For many churches, social media tools like Twitter and Facebook have become a necessary nightmare—it’s something you do because everyone tells you that you should.
Sadly, this willing but reluctant attitude is not going to make managing your social media accounts any easier, or make you enjoy it any more. And frankly, a Twitter account and a Facebook page are going to be absolutely useless to you if you just create them just to say that you have them.
As is usually the case, it is how you use them that counts.
Below I have listed the most common mistakes that churches make with their social media accounts so you can learn how to use them correctly, and so you can become aware of some of the church management tools that are out there to alleviate your current problems.
1. Not laying out the purpose for every church-related social network
Every social network that your church has needs a purpose. You should set out the purpose and goals of each, and appoint a person in charge of each to keep them in line with your goals. If you can’t think of a compelling purpose for having an account on specific social media platform, you shouldn’t use that platform. Know what you want to accomplish with Facebook but not Pinterest? Hold off on signing up for a Pinterest account for now.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you want to give your members a place to ask questions during the week?
- Do you want to foster your relationships, build community, and possibly gain new members through your Facebook page or Twitter account?
- Do you want to build/get an app that allows online giving?
Overall, what is your purpose? What do you want to accomplish, and how are you going to accomplish it? Once you’ve clearly defined your goals, you can get started in the right direction.
2. Not putting someone in charge of every social network
You need to assign one person to each social network that you have, or at least one person to manage all of the networks, if that is easier for your church. Whether it’s a Twitter account, Facebook page, Pinterest account, or YouTube channel, you need one person to have control of it. If not, that responsibility will be passed off from person to person, and with the eventual outcome being the account gets neglected.
If there is no one available that is willing to manage a network, then chances are you don’t need it.
3. Not measuring the performance of your networks
Once you have your social media accounts running smoothly and being managed by one person, it’s important that you measure the performance of each network.
Look back at the goals that you set and the ultimate purpose of the network, and determine if you have achieved them—do you want more donations, more followers, more clicks, or more purchases? If you aren’t achieving these goals, why not? And how do you determine if you are?
Sit down and think about some of the reasons you may be falling short of your goals, and look into these tools to see if any of them can help you to measure your social media performance, or check out these tools if you prefer something free.
4. Making your social media all about you
A lot of social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, were not originally designed to be marketing tools—they have been turned into that by businesses and organizations that started to use them for business purposes.
Because these tools were originally intended for starting discussions and deepening and developing relationships with other people, if you use your social network to only send out news and updates about your church or your own work, you are ignoring your members and followers and missing out on the benefits they can give you.
It’s really beneficial to your church to take the time to directly respond to your members and staff as often as you can—you can do this by:
- Asking questions
- Retweeting/reposting their answers
- Answering their questions
- Retweeting/reposting their posts
- Thanking people for their input or advice
5. Acting like someone you’re not
A common habit amongst churches, especially smaller lesser known churches, is that they want to appear bigger, better, and “cooler” than they really are—and with the way that social media is, that’s pretty easy to do.
Well, at least for a little bit.
But once one person realizes that the church they found online is not really what they thought it was, that’s when the problems start. That person will probably never come back again, and he or she may even write reviews online which will deter even more people from setting foot inside your church.
Always be genuine and truthful in how you represent yourself, and it will pay off in the long run.
6. Creating social media accounts and then forgetting about them
Often churches will hear about the benefits of having social media accounts, get excited, create them, use them for a little bit, and then gradually forget about them.
While it may seem like this can’t really do you any real harm, if you have a social media account that is inactive, it can actually hurt you. If someone visits your profile and sees that it hasn’t been touched in several months or more, or is just completely inactive, they get the impression that there is not much going on at your church.
Below is an example of a church that probably did just that—set up their account, tested it, and then couldn’t find the time to improve it (name blacked out to protect the guilty).
7. Putting an inexperienced person in charge of social media
It’s often the case that when there’s a task that needs to get done, but there is no one who is available or willing to do it, it gets put on a teenager in the youth group. While this tactic works well for busy work and small, mundane tasks, it’s not a great idea to put one of the biggest means of communication between your church, your members, and potential members, in the hands of someone who doesn’t know the ropes.
The person that you delegate to manage your social media network(s) should be someone (ideally who is on staff) who understands the values and mission of the church, and who has the skills to use social media effectively.
8. Buying followers and social standing
Believe it or not, there are actually a decent number of businesses out there that will sell social media followers and social standing. All this does is get a large number next to your profile name—that doesn’t mean that you have a better social media presence. It’s just a fast and easy way to look better than you are, and can often result in more spam and direct messages from people that are trying to sell you things.
This will actually end up obstructing your ability to communicate and foster your relationships with those who are really your true members and followers. What’s worse, and highly likely, is that people will find out.
9. Using only church jargon
While it’s true that probably most of your church’s followers on social media are your members, keep in mind that you will still have non-members reading your Twitter feed or your profile page. Think about people searching for a new church or maybe even looking to convert—how many updates or tweets are full of language and terminology that only your church members would understand?
If you are using lots of theological terms or any other sort of language that might confuse or turn away potential members or visitors from your church, then you should make your language easy for any visitor to understand. For example, here is a church that uses simple, down-to-earth language when they update—these are the kind of updates that are the most effective for your church.
10. Not completing your profile
This may seem obvious, but there are still many churches that create an account, but don’t take the time to fill out all of the necessary information, like the offending church in the image below that still has a default picture as their profile picture.
This means that when people visit your profile they won’t have enough information about you to spark their interest, and they also will think that you just don’t care enough to fill out all the details. Having a profile picture, background, and short bio about your church and your mission is the first step towards success with your social media account.
11. Posting too much or too little
Set a schedule for your posts and then stick to it.
Your members want consistency and reliability. If you don’t post frequently for awhile, or have an extended period of silence, your members will wonder where you are, or they will lose interest and leave.
On the flipside, you don’t want to overdo it with your posts either. Some people get in the habit of updating every ten minutes with a long stream of posts that go out one after the other. You don’t want your members to look at their feed and only see your profile picture. This is annoying, and will cause your members to feel berated and bombarded with information from you.
Find a good rhythm for yourself, and decide on the frequency of your posts ahead of time—statistically, you can achieve a higher click through rate if you post 1-4 times per hour. Also, you can find out the best times to post as well, and schedule your posts accordingly. Then, use one of your social media management tools to schedule your updates ahead of time so that you can set it up, and then leave it. Buffer and Hootsuite are just a couple of the good tools out there to help you with that.
12. Not integrating social media with your ChMS
Many church management products include social media integration that will track your social media interactions with your members. This is a really efficient way to keep track of your social media accounts and record your interactions with your members straight from your church website or church system. Here are some church management systems that have that functionality:
Know of any more social media mistakes that are commonly made by churches? Add them in the comments below!
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