I am teaching a workshop at the National Lutheran Youth Ministry Conference in San Antonio this summer. The workshop is titled “Leveraging Social Media for Your Church’s Mission.” This post is part of a series relating to that workshop. Here’s a full listing of the topics.
Good social media doesn’t just happen. It’s intentional and deliberate. Today I will be looking at some tips for developing the foundations for successful social media usage at your church.
Develop a Strategy
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. Proverbs 21:5
As someone who actually dislikes social media, this was a critical step for me to wrap my mind around how we might use social media to enhance the mission of our church and reach others. There were too many options for what might happen in social media outlets that I was paralyzed. But once I had a good sense of strategy, it because much easier to implement. Your social media strategy will also help you make decisions about whether something gets posted, or how it gets written.
At First Trinity, our informal strategy is three-fold:
- Tell stories.
- Have conversation.
- Stimulate growth.
Our early strategy started by watching this online seminar from Waterbrook Mulnomah. The video is not aging well in some respects with the addition of the Timeline feature to Pages on Facebook, but it’s still a pretty good starting point.
Developing a strategy is an evolving process. It’s a good idea to have a discussion with other key players (who might be included on your team of updaters) about your initial strategy. As you live with it and start applying it to your social media usage, you’ll find some things that need to be adjusted, added or dropped. A few questions you might consider as you talk:
- Why do you want to be on social media? Knowing why you’re there is a helpful starting point for your discussion. Social media might not be a right fit for your church or your staff. If you just want to use it because everyone else is doing it, this might not be the medium for you.
- What are your goals on for social media? In other words, what do you hope to accomplish? If there’s no goal behind your strategy, there’s no way to know if you’re being successful or if things are worth posting. These goals will actually help you create content that’s appropriate for your page as well.
- Is social media right the right tool? It might be. Or it might not be. Maybe some of the tools available are useful for you, but not all of them. Figure out which ones are right for you and focus on those. You might add more later, but it’s ok to focus your attention in the early stages. Once you hit a rhythm, you can expand your reach.
- Who will be using social media? Whose responsibility is it? A program or ministry owned by everyone is owned by no one. Figure out where it best falls in your ministry structure and give authority and responsibility to that person. You might have others who are using it on behalf of the church, but someone needs to own it, otherwise it might not happen.
- What’s the relationship between church and personal accounts? I have a Facebook profile, but I also manage the church Facebook page. I don’t speak for the church “officially” on my personal profile, but because I’m a staff-member, I always represent the church (and more importantly as a Christian, Jesus). What gets posted to the personal profiles of the staff affects how people see and interact with the church. Having a discussion with staffers about what they post and how they use Facebook personally could help how effective your corporate account is.
Build a Team
One of the biggest factors in building a successful social media presence for your church is building a good team. At First Trinity, we have five people who can update our Facebook page. Three of them are staff members and two of them are lay people. While the staff does most of the posting, our lay people have helped with posting stuff as well. Building a good team is important because:
- It diversifies content. I only come in contact with a small portion of what’s happening at First Trinity, most of it in my own ministry. Adding others to the team allows us to engage more content and provide a broader picture of life at First Trinity.
- It provides coverage. A larger team allows you to have “live” coverage at more events, but it also gets your more coverage throughout the day and week. One of our team members takes off on Fridays while two others are off on Monday. If something immediate comes up, we can post it as needed. If it were just me, I’d be working “24/7” if we wanted full coverage.
- Leads to higher quality. Being able to bounce ideas and strategies off others on the team leads to higher quality, more engaging content.
As you build your team, consider your own strengths and weaknesses and try to find others to help fill in the gaps. Spend some time training them on what type of content you’re looking for so they have a good understanding about the strategy. Communicate with them regularly so you can learn from one another and present a unified voice. Everyone posting the same thing within hours of each other probably isn’t a good idea. Keeping communications open will help reduce the frequency of that happening.
Once everyone has a good understanding of what you’re looking for, empower them to post things and share with others.
Good content doesn’t just happen. Consistent content doesn’t just happen. It takes work and planning to be most effective when using social media. Some things to consider:
- What will you put on social media? Are you looking to provide devotional resources? Pictures from events? Video messages? Inspirational quotes? Make sure this content aligns with your strategy above, then set some benchmarks for yourself. “Every Friday we’ll share a new photo.” “Every Tuesday we’ll provide a short devotional.” “We will post one video per month that illustrates how God is moving.” These benchmarks will help you produce compelling content.
- How can you extend the life of your ministry events through social media? In other words, is there a way to take an offline event online for continued growth and discussion? Sharing pictures is an easy way of doing this. But maybe you also provide a discussion question based on the sermon, or a challenge to put faith into action after a Bible study.
- Schedule your time and batch content. If I had to update my social media manually, it would never maintain consistency. Instead, I use HootSuite to schedule content. I take 5-10 minutes to produce the content, then schedule it for publication over several days with HootSuite. Scheduling time to actually produce and schedule content will help you present a more cohesive message as you’re designing all the content while it’s fresh in your mind.
- Write shareable content. You can maximize your reach by writing content that others will want to share with their friends. Ask yourself: “Is this something I would consider sharing with my friends? What about my followers?” The more shareable content you have, the greater your reach and influence will be.