Over 100 church communicators logged on to learn how to get the most out of their online presence
By Melody K. Smith | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — The first virtual communications workshop marked the beginning of a new phase of the Presbyterian Communicators Network, which was established in 2004.
Originally offered in large and regional conferences for the first decade, in-person workshops have been taking place for the past five years. However, like so many things, the COVID-19 pandemic gave reason to pause and launch a new approach for church communicators to network and learn via video conferencing.
“Like everyone else in 2020, we were taken by storm with COVID-19. The last in-person workshop was in Colorado in early March,” said Gail Strange, director of church and mid council communications. “We wanted to make sure we could continue offering this service to the churches because we realize that especially now, people need community and learning, even in the digital realm.”
Due to this new virtual normal, social media is more important than ever. It is no surprise then, that on Oct. 27, over 100 members and future members of the network gathered via Zoom to learn how to get the most out of their social media platforms from DeEtte Decker, social media strategist for the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA).
“Churches have been a little reluctant to embrace new media and technology, but this time gives us no choice,” said Decker. “We are at the intersection of the digital and the divine.”
Acknowledging that even if churches weren’t on social media prior to the pandemic, they are certainly now dipping their toes into the pool — or diving right in.
Some tips shared and discussed during the hourlong workshop involved figuring out where you as a church are going, what your landscape looks like in relation to the different platforms (i.e., Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, etc.) and then identifying your followers. The average age of users varies by platform. “It is important to find out what your user demographics look like,” advised Decker.
The usage of videos has become more popular and in more demand. However, as Decker pointed out, those videos need to be short and succinct. Under 30-45 seconds is the preferred length, as longer videos do not keep the viewers’ attention. “Organic, self-recorded smartphone videos do amazingly well,” assured Decker.
Facebook is the platform that garners the most loyalty. Seventy-four percent of Facebook users check in at least once a day.
The Zoom chat remained steady throughout the workshop with questions and answers from the community, along with affirmation of the need and appreciation for the information being shared.
The Communications Ministry of the PMA has been successful in helping church communicators understand the need for planning their communications efforts and implementing best practices for those efforts. The goal is to have these virtual workshops once a quarter with various topics being addressed. This workshop was recorded and can be viewed here.
The Communicators Network’s primary mission is to link Presbyterians who are officially responsible for communications in their synod, presbytery or congregation through on-site workshops, e-newsletters, social media and other communications vehicles. Membership to the network is open to anyone — paid staff or volunteer — in a synod, presbytery or congregation who has communications responsibilities.
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Ministries: Communicators Network, Communications