There are metrics that count, and then there are metrics that don’t. In the marketing world, we call those “vanity metrics” – things that look good, but don’t profit a whole lot in terms of real-world applications.

One of those metrics that bounces back and forth between necessary and vain is Facebook likes. For a long time, likes were a measure of how well-liked you were in the digital world, kind of like how where you sat in the cafeteria reflected your status in the dog-eat-dog world of middle school. 

The world has changed, however, and Facebook likes no longer have quite the *prestige* that they used to. These days, anyone can go on to a semi-shady website and “buy” likes that consist of either bots, duplicate human accounts or both. In the end, it accomplishes absolutely nothing of real value, because those likes won’t interact with your page…ever.

So what’s the purpose, then? Social proof. Something triggers differently in a viewer’s mind when he sees a page with 300 likes versus a page with 3,000 likes. Or 30,000 likes. Or even 3 million likes. It doesn’t really matter if those likes are real, it’s the first impression that counts. Most people wouldn’t be able to notice the difference anyways.

So I Should Buy Likes Then?

In the immortal words of College Football analyst Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend!”

While Facebook likes may get you an initial bump in social credibility, buying Facebook likes from a third-party website is not only borderline unethical (read: lying), it also has the potential to do more damage to your brand overall. Take a look at this recent article that showed Facebook and Instagram is cracking down on “fake engagement” and filing lawsuits against companies that sell fake accounts, likes, and followers. If you buy from a company like that, there is a strong chance your account could lose all of their bought followers in the blink of an eye, and could even get banned for life. That will set your business – and your brand – back months or potentially even years.

Short story shorter? Don’t do it. Not only because it poses substantial risks to your church’s brand, but because it’s against Facebook’s rules. And as Christians, we’re supposed to appeal to a higher standard of morality. That’s reason enough.

What Kind of Likes Do I Want?

There are other reasons why buying likes in bulk from a third-party website doesn’t work: lack of engagement. The whole purpose of social media is – shocker – to be social with other people, and bots and fake likes just don’t do anything for you on that front.

Bots can’t interact with your brand. Bots can’t comment on or share your posts. What’s more, bots can’t visit at your services and bots can’t be saved by the blood of Jesus. For that reason, bots should not populate your church’s page likes.

It’s not bulletproof, but you can usually tell how well a page has found their target market by how well-engaged their posts are. Generally speaking, you want your engagement rate – measured as percentage of people who engaged with your post vs. how many it reached – to be above 1%; anything less than 0.5% means it’s time to revisit your posts and see where you need to improve. In other words, for every 100 people that your post reaches, you want at least one person to like/comment/share it.

You don’t have to look too far to see how your “competition” is doing. Just type in “church” into your Facebook’s search bar and check the pages of some churches (denominational or otherwise) that are near you. Look at their posts and see what kind of engagement they’re getting. The churches that are really nailing their social media game are going to be near the top of the search results, while the ones near the bottom may have not posted in years. Check some across the spectrum to see their engagement; make a note of the ones that are really connecting with their people to see what they’re doing, such as posting pictures, sermon highlights, etc. These types of posts – no matter what kind of organization it is – will always track well with their followers.

Here’s the bottom line: When it comes to likes on your Facebook page, your goal should not be about quantity, but about quality. Social media is a snowball – the more engaged followers you have, the more engaged followers you’ll attract. Drive up your engagement with your current crowd and let nature take its course.

So How Do I Get Likes for My Church Page?

The best way to attract any kind of follower is through organic reach; that is, you want people to find your brand and become fans of your brand without any kind of extra incentive. There may be times when they join your mailing list by means of a freebie, but if fans can find you organically, their interest in your church is always going to be longer and of a higher quality, at least generally speaking.

That said, you don’t have to just sit on your hands and wait for people to come knocking down your door in order to have fans on your page. Paid advertising strictly for likes is one way to drive up initial interest. If you’re just starting out, it’s not the worst idea to plunk $50 into a campaign to get a few hundred initial likes, but once you have that initial social proof, you’ll want to spend that money elsewhere (a better idea is to have your church members invite other Christians or local friends that might be able to visit your services).

Instead of optimizing campaigns for likes, you could always run a general ad for a post, sermon highlight video, or some other piece of engaging content, and put a call to action inside the text on the ad. Boosting a post – a practice that we generally don’t recommend due to its lack of targeting options – can be effective when done for a wider audience. Be sure to include a mention to “like” your page somewhere so people know how to engage with your page in the future.

Of course, the non-paid options are always best. Optimize your page first: Make sure it has a good profile picture, an engaging cover photo, a button that actually goes somewhere, and possibly even a pinned post that tells some intro material about your church.

Furthermore, whenever you make a post that gets engagement, click onto the post itself and invite people to like your page. This is a quick and easy way to pick up extra likes almost passively.

If you have other social media channels like Instagram or Twitter, promote your Facebook page on there to get more likes. Be active in posting and replying to comments on your posts. Be active in other groups and post as your church (if you’re an admin on your own page). Share other church’s content and ask that they share yours.

There is one disclaimer that would be irresponsible to leave off a post like this: Don’t put all your eggs in Facebook’s basket. Remember that you’re playing in Facebook’s sandbox; as such, they can choose to shut down your page at a moment’s notice and with very little explanation to you. You may think it unfair, and the cause may be something totally out of your control, but it’s happened before with huge, multi-million dollar brands, and it can happen to your church too (even if it isn’t particularly likely). Facebook is still the most popular social media channel, but diversify your efforts and spend time developing other platforms too.

There’s no one “perfect” way to grow your church’s likes, but the combination of a bunch of tried and true practices means that your reach will grow organically over time. And, in the end, you’ll have a better overall page by taking the “slow grow” approach anyways. The key is to get moving and stay consistent. By doing that, you’ll leapfrog other pages in no time.

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