Going viral with Father Rocky and Facebook

By Linda Bloom

Father Rocky leads Facebook Workshop

Photo by Shane Nichols

CHICAGO (March 31, 2017) — When the Rev. Francis J. Hoffman decided to boost the reach of Relevant Radio, a Catholic radio network broadcasting in 29 states, via Facebook, he was pleased to have 6,000 followers after three years.

Then, in September 2013, Father Rocky – as he is better known – posted a “prayer for safety” after Boulder, Colo., was inundated with rain, leading to what experts eventually called a 100-year flood. The post, which went viral, was the start of something big for the Father Rocky Facebook page.

Now, with 3.5 million likes, “I've got more people engaged in that page regularly than the Wall Street Journal and New York Times combined,” he said during his workshop, "Three Keys to Reaching People Through Facebook: Beautiful, Now and Personal," at the 2017 RCC Annual Convention in Chicago.

His personal strategy? Be positive and inspiring and make viewers feel they can be part of a solution.

To effectively use Facebook, Hoffman advises, you must start with the end result in mind: what are you trying to achieve? Should it have a local, national or global reach? Will it be informational or interactive? Will the page be educational? Inspirational? Open to controversial discussions?

Once that's decided, it's importance to be consistent. “Your audience knows what they expect,” Hoffman said. “If you deliver, they will keep coming back.”

But consistent doesn’t mean boring. :Nothing works better than beauty for capturing people’s attention,” he said, pointing to the visual or audio as a way to draw attention.

Other ways to draw engagement include focusing on the “now” – whatever is on people’s minds at the moment; showing a “personal” touch even on a page designed to promote an organization or group; presenting a “picture;” offering “helpful” information and being “brief.”

And Facebook Live can be easier than it looks. Hoffman can stream a Facebook Live Mass with a tripod, smartphone and duct tape. “If you give something that people like, they tend to share,” he added.

Is it worth the effort? A hundred years ago, “mass media” meant two daily editions of a newspaper. Today, people spend close to 9 hours each day consuming media through a variety of delivery systems. Of the 7.4 billion people on the planet, 3.7 billion have Internet access. The fastest-growing means of consumption is through mobile devices.

Still wonder whether it’s worth the effort? Father Rocky, an enthusiastic Facebook user, would beg to differ. As of January 2017, Facebook had 1.9 billion monthly users and owns the next two most popular platforms – WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. “Facebook absolutely dominates the social media space.”

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