guest post by Tiffany Deluccia
I recently read a quote by Seth Godin that got me thinking. He said, “Social media is a marathon, a gradual process in which you build a reputation. The best time to start was a while ago. The second best time to start is today.”
That statement could be said of just about any effort to reach out to our communities, connect our church members or lead for change. Social media obviously isn’t the answer in and of itself, but it happens to be a valuable tool that can support those goals (as well as a lot of others).
The options can be paralyzing, and it’s easy to feel stuck in cycles of online activity we’re not sure how to evaluate or staff. So, I’ve listed a few strategic steps to help you start the marathon with an expectation of finishing well.
1) Start slow and evaluate which social media platforms best suit your church.
Consider your church members, your city, your outreach programs, etc. Polling people can be a good place to start: You need to know what social media they use most so you can reach them where they are in the rhythm of their day. This might be different for varying age groups or genders. For instance, you might find Instagram is the most effective way to interact with older teens, Pinterest is important to 30-something women or that, surprisingly, you have a lot of boomers on Facebook. Start with the facts and you’ll set yourself up to be more successful.
2) Identify the social media enthusiasts and influencers in your church.
If you’re not listening, you may not realize there’s a guy in your church who tweets from every church event, or a woman who shares your sermon podcast with her Facebook friends the moment it goes live. I bet you have some bloggers in your church. Effective social media is really just networking to drive online word-of-mouth and action. It requires interaction with people, so listening is key. It probably won’t be worth your time if you simply pump out church announcements.
3) Draft a plan and schedule.
Magazine editors know the importance of an editorial calendar, and making one can seriously simplify your process for creating content, whether for a blog, YouTube channel or Pinterest boards. When you plan your sermon series or your strategy for encouraging next steps, take time to outline ideas for supporting those things with social media. Side note: Video (even simple little videos like Vine) are some of the most shared content. If you plan ahead a bit, you can produce more creative, shareable content that will help you build culture, reinforce priorities and facilitate discussion and participation.
4) Make it manageable!
Being consistent is the key to building a beneficial social media strategy: create content regularly, respond to commenters promptly and enlist the help of your influencers proactively. You won’t be able to do it alone. Build a team to be accountable for the editorial calendar and for responding to people who engage. It’s ok to keep the pace slow as long as it’s steady – this is a marathon!
5) Plan for the worst.
This may be the Body of Christ, but that doesn’t mean everyone online will act like Christ. Plan ahead for a crisis by taking time to evaluate worst-case scenarios. Think through the best ways to handle those situations and determine roles for each team member. Of particular importance: Establish an expected length of time for responding to any negative thing that arises. As we’ve all seen, negativity travels fast online and silence rarely helps.
Intentionally building your church culture takes time, and doing it through social media is no different. So, warm up, stretch and take the first few steps to get up to speed.
photo credit: j&tplaman via compflight.com
Tiffany Deluccia handles social media consulting and media relations at JDPR in Greenville, SC. She graduated from Clemson University and has experience working with various nonprofits and churches on social media strategy and content creation. She also founded and writes for WastingPerfume.com, a devotional blog for young women and teen girls.