Just as Churches we were getting comfortable with the internet and how they “thought” we should use it, social media transformed the internet and gave the church even larger platforms and more power to communicate the gospel with the world. We can now reach the corners of the globe from our internet connected devices. Now we all know, with great power comes great responsibility, and social media is no exception. Social Media is one of the best ways to reach and help people learn the gospel. With Social Media you can reach people right where they are at, on their social network of choice and let the life-giving information flow from your ministry to their social profile. In my book The iChurch Method, I say “the church should strive to meet people wherever they are at, on whatever network they are on, via any device that they pick up”, this is the opportunity that social networks give us.
Now that we understand the importance of social networking and the great moment the church has right now, let’s talk about the five steps to take advantage of this opportunity.
1. Who will manage the tasks: The first step in developing a social media strategy is to establish who will be the social media manager. Who will be the person that champions the social media networks, gathers the information from the rest of the ministry and actually distributes the information to the social networks. This person needs to have a good understanding of social networks and the benefits of one network over another.
2. Who is your audience: The next step is determining who is your audience for your social media strategy. Start to segment your audience into categories so that you can gather church content geared towards a specific audience. For example, if you are targeting non-church members then you will tailor a social media post differently than if you are targeting church members. Most churches say they are focusing on members and non-members but their messages are always catered to members only, wasting a great opportunity to reach millions of other social networkers that may not attend their church.
3. What’s Your Message: Next, establish the voice of your church. What will be the message that you will convey to people via social media and how will you convey it. Will your church speak on societal and current issues? Will your church quote scriptures and quotes on every network? Will your church push out announcements and never respond to people? Make sure your church isn’t one dimensional, there are many types of people that you can reach therefore you distribute many types of social media posts. Here are three focal points in establishing your church’s message via social media:
- Inspiration - Make sure to provide inspiration and motivation via your social networks. These are the best types of posts, whether they are quotes, scriptures or photos with encouraging words on them, everyone wants some type of inspiration in their life.
- Information - Provide information about your church via your social networks, don’t assume that everyone comes to church, reads your website or saw your eblast. Distribute the information about events and other happenings within the church via your social networks. You can repurpose flyers, newsletters, eblasts and other marketing materials and send them out via social networks.
- Communication - Social media is “Social”, therefore it should be two way communication. If you post to a network and people comment, ask questions and take time out of their busy day to respond, then make sure your church takes time to acknowledge them and respond back. Don’t let your church appear to arrogant to respond to its social network fans. Even if you don’t have the staff or time to answer every comment or question, at least answer some. Show that the ministry is seeing people’s comments and questions.
4. What social networks do you want to use: There are numerous social networks out there and each one has its own audience. Your church needs to establish which social network(s) they are going to start with, master how to use and then progress to other ones. For example, many churches start with Twitter, learn how to interact and send out content via Twitter and then they progress to Facebook. Here are the top social networks, their benefits and what types of content can be distributed via them.
- Facebook - This is the largest network in the world with over 900 million members. Facebook is the gold standard in social media and has literally defined how we use social media. Facebook fan pages have status updates that can be text or links to other websites. You can also posts photos and videos on facebook and create fan pages that can have millions of fans. (Google+ is similar as well)
- Twitter - Twitter is the “convenient” social network because its posts (tweets) are limited to 140 characters. This gives churches, pastors and people on the go an easy way to communicate, share photos, links to websites, videos and variety of other information. The benefits of Twitter are that its an easy network to learn and reach people quickly using short message and photos.
- Youtube - The #1 video network in the world is often overlooked as a social network. With a focus on only videos, Youtube has built a community where people can comment, share and build a following around multimedia video content. This allows churches to post inspirational sermons and gospel messages that can visually appeal to people and reach them on their computers or mobile devices.
- Pinterest - Pinterest is the new kid on the block with its focus on photos and the sharing (pinning) of them in a poster board format. With this network churches can create inspirational photos that can be posted to boards that are based around certain themes that people can search for. For example, if your church creates a board on Prayer, then they can post photos of people praying at your church and let other pinners repin those photos. You can also post links to videos on Pinterest, which is a largely unknown feature, thus you in addition to prayer photos, you can post actual video prayers on your board to help people get through difficult times in their lives. Now that’s living the gospel!! (Instagram is similar to Pinterest but is mainly on mobile devices only)
5. When to post: Lastly, how often to post is a question that many churches face. How much is too much? Can we post 5 times a day? Should we post items twice in case people didn’t see it the first time? These are questions that many churches ask when they start using social networks. Here are some posting tips to keep in mind:
Facebook - Post at least 1 - 3 times a day
Twitter - Post at least 4 - 6 times a day
Youtube - Post at least 1 video per week
Pinterest - Post at least 1 photo per week
Instagram - Post at least 1 photo per week
Google+ - Post at least 1 - 3 times a day