Do you ever wonder why your church has fewer likes on its page than your friend’s pet chihuahua? Or why no one is retweeting you even though you just got a new volunteer to manage the church Twitter? While making Churches that Own Social Media, I noticed that even churches with tens of thousands of followers sometimes receive little to no engagement on their Tweets, or likes on their Facebook posts. And getting to tens of thousands of followers is hard enough! How can your church ever get on top of its social media game when you’re not even sure what you’re doing wrong?
Thankfully, here are some tips from someone who has seen it all, from inappropriately placed skull emojis to Facebook pages with no profile picture. Check to make sure that your church isn’t making some of these common social media mistakes that can hold it back from realizing its full potential.
1. No Icons on the Site
There are so many reasons to include fast links to your social media profiles on your church website.
Number one: Announcing the existence of your church’s Instagram handle during the service is only as useful as your congregants’ ability to scribble it down or look it up immediately, and not everyone has such lightning-fast reflexes. Putting a link at the top of your website means that people don’t need to remember if there’s a hyphen, or an underscore, or whatever, they just need to click the link and click “follow.”
Reason number two, which is probably most important: The website is where people go to learn more about your church. Christianity Today found that in 2012, non-churchgoers are more likely to stream audio and video on a church’s website than they are to actually read about a church’s belief system. This means that your church’s media is a BIG deal to prospective members, and social media, which can convey your church’s beliefs and provide a platform for videos and audio, is all the more important. Your Youtube channel actually holds crucial info for non-members so don’t be afraid to put it right at the top of the page!
2. Post, Repost, Repost
So you signed up for ten different social media accounts. It’s almost too easy- sometimes all you had to do was use one account to sign into another one. The majority of your members are Facebook users so you figured you could start with that and then the Twitter and Instagram (and Pinterest and Tumblr?) content would just come naturally. You could probably just reuse website posts too! But the truth is, most members are not going to follow your Twitter if it’s just “Facebook- Now Shorter and With More Emojis!” There’s not much reason to follow your Facebook page if it’s all the same images that show up on Instagram. And if we’re being honest, you should probably just forget about the other five accounts unless your congregation has a big presence on one.
To avoid being the mad reposter, try prioritizing your social media accounts and tailor content to each platform. Take a page from Vous Church’s book and try creating:
- Simple, square graphic quotes for Instagram (which is really a visual inspiration site, after all)
- Announcements and Bible verses for Twitter
- Longer, more personal, interaction-based posts for Facebook, like baptism announcements and calls for prayer
You can definitely reuse the same content and link to posts on your church website, but make sure there’s a reason to follow each of your church’s accounts that isn’t just “this points to our other account.”
3. Who’s Updating This?
Every church has their own reason for not having a social media specialist –It’s expensive to have a huge staff, no one with the expertise is working for a church, our event organizer can handle it, etc. Those are all good reasons, but for whoever is doing double-duty as the social media poster, this shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Make sure to build social media posts into your church’s weekly schedule and outreach strategy. If there’s a system in place (creating one Instagram image a week, posting X photos on Facebook for every event, etc) it will actually make social media much less difficult for whoever is running it, and your church won’t become one of those one-tweet-from-2012 accounts.
Related tip- If your pastor is the one running your Twitter account, or if their personal Twitter IS the church Twitter- consider creating an additional church Twitter. Personal Twitters are a wonderful way for a pastor to get in touch with their congregation online but personal accounts shouldn’t bear the burden of the kind of constant, formulaic posting that’s necessary for larger organizations.
4. I Have Followers?
So the point of any social media account is to hoard as many followers as possible and then gloat over them for eternity like Smaug in the Hobbit, right? Hmm, on second thought that doesn’t sound very church-y. The idea behind Twitter and Facebook (especially Facebook, where comments are so easy to make and so visible!) is to build community. The social part of social media. For a church, which is literally a community of like-minded individuals, this should be so easy! However, with so many of the church social media accounts I’ve seen, there’s been little to no engagement with followers.
Part of the problem here is that engagement requires frequent monitoring, and as I mentioned above, finding someone dedicated to that is difficult. But that doesn’t make it any less necessary. One of the easiest ways to engage is simply to check out your Twitter followers (hopefully some of whom you recognize as members!) and follow back, then see what they’re tweeting. Chances are your church isn’t the only account with inspirational tweets to share. Retweeting members shows that not only do you care about the thoughts of your members, but you want other churchgoers to be inspired as well, and maybe even discover another like-minded member in the congregation.
Instagram is not quite as public, but just following members and tagging them in photos can go a long way to make images circulate better.
The most meaningful engagement, I’ve found, comes from Facebook posts. With a clear, readable comment system, Facebook provides a platform for congregants to really come together over one specific idea and offer advice, prayer, and praise on a post from your church. Not to mention, everyone wants to see a photo of their friend getting baptized on Facebook, so make sure to tag!
Not a universal problem, but when you see an account like Vous Church using hashtags so well (check out #VousNotes), it makes these mistakes stand out all the more painfully. Believe it or not, hashtags are there to track interest in a specific topic, not just to rephrase an idea in a way that millennials can understand.
If your church is tweeting about a recent event, use the commonly used hashtag (like #internationaldayofpeace)- it increases your church’s visibility on the topic and shows that you know what you’re talking about.
A more difficult, but potentially much more rewarding idea, is creating a church-specific hashtag for members to check and contribute to, whether or not they are following you specifically. Creating a hashtag that people will actually use is tricky, so make sure to focus on just one or two at the very most, and make it very simple and memorable.
6. My Members are The Flash
“Hey Grace Community Members, don’t forget our charity run at 3pm today!” posted at 2:55pm, the day of the event. It may be true that things move fast in social media, but your church members can only move so fast themselves. Additionally, visibility works differently on different platforms- on Facebook, content from “liked” pages may be bumped up on someone’s feed, especially if other people have liked the content already. So it’s actually to your benefit to post reminders a good 24-48 hours before an event and make sure that everyone, even the people who only check Facebook once a day, will know when the Easter Picnic is happening.
Additionally, if you’ve already got a page, it’s very easy to create an Event page on Facebook that will send reminders to people automatically when the event is coming up. As for Twitter, the same policy probably applies, but timing is more crucial, since some people estimate a tweet’s visibility window to be just 24 minutes. Try sending it out the evening before the event- this study shows that the most engagement happens with tweets sent out around 9pm. Whatever your platform, make sure to give your congregants plenty of time to see your reminders!
Using social media effectively is very tricky. Even churches with tons of followers make basic mistakes at times, and most churches aren’t in the market for social media marketing software (though it may be worth considering for megachurches and multi-site churches) or have a full time social media specialist. However, if you avoid some of these common mistakes, you can find your way to richer online engagement with your congregation using just your dedicated church staff and great church management software.
Do you have any church social media blunders to share, or advice to add? Put it in the comments below!