Young Adults ARE on Facebook

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on May 13, 2014

in social media, Uncategorized, Young adults

Statistics tell us that about 24% of adult Catholics attend Sunday Mass and we see with our eyes that fewer and fewer among these are young adults. Many dioceses and a few parishes have outreach efforts to young adults, but these mostly reach a percentage of those who are active in the Church. How can our parishes connect to the others? One way is through Facebook.

A recent study of 3000 students, 18-29, by Harvard School of Politics found that 84% of them were on Facebook—a much higher percentage than on the other social networking sites. The 2013 Social Media Update by the Pew Research Internet Project, also found the same percentage of young adults on Facebook.

It stands to reason that a parish Facebook page could be a way to reach out to young adults. The Catholic young adult will follow a Facebook page if the content has value to them. Our parish communities, our institutions and our Church have a rich reservoir of valuable content—but it takes effort and consistent commitment to post it on social media in a way that is attractive and accessible.

Here is ministry and faith content that has value to young adults and the rest of us as well. Content that:

  • nurtures the spiritual life (prayer, scripture, the example of holy lives, catechetical updates),
  • demonstrates that the Church cares about the poor, justice and the environment,
  • welcomes people wherever they are in life
  • shares the “joy of gospel living”
  • celebrates the good that people (especially in this community) are and do and
  • is relevant (i.e. relates) to everyday life (holidays, major holy days, current events, milestones, etc.)

In other words the content needs to be varied, interesting, sometimes entertaining, and always of value to get and keep the attention of young adults. Frequent use of images is a must and short, engaging videos are a plus. These are things the rest of us would appreciate on our parish Facebook pages as well, but sometimes older adults accept less from Facebook posts because they are not our only or primary connection to the Church. That’s not the case with young adults who are not coming to Church—if the posts don’t offer anything they want or need-they’re gone.

It is my belief, that if our parishes can connect with young adults via Facebook, we are giving them another reason (beyond their family) to be the place they turn to when they want/need a greater faith connection or spiritual support: i.e. when they want to get married in a church; baptize a child, or find a faith community. They will feel that they have in some way “kept in touch” with the Church and will be less fearful of reconnecting in person. That reconnection could take years—but if we as a Church are using social media especially Facebook to reach out and relate to them with meaningful content at whatever age they are, we have a better chance for that to happen.

What do you think? What is your experience with using Facebook to provide rich, engaging faith content to your followers?

 

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Rita Leitch May 13, 2014 at 6:34 am

You are right. Great idea. Grandparents can help!

Kirste Moline May 13, 2014 at 8:25 am

The statistics on our FB page are discouraging. An overwhelming majority of our FB fans are 35+ year old, and a majority of those are women. Anecdotal evidence suggests that in our parish, young adults tend not to use FB. They have moved on to Tumblr, Snapchat and other sites. It seems that many young adults use social media as a way to be AWAY from parents, work, etc. Once the parents find their way to a social media platform, the teens and young adults abandon it and find a new platform. This will require a creative strategy for churches, schools and other organizations. We can’t put all of our eggs in a Facebook or Twitter basket.

Renae Bauer May 13, 2014 at 10:30 am

For our community of Sisters, we have a growing circle of friends on Facebook but find it difficult to unpack Facebook’s algorithm (a formula that determines if or how often your friends see your content). Young adults might be on Facebook and they might like our page but we have no idea if Facebook is allowing our content to appear in their news streams. Any guidance on this?

Frank Koob May 13, 2014 at 10:51 am

You give good suggestions for the what, but not the how.
Is a targeted ad to a certain age group the way to go. I do believe we can indicate the local area in targeting the ad.
Of course, we need a start-up page before we do that. Do you have examples of great ones aimed at local/parish area young adults? I could benefit from lots of examples.
Do you have any national pages (like Busted Halo) to link to?

Frank

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND May 13, 2014 at 11:03 am

Kirste, I understand your frustration. I am not suggesting that we only use Facebook and Twitter to connect with young adults. We have to use every means possible. I am saying that we need to offer quality content on Facebook (see my list), so that when a young adult does connect with our page, they find content of value. I noticed in the Facebook insights for a parish Facebook page that I manage, that during Lent, the percentage of young adults reached and engaged was double what it normally is. Part of that I am sure is that we did Facebook ads in our zip code for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. The content caught their attention, they clicked and liked our page. Does that mean that they are looking at everything we post? No. But it does mean, they know we are here for them (assuming that we are posting on a regular basis) and we have content that they value. This content of value is important. According to Facebook marketing, an average of 16% of followers see posts. The post views on the Facebook page that I manage range from 20% to over 50%. This means that what we are posting has value to our followers. So if your other followers are viewing your posts at a high percentage, then you know you are offering content that they want to see. If not, you need to review your content. We know the kind of posts that get them most views and try to offer more of them.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND May 13, 2014 at 11:13 am

Renae,

1. See my response to Kirste about content.

2. Also, you may want to “Boost” key posts that you want your followers to see. You can boost a post for as low as $5.00 and designate that it should go to followers and friends.

3. For key events and/or content that seems to be relevant to their lives, create a Facebook ad. You can target these to some extent. I usually do an ad with a $50 limit for a week. Do it a few times a year or as much as your budget allows.

4. Use hashtags related to the content, but also related to what young adults might be interested in: #discernment #prayer #friendship. They might find you that way. See last week’s blog about hashtags.

5. You can also encourage followers to check “Get Notifications” under the LIKED button to be sure that they don’t miss out on posts.

These are some ideas. Would love to hear others.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND May 13, 2014 at 11:48 am

The answers to your questions, Frank, really depend on your audience and whether your ministry is local, national or international. There are many strategies when it comes to Facebook and as Facebook continues to make changes we sometimes have to change our strategies. And we always are testing and evaluating our results. Busted Halo is a great source for videos. They have a number of “X in 2 Minutes” videos. (Advent, Lent, Mary, etc.) They also have the Sacraments 101 and now the Sacraments 201 which are also very good. I have linked to some of them throughout the year. Here is their YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=busted+halo&page=2 One of the services I provide is to set-up a ministry Facebook page or audit your current one. I can provide content on a regular basis or give guidelines for you to do it yourself in case any religious communities or parishes are interested.

Frank Koob May 13, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I am only concerned about local (area of the town I work in) marketing.

Are there similar marketing tools available for the other social networking sites?

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND May 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Frank,

There is an entire social media marketing industry. Just search for social media marketing on Google either in general or for a specific platform and you will find many resources.

Obviously these tools and ideas are for business–but you can usually get ideas that you can use from them as well.

One very reputable blog on the topic is Social Media Examiner. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/tag/social-media-marketing/

Hope that helps.

Trish Wolf ofs May 24, 2014 at 11:31 am

Hi Sr. Susan:
I wanted to let you know that I used your idea of adding text to our Facebook page and posted our Holy Week activities and our Easter Mass times. According to FB stats we had over 800 hits! I do not know if they all showed for Mass, I can only hope. Even if one soul returned to Church, that is what I am here for! (I should also mention that it seemed to have reduced our phone calls in the office asking for Mass times as well.)
Thank you for all you do, and please keep the great tech information coming! God bless you.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND May 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Trish, that is great news. I am always happy to hear success stories. For those who did not read the article you are referring to, they can find it here: http://www.catholicwebsolutions.com/2014/02/25/using-facebook-to-reach-out/.

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