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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The What and Why of Hashtags

Whenever I talk to people about how Twitter works, the topic of hashtags always pops up. A lot of people are confused about why they are used and what they are for. In this post I’ll be talking about some different uses of hashtags and then read how to use them yourself.

The official definition of a hashtag is this:

“A hashtag is any word or phrase immediately preceded by the # symbol. When you click on a hashtag, you’ll see other Tweets containing the same keyword or topic.”

To put it as simply as possible, by using hashtags, you become part of a larger conversation. By everyone using a particular hashtag when talking about the same thing, they become grouped  together.  This makes it easier to see what everyone is saying about that one topic in one place.

For example, it could be a television show everyone is watching and tweeting about (#xfactor) or  something that’s happening in the news (#royalwedding). Some are preplanned and serve a purpose, others are off the cuff, and serve no purpose other than to to categorise a tweet into a particular topic.  You’ll see examples of this in the trending topics on the left hand column in Twitter.

There are a lot of different ways people use hashtags, here are a few to give you an idea:

Humour
“Challenge” hashtags pop up in the trending topics fairly regularly.  It could be a “replace a word” hashtag such as #RuinANovelWithSocialMedia,   or #replaceamovietitlewithsynod which was floating around Twitter during February’s General Synod. Some of the creations included:

Hashtags are also commonly used at the end of a tweet as a sarcastic or ironic sidenote. For example:

Events
Conferences and events all now use a specific hashtag for people to use. They do this for a couple of reasons.

  1. Using the hashtag makes all tweets about the event incredibly easy to monitor, especially any feedback the organisers need to respond to
  2. It’s a great way for those unable to attend the event to keep track of what’s happening

Campaigns
Charities and organisations will use a hashtag to help spread their message such as #BringBackOurGirls, #NoMorePage3 or #AnotherGift. They can be used to motivate people to donate money (such as a challenge), or just used to combine all tweets about a certain campaign together, so they don’t get mixed up with other ongoing campaigns. Some are about taking action and others are about raising awareness.

Other Examples of hashtag usage:

#illRidewithYou – After the terrorist attacks in Sydney, people used the hashtag #illridewithyou to muslims who didn’t want to travel on public transport alone in case they were harassed or attacked.

#FoxNewsFacts – After a Fox News expert said Birmingham was a no go area for non-muslims, the hashtag #foxnewsfacts was created with some hilarious results as people invented other ‘facts’ from Fox News.

#PizzaOnATrain – thousands of people on twitter were captivated by comedian Chris Ramsey and his plan to get pizza delivered to a train during a journey to Newcastle

#MedicatedAndMighty – people used the hashtag to share photos of themselves holding their medication as well as stories and experiences to fight the stigma of mental illness.

You’ll notice with all these hashtags that there are no spaces in the words, that’s because a hashtag can only include characters and not spaces. Some people capitalise each word to make it easier to read. Also, whilst hashtags can include numbers, it doesn’t allow the use of special characters such as apostrophes, turning Didn’t or I’m into #Didnt and #Im.

 

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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Using Twitter Polls

There’s a new feature you may have spotted on your Twitter account: the ability to post mini polls on your feed for your followers. Below I’ll explain how to use them and why your church should be using this feature, along with a few suggestions to get you started.

How does it work?
It’s really simple. When you click on the new tweet box, either in the top right hand corner or at the top of the Twitter feed, you’ll now see three options: Media, Location and Poll. Clicking on Media will let you add photos or video. Location will let you pinpoint where in the world you are and finally Poll which lets you create a mini survey. Clicking on this will open an extra section to create your poll. Next thing to do is to write your tweet and choose your poll options before posting the tweet.

Why should you use it?
Followers can engage with just a click of a mouse making it really simple to get involved. Even I have found myself participating in polls on topics I’m not interested in because it’s fun to choose an option and share my opinion.
You may also find more people respond to the tweet as well as voting as they’ll tell you why they voted for that particular category or reply because they didn’t vote due to a third option you hadn’t considered. In short, it’s a really easy and fun way to create engagement as well as a quick way of collecting useful feedback.

How could churches use it?
Here are just a few ideas for you:

  • To help with decision making – Which meal option should be served at an event? What theme should a fun day be? Should the flowers in church be roses or daffodils? Should the new sign outside be blue or green? People will love to feel like they’ve been consulted.
  • Gain insight – do your followers prefer the Old Testament or the New Testament? Pews or chairs? Organ music or Drums? Knowing what your followers like could be really useful.
  • Collect feedback – What did people enjoy most at last Sunday’s service, the music or the prayers? Did people enjoy the new biscuits after the service or prefer the old ones? Find out what people liked about a particular service or an event to help plan for the next one. Plus it’s a useful gauge of how successful an event was.
  • Use it to show your sense of humour. Star Wars or Star Trek? Baked Beans or Peas? Showers or Baths? Have fun with polls and let your church’s personality shine through with a bit of silliness. Why not turn the poll into a true or false game to see how much people know about your church?

Tips

  • Don’t go overboard on polls! Too many and people might get tired of them.
  • Don’t forget to respond to the people that do reply to your poll and make it into a conversation.
  • Track the results, especially for feedback and decision making polls – there’s no point in creating a poll if you’re not interested in what people think. Also: Don’t ask if the sign outside should be green or blue if you’ve been planning all along to paint it red!

Updating your Twitter Settings

To edit your settings on Twitter, click the little square profile picture in the top right hand corner. This will bring down a down down list of options. Simply click on settings to be taken to the page with all the settings on it.

twittersettingsThe first thing you’ll notice from the picture on the left is that there are a lot of options!

I’ll be talking you through the options you need to know about. Some of the options are a little bit advanced so I’ll only briefly mention them.

Account
This is the basics: username, email address, language, time zone etc. At the very bottom of this page is where you can deactivate your account. Whilst it will make you confirm if you definitely want to deactivate your account, once you’ve clicked yes there’s no going back!

Security and Privacy
This is where you can increase the security of your account (how easy it is to log in) as well as how secure it is. You can also choose how private your account is, including setting the ability to hide tweets from the general public and only let approved people see them.

Password
For changing your password

Cards and Shipping
You’ll need to set up a payment card and shipping information if you want to purchase items through Twitter (This is completely optional)

Order History
If you have purchased items through Twitter, this is where they will be listed.

Mobile
Where you can add or edit your mobile number (Used to help verify you when needed)

Email Notifications
Twitter can notify you by email any time someone follows you, replies to one of your tweets, direct messages you and more. If you don’t want to receive these or only want to receive certain notifications, go here.

Web Notifications
Similar to email notifications but received through the web browser

Find Friends
One part of creating an account is the option to find friends using your email contacts list.  If you choose to skip that step, you can come back here and do it at any other time.

Muted Accounts
You can ‘mute‘ users which means they can still read your tweets but their tweets won’t appear in your feed (used for accounts you have to follow but you’re not interested in their tweets, or temporarily whilst a certain account is tweeting heavily about a particular event) The muted accounts tab will let you see all the accounts you have muted and let you make changes to the list.

Blocked Accounts
Blocked users aren’t able to follow you or view your profile while logged into Twitter, their tweets will also not appear in your feed. Similar to muted accounts, here you can edit your blocked account list.

Design
Here are some design options (though only appear on a tweet’s own page)

Apps
If you’re using any apps that need access to Twitter (such as Buffer, Tweetdeck, Periscope, etc) they will be listed here. If you want to revoke access to any of the applications, you can do this with a click of a button

Widgets
The definition of a widget is: an application, or a component of an interface, that enables a user to perform a function or access a service. Twitter widgets are used on websites to display timelines, favourites and lists etc. It’s not something a beginner needs.

Your Twitter Data
This section has some account information such as when you first created your account. There’s not much you can edit here, it’s just data Twitter provides for your information.

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments. For more easy guides to Twitter, visit my social media for beginners page.

The A-Z of setting up a Twitter Account

This post is a step by step guide to creating a new Twitter account. If you’re a completely beginner, hopefully this will help you get started. Do note: Twitter periodically changes it’s sign up procedure so if what you’re seeing on the screen doesn’t match up with my guide – do let me know!

Step One
Visit www.twitter.com. This is what the homepage will look like:

Twitter1

Underneath ‘New to Twitter?’ fill in the form, including your name, a working email address and a strong password. Once you’re ready, click that big yellow button.

Step Two
This is the first page you’ll be taken to. It just confirms the details you have put in. Give it a double check that it is all correct and then move on to the next page by clicking ‘Sign up‘.

Twitter2

Step Three
The next thing Twitter wants you to do is to give them your phone number. As it says on the screen, this will help with security and finding contacts etc. If you’re not comfortable including your phone number you don’t have to put it in. Click Skip (highlighted in red) to move onto the next page.

Twitter3

Step Four
Choose a username. Each account has a username which is completely unique to them. This is how other users can ‘mention’ you in tweets, find your account and more. Because it is unique to you, you may find it takes a few tries to find a username that hasn’t yet been taken. Twitter includes some suggested usernames based on your email address or name.

twitter4

As mentioned on the screen, the username can be changed at any time so don’t worry if you can’t think of anything straight away. Remember: the maximum length of a username is 15 characters.

Step Five
Once you’ve chosen your username, created a password etc, the next step is follow some other Twitter users. Twitter helps you with this by finding some people you may find interesting. The next page gives you a list of categories. Pick the ones that interest you and then click continue.

twitter5

Step Six
After picking your categories, Twitter provides a list of Twitter followers that fit into those categories that it thinks you might like (The number will depend on how many in the list you ticked) Here is where you can either follow them all with a click of a button or go through the suggestions and untick ones which don’t appeal to you.

twitter6

Accounts with a blue tick next to their name means they have been verified by Twitter. Verified accounts prove that they are who they say they are and are generally given to high profile people and organisations.

Step Seven
This is where you choose your profile picture. You can choose any photo you like here, most people choose a photo of themselves. You can either upload one from your computer or use your webcam. Once again you can skip the step if you don’t have a photo you like to hand.

twitter7step4of6

Step Eight
The final step is to link your account with any email accounts you have. By doing this, Twitter will search through your contacts to see if there are any of your contacts with Twitter accounts. If you don’t want to do this, you can click skip (highlighted in red)

twitter8

Step Nine
Once you’ve done this you’ll be taken to your Twitter page which will look a little like this:

twitter home

Twitter will need you to confirm your account as soon as possible. To do this, it will send you a confirmation email to the email address you provided. Make sure you open it and follow the confirmation instructions inside.

And there you have it! That’s how easy it is to set up a Twitter account. For all my other guides to using Twitter, including how to edit your settings and create lists, click here. 

Understanding the Twitter Homepage

There are a lot of components that make up the Twitter Homepage. In this post I’ll be guiding you through everything you need to know about it.

When you log in or have created your account for the first time. It’ll look a little bit like this:

twitter home

(If you haven’t set up your profile/pictures yet, it’ll look a little simpler, but the main blocks are exactly the same)

Home / Notifications / Messages
In the top left hand corner you have these three options:

home1

The home tab is where you currently are on the site (indicated by the blue line underneath) This is your main dashboard where you can see all the tweets for the people following you. Clicking on the Notifications tab will take you to a similar page listing anytime somebody has replied/retweeted/favourited one of your tweets. The Messages tab is where you can find any private messages you have sent or have been sent to you.

Search / Settings / Tweet
In the top right hand corner you have some more options:

home2

The search box lets you search for other users or key words that may be in other tweets. You can also filter the searches to find pictures, videos, the top tweets or all live tweets. Beside the search box is your profile picture. By clicking on it, a drop down list of options appears (see above picture) Here is where you’ll find settings including privacy settings, alerts and where you can change your password etc. The last button is the tweet button. Clicking on this will open up a window inside the webpage for you to create your tweet.

Profile Information
On the left hand side will be this box which displays your profile picture, a second longer picture (known as your header picture) and home3information about your account. This includes how many tweets you have posted, how many people you follow and how many people follow you. If you click on Tweets, this will take you to your stream of tweets. Clicking on Following will take you to a page lists all the people you follow (Where you can easily make adjustments to this list) and Followers shows you a list of all the people following you.

Trending Topics
Underneath the profile information box is a trending topics box. This is a list Twitter creates of the top things people on Twitter are talking about (the topics listed are determined by which location you have set it to look at)

home4

Who to Follow
A box on the right hand side of the page suggests three users at a time you may like to follow. It makes suggestions based on who you already follow.

home5

Twitter Stream
This is the main part of the page. All tweets from users you follow will be displayed here. (Tweets with images or video included will take up more space, like the example underneath)

home6

At the top of the stream in the light blue box you can write tweets (very similar to the create a new tweet box above) and below each tweet are options to reply, retweet, favourite and more. It will also display how many retweets and favourites the tweet has had. Clicking on the tweet will display further information and show any replies the tweet may have had.

If you haven’t set up your Twitter account yet, go back and have a look at my step by step guide. For all my other guides to using Twitter, including how to edit your settings and create lists, click here. 

Common Twitter mistakes and how to avoid them

Even big companies make mistakes on social media every now and again. From broken links to silly typos, here are a few common mistakes to watch out for and some easy ideas on how you can avoid them yourself.

Starting a tweet with an @ handle
This is a common mistake which is easy to avoid. If you start a tweet with an @handle, Twitter thinks you are directing the tweet to that particular person. Therefore, the only people to see the tweet will be that person and anyone who follows you both. This means there will be a huge group of people who completely missed the message. As long as there is some text before the @handle, the tweet will be seen by all your followers. You can either reword the tweet until the @handle is later in the message, or simply start the tweet with a full stop.

Typos and Broken Links
There’s nothing more annoying than pressing tweet and then seeing you’ve made a spelling mistake. If you catch it quickly, there’s nothing wrong with deleting the tweet and starting again. If you don’t notice the mistake until much later on after people have engaged with the tweet, just leave it as it is. It’s better to keep that engagement.

There is a way of reducing typos however. First, write the tweet into a word document to see if it picks up any errors. Secondly, using Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, schedule the tweet to be sent out for five minutes time. This will give you enough time to check the links and give it a final read through.

Using the right @ handle
Ever added in a twitter handle, only to find it’s for completely the wrong person? One famous example of this is an American with the handle @johnlewis who regularly gets mistaken for the department store. Not only is it frustrating for the person you’re directing people to, but you’re also missing out on potential engagement because the tweet is wrong.

To avoid this, don’t rely fully on Twitter’s suggestions as you write the @handle into your tweet unless you know the @handle from memory. To double check, open up Twitter in a second tab and do a quick search to make sure you’re using the correct one.

Using the right hashtag
Is the hashtag #2015conference, #conference15 or #cnfrnc2015? If you’re engaging with a hashtag, make sure you’re using the right one. If everyone’s using one and you’re using another, those searching for tweets using the correct hashtag will completely miss yours.
To avoid this, try and find the original source of the hashtag (the manager of the event or the campaign creator) and get it straight from the horse’s mouth.

Creating hashtags
The problem with hashtags is that there are no spaces between the words. Because of this. there have been famous (too rude to repeat) examples of hashtags creating new, unfortunate words. Always see what the hashtag looks like on paper and show it to colleagues to see if they see anything wrong with it. Whilst you are creating a hashtag, always keep it as short as possible, as easy to remember as possible and as easy to spell as possible.

Seen any other mistakes that people make or have any questions about the above? Let me know in the comments.

Social Media Jargon

Do you ever see words or acronyms being used on social media and have no idea what they mean? Twitter especially has its own lexicon which can be confusing.

Some of these, especially the acronyms, have evolved out of the need to save character space in tweets. Luckily, Twitter has created a glossary of all the technical words used on its website to help you understand it all better.

and here’s a few they don’t tell you:

ICYMI – In Case You Missed It

Useful when linking to older piece of news or anything you’d like to talk about which people may not have seen the first time.

HT – Hat Tip

Used when tweeting something you’ve discovered on someone else’s timeline. The account username of the person you found it from would also be included (i.e HT @Twitter)

MT – Modified Tweet

Used to warn followers in a tweet that it has been modified or edited. For example, it may be used when shortening a retweet to include a response.

#FF – Follow Friday
Used on Twitter on Fridays to recommend favourite accounts.
 
TL;DR – To Long; Didn’t Read

You may spot this on blogs or other platforms with large text posts. It’s used at the end of the post with a summary of the above text.

NSFW – Not Safe For Work

Used to warn users that the link included in the tweet or Facebook post includes violent or sexual content that you wouldn’t want on your screen at work (or on any screen really)

For a further comprehensive list of acronyms used online, visit SocialMediaToday.

Have you seen an acronym or a word used on social media and don’t know what it means? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to help.

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!

Writing your Twitter bio

How do you summarise all that your church does in 160 characters? The answer is you can’t.
Just work out what’s most important. For example, are you family friendly? are you welcoming to new people? do you offer a traditional or contemporary service or something completely different? What can people expect if they visit your church?

How would you describe your church if you only had twenty seconds to do it? If you’re stuck for ideas, why not ask your congregation what it was that made them come to your church.

What not to include:

  • Although you may be proud of your Norman architecture or historic treasures, think about using the space available to talk about the good work the church does rather than it’s features (This is what your website and/or www.achurchnearyou.com is for.)
  • Text speak or unclear abbreviations – make it clear and easily readable

Here are a few good examples:

2 7 4 3

If you still have space, think about including one or more of the following:

  • The vicar’s name (or twitter handle if they have one)
  • The name or twitter handle of the person tweeting on behalf of the church
  • The parish office phone number to make it as easy as possible for people to contact you.
  • Your postcode so that people can quickly find you on the map

FAQ
I’ve seen people use “retweeting doesn’t mean endorsement” in twitter bios, what does this mean and why do people include this?
“Retweeing doesn’t mean endorsement” means very little. This sentence can be found on many bios to free the tweeter from being judged on the types of things they retweet. Chances are, you’re not going to retweet something you don’t agree with or have an opinion on. If you are tweeting on behalf of a church, the content of your tweets and retweets should always be in line with the ethos of the church.

What do I do when I can’t fit all I want to say into the space available?
Simple: Reword it until it does fit. You have other places to give a longer overview. It is possible to fit quite a lot into 160 characters if you get creative.