Your eyes have likely glazed over at the number of “free offers” you’re receiving right now. The pandemic’s effect on the worldwide economy has led to thousands of businesses peddling all kinds of products and services for free. The world of Catholicism is no different. And some of these resources are amazing. But let’s stop to think about the cost. Every time you re-share that graphic with someone else’s logo on it or ask your parishioners to check out a livestreamed Mass hosted by a for-profit organization, there’s a trade-off. In short, if it’s free, you’re the product!

Here are some of the ways your parishioners can inadvertently become “the product.”

  • Resharing posts from third parties on Facebook or other social media platforms means your followers are more likely to see content from these organizations in the future, including paid advertisements.
  • Your parish Facebook page gets little to no credit for how a re-shared post performs.
  • Free programs that require parishioners to enter their email addresses opens them up to marketing from these organizations, including (potentially) cold calls from fundraisers if that organization is a non-profit.
  • Filling a parish Facebook page with re-shares from other organizations can give the impression that the parish is an official arm of those organizations or show followers that there’s “nothing original” going on at your parish.

Does the CSM staff recommend you stop re-sharing posts from other organizations? Definitely not! But you do need to be careful. Your parish’s digital presence is the place to build your community and highlight the good Catholic life in your neighborhood. As a rule of thumb, no more than 10% of what you post should lead people to other organizations or for-profit businesses. (Important exceptions include news from your diocese, your local Catholic Charities, etc.) Follow this rule, and you’ll find that your parish’s social media presence will be much healthier and reach as many people as possible in your area. Remember: if it’s free, you’re the product!