Most of us have seen how Facebook has transitioned from a niche social network for college students into the ubiquitous online gathering place for everyone from grandma to corporate behemoths to important causes.
Videos shared among friends can turn virtually unknown African warlords into public enemy No. 1. Catchy phrases in links and status updates can go from never-before-heard to part of the American lexicon in a matter of a week — with the help of thousands, and sometimes millions, of “likes” and “shares”.
The Fuller Center for Housing has been active on Facebook since 2009 and now has nearly 2,500 fans. Of course, that’s just a fraction of The Fuller Center’s network of supporters and just a fraction of those who visit the page. However, those 2,500 fans and others who visit The Fuller Center’s Facebook page have the potential to light fuses that ignite massive awareness of The Fuller Center’s work with the mere click of a button.
“One of the first things President David Snell told me, and he told me more than once, was ‘We’ve found that when people find out about us, they tend to like us,’” said Chris Johnson, a veteran of 23 years in the newspaper business before joining The Fuller Center for Housing as director of communications in June 2011. “I’ve seen that statement verified over and over. He’s absolutely right.
“I can only imagine what good we can do if we can exponentially multiply the number of people who find out about us,” he added. “Our friends on Facebook can help us do that. Not only does it require no more effort than clicking a button, but also it doesn’t cost a thing. What an easy way to promote a cause that truly changes lives for the better!”
How you can help, quickly and easily
By simply sharing or liking photos, links, videos and other posts on The Fuller Center’s Facebook page, users draw attention to it. The 2,400-plus fans of The Fuller Center have a combined 1.2 million friends. When a post is liked and shared, the likelihood increases that some of those 1.2 million friends notice. And the more they notice, the more likely are to find out about The Fuller Center for Housing, like us and further help spread the message.
“Likes beget more likes, shares beget more shares, fans beget more fans, and it all translates to a web of attention that can grow very rapidly,” Johnson said. “Fortunately, we have more than enough great stories, photos and videos from the field that are worth liking and sharing, so you don’t have to like and share things willy-nilly. But the simple act of clicking those buttons to like and share items that are truly worth paying attention to has more power than you might imagine. You can start spinning a web that spreads far and wide very quickly.”
While donations and volunteer workers are crucial to growing The Fuller Center’s nonprofit Christian housing ministry, public awareness is key to building that crucial support. And social networks such as Facebook allow The Fuller Center and other nonprofits to spread their messages for free — something that was much harder to do just a decade ago.
Time for Timeline
The Fuller Center for Housing’s main Facebook page converted to the new “Timeline” format about a month ago, a couple of weeks before all such pages were forcibly transitioned into the format. While the change prompted griping across the Web, as each Facebook change seems to prompt, it has its advantages.
For one, the cover image across the top of the page is bigger and more dynamic, and the smaller profile allows for consistent branding. Meanwhile, the Timeline format facilitates better highlighting of posts and historic events.
Fuller Center graphic designer Richard Aguirre came up with the images now atop The Fuller Center’s Facebook page.
“I wanted to convey the friendliness and fun of working with a Fuller Center group, so I cut out photos of people having fun on the build site and laid that over a clean, unobtrusive background in a method that made it easy to swap one for another,” said Aguirre, a 2008 Oregon State University graduate who came to The Fuller Center through the Mennonite Voluntary Service Program. “I wanted to set the tone for the content below without distracting from it or slowing down the viewer.”
“I’m an old word guy, but it’s clear that photos and visuals draw the most attention on Facebook,” said Johnson, who added that Fuller Center Facebook fans will see more photos, the most often liked and shared items on Facebook, in the future. “Since Richard is so much more visual-minded than I am, his expertise was key in shaping the page.”
“You know how many words they say a picture is worth,” Aguirre said of the comment by the “old word guy” about the importance of pictures on Facebook pages. “Photos are a very concentrated packet of information because the human mind is made to interpret them before the conscious mind analyzes what it sees. Text must be parsed intentionally, but a photo of a face is instantly recognized, causing subliminal reactions in the viewer.
“Combined with photo treatments and paired with a caption, an image post can convey both the subject and the poster’s opinion of that subject in a very intuitive way. This makes humor and satire much easier with a photo and caption combo than with blogs or news posts. They’re like potato chips for the eyes.”
“Actually, I’m not exactly sure what Richard just said, but I’m cool with potato chips,” Johnson chimed in with a smile.
Beyond the main page
This week, Johnson has worked with fellow Georgian Diane Reel Fuller on helping the covenant partner in Macon, Ga., take advantage of Facebook’s Timeline. They’ve teamed up to help promote a major local fundraiser featuring the sale and auction of birdhouses, and Aguirre made a special banner alluding to the upcoming event, just one way to take advantage of the new look.
Meanwhile, Johnson is working with Director of U.S. Field Operations Kirk Lyman-Barner to help all of the U.S. covenant partners take further advantage of Facebook’s possibilities, noting that sharing their posts and pages is equally important. The Fuller Center also has a thriving Facebook page for its very successful Bicycle Adventure, and Global Builders coordinator Hailey Dady recently launched a Facebook page for the Global Builders program.
“We’ll continue to market The Fuller Center in a multitude of ways, but we’d be remiss to not take advantage of the world’s largest social network for free in every way possible,” Johnson said.
“Just don’t send me any Farmville requests,” he added with a laugh.