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Time to check in

15 July 2016


A FACEBOOK used to be a guide given to journalists at international summits, with photos of the parti­cipants to help reporters and photo­­­graphers identify whom it was they were talking to.

Similar photo-guides were used in other scenarios, at Harvard, for example, where, in 2004, a group of students, led by Mark Zuckerberg, developed an online version. Over the next two years, Zuckerberg’s Face­book was rolled out to wider constituencies until, in 2006, it was made available to any­one to register.

Over the past ten years, it has devel­oped into the biggest social-media platform in the world; there are more than two billion registered users, and 1.65 billion monthly ac­­tive users. There are many differ­ent aspects to Facebook. Its core pur­­pose is a facility for friends, family, and colleagues to exchange and circ­u­late messages, using their personal pro­files. But it is possible to set up organisational pages. With such a high subscriber base, it is no wonder that many organisations — in­clud­ing churches — increasingly use it as a platform for online engagement.

Before you create an organisa­tional page, you will need to create a personal profile; both can be done free of charge. Once you have cre­ated your page, you can manage it with the app Pages Manager.

Facebook pages are similar to per­­sonal profiles, in that you can upload photos and video, post status updates, and send and receive mes­sages; but, because they are for organ­isations, privacy settings tend to be less strict, and so messages can be easily shared by other Facebook users. Some organisations have ditched their own websites, prefer­ring the simplicity of Facebook, but it is best to use Facebook in addition to your own online presence rather than as a replacement for it.

Facebook pages give you the abil­ity to do things that you cannot do on your own website, or things that you cannot do without a great deal of effort — such as the latest tool that is being rolled out: Facebook Live, a video stream­ing service.

This feature opens up count­less possibilities. You could, with the necessary copyright lice­nces, stream weddings, funerals, and baptisms live, providing an “optional extra” for relatives unable to attend.

Facebook pages can be created, maintained, and updated using the standard Facebook website. But the Pages Manager simplifies the pro­cess. With it, you can instantly up­­load photos and videos from your mobile phone or tablet; and you can read and reply to comments and mes­­sages. The app also gives you im­­medi­ate access to statistics: how many people have “liked” your page? How many people are sharing your updates? Are people watching your videos? Another benefit of having an organ­­­isational page for a church is visitors’ ability to “check in”. If tens of thousands of people regularly checked in to churches up and down the country every Sunday, it would be a wonder­ful piece of soft evangelism, and, at the very least, could begin to nor­mal­ise the idea of church attend­ance.

Pages Manager is available on Android, Blackberry, iOS, and Win­dows.

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