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Using Facebook as your Website

Taupo Anglican Parish Facebook Page

Does your parish or church use a facebook page as your primary means of communicating on the web?

UPDATED with links to parishes that solely use a facebook page as their presence on the web (see end of post).

I have wondered about encouraging people to use a facebook page as their parish website. Now I have found a parish that has started doing just that – and VERY successfully.

Regulars here know that I have rebuilt this website three times (using Dreamweaver, Rapidweaver, and now WordPress). I also started a Liturgy facebook page when facebook introduced them. The facebook page regularly takes me by surprise. I have had a post on the Liturgy facebook page viewed by a quarter of a million people! Normally, a post there can receive several thousand, and sometimes tens of thousands of views. All that is far more than the visits to this website which averages a couple of thousand visits a day. And so you can imagine I’ve wondered about the effort I put into this site, and whether to just blog on the facebook page instead of here.

Taupo Anglican Parish received zero to two visitors to their website a week. They decided to use the Taupo Anglican Church facebook page instead, and now can get a healthy 1,000 visitors to that page a week! They ‘pin’ service times and essential information as a post to the top so that it is always the first thing you meet. Sermons are under “notes”. There are videos and photos.

Taupo parish has not left their original (poorly-visited) website sitting dormant on the web. The web addresses they own are: taupoanglican.org.nz and taupoanglican.nz. Both of those addresses redirect automatically to the facebook page. Try it. That is called a 301 redirect and is relatively easy to do.

Doing this 301 redirect has, I think, had a brilliant, and important side-effect. If you put “liturgy” into a search engine you quickly find this website, but the liturgy facebook page, facebook.com/liturgy, does not feature at all. I find the omission of facebook pages from search results very peculiar (but it is a relatively common issue). I think the 301 redirect from their websites is the main reason why a search for “Taupo Anglican” gets their facebook page as the top search hit. Again: try it.

Putting stuff on a facebook page and making changes is simple, fast, and effective. Facebook pages are totally public – the site is visible to those who haven’t signed up to, or into facebook. If you want to spend more time, you can create custom tabs and personalise the page further. There can be a map. You can put information into the cover photo.

The only disadvantage I can think of is that if facebook radically changes the functioning of pages, then there will have to be a rethink by the parish. The advantage of having a website for liturgy (rather than just a facebook page) is that there is a lot of information of ongoing usefulness which can be searched. A parish site, however, just needs to be very simple – it needs to provide information such as service times, location, contact information, and show that this is a thriving parish you might want to visit or be part of. I think that a facebook page does this highly effectively. Congratulations, Vicar, Peter Minson, and Taupo Anglicans!

What do you think? And if your parish or church uses facebook as your primary presence on the web, let us know in the comments, including your page’s URL. And don’t forget to get your page to like the liturgy facebook page (when you manage a page, you can like, comment, etc, as either the page, or as you personally) – I’m presuming you have done that personally already 🙂

Parishes that solely use a facebook page as their presence on the web

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8 Responses to Using Facebook as your Website

  1. Our parish maintains a website and a facebook page. Our webpage underwent a huge reboot in early 2014. The page is attractive and has some nice features, but ease of navigation is a weakness I think. Strengths include lots of controllable space for articles, etc. We publish all Sunday sermons on the webpage, and we are working towards adding some video capabilities, since a member has been doing aerial shots of the campus with his drone. Parish website link is: http://www.stthomas-svale.org .
    We also maintain a Facebook page that give us a bit more room to be expressive. A small but dedicated cadre of contributors add content regularly. Facebook page address: St. Thomas Episcopal Church – Sunnyvale, California.

    We are attracting a number of people from out of the area, many of whom revisit regularly. We are also mainaining contact with a number of former parishioners who have left the area, but stay in touch via the Facebook page.. We’ve had absolutely no problems with inappropriate comments, and we have picked up at least one Adult Education participant by way of a Facebook announcement.

    Lou

    • Thanks. What is brilliant, Lou, is that if I search for “St. Thomas Episcopal Church – Sunnyvale, California”, your parish website comes up first, and your facebook page third. If you figure out how you got your facebook page to turn up in a search (as I point out facebook.com/liturgy does not appear in a search for “liturgy” as far as I can see) let us know! Blessings.

  2. You should to think about the disadvantage as “WHEN Facebook radically changes …”, rather than If. They’ve done so before, and most likely will do so again, possibly with little or no notice.

    There are some other disadvantages, too. Too many to list here. I feel a blog post and a social media strategy template brewing!

    • I do not find your comment helpful, sorry, Mary. Taupo parish is well aware that facebook makes changes, and if/when their facebook page no longer works for them, they will think through what to do next. They are laudable in seeing that their website wasn’t really working for them, and so their stopping, and making a radical change is a model for others, and the model of how they, hopefully, will react should facebook radically change.

      As to not listing a single of your other “too many” disadvantages here, I find this scaremongering, and I hope those considering a change to a facebook page will ignore it. There is no limit to the length of a list I would allow here in a comment.

      Blessings.

      • Sorry I wasn’t able to list all the issues immediately for you. Here are a few to think about:

        You have NO control over the advertisements that people see next to your church content.

        If you allow comments, you WILL need to remove offensive material. This could be distressing for your staff or volunteers

        Facebook decides who to show your content to. Non-Facebook users generally cannot see it, even if someone sends them a direct link.

        You grant Facebook a license to display your materials forever – even if you have subsequently deleted them.

        I say these things as the administrator of six Facebook pages. It has many benefits. But there are substantial issues – and a parish that cannot manage a regular website will struggle to cope with an active Facebook page.

        • Thanks, Mary. Let me respond to each of your points – I’ll put your points in italics:

          1) You have NO control over the advertisements that people see next to your church content.
          A good point. I think most people who use the web realise that is regularly the case. You might hightlight this point on the Facebook page if it is thought it will be visited a lot by people who do not realise that. The formula for creating the advertisements, of course, is based a lot on what the page appears to be about, plus other stuff that facebook can pick up that the viewer may be interested in. So a churchy page tends more to have churchy ads.

          2) If you allow comments, you WILL need to remove offensive material. This could be distressing for your staff or volunteers
          Yes, if you set the facebook page to allow comments (as you imply – you don’t have to), then this is social media. I very rarely find anything needing to be removed from my page (maximum views of something on that page – about a quarter of a million people for one post). Such a person is immediately blocked by the person managing the page.
          If this is a big deal (and as I said, I don’t think it is), click off the ability for people to add comments – you still end up with a great site.

          3a) Facebook decides who to show your content to.
          This refers to a person who belongs to facebook, what turns up on their news feed. I don’t think it has any relevance whatsoever. Other ways of organising being on the web do not turn up in news feeds at all. So you can see this as a plus: this way you have a free, easy-to-use public presence on the web, and unlike other such presences, some of this stuff is put into the newsfeed of facebook members who have “liked” your page.

          3b) Non-Facebook users generally cannot see it, even if someone sends them a direct link.
          This is false.
          Facebook pages are public and can be viewed by everyone on the web.
          Direct links can also be viewed by everyone on the web.

          4) You grant Facebook a license to display your materials forever – even if you have subsequently deleted them.
          I’m not sure what the point of this is?
          If you delete something off your page, yes, legally Facebook can use that – I’m not sure why it would want to take up its legal right to do this, and have never seen an example of it doing so.

          5) a parish that cannot manage a regular website will struggle to cope with an active Facebook page.
          I think this is quite untrue.
          Parish websites are regularly run by an enthusiast requiring knowledge of coding, etc.
          I have seen lots of websites where the parish has forgotten the passwords, forgotten to pay for their renewal of the domain, no longer have the skills of the particular coding required, find the inherited website out-of-date and no longer meeting their requirements.
          All these issues are sorted using a Facebook page. Updates are instant, simple, and can be done directly from a phone without any stress.

          Thanks again for your thoughts.

          Blessings.

  3. Both my churches have websites and facebook pages. For St Kentigern’s, Ballater, the Facebook page is more successful (facebook page St Kentigern’s Church, Ballater). For St Thomas’, Aboyne, it’s the website. Part of that is down to the communities – there are far more organisations on Facebook in Ballater than in Aboyne. But we also have a third, joint website which is ‘Upper Deeside Webchurch’ – and that’s more popular than either website – but it also has a different function.
    I’ve just checked Google for St Kentigern’s, and our facebook page comes up on the search (in 5th place, but still there). No idea why!

    • Thanks, Vittoria.

      Your comment is particularly interesting, because you gave no URLs, so I had to search for the sites.

      St Kentigern’s facebook page, which you say is more successful than your website, is very up-to-date. The last post is 3 hours old. The website, however, is shockingly out of date. In bold it says on the front page, “For details of our Epiphany Service, please see our news page“. This clicks through to advertising for a service that happened 17 days ago. The other sites appear up-to-date, although searching for Upper Deeside Webchurch I could only find some news and could not find my way to an actual website.

      Being active, up-to-date, easy to find, with clear important information, and user-friendly are important elements in our presence on the web, and a church facebook page can achieve all that very well as the Taupo Anglican parish shows.

      Blessings.

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