This article is produced by Church Juice, a ministry of Back to God Ministries International, the media mission agency of the CRCNA. Church Juice provides congregations with free resources, articles, and opportunities for training and consulting on church communications. You can find more resources and information on their website, churchjuice.com.
Social media can be a great tool for your church, if you use it well. The networks you choose to engage and participate on can help you build relationships with a broader audience of people. Social media can also help your church reach a new and different crowd than any other medium. How we utilize social media is important, though. Here are six tips to help you utilize your social media better.
1. CREATE GOALS
First, let’s differentiate between goals and strategy. They are not the same. Your social media strategy is the plan to achieve your goals. We start with goals before creating a strategy so we know where we’re headed and what direction we want to go.
Goals should be as specific as possible. Using numbers and dates help give your goal an objective. For example, we might want our Facebook Page to have 150 likes by December 2018; we want 50% of our congregation to be a member of the church’s Facebook Group by February 2019; or we want to grow our engagement on Twitter by 30% in the next fiscal year.
The goals you create should align with your church’s overall vision. Social media should support the vision of the church and help to achieve those overarching goals and vision fulfillment. The goals of the church should inform and direct the goals of your social media ministry.
2. BUILD A STRATEGY
After creating goals, it’s time to develop a strategy for your social media. What is a social media strategy? Simply put, it’s a plan to help you achieve your goals. Your social media strategy should align well and support your overall communication plan (you do have a communication plan, right?), as well as the strategy for the church and its vision.
Your church’s social media strategy doesn’t need to be elaborate or over-the-top. It needs to be as long as you need it to be, but no longer. It should identify each of your goals and give actionable steps and deadlines to help achieve each goal. Things to include in your social media strategy are:
- Individual plans to meet each individual goal
- Assigned tasks
- Next steps
- Team members
Part of your strategy should be to build/include a team that posts and engages on the “official” social media channels of the church.
3. DEVELOP A SCHEDULE
Your social media calendar—when, what, and where you’re posting—should align with the overall church calendar as well. By having a calendar, you can plan through what major events are happening in the church, and you can make sure you’re building awareness about those church events on the church’s social media channels.
Decide how often you should post on each of your church’s social media platforms. Decide what times on what days work best (PRO TIP: Don’t be afraid to try different days/times. Trial and error are a great way to find what works, especially in social media since it’s always changing). You can use services and software to help you automate your posts as well. Having a calendar and schedule helps ensure you are posting consistently.
4. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Knowing your audience goes two ways. You need to know who makes up your congregation. (You’d be surprised how many churches don’t have any real data on who’s attending their church events.) This allows you to figure out what platforms to use to best reach your current audience. The second audience you need to think about is your target audience. Sometimes this will be the same crowd that is currently attending on Sundays. For other churches, though, this may mean a slightly different audience. If you’re trying to bring in more young families, but your church is a lot of middle-aged and near-or-at-retirement aged people, then you need to think through what your social media presence will look like.
5. KNOW YOUR PLATFORM
Once you build your audience, you can decide what platforms are right for your church to use. Each social media channel reaches a slightly different audience, so depending on who you’re trying to reach, you may want to think about using different social media channels.
Here are some of the major social channels:
Instagram: This is a visual sharing app (image and video), and is most popular for people in their 20s or 30s.
Twitter: Twitter is known for its limited space—280 characters—and is most popular among people with a higher education and income. Twitter users are also slightly more likely to live in a city.
Facebook: Facebook is the behemoth of social media networks. In North America, Facebook can be the best outlet to reach the older folks from your church, as well as young moms.
Snapchat: Snapchat enables users to post a video or photo that will appear for a limited time before disappearing. This is an incredibly popular social media platform for teens. At Church Juice, we do not endorse using Snap.
YouTube: YouTube is everywhere. YouTube is the second largest search engine on the Internet. If you’re posting any type of video, think about creating a channel.
After you develop your plan, goals, and begin to engage with people online, take some time regularly to evaluate your effectiveness. Are the things you’re posting reaching the right people? Are you spending your advertising budget responsibly? Does each channel you utilize, and the things you publish, support the vision of the church?
Just because something works today, doesn’t mean it will work a year from now (or even a month from today). So make sure to set time to look at the statistics. Don’t obsess over them, but be aware of what’s happening and make changes to better reach your goals and support the vision of your church.