Social media isn’t just a choice for churches anymore, it’s a necessity. The question isn’t whether or not you should be doing it, the question is how well you do it! While it can seem intimidating at first, you don’t have to be an expert to win at social. The key is not to just post on channels randomly, but to make sure your church has a strategy behind posting. As Christians and ministers, it’s important to be where the people are, and the people are overwhelmingly on social media. Social media strategy allows you to reach out to people across multiple channels across multiple touchpoints and allows churches to talk to multiple audiences at the same time.
Be a digital missionary! Any church, any size can use social media effectively. You can do it!
Crafting a Good Social Media Strategy
Social media isn’t just a place to talk about yourself or your church events. It is a massive opportunity for you are your members to minister to others. 58% of non-Christians say someone has shared their faith with them via social media. People who may never have a gospel conversation in person, will engage in a gospel conversations on social media. Yet only 28% of people feel comfortable sharing their faith online! So how can you encourage your members to talk about faith? By setting an example.
Here are some basic dos and dont’s for your social media strategy:
- DON’T just post church announcements and updates. Often for any organization, people check out social media channels first so it’s a great way for people to get a feel for what your church culture is. If you only have internal announcements, they may not feel welcome or like they could be a part of your group.
- DO create your very own digital missionary strategy. Make it unique for your church! Share things that encourage engagement, share behind the scenes content, or just share some fun pieces that people will want to see!
- DON’T try to do it all. Remember- strategy is key. It’s about doing less to get more. Don’t stress yourself out and try to master every social media channel all at once, we know they can seem really complicated.
- DO: Integrate social media with daily communication in your church. Make sure to tell people about it! Talk about it every Sunday, encourage people to check in on locations, put it on church collateral, make it on all of your communication platforms. Be intentional about which ones you want to focus on. Youth ministry can be an especially effective place to share this information. Make it easy for people to find you!
Step 1: Who is your audience? The most important question you need to ask when crafting a social media strategy is: who is this for? Your church probably already has a “target audience” that is based on your geographic location, demographics and key ministries. Now you just need to apply this same principle to your online audience. There are three main audience buckets to focus on: Your local community and neighbors, your congregation, and the broader digital community at large.
Step 2: Which Social Media Channels? Start by figuring out which social media channel (s) is right for your church. There are three main channels you should know about and when creating a social media strategy it is important to distinguish between them and understand each one’s strong points in order to make sure your church is being effective across the board.
Facebook– the most common social media platform, a lot of churches have FB pages, and it has the most users of any social platform. Additionally, Google and FB play together. When people Google your church, they usually see your Facebook profile as one of the first results, and that matters, because that’s where people will look first. Facebook is great for:
- Sharing announcements (yes, you need to do this too, you just need to make sure it’s not the only thing you’re doing!)
- Sharing photos and videos
- Across the board, videos get the most engagement. You can use a smartphone for video recording, you don’t need to have a videographer produce the video for you.
- Engaging graphics with quotes, scriptures, questions- something that people will like and interact with. (Outreach Social, in particular, is a great place to start with this!)
- Links to your website- direct traffic where you want it to go.
Twitter- is a great way to interact with your community in small ways that really add up. It has a huge audience and can make people feel connected to your church in a really personal way. However, because of character count limits, it’s not ideal if you want to communicate a lot of details. Twitter is great for:
- Quotes, blurbs and thoughts
- Trending news and hashtags- this is a great place to use that church hashtag we talked about earlier!
- Retweeting- engage with your community by retweeting relevant news and community stories.
- Twitter is for short and pithy thoughts. You only have 240 characters, so no paragraphs here!
Instagram- is the key channel if you want to reach younger audiences. It’s a great place to post regular updates, videos, pictures, and live feeds. Remember though, Instagram doesn’t allow for you to post links, so it’s not meant to be a redirection tool. Instagram is great for:
- Quality photos of events
- Instagram stories
- Hashtags- you can reshare posts with relevant hashtags. Also, be sure to use hashtags of your city on every post, Instagram will show people in your area those posts on their feed. It’s a great way to be seen!
Step 3: Create a strategic content calendar. A content calendar is basically just a plan of what information is going to be posted on any given day. You can create this calendar 30 days at a time and schedule posts ahead of time on most platforms so you don’t have to worry about any daily upkeep and posting!
Try the CEO strategy: Curated, Engagement, Offer method:
- Curated posts: find stories from other websites or social media pages that you know your congregation will love. Share happy local news or updates or interesting stories about the larger Christian community (Faithit, Faithwire, and Christianity Today are all great places to start.)
- Good news from your community will gain a lot of traction. People rally behind causes they care about. There’s so much good news out there in the midst of all the bad, that it’s worth sharing!
- Engagement: graphics with beautiful quotes or scripture. Give people something to interact with (likes, reshare, comments- that’s what engagement means on social media.) And remember, the more engagement your page has, the more people in the broader digital community will see it. That’s true across all platforms on social media.
- Offers: This is the place where you share church announcements, upcoming events, promote a sermon series or share updates about what’s going on and coming up at your church. This is important, but post fewer of these than the rest. Facebook, in particular, will penalize pages with less visibility if they do nothing but share links.
NOTE: You can get a FREE content calendar template from Outreach to get you started!
Applying Your Social Media Strategy to Easter
When you’re thinking about content for your social media, remember to always keep your audience in mind. What will those three main audiences want to see on social media and how can you share the message of Easter with all of them simultaneously?
To reach your local community:
- Use an Easter-specific hashtag for your church: #churchnameEaster
- Share about activities leading up to Easter Sunday. Make it specific to your community: egg hunts in a public park, spring carnivals etc..
- Create Easter-specific Engagement posts to get people talking. For example ask the community: What is your favorite Easter tradition? What’s the best jelly bean flavor? What’s your favorite technique for dyeing eggs? Get a conversation going!
- Tag local news or local businesses your church or members of your congregation are connected with. Springtime is a great time for good news when it comes to local news channels. If you’re putting on a volunteer event or partnering with a local nonprofit make sure to let people know on social media how you’re connecting with the community on social media.
To reach and empower your congregation
- Share updates about Easter Sunday events! For example, Is there a special time for Easter Sunday services? Let people know on social media and get the word out.
- Equip your congregation to be digital missionaries. Create posts and events that can be shared to personal pages by your church members – check out Outreach Digital for automated digital posts.
To reach a larger online audience
- Share uplifting quotes that inspire people or ask fun questions that create conversation. They don’t have to be all scripture all the time but make sure they’re something that aligns with what your church believes.
- Video! Remember, video is king on social media. Share a weekly video taken on a smartphone of a pastor at your church sharing an uplifting brief message or just inviting people to come join you on Easter Sunday! They can be personal, uplifting messages that say to people “hey, I hope you’re having a good week, I’m thinking of you!”
- Curated news. Everyone loves good news and good stories. Find some that you want to share with people!
What more specific tips on HOW to expand your church’s reach online? Watch for Part 2 next week…or get a jumpstart and find out about inviting your community through Facebook and Instagram invitation ads.