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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 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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