Is social media accomplishing anything for your church? I find most churches have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and have thrown some videos up on YouTube from time to time. Few say they have a strategy or would claim what they do yields positive results. Many aren’t even sure what results they should expect.
I understand social media can be overwhelming and, at times, a bit frustrating. But if you take a step back, it can be a powerful tool in your communications toolbox.
Here are two important things social media can do for you, if you have an effective plan in place:
- Help to build and reinforce the culture you’re after.
- Help you provide the answers to questions people are asking, both practical and spiritual.
Those things don’t happen by default of your tweeting. So, if you want to leverage social media in 2016, here’s a checklist to get you on your way.
Start with the strategic action plan for your church.
Any communications tool is useless without a good understanding of what’s important. If you don’t have a strategy and an action plan, your communication is most likely just noise.
Think in terms of campaigns.
It can be overwhelming to think about how often you should post on social media. Don’t start with “How many tweets should I post each day?” Try to get your head around bigger picture campaigns and build your social media plan around those.
– In what areas of your ministry are you hoping to move the needle this year?
– What do you have planned that could use a concentrated push on social media?
– What questions are people asking that the Church has the answer for?
Build a long range content calendar and a weekly content plan.
With your strategic plan in place, do your best to work out a calendar for the year. Fill in the big stuff, and work backwards. How many weeks of promotion should you give it? How can you engage the congregation?
I always recommend churches also create a weekly content plan — that is, one-week calendar of ideas for posting on social media that align with your strategic priorities. This helps whoever is managing your accounts to know what to post to stay on message in between the big campaigns.
Determine each channel’s purpose.
Some may be outsider-focused, some more for insiders. That’s ok. Do know that anyone planning to check out your church may peruse your social channels, so make sure whatever you post is something you’re comfortable having outsiders view.
On all channels, show the life of your church. Don’t just promote events and share photos of your stage. Share pics from your small groups. Post images of people serving. Connect your church to the community through imagery. Your pictures communicate your culture.
Plan for an advertising budget.
To reach people on social media in 2016, you’re going to have to spend some money. Just to reach your own Facebook fans you’re going to occasionally have to drop some dollars. Not a lot. (In fact, social media is THE MOST cost effective way of reaching people in your community – far cheaper than print, mailers or billboards.) For less than $100 on Facebook, for example, you can get your content in front of several thousand people in your community.
Build a volunteer team.
There are gifted people in your church. Find a way to invite them to serve. Build your policies and guidelines and whatever else you need to feel comfortable handing over the passwords. Prep them with a solid understanding of your strategic objectives and priorities. And make sure there is someone on staff who is ultimately accountable for helping them succeed.
Invest in a better website.
Remember this: A social media strategy without a content strategy is rarely effective. If your website is clunky, difficult to update or just plain old-fashioned, chances are you aren’t using it like you could. And If your IT guy built you a custom website anytime before 2013, I can with 99.9% certainty tell you there is a better looking and much easier to use option for you, like SquareSpace.com, for example. Websites do not have to be expensive, and it will be well-worth the effort.
Keep an eye on what you publish and how it’s received. Don’t just publish a tweet and assume it connected with your congregation. Most all social media platforms provide you with basic analytics to help you figure out what people like, what they read, what they shared with their friends, etc. That’s vital input! Unlike your bulletin, these tools give you feedback you can use to adjust your strategies.
Test, test, test.
Don’t expect to hit it out of the park with every campaign. Test and test until you find out what works for your congregation. It’s ok for this to be trial and error.
Keep it “social.”
Have conversations. Respond when people send you a message. Ask questions. Don’t think of social media as a billboard campaign. Your tone here should always be approachable.
Social media has been around too long for so many churches to still not have a strategy. Your congregation and your community are communicating via these tools more than just about any other way. How will you respond in 2016?