Choosing the right social network for your church

The first step to being on social media is to learn what all the social networks are.  The second step is choosing which network or networks are right for your church.

I have four main pieces of advice:

  1. Don’t be on all social networks just because they exist or because you think you should be on all of them. If only one network is right for you then only be on one.
  2. Start slowly. The more social networks you are on, the more time and work it involves. If your church is completely new to social media, start off on one social network and build on that once you know what you’re doing.
  3. If you’re on more than one social network, make sure the content on each is different and site specific, as otherwise people will only need to follow one or the other. Give people a reason to follow them all.
  4. If you think you might want to use other social media networks in the future, why not plan ahead and secure any usernames you might want to use in the future. A site like www.namechk.com will be able to help you find an available username across all the networks

So how do you choose?
The main two social media networks that churches choose to be a part of are Twitter and Facebook. Below are some pros and cons to both to help you decide where to start.

Twitter
Twitter has a faster pace than Facebook and therefore needs more regular updates. There’s no right answer for how often you should post but if you post too little, people have no reason to follow you, post too often and people will unfollow you for spamming. I suggest around 5-10 times a week as a minimum (though this can include pre-prepared scheduled tweets) though to increase the success around 3-5 times a day would be best. In the end it all depends on your church’s social media strategy – what’s right for you may not work for another church.

Because of the 140 character limit, you have to be clever about how you share information and it’s much better suited to live, ‘of the moment’ messages. This makes it especially good for sharing your church services and events live as they happen, as well as quick snappy videos, photos (especially those taken there and then). It’s also important to create and engage in conversation.  Try not to use Twitter as a one way system just to announce things.

Facebook
Facebook gives you space to say more and has a slightly slower pace to it. Facebook is not really the place for live updates from an event. Instead, it’s a great place to share stories, fantastic photos, event invitations and videos.

Because of its commenting structure, it’s also a great platform to create engagement through asking questions. You could ask people what their favourite hymn is, or post a “fill in the blank” question or even a game where they have to guess where in the parish a photo was taken.

As mentioned previously, the age demographic on Facebook (especially for a Church page) will be in the 40-60 range therefore it’s probably not the right social network if you are using it to engage with young people. One thing you may be surprised by, though, is the number of non church members who follow your church page, especially if your church or church buildings are involved in community events.   This will make it a perfect opportunity to encourage those locals to visit you in person.

Other social networks
If you have the time and resources for more than one social networking site, here are a few other things to consider:

Instagram may be a perfect option, especially if you have a full time youth leader or a large student community. Use Instagram to share images of the young people having fun, making use of all the filter options.  You can also share behind the scenes photos and market upcoming events or services.

Blogging may be something you consider as an addition to your website, either as a regular post from the vicar or as a series of blogs from different church members. If you choose to have a blog, ensure you plan the blog topics as much as possible and maybe choose a particular day of the week so people know when to look forward to it.

Pinterest is not a typical choice for churches. Because of its very specific ‘pin board style’ it may be more useful as a place to find ideas to replicate, especially with its large collection of gorgeous photos, unusual ideas and inspiring prayers and worship resources on the site.

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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10 More Facebook Tips

See my previous set of Facebook tips here

1. Avoid linking Facebook and Twitter together
Both Facebook and Twitter give you the options of linking the accounts so when you post on one, it automatically posts to the other. Although this seems like a time saver, it’s not the best solution at all. It’s clear to everyone that the accounts are linked, meaning they will need to only follow one of the accounts. (Content needs to be tailored to the kind of social media platform you are using) There are also issues with long Facebook posts being cut off mid-sentence on Twitter which is confusing and unhelpful to your audience.

2. Get creative using multiple images.
Posting a few different photos from an event on Facebook is always nice to give people an idea of what it was like, though don’t get too crazy and post a hundred similar images. Instead, try to keep to around 5-20 photos. Did you know you can also post multiple images on Twitter too? It now lets you post up to 4 images at a time.

3. Upload videos straight to Facebook.
Always put your videos on Youtube or Vimeo for sharing on Twitter or on your website, but when it comes to Facebook, upload the video straight to Facebook as this will increase the amount of engagement you should get. Have a read of my blog on easy video suggestions for some ideas.

4. Try Facebook advertising.
If you haven’t looked into boosting the reach of posts because of cost, you may be surprised to find it’s a lot cheaper than you think. For specific posts, you could pay as little as £10 to have your post seen by twice as many people and reach new audiences. Think about putting in a little bit of money around Christmas or a large event to spread the message a little further.

5. Have a good header picture.
This will be one of the first things, if not the first thing people see when they visit your page. See my post on effective header pictures to catch people’s eye. Not only is it a useful place to give a taster as to what your church is like, it can be a place to advertise campaigns, events or a series of themed church services. Ensure that the header picture has a message to tell.

6. Give your photos context
Attempt to add a short description to all the photos you add to posts (once posted, click on the picture and then the edit description option on the right) Something simple to give the image context such as the event, names or location is helpful to people viewing your Facebook photo gallery. Don’t forget to also add a description to your header picture too.

7. Keep an eye on the Facebook insights
Insights are the analytics for your page. This section of the page provides you with all sorts of information including what the best types of posts are and the best time to post. Monitor the analytics to ensure you aren’t wasting your time by posting the wrong content when no-one is online to see it.

8. Fill in all the extra information.
Like Twitter, Facebook has places to fill all sorts of information about your Church, including your website, contact details and location. Don’t forget to fill in as much of this as possible. You can also include a description and opening hours, all of which will be helpful to people looking to visit your church.

9. Schedule your posts
By scheduling the posts, you can keep your page active even when you are unable to post. Look at your Facebook analytics to tell you the best day of the week and time of day to post. To schedule on Facebook, click the little blue down arrow button next to the Publish button and pick schedule. Any scheduled posts will be accessible to edit and reschedule any time from a window underneath the new post box at the top of your page.

10. Edit your mistakes
Spotted a typo or a broken link on a recent post? You can go back and edit the text on any post. In the top right hand corner of every post is a little grey down arrow. Clicking this reveals a variety of options including the option to edit the post.

Got any more tips or questions? Let me know in the comments.
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Easy Facebook Tips

To make the most out of your Facebook page and to encourage more engagement, here a few things you should be doing:

1. Remove the long link.
When you paste a link into a Facebook post, you’ll notice it automatically generates a nicer link with a thumbnail image and information. If you then delete the link you have pasted in, the generated link will stay. Do this to avoid ugly, long links in your posts. If you need to keep the link in, use a URL shortener such as bit.ly to keep it neat.

2. Explain things
If you’re sharing a link or a post from another page, try and explain why you’re sharing it on your page. A link out of context is confusing and unhelpful. Do you want people to have an opinion on it? Is it good news you want to share? Are you hoping people will find it humorous or inspiring? Always have a reason for posting content.

3. Change the image link
Facebook will automatically add a thumbnail picture to any generated link. Did you know you can change the image? Sometimes the image it picks for you might not be the right one, so click the upload image option and you can choose one that suits the link better.

4. Try to keep posts short
Just because you have more space to talk than you have on Twitter, it doesn’t mean you should fill it up. Posts with less than 100 characters on Facebook actually have more engagement.

5. Use more images
Use images as much as possible. Try to add one to every post if you can. The variety of images, especially ones with a bit of a wow factor, will catch eyes and hopefully encourage people to stay on your page a little longer.

6. Avoid being repetitive
The more posts of a similar style that you add, especially if it’s just text, the more likely it is that people will stop seeing them; they’re more likely just to scroll past it it on their feeds. Regular or samey text posts such as daily prayers, service sheets or events can be enhanced by the addition of images and video. Variety keeps things interesting.

7. High Quality is best
People will be turned off by clip art and small low quality images. If possible, source high quality images which will make people say wow. There are many websites now offering cheap or free professional stock photos. (Never use images straight off Google and ensure you have permission to use all the photos you post)

8. Like and Respond
It’s positive reinforcement. If you like comments, and respond when you can, people will feel encouraged by your response and will be more likely to engage with you on another occasion.