10 Things your Church should do this year on Social Media

It’s the start of a new year and with that comes the opportunity to try some new things on social media. Social media and social networking is an ever changing landscape. Websites and apps come and go, ideas and strategies change and evolve. It’s more than just setting up an account and keeping things updated regularly. But don’t let that scare you. It doesn’t mean you have to spend your life keeping up to date with it all – that’s what you have me for (!) Below are some ideas (or challenges if you wish) to keep your social media presence and your knowledge expanding. If you manage all of the ten on the list that’s fantastic, but one or two completed will also have you heading in the right direction.  Let me know if you tick any off the list. 

Number One: Step Outside Your Comfort zone
Take a risk, try something new. Why not try live-tweeting a service, create a new hashtag campaign or use Twitter’s new poll feature for the first time. You could set up an Instagram account for your church or create a community of local church Tweeters. It doesn’t need to be a big step. It’s about discovering what else is out there and not letting fear of getting it wrong stop you from trying in the first place. Do one thing this year that you’ve never done before.

Number Two: Reach out to others
Don’t just wait for people to come talk to you on social media – start conversations yourself. You can do this by joining in on trending hashtags or just strike up conversations with your followers. Follow other churches on social media and form connections between them. By working together you’ll have a louder voice – there’s power in unity! Share events you’re holding with them, help promote their events and pray for each other.

Number Three: Learn something New
There are two things I think every church should learn how to use: iMovie and Canva. Youtube is the second biggest search engine after Google and Facebook’s move into video sharing has been a massive success for them which will only grow over the next 12 months. iMovie, the iPad app is incredibly easy to use with plenty of tools to make simple videos which you can upload straight onto Facebook or Youtube.

Alongside video, visual storytelling using graphics are still a major part of social media marketing. Anything with colour is going to make people stop for a second to see what you’ve posted. The better your design is, the more likely people are stop and read your post. Canva is the perfect tool to create good looking graphics of all shapes and sizes and post them straight to your social media channels.

Number Four: Broadcast something via Periscope
The live broadcasting app from Twitter is incredibly easy to use. All you need is some phone signal or wifi and a smart phone. Why not get involved in the CofE’s ChurchLive project or do some live broadcasting of your own. It could be a service, a fund-raising event or just a tour of your church. Live broadcasting will be big in 2016 so make sure you’re part of it.

Number Five: Teach your congregation how to use it
And by “use it” I mean social media. As your church uses social media more and more, it’s so easy to leave behind those people in the congregation who don’t even know how to turn a computer on, let alone send a tweet. As mentioned in my “quick digital wins” blog, all you need to do is set up some time for the younger ones to show the older ones how to do it. As social media becomes a bigger and bigger part of everyday life, it’s time worth spent making sure a large part of your congregation aren’t alienated by it. And you can give them the tools to stay safe online too.

Number Six: Create a strategy
If you haven’t done this already of course. Starting the year off with a plan of where you’re going and where you want to be is a no brainer. There’s nothing to say you can’t change course or have a few small diversions but if everyone in the church knows what journey you’re on, the easier you’ll find to stick to it. Have a clear idea of what your voice is and how you plan to use it. Pick out key dates in your calendar and how you can make the most of social media on those days. The more you plan ahead the better.

Number Seven: Have More Fun
It’s okay to be silly sometimes. Have a caption competition, use Twitter polls to have quizzes or have a guessing game using photos from around the parish. Get involved in funny hashtags on Twitter, share video of your youth leaders making a fool of themselves to make the kids laugh. Show the church has a fun side (one of many sides – your church is multidimensional!) When people see you having a good time, they’ll want to join in.

Number Eight: Tell Stories
You have a whole Bible’s worth of stories at your fingertips so why not come up with some creative ways of sharing them online? Don’t just share your church online, be your church online. The best way to tell these stories is using video (though anything visually eye-grabbing will work!) like this great Christmas video from All Saints, Peckham or through clever poetry, like that from Miriam Swaffield. Why not share testimonies from the congregation? Share the emotion of baptisms or use stopmotion to create animated tales from the bible. You can find more inspiration in my video ideas blog. There are so many stories to tell, so go and tell them!

Number Nine: Evaluate
Look back at your last year on social media and evaluate how well it went. Look at the analytics that are available to you and see what was popular and what wasn’t popular. Investigate what type of posts do best and what day of the week has the most engagement. Learning what has does well on your account is important in planning your future. Don’t be afraid to ditch a social media platform if it isn’t working for your church. Remember, you’re looking for engagement and communication, not just ‘likes’. If you’re not getting that, it might be time to throw out the current plan and try something new.

Number Ten: Get the Basics Right
Make sure all your bio is filled in properly including things like your web address. Not only does a half filled in bio make your account hard to find, it’s incredibly frustrating to visit your page and not be able to find your website or any information about your church. Have an eye catching header picture, something that’ll make people stop and want to investigate further. It’s these areas which are some people’s first impression of your church so you need to get it right first time. Your bio and your visual identity on your social media accounts are your shop window.

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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Doing Christmas on Social Media

Unsurprisingly, Christmas is one of the things churches do best, and there’s also a really great opportunity to do a brilliant job of Christmas on social media.  Social media is a fantastic place to get people thinking about the real meaning of Christmas as there are so many ways to communicate it. I’ve put pen to paper (or more accurately fingers to keyboard) and pulled together a few ideas to inspire you in your Christmas social media strategy.

Telling the Story
Throughout the Christmas season, try and find interesting ways to tell the story.  It could be through photos, graphics, videos or even gifs. Try and be as creative as possible, the more unusual and unique the better. For example: why not turn the church into a giant Advent calendar, revealing the next bit of the story each day? It would be perfect for the community to get involved in but also a great thing to share each day on social media.

One of the easiest things to do is to share relevant Bible verses (don’t forget that they’ll need to fit into 140 characters on Twitter). This is a great reminder for people that Christmas is about more than presents and food. Go one step further and turn the Bible verses into graphics. Not only will you be able to fit longer verses onto a graphic but they should be more engaging. As people scroll, they’ll stop to take a look at images. I’ve shared some resources on other posts which will make it incredibly easy to make quote graphics.

Promoting the Services
This might seem obvious, but don’t forget to promote your service times. Create a clean, simple and easy to understand Christmas timetable graphic and share it regularly. Don’t forget to post it at different times of day to reach different groups of people. It’s also worth tweeting individual service times and reminding people how welcome they are to come. It’s not always easy to ask someone face to face if they’d like to come to church, but retweeting or sharing a post about the Christmas service times isn’t nearly as daunting and is a great way to to invite friends to church for the first time.

Don’t forget to make the Christmas service times prominent on your website; if people have to search for them, they’ll probably just give up.

Getting Ready
There’s so much you can share on Twitter and Facebook in the run up to Christmas. Churches can look really magical at Christmas time with candles and decorations, so use that to make people want to visit your church: share photos of the christmas decorations going up, the stages of the nativity crib scene being put into place or a video of music being practised. It builds up the anticipation and excitement for the main event. Think about the things your church does to get ready for Christmas that people might not know you do, or look for the humorous side in the preparations. Take a photo of the tower of mince pie boxes you need for a service or how you get such a large tree into the church.

During/On the Day
Not tweeting during your Christmas Day service (or during other Christmas services) might be a missed opportunity. Here are just a few ideas for you to consider:

  • Why not share photos of the church filling up and updates of how you’re celebrating in church – you could live tweet the whole thing!
  • Take a short video clip of the entire church saying Happy Christmas. Short means you can share the video on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Why not try vine also? An app from Twitter which lets you share 6 second videos
  • Share videos from individuals about what they think Christmas is, you could also do it with still photos and have them hold up their message (perfect for Twitter and Instagram!)
  • Take multiple photos throughout the service and create stop-motion style video of the service
  • Live-stream it: use an app like Periscope to live video stream the service around the world. You’ll need to plan ahead and know what’s happening where but it’s worth the effort.

A video is a perfect way to share the Christmas story. Not only can you tell the story in unique and creative ways, it will also be more engaging on social media than text or image posts (plus perfect to show in Church too!). Have a look at my list of best Christmas videos, including All Saints, Peckham who used the overground train running past their church to tell the Christmas Story. Read my blog on cheap and easy video ideas which prove you don’t need a big budget or a budding director in your church to make a video. If you do create a video and also plan to post it on Facebook, don’t forget to upload the video straight to Facebook rather than using a Youtube link as you will get a lot more people watching the video.

Got ideas of your own? Why not share them in the comments below.

Marketing an Event on Social Media: The Before, During & After

When marketing a particular event on social media you need to think ahead. The better you plan, the more time you will save. There are three stages to planning social media to advertise an event, the before, during and after:

The first thing you need to do is choose which social media platforms you will use. This will change depending on the nature of the event. For instance: A youth event may be best advertised using Twitter and Instagram, whilst a family event may work best on Facebook.

Secondly, you need to decide on a hashtag to use. You can use hashtags on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This will not only connect all event posts together but will also let other people use it to talk about the event.
Choose a hashtag that is short and easy to remember. Don’t forget to also check that that hashtag isn’t already in use by another organisation as tweets about two different events with the same hashtag will be confusing.

Also – add your hashtag to any design or promotional material so people can be aware of it and be encouraged to use it.

The third part to planning ahead is letting people know it’s happening!
There are many ways you can do this but images will always work best. Design graphics that can be shared easily through social media, keeping to the same colours and branding throughout so that people will quickly connect the graphics to the event. (See my post on resources for designing easy graphics)

Schedule posts regularly leading up to the event on different days and at different times of days to catch different audiences. Work out the earliest date you should be posting and work forward from there. At the beginning, the posts should be more spaced out and as the event gets closer the frequency of posts should increase. For instance: Three months before, two months before, a month before, two-four times a week, every day.

Ideas for things to post:

  • Countdown reminders (Five days to go! Two days to go!)
  • Invitation/Save the date graphics
  • Regular links to your website page or Eventbrite page which has all your event information on it
  • Photos of people planning, getting things ready, setting up the event space
  • Reminders of the hashtag
  • Teasers of what will happen at the event
  • Photos/videos from previous events
  • Videos/messages from people saying what they are looking forward to

This is the bit you can’t schedule – but you can still plan ahead.
Typically Twitter is best for sharing regular, live updates. Twitter has a reputation for being the place for live events because of its nature of short, quick posts.

Think about the kinds of things people will be interested in seeing and knowing about. Making a list of all the things to keep an eye out for will keep you focused. Depending on the event it may be photos of people arriving, quotes from a talk/speech or video of people dancing.

Keep an eye on other people talking about the event and share their posts too. You may find that the more you retweet other people, the more they’ll tweet about it. Don’t forget to give people reminders about the hashtag at the event too.

If it’s a conference, why not use a site like Twitterfall which will show a constantly updating wall of tweets from a particular user or hashtag. You can have these showing on a screen to one side so people can see tweets from those attending and using the chosen hashtag. People enjoy spotting their own tweets (though this can be distracting sometimes!)

There are still things to be sharing after the event. This could be a selection of the best photos or an edited video from the event. This a great way of sharing what you got up to for the people who couldn’t make it, while also advertising any future events that may be happening. You can even share the next date if you’ve planned ahead.

Another way to look back on the event is to ‘Storify’ it.
Storify is a way of bringing together social media posts into a story of events. You can pull together Tweets, Facebook posts, Youtube videos and more into a timeline of your choosing. It’s a great way of sharing your social media in a easy to follow narrative.

Finally, keep an eye for people Tweeting any comments after the event. Retweet any of the positive messages and thank people for their comments.

Got any more tips or questions? Let me know in the comments.
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5 Ideas for Regular Features

Along with regular day to day posts, it’s good to have a regular feature: something you post on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. Not only can it become something people look forward to and come back for, it shows a lot more planning and strategy for your account. It’s also something you can schedule in over the next few weeks or even months, leaving you more time for the day to day posts.

Here are some ideas for your church account:

1. A monthly video
Why not get your vicar or someone else from the leadership team talking about what’s to come in the services for the next four weeks? Keep it short and snappy and finish it with an invite to come and join in. It can be done in one shot using a phone or tablet and uploaded straight to Facebook. Not only is this a great way of reminding your congregation what’s to come, but it’s a friendly introduction to those visiting you for the first time.
If you’ve got someone with advanced editing skills, try filming bits during each service and putting it all together in a video that looks back over the last few weeks.

2. Weekly/Monthly quiz
Maybe it’s a cropped photo from around the parish that people have to guess where it’s from, or maybe it’s a missing word from the lyrics of a hymn. Give people something fun to do on your page.

3. Photos Galore
Images and photos always have more engagement on social media than text alone. There are a few ways you can take advantage of this: Why not post an an unusual photo of your church each week or photos of different church members? It’ll be less intimidating for the person coming to your church for the first time if they can recognise faces from your twitter account. It also makes your just appear a lot more open, honest and welcoming.
Alternatively, create a feature where church members send in photos from services, events giving them a turn to be in the limelight.

4. Fun Facts
People love a fact or a statistic on social media. It’s a bite-size piece of information which leaves them with a little bit more knowledge. Think about having a regular ‘did you know…’ section. It could be about the church building, about the staff team or how many cups and tea and coffee served at the last service. If you want to go one step further: turn the fact into a colourful graphic

5. Quotes/Verses
You may have spotted corporate accounts posting graphics featuring quotes from famous thinkers. These kinds of posts are really well received but why not make yours a little different? Use thought provoking quotes pulled from sermons, or comments people have made about your church. It’s also really easy to pull out verses from the Bible and add it to a nice background. You could find verses that match the service topics or go for broader topics. For those that don’t have someone with design skills, try a website such as Recitethis.com where it does all the hard work for you.

Quick tip: always post your regular feature on the same day of the week, that way people will know when to look for it. 

If you have any questions or have any other regular feature suggestions, let me know in the comments below

Social Media Time Savers

It is often the case that you only have a couple of days a week or less to commit to your church’s social media channels, and it takes time to not only keep an eye on what’s happening but also to find, create and post new content on a regular basis, time which you don’t always have. I’ve put together 6 simple ideas which should help you make the most out of the time you do have:

1. Create a backbone
What I mean by this is create 20-30 tweets that work as the structure to which everything else you do on social media fits around. These tweets explain who you are, what you do, where they can find more information, direct people to different sections of your website. The basics.

You can then schedule these to be posted over a month or more and be safe in the knowledge that something will be tweeted even when you are too busy to log in. When you do have time, you can supplement the account with live tweets and retweets.

What you can do when you are running out of tweets, is rewrite them slightly, add a few new ones in and then start scheduling again.

The same can be done with Facebook by scheduling in 8-15 posts over the same time period, leave you time to work on finding new and interesting content.

2. Follow the right people
Make sure you’re following the people that are going to give you interesting and useful things to retweet. If you don’t have time to create content, find things to retweet. A quick check of the feed (or columns in Tweetdeck) should give you something good.

3. Plan Ahead
Know what’s in the church calendar. Letting people know what’s happening that day or week in the church makes for quick and easy content. If you have a big event coming up, schedule in tweets which slowly build up momentum for the event, tweet during the event itself and then afterwards, a look back with any photos or video you may have.

Don’t forget about national days and events. How can you play into a human rights day or even a national cupcake day. It’s also easy to plan ahead for the major dates such as Easter, Harvest and Christmas. Work out on a piece of paper, what you will be posting on Twitter and Facebook and at exactly what day and time which you can then schedule all ready to go (This especially useful over times like Christmas when you want to seem active but you also want to enjoy the festivities)

(a.k.a In Case You Missed It) There’s nothing wrong with repeat tweets as long as you don’t overdo it. Have you created a great video or have a fantastic collection of photos on Facebook? Tweet about it on a Friday evening, a Sunday afternoon and a Tuesday morning. You can either slightly reword each tweet or simply tweet it again, adding: In case you missed this the first time……

5. Use Tweetdeck/Hootsuite
Not only can you schedule your tweets, months in advance, you can also filter the tweets and divide it into more manageable chunks – all on one screen. This means you don’t have to spend hours trawling through timelines or be constantly checking for new tweets.

6. Store the good stuff up
If you find a website with a load of great content, or stumble across a good Youtube channel, you don’t have to post all the you find in one go, try and keep a store of videos, pictures, websites and more so you don’t have to spend time looking for something good every single time you need to post something. You can also encourage the church staff team and the congregation to send you good content which will save you time too.

What I learned from CNMAC 2014

The Christian New Media Awards and Conference, held annually in London is a great chance to learn about new ideas and technology in the world of new media and how churches can make the most out of all of it. With hundreds of people from all over the UK attending from all different kinds of churches, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to network and create long-lasting connections.

Here’s just a few of the things I learned this Saturday when I attended:

1. Be genuine
No matter who you are trying to talk to online, don’t sound forced or fake. Instead, use social media to show off your church’s personality. Just be honest, real and happy. It’s also okay to use humour and be a little silly sometimes.

2. You are speaking to everyone
It can be easy to use church jargon or write as though only your church members are reading. Remember that what you are posting, no matter where, is visible to all. Don’t forget your church members exist, but keep in mind the people visiting your Facebook page or website for the first time.

3. Get everyone involved
If you’ve got a youth group, how about getting them to teach the older generation about getting online? Or hand over the Facebook page to them for a week. Use the entire church for ideas, encourage them to supply photos.
Maybe as you set up your social media channels, run mini classes on using Twitter and Facebook so those who don’t understand it can feel included. Think of ways to make social media something you do with everyone in the church.

4. Think quicker
Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. We want good content on demand and we want it as short and concise as possible. Think about ways you can achieve this through your social media channels i.e. Don’t wait until the next day to post pictures from an event or audio of a sermon.
Top tip – Have a look at the content on your website, identify pages with too much text and rewrite them into shorter sentences and paragraphs. Add more images and short videos (3 minutes or less)

5. Invite people online to be part of it
There are ways to bring your regular church service onto the internet. This can be a great way of reaching new people (though can never fully replace church and face to face contact!)
– Live tweet your church service to show people what you do on a Sunday morning, tweet photos of those speaking, link to songs you are singing etc
– Try live-streaming your service, especially for big events like Christmas and Easter. This can be a great way for those unable to get to church to still feel a part of it. (Offer it as a service for weddings, there are always plenty of family members wishing they could be there)

If you attending CNMAC 2014, I would love to hear what you learned from the day, let me know in the comments below.

Joining the Conversation

One of my top tips for Twitter is this: Join the conversation.

What do I mean by this? Well, don’t just wait around for people to talk to you, go and talk to them. Have a look at the trending topics (the conversations currently taking place). Are there any you could contribute to?

One of the biggest topics at the end of October is Halloween. As the supermarkets fill with costumes, masks and pumpkins, churches are known for organizing alternative events, such as “Light Parties”, or perhaps making a point of ignoring the holiday altogether. (One church has been known for “Treat or Treat” where they would knock on doors around town and offer the person a treat from a big bag of chocolate bars, surprising the householders who expected to have treats demanded from them!) We clearly have our own thoughts on the festival and how to mark it appropriately – so we do have something to say.

So how does a church join in on the conversations about Halloween happening on Twitter?

One simple way is to share this video:

Created by 10ofthose.com, it offers a different take on Halloween and is perfect for sharing on Facebook or Twitter (as well as in church). It’s also a great opportunity to collect feedback on the video and create conversation amongsyour followers. What do people think of its message? Have they found it reassuring? Surprising? Revealing? Remember that it’s better to open up a dialogue and engage with people than to close a conversation down by not listening, or being preachy or dogmatic.

And don’t forget – use it with the right hashtags, for example #halloween. Then your voice will be part of the conversation that’s already going on.

Engage and enjoy!