Our Kiwi and Pasifika Anglican presence on Facebook is varied, as we are. We have church pages and church groups. Which of these approaches is best to suit your needs?
In a nutshell, most Facebook Pages are outward looking. A Facebook Page can be made for free by any Facebook member, and others can join by simply clicking the “Like” button. All activity (and inactivity) is therefore on display to anyone who “Likes” your page, so a Facebook Group is effectively a public place, just like a church with the doors open.
Photo by Flickr member André Diogo Moecke.
We have learnt that churches with open doors are best occupied, and that there is merit in providing inviting materials and prayer stations for the visitor to engage with. We know this takes a team of volunteers and some planning. It’s similar with your Facebook “Like” page. A team is good, but it can be small. Half a dozen people spending 5 minutes a day on your page can create a conversation that the visitor feels welcome to join. One person spending half an hour a day creates a monologue, and in “social media”, this can be seen as unwelcoming, regardless of the talent that has been brought to bear. Much of the conversation can be light-hearted, sharing enthusiasm for activities, responses to photos, and memories of past events. You don’t need a team with the courage to bare their souls online. You do need a plan to share some material that is deep and meaningful from time to time. The core business of our faith has its place, and it’s worth looking around lots of pages to see who is sharing their faith in a style that fits your own worship community.
A number of our Facebook Page owners have placed restrictions on the visitor’s ability to post. There is provision for this in the controls available to Page owners, but should we do this? To my mind, that’s a little like inviting the local community to a church event and then gagging them as they walk through the door. If you have a noteworthy problem with spam, report, delete, and place a message on the wall saying that only page owners will be posting for a while. In general, a Facebook Page is designed for interaction, and maximising that potential is usually the best use of it.
Photo by Flickr member andym8y.
A Facebook Group is designed to be more inward looking. Like Pages, Facebook Groups can be set up by any Facebook member for free. Groups can be very private, although the default settings are less so. A Group can be a safer environment for members to share more personal opinions, but please remember that cybersecurity has been described as an oxymoron, for very good reasons. Think of a Facebook Group as analogous to a meeting in a closed room, but a room with a door that might blow open when you think it is shut.
Groups have group chats available until they reach 250 members, and these can be a lot of fun. Having two modes of conversation tends to help all members to find a way of participating that feels right for them. You can make longer posts in a Group, which can be very useful for sharing complex ideas. In my experience, more people participate at a deep level in Facebook Groups, but they are also more willing to disagree. In short, very active groups are both a lot of fun and a lot of work.
A Group Admin has no inbuilt mechanism for networking with other Groups, while a Page Owner can “Like” other Pages. The inward focus of a Group is something Facebook themselves recommend for small collections of people who know each other well. However, if your goals are outreach from the Parish while strengthening co-operation at a Diocesan level, you may want Parish Pages and a Diocesan Group. Joining several existing Groups and Pages first will help you to decide.
The terms Page and Group have been capitalised to indicate that they refer to Facebook Pages and Facebook Groups specifically, rather than other internet pages and groups, which have different attributes.