On 12th January 2018, Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s founder and CEO) announced some pretty big changes to the way in which the Newsfeed works: ‘making posts from businesses, brands and media less prominent’ (BBC News). These changes apply to any organisations (like churches) who have a public Facebook Page, and it’s worth knowing a little bit about them.

1. Everything nothing is changing.

The key message in Facebook’s announcement is that less “engaging” posts are less likely to appear on user’s newsfeeds, a trend that we’ve seen develop over a number of years. In the past, you may have used visual media (e.g. photos/video) as a way to increase the likelihood that your posts will be shown on your followers’ Newsfeeds, but this latest announcement has got many concerned that their Pages’ reach will decrease. As Mark Zuckerberg says: “We’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other…” (Link)

Churches and organisations who create posts which inspire conversation will benefit from a less crowded Newsfeed.

Whilst this announcement seems to have come as a shock to many organisations, Facebook is picking up on the way in which people use Facebook – face it, you’re pretty likely to scroll past an advert or a post from a page you barely engage with, and more likely to stop with a post from your closest friends. In actual fact, these changes present a great opportunity for churches who can create engaging posts.

2. Your reach will decrease (maybe).

The key takeaway that many have highlighted is the following: “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people…” (Link). Facebook seems to be planning on decreasing the number of posts from Pages that people see, meaning that, as a Page, your reach is likely to decrease.

Focus on creating meaningful interaction: create content that engages people, facilitate discussion, get people involved in the comments.

Again, the flip-side of these changes is that Facebook posts which create ‘meaningful interactions’ (e.g commenting/tagging friends etc.) may find themselves to be more widely noticed, which would then increase their reach. As a church, you have an ideal opportunity to encourage members of your congregation to get involved with your church’s Facebook Page, which will help increase the likelihood of your posts being seen more widely.

3. Facebook Live.

Video has long been an important part of developing a successful presence on Facebook, and whilst video will continue to feature strongly in the new algorithm, Facebook Live will take this to the next level: “Live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook—in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos…” (Link)

Using Facebook Live demonstrates a deeper level of openness, integrity and personality. It’s a great way for churches to share the latest news and announcements.

If you haven’t already tried sharing live video, now is the time to get started – all you need is yourself, a phone, and something to talk about! Give it a try and discover how using live video can develop your reach.

4. Social connection is essential.

Facebook has a clear set of Newsfeed values which it uses to determine what posts appear on the Newsfeed. At the top of the list is this: “Facebook was built on the idea of connecting people with their friends and family. That is still the driving principle of News Feed today.” It might be tempting to create “engagement bait” – posts which include comments such as “comment below if you agree!”, but a word to the wise: don’t – Facebook actively demotes these types of posts. The key word in all this: Authenticity (another of Facebook’s Newsfeed values).

Think about about how you can share authentic posts that entertain, inform and create strong connections.

Churches are full of people and stories, so you have massive potential in the stories that are happening every day; from cups of coffee being shared with strangers, to school visits, to answers to prayer. Focus on telling your stories through a range of visual media – use photos and videos to effectively share what’s going on in your setting.

5. Have a think about Facebook Ads.

Organic reach (the number of people that see your posts ‘naturally’ (i.e. without paying Facebook to reach more people)) has been declining for a number of years, and many local churches and Christian organisations have already tried out Facebook Ads, perhaps by clicking the “Boost Post” button that appears on their posts. With these new changes, learning to make the most of Facebook Ads through targeting the right audiences will become essential.

Facebook Ads provides local churches with a unique opportunity to expand their reach by using Facebook Ads or Boosted Posts to target their local community.

If you have an upcoming event which you want to invite members of the local community to, Facebook Ads may successfully enable you to reach many people you might otherwise not have reached. The ads themselves don’t have to be expensive, but it is worthwhile taking the time to learn how to create an engaging ad. If you want to learn more about Facebook Ads, get in touch to explore how we can help.

In summary…

  1. These changes continue the trends we’ve seen over recent years towards promoting more socially-engaging posts.
  2. Expect your organic reach to decrease (but follow these steps to increase reach).
  3. Make increasing use of video, especially Facebook Live.
  4. Focus on creating authentic posts that naturally invite social connection.
  5. Learn how to target the right audiences with paid ads.

Bonus Tip: Encourage your followers to keep seeing your posts by adjusting their Newsfeed preferences to “See First”.