Should my church or group have a social media presence?
Social Media is for celebrities and large companies and the youth, right? Wrong! Small local companies and organisations with a limited, local market, can find social media a very powerful tool in their marketing strategy. Even a church can reach its congregation and community very well, by using Facebook and Twitter effectively.
Social media is cheap, easy to use, informal, immediate and social. Perfect for your church!
It may be more practical to have more than one social media profile for your church community. Different departments may have their own pages, with their own focus. You could have a ‘general’ page, a community outreach page, and a youth page. The idea is that each page has its own identity, while at all times being obviously part of the church's stable. Finding your church's 'Main' page should be easy from everywhere. All pages should be linked to each other. It is advisable to have the name and logo of the church displayed prominently on each page, and to have at least one person who acts as admin person across all pages, to ensure brand consistency and continuity.
Incorporate all your church's web presences into one vibrant, informal and informative digital footprint. Your website, blog, Facebook and Twitter should all point to each other, and work together. Get a bigger and constantly growing congregation and community buy-in and participation.
To make your church’s social media strategy most effective, decide in advance exactly who your target audience is. Knowing them, and keeping them in mind at all times while posting, is vitally important. Who do you want to engage? What are the goals of the page? What content do you want to share?
Some of the more obvious target audiences for your church page are the following:
- Current active members of the congregation – youth and adults
- Current members of the church, who do not attend services regularly
- People in the surrounding area, who are potential new members, or who may sometimes attend a special service, course or event
- People who do not live close by, who still want to feel a part of your church community
- Non-Christians, people who are unsure, or people who are inactive in their faith
Current, active members of the congregation
These are the people who attend services and events regularly. They know who you are, and are most likely to ‘Like’ your page. They are the easiest and most supportive and active audience to reach, but it is also often a case of ‘preaching to the converted’.
Posts aimed at this group may include:
Information and reminders of upcoming services and events – general info, what times and places, what to expect, don’t forget, etc. A big advantage of these posts, is that members who have not attended services for a while will still be in the loop, members will be able to ‘share’ these posts on their own profiles and so reach a far wider audience, and people who check their feed regularly can be reminded of the event on the day
Feedback and photos of events that happened recently – this gives the member good opportunity to see photos, post comments, tag friends, ask questions, relive the experience, and give feedback. It is best to update the pages with photos and feedback on Facebook from every church event, within minutes. Preferably as it happens. This helps to create a greater sense of community. Tagging people in photos will place the photo and the related post on their wall, thereby potentially reaching a far wider audience. It is here where having a regular blog, that does ‘community’ and ‘around the campus’ type posts, will also be useful. Make sure you update the Facebook page regularly with links to these posts. The point is to show photos and tell stories from events and projects by and around your church - sometimes a short update is not enough. The intention is to get each department to do their own 'Press releases'. When people work hard, or have fun, or donate time and money, the results will be visible to all on the blog. All should be linked to the Facebook pages.
This audience group is important, because they will ‘Like’ and comment on your posts, create a buzz, and will be most likely to ‘Share’ your posts, thus creating visibility and community. They influence their friends. Some people influence hundreds of friends, many of whom don’t know about your church and may not even be Christians. This will raise awareness of your church and its activities and outreaches.
Current members of the church, who do not attend regularly
Getting someone to ‘Like’ a church page, is very important. Unless you really annoy that person, it is rather unlikely that they will un-‘like’ the page again anytime soon. This means that you can reach them, even if they are not attending services regularly. You are keeping a connection that you would not have had otherwise. This is a person who is loyal to your church, but does not see your notices on the screen, or get them at the door. When he sees regular reminders and feedback in his feed, that feeling of ‘missing out’ may encourage him to come back.
People in the area, who are potential new members, or who may sometimes attend a special service
These are the people who may live in the areas surrounding your church, who may or may not attend regular services at another church. They may be family or friends of a regular member, of may have been a happy member in the past. They may love your church, but they are not members or regulars. This is a very valuable audience to reach – your next active member may come from here! It is important that you portray your church as warm, welcoming, active and friendly.
People who do not live close by, who still want to feel a part of a church community
This will probably not be your primary target audience, but you may be reaching them ‘accidentally’. This group may still be loyal and interested, and may ‘Like’ and comment on your posts. If your church has podcasts and videos of sermons, and blog posts or articles on relevant topics, discussions and forums, this may be what this group is after. Make sure you post links to this kind of content often. You could also post links to content generated by people outside of your church, such as other minsters and speakers that you admire. Also, you could post bible verses or inspiring quotations, to keep this group interested. Bear in mind that it is this kind of content that is most likely to be shared by your fans, to a wider audience.
A very important function of your church’s social media presence may be what I like to call e-Evangelism. Your church should decide in advance if their social media focus will be on this, or not. Some of these audience members may feel intimidated by overly Christian content. Others may ‘Like’ your page for precisely that reason. For some people, your Facebook page may be their first interaction with your church, so it should always be welcoming, inclusive and community-friendly. But you are a church after all, and should be proud of it. Keep a good balance.
It is important to get your social media presence to grow. Make sure there are links to your social media from your website. Put links on your presentations, newsletters, course materials, service notices and on the bottom of your emails. Keep the content and updates relevant, interesting, ‘share’-able and fun. Build conversation. Ask questions. Create discussions. Post photos. Engage. Reach your congregation, your community, and sometimes even reach beyond a Christian audience. And don’t be afraid to experiment. Social media content has a short shelf-life. So if you try something and it didn’t work, you can try something else.