Fifteen years ago, social media was not even an idea, much less an integral part of communication strategies. Even ten years ago, there were a lot of questions about whether social media would stick around or if it was just the latest internet fad.
Obviously a lot has changed since then, and today, social media is a far more important platform in communications than anyone would have guessed. No longer is it a question of if social media is part of a communication strategy but rather how and how much. This post will describe the benefits of using social media in the church and how to apply it as part of your church’s online communications strategy.
Lack of Time, Patience, or Creativity?
There are three common things that prevent churches from investing time and energy in social media.
The first thing is the difficulty of knowing how much time to spend on it. Whenever I speak to someone in church communications about social media, the question of time inevitably comes up. “How do I find the time to get into social?” “How much time do I really need to spend on my church’s Facebook page?” Here are two things I have found to almost always be true when it comes to time management. 1) People will spend most of their time doing the things they want to do at work. And 2) People want to do the things that bring them value.
The second thing is that social media is a long, slow game. It takes a while to build a group of followers and figure out what content causes your audience to react. Though you can get instant reactions, the fruits of your social media labors will not show for weeks, months, or even years.
The third thing: social media takes creativity, and creativity is hard and scary. It takes a strong, diligent person to be continually creative because most creative things have a high risk of failure. This is due to their inherit subjectivity: just because one person likes your work does not mean everyone will. Social media is built around the concept of subjectivity because everyone has a chance to publicly react. For most people, that’s intimidating. It’s one thing when you put your work on display and wait for people to reach out with feedback. It’s quite another thing when feedback can be easily stamped right below your work via a Like or comment.
Now that you know social media requires time management, patience, and a thick skin, how do you move forward?
First, keep in mind that every audience is different and you won’t know what your audience will like until you try things out. Just start posting, even if it’s only once a day. Don’t overthink the posts by trying to be super creative. Just post the things that seem like good ideas.
Second, focus on why you’re doing this. You’re in the Gospel-sharing business, so as long you focus on that, you don’t have to worry about an immediate return on investment. The results will come in time.
Types of Social Posts
I’ve found that there are five key types of posts churches should use when posting on social media. They’re not complicated, and they provide a nice outline for sharing content on your social channels.
For older generations who did not grow up with social media, the idea of building community on any kind of computer might seem like a bit of a stretch, and in many ways, they are right. Nothing beats face-to-face conversations. But for many people, the line between in-person and online has become fuzzy. Social posts that share stories about your church and its members give a digital voice to the conversations that are going on in-person. Posts that encourage people to comment are also a great way to start digital conversations.
Platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat
Informational posts are like the old standard for church communications. They contain the who, what, where, when, and why. These posts most likely won’t go viral, but they certainly provide value for your audience. Just be careful to not overuse this type of post because your social channels could become just another bulletin board.
Platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
Motivational quotes, beautiful photographs, and riveting speeches often generate the most shares on social media. As Christians, we know true inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit. Social media is an ideal place to share that inspiration. Whether you’re sharing Scripture verses, lines from your pastor’s sermon, or a new member’s journey to faith, you’ll have no shortage of inspirational content.
Platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube
You can build trust with your audience by being genuine, authentic, and true to your word. In the days of MySpace, it was common for people to build personas of who they wanted to be, and when Facebook launched, one of the goals was to encourage people be who they truly are. Certainly not every post you see will be authentic because people tend to share only the positive aspects of their lives. But through impromptu posts, unfiltered photos, and live video, being authentic online has never been easier for churches.
Platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Since the earthly church was established, education about our Lord has been a primary goal. With today’s technology, this education is no longer bound by time or location. Do you struggle to find a time for confirmation class? Consider recording it and putting it on your YouTube channel. Are Tuesday morning Bible classes difficult for people with full-time jobs to attend? Post the study questions on your Facebook page. Long-format posts like these are best for education.
Platforms: YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn
I hope that after reading through these ideas, you are encouraged to put more time and energy into communicating through social media. Every post gets you one step closer to becoming confident in what you share and gives you insight into the likes and dislikes of your audience.
Not Sure What to Post Next on Social?
If you struggle with deciding what to post on social media, download this week’s free PDF, 100 Ideas for Social Media Posts. Not every idea is right for each occasion, but there’s certainly more than one thing in this list that will jump-start your creativity.
Free Training Course
This blog post was part of the training series Church Online Communications Comprehensive. All the course materials are available online for free, and you can move through the course at your own pace. Start working toward an effective online communications strategy for your church today!
About the Author
Peter Frank serves as Senior Marketing Manager of Church Supplies at Concordia Publishing House. A graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin, his background in theology, business, and computers gives him a unique perspective on technology in the church. Married and the father of two children, he is frequently humbled when his 18-month-old shows him new things on the iPad.Follow on Twitter More Content by Peter Frank