Facebook outreach and training

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I am increasingly seeing the potential of Facebook to do what it says on the box:

“… helps you connect and share with the people in your life”.

For many people, it’s the site they use above any other.

Yes, it has its quirky and counter-intuitive features, things you wish you could add to your page but can’t, a sometimes complex way of adding applications, changing your menu items, etc. But as a way of connecting with people – the almost 400 million with Facebook accounts – it is remarkably powerful. It has been translated into over 100 languages: overall usage figures | facts and figures | users by country 2009 | more detailed 2009 demographics slideshow | history. To set this in context, if we exclude China where FB is banned, 30% of web users around the world are on Facebook.

And you can leverage its effectiveness by posting conversation-starting video-clips or other links. (To add a YouTube clip, just copy/paste the YouTube URL for the video in the same way as adding a normal link, and Facebook creates a clickable thumbnail of the video.) A very significant comparison chart posted by Digital Fingerprint shows that there has been a switch in the last two years from creating content to discussing third-party content on social network sites. This ‘Change in Engagement’ suggests that networking people want to chat about things! Very few people use chat rooms these days, and it is more satisfying to discuss issues with those you have some relationship with.

There are many different ways to share the good news in Facebook. Here are some thoughts:

  • First, take time to understand how Facebook really works. Read various online training pages, eg time-wasters to avoid | privacy settings
  • Be aware that you cannot send many ‘cold call’ messages to people who are not your friends – this is not an ideal route to try and is treated as spam. Facebook has a very low daily limit for these messages, as it does for the number of people you can ask to be your friend.
  • Facebook Fan pages have potential too, as they link people around a shared interest.
  • You can integrate blog posts (yours or other people’s) directly into Facebook if the blog is first registered at NetworkedBlogs.com. But don’t use blogs that are written entirely for Christians, they are unlikely to be of interest to anyone else.
  • There are vast numbers of ‘applications’ to add to Facebook, eg a book recommendation tab.
  • If you are much involved in church leadership and have many ministry leaders as friends, you will probably need a separate Facebook page to do evangelism, using a name variant or nickname. Their postings and concerns will not relate to, and perhaps repel, non-yet-Christians. This applies even more if you are a cross-cultural mission person and want to reach out to various ethnic groups within Facebook – for which it is an incredible yet barely used opportunity.
  • On a FB profile for not-yet-believers to view, be very careful how you describe yourself. Do not, ever, enter anything in the space for political views, because whatever they are, they will be a stumbling block for the many who happen to hold a different view. Consider describing your religious views as, for instance, ‘Jesus follower’, which bypasses the increasingly negative baggage associated with the word ‘Christian’.
  • Use integrity. Don’t treat people as ‘gospel fodder’. Build real unconditional relationships with respect and tolerance. It’s dialogue, not preaching.
  • Facebook also offers an opportunity for churches to use social networking. However, as Church Crunch explains, social networking is
    a conversation, not a destination.

This year’s Online Missions Trip has just finished. Here is Tim Schmoyer explaining how it worked, with large numbers of youth group members becoming involved in the intentional use of Facebook and other social media:

 

Paul Watson, of Reaching the Online Generation, is offering a web evangelism online summer missions training program which will major on using social media:

More on Facebook evangelism.

There are a growing number of conferences which include training in web evangelism, and various training videos, though we have none posted on social media evangelism yet. If you have good ones to recommend, please use the ‘comment’ link below.

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