Social media continues to be one of the most significant ways a congregation can spread a church’s message. Social media can be an effective resource for discussing important issues that are important to the community and your congregation. But are you getting the maximum benefits from your social media efforts?
Guiding social media from concept to completion is not an easy task. The use of social media must be strategically planned and well thought-out to be effective. Your focus should be twofold—communicating with the congregation as well as getting your message to a broader audience. After all, you’ve spent a great deal of time preparing compelling content to help you reach those audiences.
While social media is one of the most effective means of communicating, churches often face significant challenges in promoting their ministry across the various platforms. Many of them have limited time and staff to spend on posting and updating their social media pages.
According to data from a survey of churches conducted by Buzzplant, a Christian-based digital advertising agency, approximately 51 percent of churches say that at least one of their staff regularly blogs or posts on social media. However, 74 percent of churches do not have a paid staff member who updates their church’s social media pages.
Perhaps more importantly, the vast majority of churches do not have a strategic plan and do not measure their social media efforts.
In this edition of the Presbyterian Communicators Network, we provide tips on effectively using social media to communicate your church’s message. I pray that these tips will help you and your congregation spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
Develop a strategic social media plan.
While most organizations use Facebook and Twitter as their primary social media platforms, your social media strategy should include additional mediums where members of the congregation and community leaders could be talking about your church’s ministries. Other platforms to consider:
- Multimedia sites such as YouTube and Instagram
- Potential staff recruitment and hiring platforms such as Linkedin
Systematically tracking the medium where your church is being discussed will help to determine which platforms to include in your social media plan.
Pick a primary platform.
Consider your congregation and others you want to reach and the platforms they use most frequently. Think about the easiest place for people to find you on social media. Although you may prefer Twitter, if the individuals you want to reach spend their time on Facebook, then Facebook is the platform you should primarily use to communicate.
Use great visuals.
You’ve heard it over and over—a picture is worth 1,000 words. It’s a fact; tweets and Facebook posts with images get more engagement. So remember to capture special moments at your church and to share them with your post.
Remember that timing is everything.
Sharing content at the right time is essential. Although this tip may seem simple, many individuals posting on social media don’t take this concept into consideration. Maximum engagement is achieved when your content reaches as many people as possible. Know when your followers are online and active. Not all social media platforms share the same peak times. Here are some other suggestions for timely posting:
- Develop a posting schedule to ensure you post at the best time of day.
- Closely monitor your social media analytics. Facebook Insights, Followerwonk,and Hootsuite are other analytical tools that might help you estimate the best times for posting on various sites.
- While analytics are most accurate, sometimes it’s a simple matter of trial and error in determining how and when users engage on each social network.
Use content to spark conversation.
One key goal of your social media should be to generate conversation with and among the users. Conversation, however, is generated by content. Use content to inform your congregation and others about your church’s ministries and message.
Your content should spur online conversations that are personable, informative, and relevant. All content does not have to be original. You may find someone else’s content to be valuable; consider sharing that too (with proper attribution where appropriate). You may want to add a few thoughts of your own to make it even more relevant to your audience. We’ve all read content from a 140-character tweet that has brightened our day or raised our awareness of key issues.
Be creative with your post.
Social media is pretty straightforward; however, try to be creative when posting. Develop innovative ways to use Twitter’s video app and Vine and to post your videos on YouTube. Be creative in your approach to celebrating holidays and special days at your church on social media. Remember, social media is ever changing. Don’t get frustrated when new ideas are not successful; keep creating ideas for social media success. Other creative approaches might include:
- Encouraging users to share your content.
- Issuing a call to action;
- Making it easy for users to engage in conversations;
- Using hashtags to spread your message;
Set targets and measure performance.
Set targets and performance goals for your social media activity. Keep your goals S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely). Remember, what is measured gets improved. Some of the important performance goals/measures might include:
- Monthly visitors to your church as a result of social media
- Addition of new followers
- Number of shares of social media conversations for the church
Establish a genuine voice.
What is the social media voice of your congregation? Is it more theological, justice-oriented, advocacy-based, or youth- and young adult-focused? Determine your congregation’s voice and repeat that voice on social media channels. Make sure your congregation’s voice sounds the same from platform to platform.
Do more than just link to other sites.
Social media is most impactful when you create an emotional connection between you and social media users. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms are meant to create a conversation between you and your followers. One way to increase the chances of engagement with your content is by asking for questions and feedback. Remember, you want people to spend time on your sites. Don’t just post links to content that will take people away from your sites.
Strive for dialogue, not monologue.
Social media is most effective when used for conversations. Don’t use your social media platforms to only disseminate information; use it as a way to engage your followers and visitors. Be conversational. You can engage followers by responding to a tweet or commenting on a Facebook post. Here are other ways to establish two-way communication:
- Share photos and/or videos of special events at your church.
- Post biblical questions related to upcoming holidays.
- Create themes for services and post comments and photos from those services.
- Create a call to action related to an issue impacting your community.
Social media will continue to be one of the most effective ways churches can drive engagement and spread their message. Make sure you’re using it in the most effective manner for maximum impact and the greatest return on the time you invest.
I want to hear from you. I’m starting a new feature in the Presbyterian Communicators Network newsletter and invite your participation. Each edition will feature a church and its ministries—examples of Presbyterian congregations working to transform their communities and spreading the good news of Jesus the Christ. If your church has a great story that needs to be told, send it to me so that I can run it in this publication and via Presbyterian News Service. I can also post it to the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s website. You are also encouraged to reprint any story in this publication without written consent in your church, presbytery, or synod newsletter. If your story hasn’t been written, that’s OK. Send me the information at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll write the story.