Things are changing at Facebook. On January 11, 2018, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is moving “from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.” Many people are still trying to figure out what this means. Businesses and organizations are already working hard to keep their customers and communities engaged and their posts seen.

These recent changes are an attempt by Facebook to move away from random ads and move toward authentic social connections and interactions with those closest to you. This is good for people who are tired of endless ads and who’d like to spend more time connecting with their friends and family. You don’t have to go far to find someone a bit disenfranchised with Facebook. Everyone has the family member who refuses to connect there or doesn’t check their newsfeed or doesn’t feel it’s worthwhile anymore because so many sponsored ads were popping up.

For churches, competing with paid Facebook ads was always tough if they wanted their updates to be seen by people who like their church page. Now, churches who want to increase engagement and interactions with their Facebook communities and members are going to have to figure out how to manage these changes to Facebook’s algorithm. And users are going to have to learn how to re-connect to their churches so they can see them in their news feeds again.

Here Are 5 Things to Know About the Recent Facebook Changes:

#1 – Don’t Panic

Social media changes and updates happen all the time. All is not lost. There is time to learn, evaluate, and fine-tune. There will be a period of adjustment and many church communication specialists are already offering helpful solutions to these changes (see below*).

#2  – Learn

Facebook is making these changes because it wants to connect friends and families to one another and increase meaningful interactions, rather than simply connecting users to mindless news feed ads and unrelated external content. This means that posts from friends and family connections will now be seen first in news feeds.

Organizations, like churches, will not have their posts automatically pop-up first in news feeds like they have in the past, even if you’ve liked or are following that organization. Don’t panic. There is a way to have church posts pop-up first in news feeds again: simply update your news feed preferences.

#3  – Teach

To address these changes, churches can educate their members and Facebook followers about how they update their Facebook preferences so they can see and connect to the church’s posts in their news feed again. Simply engaging in this conversation with church members and Facebook followers is a good thing, and why Facebook is doing this in the first place, right?

To update news feed preferences for your church, click the “Following” tab on the top navigation bar of your church’s Facebook page and simply select “See First” so posts from your church appear first in your news feed. This setting is also found in the News Feed Preferences section of users’ personal accounts. Here you can select friends and organizations whose posts you want to see first too.

*Teachable Moment

Church marketing specialist Steve Fogg* gives great insights into how to get your church’s Facebook posts seen first every time. He’s created a video post that teaches followers how to update their settings. He also suggests churches can create their own video post for their Facebook page and then sponsor it to 1. Increase visibility and 2. Teach people how to change their preferences and make their church feed pop-up first again. It’s a tactical and engaging move that savvy communicators should enjoy.

#4 Engage

The entire point of these changes is to encourage users to engage with one another, rather than just scrolling through ads and unrelated content. After educating your Facebook followers, your church can increase its visibility by posting more engaging content, videos or creating Facebook Live events to get attention for your messages, projects, events or services.

Church posts can become more engaging by encouraging conversations, asking questions and inspiring conversational interactions in posts. This is also a great way to learn from and about your followers and to design content they want to see in future posts.

#5 Decide Whether/When to Pay

For organizations, buying ads or paying to boost posts on Facebook is now going to be a primary way to get prominent placement and attention. This is ultimately a budgeting issue for pastors and church communicators to discuss, but the good news is that these options are always available if needed. Ads and boosts do have their own formulas for success and do need to be carefully considered, but they can be effective.

What Does it All Mean?

Depending on how your church has been using Facebook these changes could mean different things. Church communicators should take a moment and review the church’s overall social media strategy and decide how to proceed.

In general, social media opens a world of possibilities for churches to share their messages with the masses and connect with people in new ways. There are a lot of social media tools available for churches to use. Facebook is hoping to help create more meaningful connections with theirs.

These changes might be a good thing for Facebook, but Mark Zuckerberg has also acknowledged that they might lose some users and that their overall traffic might dip a bit. He is okay with this because he believes that increasing social interactions and spending less time on Facebook are both healthy decisions. Either way, Facebook has gotten everyone’s attention with this shift. We’re all talking about it for sure. Is your church?