Social media is not a bullhorn

CHURCH IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Creating engaging content is the goal

by Richard Hong | Presbyterians Today

couple laughing as they look at social media post on a mobile phoneIn the March/April issue of Presbyterians Today, we discussed some basics about how various social media platforms operate. The next step is to plan content for those social media channels.

The first thing to remember is that the key to social media is “social.” The goal is establishing a connection to people online with the hope that repeated connections develop into relationships. The least effective use of social media is to treat it as an electronic bulletin board full of announcements. Social media is not a bullhorn.

Establishing a connection means posting content people relate to. If someone interacts with your posts, the social media algorithms will show them more often. And the best way to get noticed is by using images. At the church I serve, most of our social media posts are images with just a small amount of text added. That’s because 79% of social media site visits in the U.S. are from mobile devices whose users are rapidly scrolling through posts. You have less than half a second to “stop the scroll.” Images stop the scroll more effectively than text.

Social media companies prioritize showing posts that engage people. Since images are more engaging than text, their algorithms prioritize images. Text-only posts — even images with too much text on them — are downgraded.

How often should you post? My church aims for three to four times per week. We manage this by scheduling posts in advance. Some social media platforms have this scheduling option built in. If not, there are also third-party programs (some free, some paid) that allow you to schedule your posts. Whatever frequency you choose, consistency is important. Don’t flood your feed with six posts in a week followed by a week of nothing.

We currently plan our schedule with themes set for certain days of the week. On Mondays, we usually post something related to the previous day’s worship. It may be a quote from the sermon — not a long quote but a snippet over a relevant picture, a link to a book or article that was mentioned, or a picture of an activity from the weekend.

On Wednesdays, which is called “hump day,” people may need a word of encouragement, so our midweek posts are inspirational. We consistently get positive responses to posts featuring phrases such as “You Can Do It” or “It’s OK Not to Be OK.” Something this simple connects with a person’s emotional or spiritual longing.

On Fridays, we seek to initiate light conversation. It’s often silly, such as “Do you prefer coffee or tea?” The intent is to get people interacting with comments on a question that isn’t deeply personal. If someone comments on your post, your posts will get shown to them more often. Creating eye-catching posts is not hard. We use Canva, a versatile, friendly, online graphic design tool. If you sign up for Canva for nonprofits, which is free, you get access to their tremendous library of photographs as well. Creating a post takes just minutes. Remember, engagement is the goal, and having a consistent presence that is graphically pleasing and light on copy matters.

The Rev. Richard Hong is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Englewood, New Jersey. Email him with questions or requests for future columns at rich@englewoodpres.org.

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