Your relaxed presenters. . .
The Dog Ate It. . .
We tried to kick off our social media focus the right way. We formed a team. We opened in prayer. We named the team after a delicious dessert: SMOR (Social Media OutReach). We came up with a mission statement and purpose for our first campaign. In the flurry of creativity we went old school; our pens could barely keep up with the conversation as we jotted down notes on the backs of our church bulletins. Alexis took the notes home so she could compile them in the team's shared Google doc, but before she got that far...disaster. The worst excuse for forgetting your homework became the team's reality: the dog ate it. While the dog spent the next 24 hours pooping out church notes and a gift certificate for sushi, the team had the annoying task of opportunity to reflect on their mission and hone their goals. Which means that we are doubly prepared to share our experiences with you, for better or worse. Welcome to #SocialChurch.
Getting Set Up
Before you create an account and start posting, you'll want to spend some time developing a strategy (and then spend some time doing it again after the dog eats it). This should include:
- Team Formation - As a team, do you have members who possess (or are at least willing to learn) the skills you'll need?
- Spare time
- Social media experience (if you aren't on social media yourself, you won't know the expectations of the medium)
- Graphic design
- Photography (and possibly Photoshop)
- Videography (and possibly editing)
- Our Mission: Educate members about what's happening in the church, help people in the San Jose area find a church home, engage people in the church and outside community with the mission of the church.
- And here's the mission of our church: Under the blessing of God, we strive to. . .
- Know the grace of God in Jesus Christ,
- Grow in faith, love, and service, and
- Go with the Gospel into our community and the world
- What networks have the capabilities you'll need to achieve your mission?
- What networks are your church members using?
- What networks is your community using? (Think about demographics that influence social media use, such as age, economics, etc.)
- For instance, Pew Research published in 2015 that 71% of teens are on Facebook. We thought we'd need to use Instagram or Snapchat to reach our younger audience, but facts are our friends, so we were able to limit our network to just Facebook for now.
A few handy, helpful, (and did we mention free?) tools
- Canva: Create infographics and images easily, based on correct social media sizing parameters.
- Fotor: We change our Facebook banner to match our monthly sermon series. Fotor lets you easily create social media-specific banners and graphics.
- Google Images: Careful here, and only use images sanctioned for free reuse. Google an image you'd like (say, "waterfall,"), click "Search tools," then "Usage rights," and click "Labeled for reuse." You'll still get plenty of images that are free, legal, and beautiful.
- iMovie: If you have an iPhone, you can very easily capture videos to share on your church social media page. Sermon teasers, short synopses of events, your praise band's music--the world is really your oyster here.
- Hootsuite: Got an hour after church on a Sunday? You can schedule your social media posts for the entire week, month, whatever cadence you want, and they'll fire off without your having to think about it. If you're busy but still want to have a successful church social media presence, tools like Hootsuite are invaluable.
Tips (AKA Common Sense)
- Let congregants know photos will be used on Social Media when you take their pictures.
- Obey copyright law. This includes images, of course, but also music, even that which might be playing in the background of your videos. See "A Word about Copyright" in the 2016 spring GOWM conference.
- Keep up with changes to image size & shapes before posting (e.g. Facebook cover photos sometimes had portions covered).
- Learn from others! There's a ton posted online about what time is best to post, how many words your posts should include, etc. We've also changed our approach based on free webinars. The internet is full of great ideas!
- Learn from experience! You're a smart person (After all, you've read this far.). Take a look at the analytics for your page and start analyzing what works and what doesn't work for your church. (For instance, at Apostles if a post mentions a children's program, it doesn't do as well, so we know we need to coordinate with the school to post information about the children's ministry on their page OR get parents to like the church page in addition to the school page.)
#Beware!: Stay away from these 10 church social media pitfalls
- Not gating posts In your settings, make sure that you pick the option to approve posts before they go on your wall; it prevents just anybody from posting on your church social media page. We don't even want to get INTO what might end up there otherwise. . . .
- Not setting goals Haphazardly posting and hoping it "does something" will likely get you nowhere. Come up with creative campaigns to gain followers in your church, construct a posting schedule, and set at least one goal to shoot for (increase followers by x%, increase post engagement by x%, influence at least 1 person to come visit the church, etc.)
- Over-posting Beware of becoming white noise to your audience. Be intentional about your posts, and try to stay around 1-2 a day maximum for starters.
- UNDER-posting If it's all crickets on your social media, it makes no impact, and you won't hit whichever goals you set (see pitfall 9!). Determine what cadence works best for you-- be it 1-2 a week, or 1-2 a day.
- Mistaking the church profile as your own We've seen this happen, and it makes things weird. You think YOU are commenting on or liking a post as yourself (which is GREAT for inspiring engagement), but you're actually on the church handle. On Facebook, you can toggle between your church profile and your own when you post--pay close attention!
- Not including images and videos If content is king, visuals are queen. You can easily create images to accompany your posts in free online tools such as Canva or Fotor. Got Photoshop skills? Use 'em! Got an iPhone? Apps like iMovie and Garageband are free. Record your pastor giving a "teaser" for his upcoming sermon and pop it on your page.
- Ignoring paid promotion as a valuable tool for outreach Even $5 can go a long way in reaching out to the unchurched — or unaware — around you. We ran a one day, $5 campaign for our Live Nativity, and it generated 400 additional views, 17 photo clicks, 25 post likes, 2 comments, and 7 shares from people that hadn't been acquainted with our church before. I reiterate: this cost only five dollars.
- Neglecting to keep your church in the know If your church has no idea about social media efforts, they'll be less likely to interact with your posts or back your efforts. Let the congregation know, let the pastor know, add social media on your Welcome Worshipper cards or guestbooks as a reason for visit, and let the elders know early and often about your social media successes.
- Forgetting everything your 9th grade English teacher taught you Improper grammar is the scourge of social media. For churches, it could potentially give people a very silly but very visible reason to criticize. Make sure you watch your tenses, punctuation, and spelling. (It's Nebuchadnezzar, FYI).
- Tossing your church bulletin Having trouble generating ideas for your social media posts? Your bulletin is your best friend. We keep ours after services and use it to put together posts on upcoming church activities, prayer requests, etc. Not a big bulletin church? Grill your pastor or someone in the church office once a week for upcoming events, sermon themes, passages, hymn verses that might come up in the next week, etc., as fodder for your posts. Guaranteed, you can come up with at least 5 things to post.
A (Very) Quick Guide to Paid Promotion on Facebook
I'm going to let you in on an easy way to make your offering matter in a completely different way. For our Easter services, we wanted to utilize our newly formed social media team to encourage more visitors to join our services. With no set budget, I decided to take my monthly offering and put it towards paid promotion of our Easter post. It looked like this (designed by my partner in crime, Alexis, and featuring timeless lyrics from Samuel Medley):
Very simple, yet effective message, inspirational imagery, and the soothing truth of God's grace. With the boost of my monthly offering, we received 5157 impressions for an audience outside of our church, 349 interactions (likes, comments, shares), and—to our surprise—members of our community unassociated with the church even commented on our post. Here is a smattering of the comments:
"God is so almighty- we're all so blessed"
"I love this hymn- it's one of my favorites. Beautiful and draws the loving spirit that dwells within me."
Regardless of whether or not people were visiting our church for Easter — which was our intended goal — they were being blessed and encouraged by the glorious truth of the resurrection.
We were mind-blown. Suddenly, our naive goal of simply gaining more visitors for Easter became dim in the light of evangelism of God's truth to grateful ears.
How can you do it? Easy:
Next to anything you post on your church Facebook page, you have the option to "Boost Post." Do this and you'll be given options for age groups, locations, budget, and duration of the promotion. It will look something like this:
Once you set your parameters and provide payment information, you're good to go. The best part? Watching the results roll in, and knowing that people are seeing a post that could make a significant difference in their lives, or at the very least remind them of God's love.
If you have budget to run paid promotions, don't wait. Pick services, church activities, or specific messages you want eyes on and throw some dollars towards them. If you don't have budget, even $5 can go a long way. (See the Pitfalls section of this presentation to see how!)
Our Easter promotion is one of our most successful so far, and a lynchpin example of how a small offering can go a long way in sharing the Gospel message.
What are you waiting for?
In very early A.D., Jesus gave a command: Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
By 2018, a third of the world's entire population will be on social media. Social media is an avenue to share life's little moments, but in our case, it's also an avenue to take responsibility in fulfilling the Great Commission Jesus gave us. Disciples went into communities—even hostile ones—to share about Jesus' saving grace; we can boldly (and digitally) go into our community and share the exact same message the disciples did.
We look forward to hearing about your church social media initiative. Go boldly, and make your church a #SocialChurch, and your school a #SocialSchool.
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