Six Questions to Consider Before Using Facebook for Ministry

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on October 25, 2010

in Catholic, ministry, social media, Uncategorized

Radio and TV programs are regularly inviting us to their Facebook pages. Friends and relatives are asking “Aren’t you on Facebook yet?” Some of our constituents are encouraging us to start a Facebook page. Here are six questions to ask yourself before you put your ministry or organization on Facebook.

1)      Should I be on Facebook for my ministry? Only you can answer that. If you want to connect with those you serve in a way that is convenient to them; if you want to educate people about your mission and the activities of your organization; if you want to be available to respond to inquiries and to facilitate conversations online, then the answer is “yes.” If you do not want do these things, then the answer is “no.”

2)      If I want to be on Facebook to serve my ministry, what do I have to know?You need to know that being on Facebook for ministry is not the same as being on Facebook as a private individual.  Your Facebook updates and uploads (links, photos, videos, etc.) are about your ministry, not about your personal life. Be sure to follow any guidelines that your organization has about the use of social media.

3)      Are there different ways to put my ministry on Facebook? As a matter of fact, your ministry can be on Facebook in three different ways: as a profile, a group, and a page. Each presence has its own features and you may choose to use all three or just one. You most likely will want a profile for yourself where you can share just with your friends and family and a page for your ministry which is public.

4)      Does having a Facebook presence require a lot of time? A Facebook presence does require an investment of time, but youdecide how much time you will spend. Think about how you want to use Facebook and use it in a way that fits your availability. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • Who do you want to connect with on Facebook?
  • What do they want to see from you?
  • How often do you need to post updates to keep them current?
  • How often will you monitor the site and respond to comments and questions (daily, 2-3 x a week, etc.)?

Then make yourself a schedule and keep it, but stay flexible.

 5) Who should post updates on my Facebook page (often referred to as a fan page)? That is an important decision to make.  You have options in this regard.  I believe that only the site administrators and people you designate should post updates on a ministry Facebook page. This is your official ministry page, you should set the agenda and the context. Let everyone else comment. Some ministry sites are letting everyone post updates and (in my opinion) their sites look chaotic and some of the posts do not reflect the values of the organization or ministry. It is confusing for your fans. You should also set the rules i.e. disrespectful and malicious comments will be deleted and the writer will be blocked from the site, etc.

6)      How do I get followers on Facebook? You will need to advertise your presence on Facebook in every way that you can. Have a link to your Facebook site on your ministry website. List your Facebook address on every piece of print material that goes out from your office. Tell people about it when you are working with them. 

There are many short tutorial videos on YouTube on how to set up a Facebook profile, group or page. Just go to www.YouTube.com and search for what you want to learn. If you want something in print, I have found the 2nd edition of Facebook for Dummies by Leah Perlman and Carolyn Abram very helpful and easy to read. If you want more info about the book, click here.

Remember, the most important thing about your Facebook ministry site is not the number of followers you have, it is about the service you provide, the trust you build, and the relationships you form by being helpful, open, and responsive to their feedback.

Please share your questions and comments below. If you have a Facebook profile, group or page for ministry, please share your experience and what you have learned. Thank you.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Don McCrabb October 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Great ideas. And thank you for the references. I am looking forward to hearing how others are using Facebook.

Dorian Speed October 25, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Great article – just a quick clarification on the use of personal profiles:

When you are using Facebook for your ministry, use your ministry email address and your ministry contact information not your personal email address. Use your personal email and contact information for a personal profile account only.

It’s actually a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service to use more than one personal profile. If it’s discovered that you’re using one profile for ministry and one as your personal profile, you could find that both accounts end up disabled with little to no prior warning. And, since Facebook is somewhat self-policing, what that means is that you just need to have one person who reports your account for violating their T.O.S. and you’ll be on their “radar,” so to speak.

I’d say the best way to facilitate a ministry via Facebook is via a Page. It will give you more control over what’s posted than a group would, and it will show up in Internet searches once you have 25 “fans.” You’ll also have many more options of creating custom tabs and using applications that might assist you in your ministry.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND October 25, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Dorian,

Thanks so much for catching my mistake. I have removed the statement you quoted and replaced it with “You most likely will want a profile for yourself where you can share just with your friends and family and a page for your ministry which is public.”

Sr. Susan

P.S. to all readers: Check out Dorian’s article on this aspect of Facebook and why it is important. http://scrutinies.blogspot.com/2010/10/why-facebook-personal-accounts-are-only.html

Diane Vella October 25, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Thanks for this! We are just getting ready to set up a parish Facebook page and this is a great help!

Joyce Donahue October 25, 2010 at 5:35 pm

I have my personal page – on which I informally connect with a lot of people in ministry from around my diocese and the country – and others – some Catholic some not. I use that for personal sharing and connection and for evangelization (a little bit of an experiment – but it seems to be working).

As a diocesan employee, my main page for ministry is a closed group for catechetical leaders in our diocese. It allows me to post things that everyone who is a friend of mine see, or send messages to them privately. Our diocese is not currently allowing offices to have an open “page” because of fears about the kinds of comments that may be left. (OK, I admit, I don’t agree with this policy.)

Lisa Hendey October 25, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Another helpful article, especially for those just looking into this. I find the USCCB guidelines at http://www.usccb.org/comm/social-media-guidelines.shtml#establishing to be very helpful – the “dual administrator” issue is an important one for policing unwanted comments. We’ve had our parish Facebook page since February and I have not had to remove one bad comment yet. It’s been a great experience for us and has increased communication with younger parishioners who aren’t in the habit of visiting the parish website. Thanks for the article!

Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF October 25, 2010 at 10:26 pm

There are many articles to help learn more about Facebook! You may want to explore the articles you will find at – http://www.delicious.com/ccerveny/facebook. For those who are interested in how companies are handling social media guidelines, you may be interested in the “Online Database of Social Media Policies” located at – http://www.delicious.com/ccerveny/socialmedia_policy.

Sr. Susan, thanks for the wonderful article!

Susan Francesconi October 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Great article Susan!
It is very important for parishes to have some kind of policy regarding social networking sites which clearly states who is authorized to set up pages, who is authorized to post content, and who is responsible for monitoring information being posted and comments.

Our parish policy is to allow only one parish facebook page-which is edited and maintained by me, the communications director, and one youth ministry page, edited and maintained by our youth minister.

We have this rule to ensure the information on the internet regarding our parish and its events/activities is accurate.

Jared Dees October 26, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Thank you for posting this. I hope parishes and ministries truly do take these questions and others into consideration before jumping in to social media. People shouldn’t jump on board because “everybody’s doing it.” A discussion about goals must proceed a facebook page.

Marc Cardaronella October 26, 2010 at 3:42 pm

I really like this paragraph:

“Remember, the most important thing about your Facebook ministry site is not the number of followers you have, it is about the service you provide, the trust you build, and the relationships you form by being helpful, open, and responsive to their feedback.”

Social media is all about connecting with your people and listening to them and forming better relationships. It’s service oriented and that’s what parishes should be about as well.

Drew October 27, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Facebook changes have left me confused.

What is the difference between a group, and a page? If my group is old – more than nine months – would it make sense to change to a ‘page,’ whatever that is.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND October 28, 2010 at 10:05 am

Drew,

Whether to have a page or a group is up to you and depends on how you want to interact with your members. According to Facebook for Dummies (2nd edition) page 203 (see article above for more info), these are the major differences between a page and a group.

In a group the information flows among all the members with equal authority. A group can be open to the public or restricted to members or members and friends. A group administrator can message up to 500 members and they can reply back to the administrator. A person must opt out of the group to opt out of the messages. A group can represent anything.

With a page the information is usually one directional–from the administrator(s) to the fans–allowing for comments if they wish.They can also have a discussion tab if they wish to have one. A page administrator can send bulk messages to all fans. Fans cannot reply and can opt out of the messages. Only a business or a specific entity (i.e. organization, group, school, etc) can have a page.

Perhaps others who have experiences with groups and pages can share their expereinces about these options.

I hope this helps.

Drew October 28, 2010 at 10:46 am

Yes it does. Thanks very much.

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