Creating a Content Plan that Builds Community

Bryan Haley

How do you build authentic community, conversation, and connection in your online groups? Here are some practical tools and ideas.

Show Notes

Summary

Facebook groups are an effective way to build community among your church in an online setting. How can you build authentic community, promote conversation, and build genuine connections in your groups? Here are some practical tools and ideas.

Items Mentiond in this Episode

Transcript

Jeanette:

Facebook groups are a great place to cultivate community, but it doesn't just happen when you start your Facebook group. In today's episode, we're sharing practical tools and ideas to help you create conversation and connection, building authentic community with your group.

Bryan:

Hey, church communicator. Welcome to the Church Juice podcast. I'm Brian Haley, the producer of Church Juice and I'm joined as always by my awesome co-host Jeanette Yates. We're here energizing church communications.

Jeanette:

That is right. Get juiced up is what we're doing. Okay, today we are going to be talking about a content plan walkthrough. So we're not going to give you post this on one day, post this on two day, post this on three day, but we are going to talk through some practical tips for you. And the reason we're doing this is because the old if you build it, they will come thing is kind of true. It doesn't mean they're all going to hang out and chit chat unless you ask them to.

Bryan:

That's right.

Jeanette:

Right. It's up to us as ministry leaders to really facilitate and foster that communication and connection, especially when we're just getting started with a group. So the tips that we're going to be sharing today will help you build community in your Facebook group, regardless of the purpose of the group.

Bryan:

Yeah. And I think this is a good next step. So last episode we talked about Facebook groups, just the different types and more in general of what you would do in a Facebook group. So I think today we want to dive in because we're continuing still through this series on building community in the online space. So we want to talk through what kind of content do you even use in a Facebook group and how is that different? We've talked a little bit about how that's different than a Facebook page, but when we want to build community online in a Facebook group, this is what we're going to talk about.

Bryan:

Just creating the different types of content, what that looks like. So let's start with, as an administrator for a Facebook group, you have certain tools that are built in. So why don't you walk us through some of those features that Facebook has been adding, especially the last several months and couple years, that they keep building into the platform rather than us having to natively think of something or create it on our own. So why don't you walk us through some of those features?

Jeanette:

Yeah, so Facebook is really leaning into the idea of groups. And so they're trying to make it as easy as possible for us as moderators and administrators to use it and use it well. Not because they love us personally. They want people to spend more time in groups. One of the things that I love that they've recently done is they now have post formats. And you've probably seen this in a group that you've been in. It'll allow you to ask for recommendations. And I don't know if this has happened to you, Brian, but some times when I type a question in my group, it'll say, "Your post is written in the form of a question. We've added this little icon." So it's doing that to help people who are in your group see, "Oh, somebody's asking a question. I'm going to go see what the question is. Maybe I can answer it or maybe I have the same question."

Jeanette:

So they're doing that. But other than that, they have some other great formats. So they have recommendations. You've seen that before, that's been around for a while. I'm asking for recommendations about this or that. So that's good, but they also have something where you can host a Q&A. When you click on you want to host a Q&A, it'll give you a colored background and say, "Tell them what you want to host a Q&A about." And you post that and then they're going to post their questions and comments and you can answer. So one of the things that it does is it has a different way of looking than just a regular post. So it has a different look to it, draws people's attention to it.

Jeanette:

Then of course, in their notifications they're going to see that as well. Another one that's really fun, I do this one often in the Facebook groups that I run is writing prompts. So this allows you, again, it comes up with a little colored format, colored background you can pick the color. And it says what do you want them to talk about? What do you want them to ask them about? And it gives you some ideas but then it asks you to post a picture, which is really cool because the picture shows up behind the colored background that you've just posted. But it also shows up in the comments. As people add to this, they're posting pictures in the comments, you can go through as the admin or as the person that's coming to the post and actually slideshow through-

Bryan:

Oh, nice.

Jeanette:

Those answers. And it's really fun and engaging. See, I'm already getting excited about it.

Bryan:

Yeah. I have not seen that one yet so I'll have to look for it I guess.

Jeanette:

Right. The other two that I use frequently and that are common, are giving the people in your group the ability to post GIFs. And then of course maybe you post a GIF, it's Friday yay, and post something fun and show them it's okay to post a GIF. And then polls.

Bryan:

That's true. People love polls, don't they? Yeah, and Facebook has definitely built these in, but I think partly the reason that they are building these features is so that people break it up visually more. Facebook used to be very text heavy, right? It was just status updates essentially. But over the years, they keep building in these different features so that things appear in people's news feed differently or in the group, or however that looks just to draw attention to it in different ways. And so I think each one of these little features either add an icon or like you were talking about, even the background or whatever. And it's really just different ways to draw attention to different elements of the group. And these are all different ways that you can post questions or build engagement so that you build community online.

Jeanette:

And remember if you're using the tools that Facebook gives you, they love that.

Bryan:

That's right. And another thing that they like pushing especially in groups is video. So we haven't talked about that, but now they have also added different video features. So it's not just, "Hey, I'm going to post a live", or even just upload a recorded video, but there are different video features that you can use in groups too. So why don't we talk through rooms and Facebook lives?

Jeanette:

Yeah. So I really, really still love a good Facebook live. I have been doing Facebook lives since the live started. I was a church communications director when they launched that and I was on it.

Bryan:

Let's walk through that a little bit because most churches use Facebook live for worship service, but there's plenty of other ways. So when you go Facebook Live as a communication director when you started, what were you talking about? What were those things like?

Jeanette:

And I was doing this even on the page, especially if you're in a group this is even better. So I was just trying it out. So I did everything. I shared information about what was going on in the church. Like today, the pumpkin patch is opening. We're so excited, here comes the big semi-truck. I did that kind of stuff. During advent or lent, I would share devotionals. I interviewed staff members during the Christmas season, we had a angel tree thing and people were bringing stuff in. We talked about that. We did a variety of things during hurricane season. I would go on and give live updates about the state of the... What was happening, are we having church, are we not having church, all that kind of thing. So I did it all. And of course, some of that would've been better served in a group than a page.

Jeanette:

So all of those things are relevant in a group, but you've got to try it out. You just got to go. And I remember one of my mentors, Dave Shrine, he said, "Listen. Your first Facebook live is going to be terrible. It's going to be bad, but that's okay because you're going to do it again. So just do it. It's not going to be great. You're going to make mistakes, but you're going to figure out what you did. And maybe it won't be terrible. You're not going to look like a news anchor. It's going to be a little rough that first time."

Bryan:

Well, you can keep making improvements and that's how you walk through and learn what to change.

Jeanette:

Right. So that's live video. And then another thing that Facebook came out with within the last year and a half when they noticed everybody was doing zooms, they said, "Hey, we need a zoom option. Where can I come up with rooms?" And anybody can do this. So I, as Jeanette, my personal profile, I can create a room on my own, but you can also create a room inside your Facebook groups and gather people there. Now I think these are great especially if you have a group that's all of your church members and maybe you want to have a room that's like, "Okay, we're going to do a prayer meeting over here. If you have time, join this room."

Bryan:

Yeah. Right.

Jeanette:

Or, we're going to do a room every Tuesday at 1:00 PM for prayer. If you want to join us it's here. I don't do rooms a lot but some of the things I've seen that work really well are scheduling a room consistently. So do it for several days in a row or several weeks in a row so that people know. Because while most communications directors are sitting here basically on Facebook all day long, most of the world is not, hopefully. I don't know. Maybe Facebook says maybe they do want it.

Jeanette:

But anyway, they're not there so you want to plan ahead and you can say ahead of time, "Hey, let's come into this room and have this prayer time or talk about the sermon", or whatever you want to do and do it consistently for a few weeks to see if it builds traction. So I think that's really helpful. Now, another thing that's really fun that I've seen a lot of people do either on their own profiles or in groups as well, is sometimes just open up a room and just say, "Hey, I'm just working at my desk and if anybody wants to work from home with me-"

Bryan:

That's a neat idea. Right.

Jeanette:

It doesn't have to be like, "We're going to have a big discussion", but just so you can feel like you're not alone while you're working.

Bryan:

And community.

Jeanette:

Yeah. So that's really easy to do too. And that's better for like smaller groups. You don't have a ton of people anyway, so who knows. But you might get somebody in there and then maybe it does draw your attention away because somebody wants prayer or somebody needs to talk about something. And that's an opportunity for ministry, but you don't have to have an agenda for it all the time either.

Bryan:

Absolutely. So let's switch gears a little bit. So we've talked a lot about features in Facebook groups. So let's talk through a content plan. If someone is starting their Facebook group or their just taking it over, trying to build traction, trying to build community there, really trying to build the audience and get people involved too. What kind of content do you think that those group administrators should be focusing on at first?

Jeanette:

Right. So the first one or two months, once you get the two months in there it'll kind of pick up, but the first month or so is going to be, you're going to be content heavy as the administrator. You're going to have to host a lot of the content. And so in order not to bore other people, the people in your group or yourself, you want to come up with a combination of information, inspiration, and then collaboration. So you can use some of those post formats that we talked about to share what's going on at your church, ask people to share their takeaways from a recent study or sermon, or maybe their own personal Bible time. And then I think it's also fun to ask them for ideas. Now, in our notes for this episode today Brian, I put something easy like, "What's a tip that you would tell a person new to our church? Where's the best water fountain." I don't know.

Jeanette:

So you can do that but depending on how much input you want on things, you could ask them, "We're getting ready to start a new Bible study. What book of the Bible would you like to study?" Anything like that? Our church does a sing along, hymn sing along every now and then we might ask, "We're getting ready to do another sing along. What are some must have hymns we've got to have in this sing along?" And you're going to probably need to be posting every day.

Bryan:

Yeah. So I think consistency is key, right?

Jeanette:

Right.

Bryan:

And part of the reason for that, I think you've touched on this a little bit, but part of the reason for that is at the beginning, it's likely going to be mostly you posting. People don't know that it's okay to post their own things until you guide them and show them that direction is okay. So when we talk about consistency in how we post, what are some ways that we can just build rhythms into what we're posting or when or how, or all of those different things. What does that look like?

Jeanette:

So one of the things that helps me especially when I'm getting in a rut is to have theme days. Now you've already heard of some of these. Throwback Thursday.

Bryan:

Of course.

Jeanette:

Tip Tuesday. So I come up with things relevant to what I'm trying to do. So for a church you might have Ministry Monday. You can do Tip Tuesday, but decide what kind of tips you're going to share. Are you going to share Bible study tips? Are you going to share ways to increase spiritual formation? Whatever.

Bryan:

Testimony Tuesday, I've seen that too.

Jeanette:

That's good. Worship Wednesday, you could do Wellness Wednesday, you can do Wacky Wednesday. It's okay to have some fun. It doesn't all have to be like, "What Bible word can I use?" And then you can do Fun Friday, Fellowship Friday.

Bryan:

Some sort of alliteration.

Jeanette:

Yeah, you got to have alliteration. Or maybe give people a break on Friday and come back on Saturday and do something. And maybe you're not doing a tip or a testimony every Tuesday so you don't have to do it every week. But when you do it, do it on a Tuesday and get that going and then they're like, "Oh." Now the first month or so I might try to have something every day. So you might want to have something. Get testimonies from your staff. If you're like, "Great, I got to go get..." No, everybody on your staff should have a testimony. Even if it's not their whole life testimony but maybe just, this is a testimony to how prayer helped me last week, that kind of thing.

Jeanette:

So that's how you get ideas and generate ideas in your brain. Have some fun, post consistently for that first couple of months. And then what you're going to do is as you're posting, you're going to pay attention to who consistently likes your post and comments on them. Now it may just be a bunch of likes at first because again, you're trying to get the conversation started. It may take time so don't get discouraged. And you may even have to post in there like, "Hey, here's a tip. You can comment on these."

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

Tip Tuesday, comment on the post.

Bryan:

Well even lay it out, say, "Hey, we're looking for engagement here. Why don't you add a comment?"

Jeanette:

Right.

Bryan:

That's okay.

Jeanette:

So once you start seeing people and there will be people that are going to consistently like and consistently comment. These are the same people that will consistently come to your church when you open the doors. That's that same group of people that feel like every time the doors are open of your church, they have to be there. They're also going to be the ones that say, "My church posted something, I have to like it."

Jeanette:

And then you're going to reach out to them and you're going to say, "Hey, I've noticed that you're really engaged in our Facebook group. I love it. I would love for you to share more about your faith journey or things that are going on with you. Would you help me post in the group?" I encourage you not to ask them to moderate at first. There's not much to moderate yet anyway so you don't really need help with that. I would just ask them to post which is going to give people another example of, oh, it's not just the admin posting, I see other people posting now. And that's going to make them more comfortable. So those are my tips for getting things going in your Facebook group when you first get it.

Bryan:

Yeah. So one thing that we were talking about actually I think before we started recording but I was really thinking through, in my church's Facebook group, the people that like everything or the people that always add a comment are elderly. They're the ones that are sitting on Facebook. And so they feel like they need to comment or like, so that you know that they're engaged basically, which is awesome. But oftentimes that's who is commenting if you're an established church like that. So I was thinking through a conversation that we had earlier about posting recipes and things like that. A great way to involve those people who are always liking the post even if they're elderly, is to give them something because they may not be creative enough if they're a certain age. They might not be able to come up with those types of questions but if you give them something to talk about, maybe they'll post a recipe every week or talk about quilting or whatever they're passionate about.

Bryan:

Because they're already sitting on Facebook, they're already engaging with you. So if you give them that, that's another way to involve multi-generation too as you build community through your Facebook group. So I thought that was a really good idea on your part. I just wanted to build on that too because I think from what I've seen, a lot of churches see that too.

Jeanette:

Right. And I think that is great. And then of course, this is something I've been talking about for a long time, bridging that generation gap and getting all age groups involved in technology and digital ministry I think is fantastic. And how cool is that, that grandma so and so is going to be part of the social media team?

Bryan:

The idea here is there's plenty of content that we can create, that we can build in our communities so we need to create a plan to put that together. So especially as you're starting out being consistent there, creating those rhythms where people get into the habit of seeing those types of posts throughout the week, every week for maybe a few months, I don't know. Every group is different I think so that may take a while, it may happen overnight. But when you're consistent there, I think that's going to be really helpful. I think that's a great place for us to stop this conversation today. We have a few more episodes about building community but I think this is where we're wrapping up our talk through Facebook. So we've spent a few episodes talking about Facebook and Facebook groups, but we hope that really thinking through the content that you create is going to help take your group to building community and make that valuable. Do you have any last comments to add or thoughts that you'd like to speak about for Facebook before we move on?

Jeanette:

Well, I really just encourage everybody to not give up because it's a lot of work at the beginning but I'm telling you right now, I have recently asked several people of the main Facebook group that I run, conversation starters and posting and I'm telling you what, the engagement that we are getting right now is through the roof. And I'm not just meaning the engagement according to the insights. That's going up, but I'm talking about people talking to each other in our Facebook group. I'm just sitting back and enjoying the ride. That's what you want and it has taken me a while to get here, but I'm here and I'm just sharing. That's why I shared this with you today, is because I see it working and I know it can work for you too. And I also want to encourage people and I know this is part of what we say at the end anyway, but if you want to know if your idea... If you're like, "I'm not sure, but I think this idea is really great, but I want to run it by some people first", where can they go, Brian? Where can they go?

Bryan:

I think I know a place. The Church Juice Facebook group.

Jeanette:

That's right.

Bryan:

We love talking through those ideas and people are posting all the time, different questions about whatever they're doing in ministry. So it's really cool just to see that community start to build too. So like I said, next week we're going to switch gears. Still talking about building community, but we're going to move away from the context of Facebook a little bit and we're going to focus on a different element that we referred to in an earlier episode, that is text messaging. Stay tuned for next week's episode when we talk through another tool in our belts to build community through text messaging, and different non-traditional forms of communication in that way. But if you're just getting started and you're looking for more ways to connect with people on Facebook, then check out our brand new free resource, Facebook for churches. In there, we lay out all of the foundational elements that you need to build your social media presence. And we'll give a link to this in our show notes as well.

Jeanette:

If you haven't heard, Church Juice has launched a grant program for churches.

Bryan:

That's true.

Jeanette:

Yes. You can get all the details about how your church can get free money to build out your next big communications idea by heading to ChurchJuice.com/grant.

Bryan:

And we'll add that in the show notes too. So like always, we love talking with communicators. So if you haven't already, make sure you join our Facebook group. Head over to facebook.com/ChurchJuice and you can find the link to the group there. You can also head over to get the show notes and links to everything we've talked about at churchjuice.com/podcast.

Jeanette:

Church Juice's podcast is a listener supporter production of Reframe Ministries, a family of programs designed to help you see your whole life reframed by God's gospel story. Church Juice is produced by Brian Haley with post-production by audio engineer, Nate Morris in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information about Church Juice, visit ChurchJuice.com. For more information on Reframe Ministries and our family of programs visit ReframeMinistries.org.