The Church for Today

It’s SOCIAL Media…

not an electronic bulletin board

by Richard Hong 


You’ve felt the pressure. The church needs a Facebook page. Should we be on Instagram? But while many churches are trying to have a presence on social media, most are being ineffective. And the primary reason they are failing is they are forgetting the most basic principle:

Social media is social.

Social means relationships. Yet most organizations are using Facebook as if it is an electronic bulletin board. They post nothing but self-serving ads. “Come to the pancake breakfast!” or “Come to worship!” This doesn’t work.

That doesn’t mean that a Facebook post encouraging people to participate in an event at your church will never work. It means that it won’t work if that is all you post. People will tune you out very quickly. In other words, stop thinking about advertising your church on Facebook, and think about building relationships with people on Facebook.

Once you have a relationship with someone, you are no longer advertising your church to them – you are simply informing them of things that are coming up. But first you have to build the relationship.

What are the goals of a social media strategy?

The first goal is to engage, not inform. Your best friend cares about what your plans are for the afternoon. A stranger does not. Churches too often attempt to inform before people have a reason to care. As you look at the broader array of what you post on social media, how much of it is designed to engage people? What kinds of posts are engaging?

We engage with posts that inspire us, that promote discussion – and posts that make us laugh. We engage with cute dog or cat photos. An engaging post can be a non-controversial conversation starter, like your favorite color or season of the year. An engaging post sparks something in the reader. Our most popular posts are pictures of children’s activities and “takeaway” sermon quotes from the previous week’s message. Sermon quotes are an attempt to provide meaning, and isn’t that one of our goals?

We measure engagement by the number of times a post is liked, commented on – or the ultimate compliment – shared by the reader. We follow the numbers. When certain kinds of posts draw more engagement, we put up more of those kinds of posts. We also let people know we are engaging with them. When someone posts a comment on something we have posted, we endeavor to “like” their comment. That just lets them know that we saw it an appreciated it. That engagement generates more engagement. When people are in the habit of engaging with an organization, then they are ready to listen to what they are promoting.

What is right “ratio”? For every promotional post you run (“Come to the concert on Sunday afternoon!”) you should run at least 4-5 pure engagement posts; some say the ratio should be 10:1.

The number one reason people give for un-liking a Facebook page is that it was too much promotion. Ideally, your social media pages become places where people engage not just your organization, but each other.

When that happens, what you’ve built is more than a Facebook page – you’ve facilitated the creation of an online community. Creating community is one of things we are about, isn’t it? And that puts the “social” in social media.


The Rev. Richard Hong is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Englewood, New Jersey. He is excited to be blogging about his passion for the church for Presbyterians Today. Hong’s areas of interest are church technology, leadership and church growth. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to for him to address, contact him at