A Great Multitude of Platforms: How Churches Should Use Other Social Media

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This is Part Four in a four-part series on how to use social media for churches.  Parts One-through-Three cover using Facebook for churches, using Twitter for churches, and using Pinterest for churches, respectively.

Social media for churches

This afternoon I pretended to be a website analyst. By which I mean, I went through every single link in my three previous posts in this series and took note of the social media platforms from which a reader could share the article using buttons in the sidebar. Here are the results:

  • With one exception (a site that didn’t have any sharing options), every single article included Facebook and Twitter buttons.
  • 10 articles had Pinterest buttons, and 11 had Google+ buttons.
  • Six articles had LinkedIn buttons.
  • Five sites included buttons for other platforms including StumbleUpon, SumoMe, and Pocket.
  • Instagram didn’t even make an appearance (more on that in a moment).

It doesn’t take much to see that the leading platforms were Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn.

This shouldn’t surprise you, since recent data shows that 71% of adult Internet users are on Facebook. The next highest are Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, which each come in between 20% and 30%.

I’ve covered Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest in previous posts–now it’s time to talk about what else is out there, and how your church can best leverage these other social media platforms.

Instagram

It may seem odd to you that, even though 26% of adult internet users are on Instagram, not a single article I’ve cited previously has an Instagram button.

It actually makes perfect sense to me. You see, Instagram is a visual platform–sharing links to articles via Instagram is impractical and goes against what the app was created to do.

But don’t get me wrong: You should definitely put Instagram to use for your church, and right now! Currently, Instagram sees 15 times the user interaction that Facebook has, and that number is growing.

To start with, Instagram is a great platform from which to share brief videos. These can be previews of upcoming sermons or invitations to special events. A short video can also serve as a warm invitation to newcomers or the announcement of a news snippet.

What Instagram is really for, however, is pictures. There are so many ways to use the power of pictures via Instagram. Here are just a few:

  • Share photos of the charitable activity engaged in by your church or by members of the surrounding community.
  • Introduce your pastor and other leaders within the church by posting a photo and brief description of each person.
  • Capture (with permission) important moments in the lives of your members, such as baptisms and weddings.
  • Broadcast your service times for newcomers and oldtimers alike.
  • Share pictures from worship services to attract potential members.
  • Highlight volunteer excellence (complete with a picture of the volunteer in question) at least once a week.
  • Post encouraging quotes from books or sermons, especially if they’re overlaid on beautiful imagery.
  • Advertise events and outreach opportunities.
  • Create digital invitation cards that followers can share with their friends and family.
  • Showcase the various ministries at your church.
  • Utilize special event hashtags (much like on Twitter).
  • Provide your congregation with pre-made images to share via Instagram.
  • Create a church meme to get everyone laughing.
  • Share behind-the-scenes pictures of the day-to-day operations of the church.
  • Send out recruitment messages for volunteers or other ministry helpers.

As you can see, the opportunities for sharing fun and informative images via Instagram are virtually endless. Plus, if your church already has a Facebook page, you can (and should) easily connect the two accounts!

LinkedIn

Next up is a somewhat different platform. While 364 million people use this platform, it’s not as talked about in the social media world as Instagram or some of the other tools. This is because, unlike those other options, this particular network was created more as a professional tool and less as a fun social tool.

I’m talking about LinkedIn, of course. It has been around since 2003, and its usership has steadily risen every quarter since then. There’s no better time than now to get your church linked in (see what I did there?).

LinkedIn is primarily a networking tool. In fact, many members of your congregation are probably already on the network. Your staff has actually already gotten your name out there by listing your church as their current employer. Now you are in a perfect position to reach out to these people: Send them an invitation to connect and then endorse them for whatever skills you know they have exhibited within your church community. You can then use information from your connections to build a database of skilled people who can fulfill whatever needs your congregation might have.

If you move beyond building a personal page (e.g., for your pastor or social media manager), you can get even more exposure for your church. After your personal page is complete, LinkedIn will allow you to create company pages and groups. On a company page, you can post a status, job openings, and service times. A LinkedIn status is similar to one on Facebook except more formal. Use status updates for event announcements, videos, or important church documents. Within groups, you can create Bible studies, worship groups, and other ministries within your church.

Other things you can do with your LinkedIn profile include:

Even though it’s used a little differently than other social media platforms, LinkedIn can be a great way to reach out to current members; connect to other ministry leaders; attract new people to your church; and generally bring the Gospel to the world of business.

YouTube

What’s black and white and red all over and the best free option for video hosting out there?

You guessed it: YouTube, everybody’s favorite video source. What you probably didn’t guess is that YouTube is not just a great place to find hilarious videos–it’s also a perfect place for your church to reach out to a huge number of people. Just ponder this statistic: There are about 4 billion video views on YouTube every day. Compare that to the 300 million people in the U.S., and you should see why your church needs to be on YouTube.

Video traffic aside, there are numerous other advantages to using YouTube:

  • It is completely free, unlike some other video-hosting systems, so it is the epitome of cost-effective.
  • You can embed videos on your church website.
  • You can create your own channel for your church and use the built-in channel preview as a “church preview” for potential visitors and newcomers.
  • YouTube videos are set up to be easily shareable from a variety of other social media platforms, thereby broadening the reach of videos you upload.
  • Built-in editing functions save you money and allow you to use just a smartphone to shoot high-quality videos–again, very cost-effective.
  • YouTube saves you computer space, since you can store videos on the site itself.
  • You can promote your church’s website in videos and in video descriptions.
  • It’s easy to create playlists of related videos and gather subscriptions from current and potential members of your congregation.
  • Videos can give potential visitors a “feel” for your church’s atmosphere and vision before they come see for themselves.
  • YouTube can even host livestream worship services for people who can’t make it to church or to a special event.

There is a wide variety of videos your church can create and upload to YouTube. From short event promotions, to sermons and brief reflections, to music videos for Christian bands–let your imagination do the work for you and keep in mind that each video should always have one or both of the following objectives:

  1. Reach more people with the Gospel.
  2. Widen your church’s publicity.

When you create videos that achieve at least one of these goals, you’ll see the effects in the positive comments and in a high number of shares.

Google+

Are you one of the 900 million people who use Gmail as their email provider? If you are, guess what? You also have a Google+ account!

900 million people on Google+–that’s 900 million people your church could be reaching out to on a daily basis. Although it’s still smaller than Facebook, when used properly to gain a large following, Google+ can provide the perfect opportunity to network within your church community and spread your message to the broader Google+ community, especially since a Google search for your church will now bring up your Google+ account.

Get started on Google+ by creating circles for the various sections of your ministry. For example, you can form a circle for the members of your marriage counseling team; one for the ladies in charge of decorating the church; and even one for the children’s ministry volunteers.

Once you’ve created several circles, you can privately message people within a particular circle. This way, not everyone in your Google+ community has to be privy to information that’s aimed at a particular team; and you can keep some information private from your church as a whole or the broader community outside of your church’s members.

One of the best features of Google+ is Google Hangouts, an application that can allow you to host chats or video-conferences with other Google+ users. Hangouts can be a great way to:

  • Keep in touch with missionaries in the field.
  • Easily hold meetings with a circle even when none of the necessary people are in the same place.
  • Livestream services for members who can’t make it to church.

The livestreaming capability is especially nice, since Google+ will automatically archive the video of the service to YouTube, making it potentially available to the broader public as well as to members of your church.

On your church’s Google+ page, you can post links, pictures, or videos, allowing you to share interesting or helpful resources with the wider community. This is a great way to start an online discussion that will engage your congregation and people who are thinking about visiting your church.

Where Facebook has the “Like” thumbs up, Google+ has the “+1” button. On your Google+ page, you can +1 websites (including yours), books, music, and more that you’d like to recommend to the members of your church. +1’s by members let you see what kind of church events might be interesting to them; and adding a +1 button on your church’s website allows members and potential members to +1 your church, spreading your publicity. Google+’s built-in analytics will then track the resulting traffic to your website and to your Google+ page.

Google+ may be smaller than some of the other social media platforms, but its unique features make it well worth your while!

Some final wisdom

In the end, I would encourage you to establish your church’s consistent presence on as many social media platforms as you can. This way, you’ll know what the online hype is about your ministry and your church will be able reach unbelievers locally and globally.

Finally, are you worried about staying organized when it comes to who’s in charge of social media and other member profiles within your church? Church management software can help you keep track of all this information and use it to effectively build your church’s social media presence.

What did I miss?

I know there are other platforms–for example, blogging–that I did not have space to cover here. Are there any other social media your church has found useful? Alternatively, have you found any of the social media mentioned in this post to be great resources for your church community? Let me know in the comments section!

Header by Rachel Wille.

Looking for Church Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Church Management software solutions.

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About the Author

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Helen DeCelles-Zwerneman

During the school year, Helen puts her love of physics and people to good use teaching high-school math and science. During the summer, she blogs for Capterra, a privately held technology and online media company that brings together buyers and sellers of software. In her free time, you're most likely to find Helen reading or spending time with her family and friends.

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