s comments, it is worth noting that lay leaders can use Facebook to maintain relationships with other lay leaders and leaders in other congregations. And since many congregations have Facebook “fan” pages, one can become a fan of other churches and learn about their programs and practices. Facebook can also be a tool to expose nonchurch friends to Unitarian Universalism in a nonthreatening way.

To find InterConnections on Facebook visit facebook.com/InterConnections.

Update: The Rev. Cynthia Landrum offers advice on her blog, Rev. Cyn, about the value in creating different “friend groups” on Facebook (and how to do this) to separate people from the various parts of life––work, church, high school, etc. (3.31.10)

InterConnections now on Facebook

InterConnections now has a Facebook page to make it as easy as possible for leaders of congregations to keep up with the latest in useful information about congregational topics, including membership, stewardship, and administration.

Facebook is a place to not only read about new InterConnections articles and blog posts, but to comment on them. We also welcome suggestions for articles. In the short time InterConnections has been on Facebook, hundreds of people have already become “fans,” and we’re hearing some great feedback. So if you or your congregation is on Facebook, why not become a fan of InterConnections?