As Diane Worten commented in response to the Interconnections article on Facebook and other new media tools, “Why use these when a church already has a website that is accessible via the Internet?”
The short answer is that Facebook has a large userbase and facilitates the viral spread of information among those users. There are several ways that Facebook encourages people to spread page content (including information posted on congregational Facebook pages!):
- Facebook delivers information directly to your page fans through the “News Feed” feature, rather than relying on people to remember and visit your page on a regular basis. When fans of your congregation’s page login to Facebook, they see a “News Feed” which includes content posted by their friends and also recent content posted by your congregation.
- Facebook also delivers information about your page to people who aren’t fans, but whose friends are. Users can see when their friends interact with your page. They might think “I didn’t know Sam went to church! I’m going to click on that link and find out more!” (or something like that).
- A fan of your congregation’s Facebook page can easily share content posted on that page with their other Facebook friends, by clicking the “share” button found underneath posts on a page wall. As Facebook describes it, “When your fans interact with your Facebook Page, stories linking to your Page can go to their friends via News Feed. As these friends interact with your Page, News Feed keeps driving word-of-mouth to a wider circle of friends.”
Because of Facebook so successfully promotes the widespread sharing of content, a congregation can significantly benefit from having a presence on Facebook, even if the congregation already has a website (as most Unitarian Universalist congregations do).
Facebook also makes it easy to ask questions about announcements. So if you announce “Tonight there is a special guest at …” someone can ask “Will childcare be provided?” the important thing being that anyone who looks at the announcement later can also see the answer. Most church websites don’t support that type of interaction, or even notifications of content update.
And if a reminder goes out on a Saturday, or early Sunday morning to bring in food donations it is much more likely to helpful than a reminder printed in last weeks order of service, or the monthly newsletter.
Good points! Facebook allows people to participate in an online conversation related to announcements and other content from the congregation, and hopefully that online conversation will help answer common questions and provide other useful information.
And Facebook is a tool for getting announcements out quickly and at appropriate times (purposes served by many congregational e-mail lists as well).
A forum on a congregational website would provide the same question-and-answer capabilities and content saving; using a “Share this”, “Add This” or other button would similarly work in a viral capacity while driving people to the church website instead of a third party vendors site.
Of course one could add the “Share this” or “Add This” buttons to the congregational web site for viral marketing.
However, the advantage of Facebook is that it does reach folks outside our congregation’s walls and outside our existing membership lists.
I keep asking myself, “where are the youth?”. They don’t answer my e-mails, and I don’t think they visit the church website often. Most are not on the all-church e-mail list. If they’re on Facebook (as almost all are), then as a DRE, I should be on FB too.
Kim, Steve, and Andrea, Thanks for your comments!