college ministers on facebook

A couple of thoughts on Facebook and College Ministers:

[edit to clear up any confusion: Today, I’m looking at the personal Facebook accounts of college ministers themselves – not ministries on Facebook, which is also an important topic.]

#1: Do you present Facebook to students as a way (even the main way) to communicate with you? Think about putting it on your business cards, and including it any other time you give students contact information (web page, announcement sheets, etc.). I’m kind of surprised how rarely Facebook is treated as primary, even though that’s how our students work and think.

#2: Are you Facebook-findable? The harder it is to find you, the longer you’re going to have to take to describe it – and that gets awkward. (“I’m the John Smith in the Denver network… not the one with the hat, the one with the golden retriever.”)

If you aren’t the only one of you one Facebook, thinking about changing that. (A middle initial can work wonders.) Make your picture super-recognizable, too.

College students may very well search for you before they ever talk to you.

Facebook is how college students communicate. It’s how they categorize people as “friends” and allow them access to their lives.

So you might as well be easy to reach. You’re in the college student biz, after all.

10 Comments

  1. I’ve made Facebook our main information and contact place. Our church website even links the college page to our Facebook page. I thought about creating a Ning network for our group, but then I realized that I already use Facebook for most of my contact and that my students probably do too. And anything that my students are tagged in gets sent to their friends’ news feeds. So it works for promotion too.

    Does anyone else have recommendations on how to use Facebook for college ministries?

  2. Facebook is great. Social networking, web 2.0, blah blah blah.

    The flip side of all this is that Facebook is what we call a “walled garden” – a nice place that you are not allowed entry to. Any website that requires a username and password will only reach a fraction of your potential audience, no matter how tech-savy they happen to be.

    Google can’t search Facebook. And people that are not already part of your friend network will have a tough time finding your stuff. Facebook is a great social network, but it CAN’T be your primary web presence if you are serious about reaching the outside world.

  3. I use it all the time – it’s great! And Google CAN search Facebook profiles. It can’t search specific groups (unless they’ve changed that), but profiles are a different story.

    If you have a website for your student org, you can simply add a button to the page with a link to your Facebook group that little problem is solved. Check out what I mean at http://www.campusministryunited.com/homepage.html

    Also, don’t forget that Facebook is evolving. More functionality will come in the future.

  4. A Facebook presence is a good thing. I’m just arguing against it being a PRIMARY web presence. I did several searches, and found Campus Ministry United several times on Google and Yahoo – but only through public sites. If Facebook had been your only presence on the web (which it isn’t), you would be toast.

  5. Good comments – keep ’em coming.

    Just in case there’s any confusion, the post itself was meant to refer to the personal accounts of college ministers (not the ministries themselves). Since that’s probably not abundantly clear, I’m updating the post to reflect that.

    Still, I think discussing the topic of Facebook’s use for ministry sites is vital. Good words.

  6. I’m excited to see more web 2.0 tools used in ministry. Facebook itself will come and go, but tools like it will represent the next 15+ years of online traffic. How do we plan on harnessing that?

    I have a question for everybody: what sorts of INITIAL contacts have you gotten through gateways like Facebook? Have you found that using a personal profile as a campus minister gets you more in-roads with people you have never met?

    My impression has been that social networks work well with your established base – people who already know you or are connected to your ministry. Can somebody share success stories of using Facebook (or other tool) to meet people for the first time?

    Adam

  7. I know for me, my personal Facebook has been a great way to connect to “outsider” students.

    First, it keys me in on some students who are particularly interested in our ministry.

    If a visiting student befriends me later, that tells me something. Sure, some students who are interested won’t do that… but those who do have just connected in a tangible way. That happened pretty often last time I was on a staff.

    I would also welcome visitors through FB, not email.

    It’s also my very best way to make contacts, both with other college ministers, etc., and with students. Saying, “Facebook me!” is an automatic connection – and much easier than giving email or anything else. I also have it on my business cards, which got me a lot of appreciative, “You put your Facebook on there” comments during this last year’s road trip.

    Once people befriend me, they still may be “checking things out,” so what I put on my Facebook matters, too.

    I’m also viewable (without befriending) by anyone in my Networks, so who knows how often that happens. But being in the city and school networks makes for a pretty wide opportunity.

    I’m also able to use my personal account (with outsiders) by supporting causes, popping into discussion forums, joining groups, and sending messages to students I’m not friends with.

    Sending a FB message is way “cooler” than email, but it also allows the receiving student to view my page for a month. That’s a huge opportunity for them to connect with who I am personally.

  8. Awesome Benson! Has anybody else had similar luck? I’d love to hear about what worked and what didn’t.

    Another question: has anyone had success getting a relatively low-tech Pastor to embrace Facebook and use it regularly? Our ministry stays ahead of the curve in general, but the people at the top have been slow adapters.

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