Social media is here to stay. For some that may be great news, to others it may seem like further proof of the downfall of our society (or something like that). But, for churches, the reliance on social media is something that should excite us. Before social media we were given two hours at most each week to make an impact in the lives of those who attend our church. Now, we have unlimited opportunities throughout the week to make an impact!
Many of you know that social media is important, but are just unsure of how to use it to effectively reach people. We know it can be difficult to learn new strategies and tools. But, the payoff is worth it. If we want to reach people in the 21st century, we must use 21st century tools. Let’s explore what we would consider to be the five building blocks of church social media.
1. Be Authentic & Aware
The most important thing to remember about church social media is that people desire authenticity. We must not get so focused on creating content that we overlook the fact that behind every interaction is a real person with hurts, needs, doubts, and failures that longs to be a part of a community. We do a disservice to those that connect with us on social media when we’re only focused on building our numbers or following a model. Social media by nature must be organic. There is no one size fits all approach to reaching people using social media. However, there are great principles that help to drive impact.
Listen to your community: what do they need?
Have conversations: don’t just let comments/messages go unanswered.
Share the values of your church.
Don’t try to copy what everyone else is doing.
Don’t try to present yourself as a church of 5000 if you have 200 members.
Don’t skew your cultural makeup by the photos that you post.
Don’t fill your posts with events or funny pictures.
2. Provide Value
As you dive further into reaching more people online through social media you need to understand that it isn’t about your church or your ministry, it’s about people. In order to be successful at using social media you must provide your followers with value. How do you provide value on social media? As a church there are 3 different ways to provide value that you should keep in mind when using social media: encourage, strengthen, connect. These 3 areas will be the foundation of your church social media strategy.
Everyday people are inundated with bad news, whether it is about the economy, politics, family, jobs, etc., people are bombarded by bad news. One of the key areas to provide value on social media is through encouragement. Instead of being an echo of negativity, the church must establish itself as a champion of hope.
Jesus’ charge to the church to “go into all the world and make disciples of all nations” must ring true on social media as well. In addition to providing encouragement, we must also provide relevant content that will strengthen the faith of those who follow us. This is a great place to experiment and see what works best for your church. It may be short videos, blog posts, daily devotions, or Q&A sessions.
People need to feel like they matter. Social media is just as much as listening platform as it is a posting platform. If you fail to interact with your audience, you aren’t providing value. Mix in some posts that allow you to learn about your audience. Ask them about their favorite worship songs, scripture, etc. Ask for prayer requests, take questions, don’t be afraid to go deep. In addition to providing posts that are dedicated to interacting, make sure that you stay engaged in the comments and messages. Even if it’s a simple response, people will feel like they matter because you responded to them.
3. Know Your Audience
Building upon the idea of providing value through connecting with your audience, we must also address knowing your audience. This goes beyond just asking questions and interacting. It involves understanding not only who your audience is, but also includes knowing what your audience responds to. Knowing your audience is a data-driven process that helps to influence your future posts. We’ll dive deeper into the practical ways to do this in a later post. But, for now know that every social media platform has built in ways for you to analyze the make up of your audience and how your posts are performing among your audience.
4. Be Consistent & Plan Ahead
The two most common objectives to churches using social media are a lack of knowledge and a lack of time. Since, you’re already working on increasing your knowledge, let’s address the issue of time. The only way that you can truly fail on social media is if you fail to use it. That’s why it is incredibly important to plan ahead. Using tools like a content calendar and social media scheduling platform like Buffer will help you to consistently post great content. If you feel like you can’t come up with great content, consider using Church Social Graphics.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment
Is there a hot new social media platform that you’ve had your eye on? Or did you recently see something about your favorite platform releasing a new feature? Jump on it! Don’t be afraid to be an early adopter, but also be willing to admit when it is time to move on by knowing your audience.