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.

While some people are naturally “gifted” for communicating on Facebook and other social media outlets, it is definitely a skill that can be learned. Here are a few of the tips that I’ve picked up in the last year or so of running the First Trinity Facebook Page.

Consistency is key.

One of the challenges I noticed early on was that once you start updating some sort of social media (be it blogs, Facebook, Twitter, whatever), it’s hard to stop. Once you stop posting, your content quickly becomes “stale” or “out of date.” I noticed this when I took an extended break from my blog. Some people even commented to me about how it shouldn’t be linked on our church website if I wasn’t going to be posting content to it. To them, it looked like I just vanished from my blog because one day I was posting, and the next I wasn’t. Another organization website I work on had a blog as the landing page for a little over a year and once the regular posting stopped, the website was perceived to be out of date, despite the fact that all the other content on the site was current.

Once you get into social media, try to be consistent with your posting. This doesn’t mean you have to constantly post things, but try for some sort of regular schedule. Whether that’s daily, a few times a week, or weekly, be consistent. If you have to take a break for some reason, it’s ok to post that you’re taking a break. If you can publish the reasons why, it’s even more helpful. My blog probably could have been better served by a simple post that says something along the lines of:

I’m taking a break from blogging for a bit. I’m not sure when I’ll be back, but I hope to do it again in the future.

This way, people know what to expect and aren’t left wondering. If you start a social media platform and decide to back off for whatever reason, let people know you’re doing it.

Pay attention to branding.

Branding is a fancy word for a consistent, intentional look to all of your social media. Our social media outlets are all using the same icon (pictured above) so that it’s easy to identify when things are coming from the church. While our website and Facebook page have different headers, they both share the same theme of lots of people/faces.

In addition to artwork, using common language online and practices are helpful. We have a style guide that helps us track “how” we talk. It has suggestions on word choices (for example, we talk about guests not visitors). Having some common, agreed-upon language can help people connect with your church across platforms because things will feel and seem familiar, no matter which platform they’re engaging with you on.

Mix regular and variable content.

We strive for a good mix of regular, recurring content (like our daily Bible verses) and “variable” content that we post when we can like pictures, stories and other updates. Using only regular content can give the impression that you’re not really engaging people, but rather pushing your stuff on them. Posting stories, asking questions and having conversations all help people interact with you more effectively.

Add value.

People have lots of sources of information coming their way. No one really wants to know what the church staff had for breakfast. Strive for content that will add value to the social media world and to people’s lives. A recent study suggests that quality content will get more responses from your followers than ordinary, mundane stuff. Adding valuable content also helps you influence more people as your content is shared among your followers.

Be proactive.

Great social media doesn’t just happen. It takes intentional time and planning. While you might be able to cobble together a decent social media effort by just “doing what feels right,” you’re going to be much more effective when you are proactive on social media. This certainly means planning your content, but it also means going out and engaging with others instead of just letting them find you. One of the best ways to build your audience and extend your influence is to be out knocking on digital doors.

Get feedback before posting.

Every now and then, something comes up where I run an idea past others on the staff before making a change to our website or posting something on Facebook. One of the pitfalls of social media is that once something gets posted, you can’t necessarily take it back. People have lost jobs and relationships because of one bad tweet or Facebook post that went viral at the wrong time. Running all major content past another set of eyes can not only help you judge the appropriateness of the content, but also the quality.

We have an unofficial policy that major pieces that come out of our church need to be seen by at least two—preferably three or more—sets of eyes. Larger or more visible runs need to be proofed by even more people. Our bi-annual report was actually reviewed by about 25 people before going to publication. While this level of review may be overkill for a social media piece, getting feedback can save you from embarrassing typos.