I like Facebook. Once I dumped all of the people who I didn’t really know that had asked for a friend request (over 800) and I really began to share my opinions, status, entertaining videos (never a cat video so far), and I could keep up with my kids, grandkids, family and old friends, I really began to like Facebook.  This is why Facebook was designed, to allow a small group of people to connect and communicate with each other. Facebook is about relationships!

However, some people think Facebook is about marketing. They think it is how to get your message out to other people, people you really don’t even know. They think Facebook gives you a great opportunity to increase your “branding”. I know because I have read countless blogs distributed through the Christian/church community about how social media is vital to the church’s future. I believe those that promote this agenda really do not understand how Facebook works.

First, do you realize that Facebook is not a true message delivery service?  When you send out an email, it goes to a person and is unread until it is either read, or deleted by the person you sent it to. It is distribution of your message or content to a contact.  Facebook never makes such a claim. Your post, your status will go from your page to “some” of your friends Facebook pages. This, however, doesn’t mean that it will be seen or read by them. Studies now show that if your friend doesn’t log onto Facebook within 2.5 hours of your post, they will never see it. In fact, the more “friends” a person has, or the more sites they have “liked” the less likely it is that they will ever see your post. It will simply move down the page as new content becomes posted to the site and will soon be lost. The person will never actually even know you cared to contact them. So, the more active a Facebook user is in adding friends and liking pages, the less likely they will ever see anything you post! The more you connect with others on Facebook, the greater the failure rate that you will see important information from them.

Second, if you have a church page and work hard to get people to come and “like” it, understand that messages you post to your site do not go out to everyone that has “liked” your page.  In fact, recent studies show that at best it might only go out to about 15% of those that have “liked” your page, some report that number could be as low as just 6%. This means that out of the 5,000 “likes” only 300-750 will have it pushed to their Facebook page. And, remember, if those people don’t see it within the first 2.5 hours after you post it, it will never be seen by them. The reason for the small percent is because Facebook uses something called EdgeRank. Facebook either doesn’t appreciate companies or churches marketing to people on their service, or they are using EdgeRank to encourage you to PAY them money to have your message distributed to everyone that has “liked” your page. But, remember, Facebook is about personal relationships… it is “social media” for friends and families to connect. Facebook has always had one problem in selling placement ads, that being they have an incredibly low click rate. People on Facebook are not reading a magazine, they are not on Facebook to find links to blogs, or because they like marketing.

Third, just because someone “liked” your site, it doesn’t mean that after your first post or two they didn’t decide to hide your content because they didn’t really “like” it. You see, Facebook allows for people to unfriend and unlike something without the person knowing who abandoned them. But Facebook also allows you to hide such content so that they don’t diminish the number of friends or likes a page has. After all, we have started to place such importance on the thousands of “friends” we have on Facebook, or the large number of “likes” we have on our church site, that some people simply want to slip out the back door without being noticed. If you have 5,000 likes because you have been promoting to your membership that they should come and “like” your site, you have no idea how many have hidden this for the future.

Some who have church Facebook sites might disagree because they have the ability to log in and see how many people their post “reached”.  Realize Facebook is only telling you the number of people they sent your post to, not how many actually saw it. For your most active Facebook fans, it will scroll off the page before they ever see it, and for others, Facebook will register that you have “reached” people who actually “hid” your content because they no longer want to see your posts. Facebook’s reporting on how many people you have “reached” is false media.

Read the article titled, “Stop helping the spammers, the scammers and the crooks on Facebook” in this issue to understand some of the many games people play to increase the number of “likes” on their page, and you will also understand why.

Facebook doesn’t work as a way to promote, market, or grow your message. There are some great ways to use Facebook and other social media services that you will find in “How to Use Social Media to Really Increase Your Ministry” in this special issue!