We've discovered at Nags Head Church that Facebook is an incredible tool to help accomplish this. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting some of the best ways we've discovered to use Facebook for ministry and mission.
One of the great things about Facebook is that it can be relatively easy for something to go "viral", locally. Because the OBX is not a huge community, and just about everyone is connected to everyone else within one or two people (think Kevin Bacon), we've discovered:
1) News can travel fast on Facebook. For example, on the OBX, photos of a beached whale from the morning start popping up all over the place on the profile pages of OBX locals within just a few hours and are everywhere by early afternoon, rumors of Chick-Fil-A opening locally circulate within hours on profile updates, etc.
2) Often, any news is big news. As evidenced above, it doesn't take much to get people's attention around here.
3) Because of 1 & 2, lots of local folks use Facebook as a local news/information source.
Based on our observations, we've discovered that creating a Facebook Event can be a great way to get the word out about an upcoming outreach event. Consider these guesstimations/statistics:
1) About 90% of our NHC partners and regular attenders are on Facebook, and most of those people are connected with several other partners/attenders. That's around 350 people.
2) Let's say, conservatively, that 50% of those people check their facebook about once a day and would be up for "attending" a church related Facebook Event and inviting their local friends to that event. That's 175 people.
3) Let's say that the average NHC partner/attender has 400 Facebook friends, and about 200 of those friends are local.
4) Again, let's say that 50% of those local friends check their Facebook at least once a day. That's 100 people.
5) Because, most likely, many of our NHC partners and attenders share many of the same local Facebook friends, let's say that each of those 175 partners/attenders who are regular Facebook users has 50 unique local Facebook friends who are outside of our church.
6) We know for a fact that only 7% of adults in our area attend church regularly. So, we'll subtract 7% from 50 unique locals outside of our church, and we end up with 47 (rounding up).
So, take all of those numbers, and let's guesstimate that we could possibly market to over 8000 people (175 x 47). Of course, 8000 people aren't going to show up to every event, but the potential is there for 8000 people to be exposed to a Facebook invitation to an event. Maybe that number is way high, or maybe it's way low...in either case, that's still a lot of people. And, we've discovered that, if we can get our own people excited about an upcoming event and committed to inviting other Facebook friends to an event, that number is certainly not unreasonable. And, that's just via Facebook, not considering that we understand that personal, face to face invitations are still the most effective.
So, we do our best to set up a Facebook Event for just about every outreach event at our church. Not every event gets good results because of Facebook Events, but it's kind of stupid to ignore this free and effective marketing tool.
A couple of tips from experience:
1) Keep the information as simple, accurate and clear as possible.
2) Develop your own graphics/artwork that are culturally relevant and hopefully attention grabbing.
3) Focus on a target group.
4) Talk about Facebook on Sunday mornings.
5) When setting up the Facebook Event, uncheck the "show the guest list on the event page" box. We've discovered, especially with youth events, that people will often check the guest list and make their decision about attending an event based on who they can see are "attending" and "not attending".