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Facebook changes mean new strategies for churches

By Darby Jones

As soon as you get used to one feature, Facebook will change it and add five others to learn. It’s annoying at times, but don’t worry. Be happy. Some of the changes will save you time. If you are one of 750 million active users, you don’t want to fall behind.

If your church leaders are using their personal Facebook page for ministry, teach them how they can benefit from the new Facebook changes.

Save time with lists.
Group friends so you can speak directly to people with shared interests (college students, older adults, staff, youth and so forth) by using the “lists” feature. In the left-hand column on the home page, click on “lists,” then “create a list.” A text box will open so you can label the group (youth group members); then you can type the individuals’ names or click on their images to enter them into the group.

List functionality has improved greatly and now looks very similar to Google+. Not only can you view only the updates from people on certain lists, but you also can publish content that only those people will see. Publish content specific to each list without troubling other groups who may not care about certain updates.

Hit the highlights.
You can scroll through every post your friends make or you can hit the highlights. Facebook's home page now allows you to view "highlighted stories” at the top, which provides you with the posts in which Facebook thinks you will be most interested based upon the friends you connect with most and how many likes or comments your friends' posts receive. Or you can click "sort" in the upper right corner and choose to have "recent stories" appear in the order they were posted. Highlighted stories will be marked with a blue corner.

Stay in your friends’ “highlighted stories.”
One major change is that status updates, photos, videos and links need “likes” and “comments” to be prominent in a friend’s “highlighted stories.” This encourages interaction. And it means your content actually has to be engaging.

When someone “likes” or “comments” on your content, that action will show up on their friend’s “ticker” (see below). That’s why it’s even more important now to create a good call to action. Ask questions, post interesting videos, have fun and encourage your congregation to participate. For maximum and continuous exposure, ask members to respond to posts and consider reposting on their Facebook pages.

Don’t forget about the “ticker.”
For those who care to view all status updates, Facebook has introduced the “ticker,” located on the right side of your home page, which lists everything your friends are doing in real-time. It’s good to peruse the “ticker” briefly. There may be an important concern that others don’t “like,” yet needs attention from pastoral staff.

Don’t get bogged down.
Some Facebook friends like to play games — lots of games. If you’re not interested in knowing when they’re harvesting super pumpkins or paying off mafia warlords, you can hide these posts from your news feed. This isn’t a new feature, but save time wading through all the mind-numbing posts by blocking games/apps.

Engage friends.

  • Create a poll. For instant feedback, post questions and even offer possible responses. On the top of the home page, click on “Ask Question,” then type your question. Want to offer optional answers? Click on “add poll options” and complete the fields. This interactivity can be helpful in learning what your congregation wants or thinks.
  • Respond to friends posts. Don’t expect interaction to be one-sided. Listen to others and reply to their posts and comments.
  • Share links to photo albums or videos from church activities. Don’t forget to label or tag the people in the picture. By doing that, their presence on your page will show up on their pages. Do not tag people in unflattering or blasé poses. It should go without saying, but it happens all the time.
  • Add a forum for pages. Forum for pages allows owners of Facebook pages to add a Discussion Board to their pages and save all the existing discussions from the soon deprecated Facebook Discussions tab.