Harnessing the power of Facebook
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They say if the total number of users of Facebook was a country, it would be the third-biggest on the planet...
Love it or loathe it, the social network is here to stay – at least for the moment. While there are other social networks which we should be mindful of and use (Twitter) and those which the jury is still out on (Google+), as churches, the reality is Facebook is where the majority of the people are with whom we want to communicate.
I've blogged before about how ChurchInsight and Facebook are very different animals – they form two of the three different web systems every church needs.
However, creating dynamic links between the two systems is something we often get asked about. We're creating special training for those with a technical bent, but meanwhile, here's what I'd advise to help ChurchInsight (or whatever website system you use) and Facebook do the connectivity tango.
Think in terms of which way information/interaction is flowing – and try and get it flowing both ways: I'm assuming you have a Facebook Page (originally called a Fan Page) and that's what I'm referring to when I mention Facebook in the following suggestions:
It's beyond the scope of this blog to explain the detail of how this is all done (we'd be here for a week), but for more information on this, see our forthcoming online training and this Facebook support page for details of the elements mentioned below (and more). You'll need to be reasonably technical and comfortable working in source code mode.
The key is to try and create a round trip of traffic: Facebook to website; website to Facebook, etc. and any of the following which cause content/shares/likes/comments to be posted back onto Facebook into user's profiles will potentially be seen by others and could significantly affect traffic back to your site.
Like button + Share
In its simplest form, you can use this to insert a Like button to allow people to recommend your site to their friends. You can see an example of this in the right hand column of the blog here.
By default, when the Like button is clicked the user is given a comments box to share some information about the site. This will post to their comments feed (Wall)/profile.
Like button + Share + Faces
The settings on the Like button also allow you to put a number of faces of others who like your site in a larger panel. Why this is significant is that Facebook does this intelligently – it displays pictures of the faces of Facebook Friends of the visitor (if the visitor has been logged in to Facebook) so your site is recommended more strongly to visitors.
Add Facebook Comments to every page in your ChurchInsight site (via the Layouts you specify). This is similar to the article comments feature on Insight but has the advantage that the commenter doesn't have to be registered on the site to comment. They're also made somewhat accountable for what they say as they have to use their Facebook profile to post a comment. By default the comment and link to your website is posted to the person's Facebook profile for others to see (though they can deselect this option).
See an example of Facebook Comments here. NB Comments are also indented when someone comments on a comment. It's important to note that comments are not stored forever – it seems to be for about 6 months. If you've prefer a non Facebook-only comments engine with login via a number of other online systems (Google, Twitter, Yahoo, OpenID and Facebook etc) see Disqus.com]
Latest articles via RSS feed
You can use the Facebook app, RSS Graffiti, to automatically publish on your Facebook page links back to the latest articles on your ChurchInsight website, your front page articles or a blog.
RSS Graffiti doesn't currently allow you to automatically post from the Insight Events feed to Facebook, due to their being no date stamp in the feed, this being necessary for normal operation. However, it does work well with Article feed RSS, enabling you to automatically update a Facebook page from your Insight website.
So, you can use the RSS/XML feed from a 'latest articles' Article List on the Home page (enabled in the Article List component options) to automatically push updates to a Facebook page.
For more information about this powerful app, see: http://www.facebook.com/RSS.Graffiti
Alistair Birch, 29/11/2011