I know. I know. There is more than ever to keep up with in the life of church pastors, staff, and volunteers. Sometimes I feel like I keep piling it on. However, we need to be aware that we live in a strange new world. The paradigm shift to a digital world has changed everything, including how people decide to visit a church.
When people make purchasing decisions, the source they trust most is the recommendation of people they know and trust, like a friend or family member. When we don’t have a recommendation from a friend or family member, online reviews can seem like the next best thing.
According to Pew Research, “82% of U.S. adults say they at least sometimes read online customer ratings or reviews before purchasing items for the first time, including 40% who say they always or almost always do so.”
That certainly holds true for me. I read reviews for nearly every major online or in-person purchase and (also for a bunch of not-so-major ones.) I have learned to read those reviews with a critical eye. More and more sites that offer reviews are plagued by fake reviews written by or paid for by those looking to sell a product. They are also often peppered with negative reviews by people who seem just to be angry.
So what about when people are making even weightier decisions, like who to trust with issues like eternal salvation? Or when parents are deciding what faith community would be a safe place for their children? While online reviews aren’t always going to be the ultimate factor in making a decision about choosing a church, they are likely to affect one’s decision to visit a church for the first time.
One of the places where churches live in the public eye is Facebook. Many churches have set up their own Business Page on Facebook. If your church has not, you should do this.
Likely, Facebook has already created a placeholder page for your church. Just search for your church on Facebook and see what comes up. If you find a generic listing like this one, you can claim it and begin to update it.
Facebook will ask for some information to verify it is you and then you can begin to update the page.
If nothing comes up when you search for your business page, you can create one. Facebook will be glad to show you how:
Now, it is time to get some reviews. Many business and brands pay individuals or firms to provide positive reviews on Facebook, Amazon, Google, just about anywhere reviews are posted. That seems a bit dubious. But what if you already had a group of satisfied and happy customers that were invested in your brand succeeding? Hopefully, your church is such a place. I hope your church is filled with people who would love to see more people come and visit. If not, you might need to do work on that first. Otherwise, ask your members to review your church on Facebook. The majority of your members are already on Facebook. Just let them know how important this is. Ask them all to write a review, and while they are there, “Like” your page.
Here is a bonus: Facebook is a social network. Remember, earlier I told you that the source the majority of people trust most when making decisions is the recommendation of people they know and trust, like a friend of family member? If enough members of your congregation write positive reviews of your church, someone might see a review from one of their friends!
Remember, the number one best way to get someone to visit your church is to personally invite them. But, in the absence of that, if a bunch of your members would spend just five minutes writing a review, who know, someone might just get to meet Jesus.
 Pew Research Center, Internet and Technology, “Online reviews.” BY AARON SMITH AND MONICA ANDERSON – http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/12/19/online-reviews/