How to Use Social Media Effectively in the Church
People will engage, and it can be more successful at keeping people informed than any church bulletin.
“We need to get…!” is a rallying cry many Churches make. When a new thing comes out and a Church sees another using it successfully, it’s not uncommon for a Church to follow along.
Calvin recently wrote about the Church and social media. He wrote about its effectiveness:
So is social media effective for a Church? It can be, but in most cases, it probably isn’t. The shocking reality is that I bet most Churches know that their Facebook page isn’t producing anything, that is, except an image.
I agree that in most cases it is not effective. The question, however, is:
Why isn’t social media effective?
It’s often not effective because it is implemented and executed poorly. If done right, people will engage, and it can be more successful at keeping people informed than any church bulletin.
The goal for this post is to focus on three separate tools for social media, highlighting the mistakes Churches make using them and providing the effective measures. I hope this guide will help you and your church to create a successful implementation or relaunch.
But first, it should be made clear who the audience is.
1. Church Web sites, for the large part, are for people new to the Church
2. Social media is for those who are already engaged with the Church
It is still the King of all social media. Having nearly 700 million users worldwide will do that. Lots of Churches have a Facebook page. Most of them stink. In the movie Field of Dreams, the main character, Ray Kinsella is told, “If you build it, they will come.” It was in reference to a baseball field. Unfortunately, people will not come to a Facebook page simply because it’s built. Here are several ways to use a Facebook page effectively:
2. Updates, updates, updates – This cannot be stressed enough. Believe it or not, most people do not pay attention to what is in a Church bulletin, particularly those who are online. People in your Church utilize Facebook. Seeing updates about upcoming events, news, seeing photographs, and seeing video will keep them engaged. It allows people to share these experiences with family members or friends.
3. Use a Facebook page, not a personal account – I’ve seen a number of Churches do this, and it is a mistake. People don’t want to send a “friend request” to a Church account. In order to engage on a Facebook page, all somebody needs to do is “like” that page. Speaking of engaging….
4. Allow people to post to the Facebook page wall – Monitor it so that inappropriate posts can be dealt with. But don’t make the Wall page nothing but a bulletin board. Allow people the ability to express a thought or ask a question if they want to.
Despite Twitter’s growth, there are many people who still do not “get it” when it comes to this technology. It’s no longer about “what you are doing” but so much more. Twitter can be an even more effective tool than Facebook in that it can influence those outside of the church community.
1. Update strategically and regularly – As this is a Church account, it cannot be handled like a personal account where one word, “Sigh” tweets are normal. A Church account is likely to be followed by people that do not attend that church so tweets need to be a mixture of relevant info for Church members/attendees and general information. Updating regularly is key to keeping people following. Weeks (even days) between updates will cause people to unfollow for what they perceive to be a lack of interest on the part of the Church.
2. Follow, retweet, and no auto DM’s – Don’t make the account a soapbox. Follow first and then seek to be followed. Don’t try anything sneaky. People have followed many to gain higher numbers only to turn around and unfollow in an effort to make them appear to be more influential. It won’t work.
Take an interest in what others are saying and re-tweet them. You’ll find that engaging in that way will bring about people who are truly interested in what you tweet.
Do not use a service to set up and automated direct message if somebody follows you. The overwhelming majority of people do not like it. If you want to send a DM, go right ahead. But make it personal.
3. Engage with those who follow you – Remember, you are tweeting from a “corporate” account. People will ask questions. Answer them as timely as possible. If you see a compliment, do not re-tweet it. Reply and thank them.
4. Don’t rely on the Web interface – One of the advantages of using an application such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite is that it will allow you to update several different accounts at the same time. Tweetdeck, for instance, allows you to update your Twitter account and your Facebook account as well as any Facebook page you have set up.
Vimeo and YouTube
Video is becoming an integral part of the church experience both for broadcasting messages, sermon series previews, and also for church marketing. Used effectively, it could provide great value for your Church.
1. Utilize Vimeo (Plus or Pro) for embedded clips – Vimeo Plus (or Pro) provides benefits that YouTube does not. Vimeo Plus is a minimal investment of $60 a year and removes Vimeo branding and ads from the videos. If you want more information about Vimeo Pro, which costs $199 a year, take a look at the great post Brian wrote about it.
2. Only upload your best videos – I know some Churches get anxious to get their sermons online. But if you’re working with a Flip and recording the audio directly to the camera, you should wait. If the audio can be recorded externally and then synced to the video, then go for it. Also, don’t upload videos that people made with their phone or their own Flip-style cameras. Save those kinds of videos for direct uploading to the Facebook page.
3. Upload to YouTube as well – While I don’t suggest YouTube for embedded videos, I still suggest uploading the videos to YouTube and using descriptions and tags. 700 billion YouTube videos were viewed in 2010.
Google Plus – Google Plus is staking its own claim in the world of social media. It’s growing very fast (25 million visits in one month’s time), but the jury is still out.
At this time, Google Plus is limited to individual accounts, but once corporate accounts are allowed, Google Plus has benefits. Google Plus has circles that will allow you to use a church account to broadcast information to a wide audience or to one very narrow. Watch this closely. Google Plus could be a powerful tool for organizations, and it will be interesting to see who leads the way.