Dramatically Improve How Your Church Uses Facebook, Instagram & More
I don’t see many churches using social media well. Two things in particular stand out to me:
1) A lot of times, it’s as if the church has carried its Sunday morning bulletin strategy over to social media. Too often I see churches posting announcements to social media rather than engaging a conversation.
2) I also rarely detect a content strategy when I’m reviewing church social media accounts. And without that, it’s really challenging to have an effective social media strategy. There’s a good chance you’re wasting time and resources.
I’m convinced most churches don’t really know their “win” for using social media. The problem with that is that without clear wins, at best you’ll waste time and resources, and at worst you’ll do damage to your brand and the opportunity you have to engage people outside your church.
So, in this episode, I invited Tiffany Deluccia from my team at The Unstuck Group back on the podcast to share some best practices for social media churches can learn and run with.
You may remember Tiffany from Episode 61 – Why Church Communications Is Stuck in 2004. Hopefully after listening to that episode you dove headfirst into working on a content strategy :-)
If so, this episode will be a good next step: It will give you some practical advice on how social media can be effective tools in your tool belt.
In this episode, we covered:
- How to maximize the potential of social media for reaching more people and increasing engagement
- 3 principles for social media that are pretty much always true, even with the constantly evolving algorithms and cultural nuances
- Best practices for Facebook and Instagram in 2019
- 3 practical next steps to dramatically improve how effective your church is at using social media
If you’re not subscribed to the Show Notes and you’re interested in this topic, I’d suggest you subscribe. The Leader Conversation Guide for this episode including a lot of bonus content and links to resources we didn’t have time to cover in the audio content. Your church will never gain traction with social media until someone on your team owns the conversation, not just the posting. #unstuckchurch #podcast [episode 107]Click to Tweet Still thinking of ministry as happening at set times in your church building? As more people use the web for every aspect of their lives, our churches can’t afford to not have a strategy. It's not an add-on; it’s a full-scale shift.… Click To Tweet
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Links & Resources from the Episode
- Why Church Communications is Stuck in 2004 | Episode 61 | The Unstuck Church Podcast
- The Unstuck Process
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Sean: 00:00 Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast where each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. With over 2 billion daily users on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, social media has established itself as an effective way for churches to communicate. These tools help us connect with each other, our attenders, and even people who aren’t yet connected to our church. With so many options for digital engagement, it’s hard to know what platforms to focus on and how to strategically use them. On today’s podcast, Tony and Amy have a conversation with Tiffany Deluccia, Director of Marketing and Communications at The Unstuck Group, on social media in churches. Make sure before you listen to subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox. Every week you’ll get one email with the leader conversation guide., all of the resources we mentioned and bonus resources to support the content. You’ll also get access to the archive of all of our podcast resources from past episodes. You can sign up by going to the unstuckgroup.com/podcast. Now, here’s this week’s conversation on social media in the church with Tony, Amy, and Tiffany Deluccia.
Amy: 01:06 Well, this week on the podcast we’re talking about best practices in the area of social media for churches. And this is something a lot of churches are asking us about right now. So we invited Tiffany Deluccia, our Sales and Marketing Director here at The Unstuck Group to join us back on the podcast today. So welcome Tiffany.
Tiffany: 01:24 Oh, we’re recording this? Fool me once. Shame on me. I mean, how did you get me back on here?
Amy: 01:32 I know you like to hide behind the scenes.
Tony: 01:34 Yeah, Tiffany is really kind of a behind the scenes person for The Unstuck Group, but we actually had her as a guest previously on the podcast back in episode 61, and she joined us to talk about why church communications is stuck in 2004. And in case you’ve missed that, you’re probably one of the only people that’s missed it actually because last time I checked, it’s still in first place as the most downloaded episode of the Unstuck Church Podcast. So really, if you haven’t heard that podcast, you need to go back and listen to it. Tiffany, welcome back.
Tiffany: 02:13 Thanks. I hope that attention on that episode is an indicator churches are listening to you, Tony. I know that this was also one of your New Year’s resolutions for churches in 2019, back in episode 74.
Tony: 02:25 Yeah, that’s right. We were talking about the importance of inbound marketing and actually you and I were just having a conversation. Think about inbound marketing as kind of like content marketing. It’s how we’re trying to engage people that aren’t even guests at our church yet. They’re not connected to our church. So, I’m glad to hear churches are starting to think about this.
Amy: 02:45 Well, that brings us back to the topic for today because we love to help churches take action. So social media platforms, as we all know, play a big role in the success of an inbound marketing strategy or a content market strategy. And it seems like most churches, Tiffany, are struggling in this area.
Tiffany: 03:03 Yeah, and we should probably define inbound marketing for anyone who hasn’t listened to episode 61. And, it’s really just an approach to marketing that focuses on drawing people in through helpful content and trying to add value at every stage in their journey towards, you know, your message or what you’re trying to offer versus traditional marketing, which mainly pushes a product out or service out. Think billboard, or you know, advertising that interrupts a show that you’re watching. Social media is one of the best tools to help you execute on an inbound marketing strategy, and social media is not easy. It’s always changing and I feel like as soon as you get your head around what you’re doing with it, some math genius in California changes an algorithm and what you were doing yesterday completely stops working today.
Tiffany: 03:49 And, I mean, I’m only 31 but it makes me feel old trying to keep up with social media trends. So, I know that if this is not the world that you’re living in all the time, it can definitely seem overwhelming.
Amy: 03:59 But, I know when we were talking about what to share with pastors in this episode, Tiffany, there were a few things that you were saying that we can pretty much count on to stay true. So, let’s start with those.
Tiffany: 04:10 Sure. When we say count on, imagine that in air quotes. I won’t commit that these things will never change with social media, but they haven’t changed so far. So, these are three principles I feel like are pretty much always true. Social media should be social. And that may sound obvious, but these are two way communication platforms and that’s really what the revolution was about with social media—about how we are able to get a message out, but also allow the people on the receiving end that message to respond and to interact. So, I just see all the time people that are not actually ever asking questions, or you know, not responding to commenters. I think saying hi, thanking people for engaging—all of those just simple things that seem obvious are really where the rubber meets the road. And I don’t think you ever gain traction if you’re not going to have someone on your team that really owns the conversation and not just the posting when it comes to social media.
Amy: 05:11 So you’re saying it’s not one way. You’re not just pushing because that’s traditional marketing. You’re talking it’s two way. Expect it to be two way.
Tiffany: 05:18 Right. If you’re just going to try to push stuff out, you could have a blog and not enable comments. You could send out email. But if you’re going to be on social media, think social. The second one is that social media platforms help you execute your content strategy. They’re not the strategy in and of themselves. And you really just, you don’t want any points for just being on social media. I think we all know from personal experience, these things can be a black hole of wasted time. And the same is true for your church and for the time that people on your team are spending on social media. If you don’t know what the win is, if these aren’t aligned to an overarching strategy to try to reach people through content, at best you’ll waste time and resources, really, and at worst you’ll damage your brand and you’ll damage the potential you have to engage people outside your church. The third thing that I think is pretty much always true is that your strategy on each platform needs to be tailored to that platform. So, have you ever seen when you’re on Twitter for example, and you get just a little link that says, “An image was shared on Instagram,” where somebody is posting from Instagram and it’s hitting Twitter and maybe it’s hitting Facebook too. It’s a good example of how people get lazy in this area. Each platform has strengths and weaknesses related to what you post and who you can reach. And, you really do need to tailor your strategy on each platform to what makes sense there. So, an example would be, let’s say part of your inbound strategy is a weekly podcast, which we just talked about recently how you could be using a podcast as a part of your strategy, you could leverage both Facebook, Instagram, you could leverage Twitter, you could leverage YouTube to help people find it and engage. But, what you post on each of those things would look different. And the word you’ll often hear is native. When people talk about native content, they mean that the content you’re posting matches the experience people are expecting to have when they’re on that platform.
Tony: 07:17 That’s good. Tiffany, I just want to re-emphasize the first two things that you mentioned because, unfortunately, I do see these common challenges when churches start to think about their social media strategy. The first one, it’s as if the church has carried its bulletin, Sunday morning bulletin, strategy over to social media. And so too many times I’m just seeing churches posting announcements to social media rather than engaging a conversation. And then the second bullet, so true. I mean, again, they’re not thinking about social media aligning with a content strategy. And again, I just want to encourage you, you really need to go back and listen to that episode 61, because today’s conversation, void of the discussion we had back in that podcast, it really, it’s really gonna be challenging for you to have an effective social media strategy. So, you mentioned these three things that are pretty much always true. What are some of the things that are true for now?
Tiffany: 08:23 Yeah. For the sake of time, maybe we can just talk through a couple of the big ones that we know that churches are asking about a lot. We can, I think we should start with Facebook, cause that’s where everyone always starts.
Tony: 08:34 Yes, and Facebook is definitely my favorite as well, Tiffany.
Tiffany: 08:37 We know. We know, Tony. You love Facebook.
Tony: 08:41 In our recent church engagement, we report that we saw that both growing and declining churches were seeing increases in engagement in their Facebook account. So, let’s talk about Facebook for a moment.
Speaker 4: 08:54 Yeah, I think this is the one most churches are using if they’re using anything. That doesn’t mean they’re using it well, by default. We are seeing increasing engagement there from that most recent data, but you should note a couple of things about that. Facebook, in general, skews older. I don’t know if that’s news to people anymore, but the last stats that I read found 68% of American adults use Facebook, but it’s not only half of teens. And I would say even of those, if we drill down deeper, use might be too strong a word. They probably have an account, but as far as being active, it’s probably even lower.
Amy: 09:30 And it skews older, and that’s why it’s Tony favorite.
Tony: 09:37 I’m not gonna take that as a personal attack, but let me affirm, I’m pretty confident none of my kids are on Facebook. So I mean there’s, and just, if we were just to pull the Morgan Household, I’m pretty sure it’s only the adults. Well, I have adult young kids too. But, definitely Facebook seems to be an older crowd.
Tiffany: 09:59 Right.
Tony: 10:03 Thanks for not piling on Tiffany. I really appreciate that.
Tiffany: 10:11 I’m just trying to move past that one. So, the second thing is that spending really is now required. If you’re going to be effective as a brand or an organization on Facebook, you’re going to spend money. If you haven’t noticed that the organic interaction with the content you’re posting has dropped significantly in the last few years, you probably weren’t watching the stats. This has been the biggest discussion in the social media world of the last couple of years. Especially if you have a Facebook page for your church, it used to be that you can post content out on the people who like your page, they saw what you posted. And then if a lot of people commented or responded or liked it, then more people would see it. We just sort of saw that tanking across the board, across all industries, that wasn’t happening. And that’s because Facebook started to make money and they’re really good at it, and they actually have a really effective, highly targetable ad platform for you. And so if you’re just going to try to get away with posting, you know, here’s the latest sermon on your Facebook page, you’re just not going to see strong engagement without a complimentary ad strategy. There is one tip that I wanted to share related to your Facebook page. There’s an option when you’re on the page where you can go on any page that you like and hit a little toggle that says, “see first.” And it’s something you can be telling your church that they can do if you want to try to up that organic reach of your content. I’ll include some screenshots of how to show people what to do that in the show notes. So if you’re not subscribed, go ahead and subscribe and we’ll send that out. But, other than that, you’re just gonna have to start thinking about how to have an ad strategy to be able to reach people.
Tiffany: 11:56 The third thing is groups. Facebook has a five year goal of seeing 1 billion people in meaningful groups on Facebook, and this has a lot to do with what we were saying earlier, that they’re not seeing the level of engagement, especially with the younger crowds that they used to. And so they’re trying to figure out how do we retain users? How do we keep people coming back to Facebook for a meaningful experience? Groups have been around since the very beginning. I was part of, I mean when I was in college, everybody joined them. There was a silly one called people who want Clemson to have a real tiger. I was apart of that one when I was at Clemson University. Groups just, if you’ve been around Facebook a long time, groups in the past weren’t that much of a meaningful experience. But Facebook is making an intentional focus on making these a sticky part of the experience there. I think this is a big opportunity for churches going forward because of that page content issue we were just talking about. Your page may be getting less reach, but if you have a group and you can create an engaged experience there, you’re much more likely to see strong engagement.
Amy: 13:01 Well that’s great overview on Facebook. Thank you. Let’s go next to Instagram since they’re connected, right? They’re the same company now. And if you take on an advertising strategy, I think you can leverage it from both platforms, correct?
Tiffany: 13:15 Correct. Yeah, they’re the same company and you can from one portal, you can essentially do ads across the two platforms, which gives you a great chance to reach a younger audience and an older audience with one integrated strategy.
Tony: 13:29 Yeah. In fact, in our church engagement report, it was fascinating though, both growing and declining churches were seeing increase when it came to Facebook. There was a bigger disparity when it came to Instagram. In fact, only 44% of declining churches were using Instagram while 72% of growing churches said they were using that platform. So there must be something about Instagram that at least growing churches are identifying, “We need to be involved in that platform.”
Tiffany: 14:00 Absolutely. If reaching young adults is a goal for your church at all, and you’re not using Instagram, you’re probably spending your time in the wrong place. Pew Research found in 2018, 60% of Instagram users are using the platform every single day and 55% of young adults specifically visited it several times a day. In my own habits, Instagram is the one, if I’ve got five minutes and I’m going to check social media, it’s the one I’m gravitating towards. It’s definitely not one you can leave out if you’re hoping to reach the next generation.
Tony: 14:29 Yeah. So first question, Tiffany, does that mean I need to learn how to take a selfie? A
Amy: 14:36 Well, just stay in your lane, Tony, stay in your lane.
Tiffany: 14:41 Why don’t you try it out and we’ll just do some A/B testing.
Tony: 14:46 All right. That question aside, if we are going to be involved on Instagram, what are a few best practices that churches need to know about?
Tiffany: 14:55 Sure. I think, big picture, you need to think visual storytelling, not just visual. It’s a photography based platform and videography based platform. But I see so many people posting photos that just, there’s no story to the photo. It’s, you know, here’s a picture of our church building and then a caption that says, “Come to church on Sunday.” Think about using Instagram to showcase your culture. Help people get a feel for what your church family is like, what your mission is, what your vision is, help them want to engage. I think Instagram does that really well. On the brand side, it showcases lifestyle. Even when you look at it, think about the ads you receive on Instagram, maybe for a product, but they feature a product and a lifestyle. I think we can learn a lot from that. It’s not just here’s a picture, think about the story the picture is telling. The second thing I would say, the quality of the photography really matters. Things that work on Instagram are pretty. It’s not just that we posted photos from X event or photos of, you know, Sunday morning service. It needs to, it has a feel. And when you do some deeper digging on people who help brands with Instagram, they tend to have a set preset filter to make all of their photos even look nice in the feed. So, even if you’re not looking at it one on one, if you look at the whole page of all of their photos, there’s just this cohesive, beautiful curated look to stuff. And, I think that’s an area where churches are missing it. They’re just posting photos if they’re posting it at all. There’s no cohesive experience. A little tip there, too— showing faces does get more engagement. 38% more engagement is the last stat that I read on that. So it needs to be quality, it needs to be beautiful, but do show people. It makes a difference. The third one is kind of, I think surprising to people sometimes, but Instagram is really used as a microblogging tool these days. It’s not really for sharing links. They intentionally make it hard for you to do that, but you’ll see a lot of influential Instagrammers writing long captions to their photos. And the photos should tell a story on its own. You can really expound on your topic and invite dialogue in that description and it really does work. One little side note tip there—follow Instagram on Instagram. If you are looking for ideas about how to use it better or how to even get started, what Instagram does is sort of show you how you can be using the tool in their own posts and they feature popular Instagrammers.
Tiffany: 17:35 That’s mainly everything they post is featuring popular Instagrammers and it just shows you how people are using it, the people that are using it really successfully, what they’re doing. You’ll also get, you know, side note on that, you’ll get a lot of insight into what’s going on in our culture following Instagram on Instagram. They dig into all of the hot button issues and show you different sides of things. So, you’ll learn a lot. And then I have one last thing about Instagram I wanted to mention and that’s just that you can leverage the video and story tools very effectively. Video on Instagram is short form. It’s up to 60 seconds. And the stories tool, if you haven’t been on Instagram, that’s not going to make sense. So, get on Instagram, but it’s up to 15 seconds and both can be really effective when you think about using them differently than a lot of churches use video right now, which is just to replay, you know, a Sunday morning service or highlight an event. You can really give people a sneak peek into something. You can share an update or an encouragement. I think if I were a pastor, I’d be thinking if I could speak directly to the members of my congregation and just give them an encouragement or a challenge or something while they’re going about their day ,while they’re at the grocery store, while they’re in the line to pick up their kids from school—that’s what you can do with a tool like this. It’s just a way of thinking about it differently. Both of those tools, both Facebook and Twitter, Twitter too, but Facebook and Instagram, almost nobody sees the content you post in sequential order anymore, especially on Instagram. I don’t know, have you ever noticed that you’ll get an ad sometimes for something that was a one day only sale and you get it four days after the sale was over? The thing that’s cool about the stories tool on Instagram is it kind of gives you a way around that because the story is only available for 24 hours. If you have something that’s really time-sensitive and using stories on Instagram can be a way that you can make sure it hits the right audience for the right period of time.
Tony: 19:38 Alright. So, you’ve talked about Facebook and Instagram and, uh, my kids are telling me about, what is that snap? What is that? Yeah, Snapchat. My kids—the Twitter. They’ve told to talk to me about that too. But we don’t, unfortunately we don’t have time to dive into social media strategy on all the different platforms. But, could you give leaders some suggestions for dramatically improving how their churches use social media? What would you share there?
Tiffany: 20:11 Sure. We’ve already hit this first one a couple of times, but you do need to get really, really clear on your content strategy. Go back and listen to episode 61, have some big discussions in your senior leadership team. I think as I’ve heard you talking about it, Tony, it’s a bigger question than just how do we add this into our ministry. It’s more of a full scale shift.
Tony: 20:33 That’s right.
Tiffany: 20:34 Fewer people are attending church on the weekend or attending less frequently, and we can’t afford to not have a strategy that engage them where they are.
Tony: 20:43 That’s right. So this is the way I’d like church leaders to think about it. It used to be we would put up billboards, we would put signs in our community talking about our churches meeting on a certain day in a certain location, we would spend money for advertising in the old days in newspapers so that every church had an ad in the newspaper. Those methods, this should be no surprise, they don’t work any more. Trying to promote our church does not work anymore. And, instead we have to figure out how to engage the conversation in our culture. It’s a completely different approach to how we’re thinking about marketing for our churches. But, we have to join the culture in this because the culture has moved on. Unfortunately, the church is lagging behind.
Tiffany: 21:36 Yeah, absolutely. And your social media, you asked how to radically improve it, it’s just not going to get better until you align it to a bigger strategy. The second thing I’d recommend is that you hire a professional. This could be an outside contractor and it also could be that you need to hire a Communications Director.
Amy: 21:56 Our team typically recommends that you hire a full time Communications Director. If your average attendance is over a thousand, it’s a really important position within the team. If you’re in the 500 to 999, you may want to go with part time or volunteer role. And if you’re under 500, it probably looks like a volunteer-staff role. But the point is, get someone really intentionally focused and owning this area for your church.
Tiffany: 22:23 Yeah. And whichever route you go, I think you do need to have someone with some skills and experience helping you assess social media platforms through the lens of a content strategy. So, I think that you should have absolutely have high school and college students who love social media and are great with photography on your volunteer team to help you execute it, but they’re probably not the person to help you develop the strategy that aligns to your ministry strategy. One caveat on that—if you do go with an outside contractor, I would hire them to help you with that strategy piece, but not with the execution. A lot of companies, particularly agencies will try to sell you the service of, “We’ll post all of your content for you.” It’s just really rare to find an external team that can nail your brand voice and make the same decisions you would about what to post. I used to work at an agency that sold that very service and I still don’t think it’s best. I think you would want people who follow Jesus, who have the Holy Spirit inside of them, who love your vision to be the ones that are making calls about what gets posted. So it may be something that you want to hire somebody to help you kind of craft the strategy. Once you’re clear on what you’re trying to accomplish with social media, they can help you pick which platforms you need to be on—maybe decide something you don’t need to be on—really clarify how you’re going to use the tools, but I wouldn’t hire them to do the posting for you.
Tony: 23:47 Yeah. So, having an inbound marketing strategy, content marketing, leveraging social media—this has been one of my platforms that I’ve been on in the last couple of years. But before that, volunteer engagement has always been one of the strong platforms that I’ve tried to communicate for churches. And this is definitely one of those places where empowering volunteer teams to help you execute your social media strategy—you have to leverage volunteers here.
Tiffany: 24:17 Absolutely. And I’d say find people who love the platforms you’re going to be using. Somebody who loves Instagram is going to bring ideas and nuance to how other people are using it, that you really just can’t get working with a platform you don’t personally use. So, after you’ve nailed down like, “We need to be on Twitter and Instagram,” for example, build your team around people who, who love those tools. You may have different people working on different platforms. Lastly, make sure you define the wins for each platform and how you’re going to measure them. You can learn all of the best practices out there. You can be applying them one by one. The most educated decisions you can make about reaching the audience you’re trying to reach are really going to come from the analytics that you have in your hands, in your own platforms that you’re using over time. And, I’d say you probably want to be measuring those at least quarterly against the bigger picture objectives you have and see if it’s helping to move the needle. You just have to be willing to iterate a lot when it comes to social media. It’s like I said back in the beginning, what worked yesterday, you know, you could log on tomorrow and find out everything you were doing no longer works and that can be frustrating. But if you have your objectives clearly defined, you can keep creatively iterating and keeping up with what’s working and what’s not.
Tony: 25:37 Ah, metrics you’re speaking my love language, Tiffany. Yeah, we love metrics at The Unstuck Group. So, let’s wrap up there. Tiffany, could you add some of these additional resources to the show notes for this episode?
Tiffany: 25:49 Sure. I know we didn’t have time to dig into some of the other platforms that are really popular, so we’ll include some best practices about what’s true for now on some of those other platforms as well.
Amy: 26:00 Well, Tiffany, it is always great to have you on the podcast. Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned with our listeners. For those of you who are listening to get those show notes that Tiffany was talking about, just make sure you go sign theunstuckgroup.com/podcast.
Sean: 26:18 Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. As Amy mentioned, make sure you subscribe to get the show notes so you can get access to all the resources mentioned in today’s episode. Go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. If you like what you’re hearing on the podcast, we would be grateful for your help in getting the content out. You can subscribe on your favorite podcasting platform, give us a review and tell your friends about the podcast. At The Unstuck Group, we’re working everyday with church leaders to help them build healthy churches by guiding them through specifically designed experiences that focus them on vision, strategy, and action. If that’s a need in your church, let’s talk. You can start a conversation by visiting at theunstuckgroup.com. Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. Have a great week.