It’s a pretty safe assumption that Christmas and Easter are two of the biggest days on every single local church calendar. Why wouldn’t they be? It’s not a closely held secret that more people, Christian and not, darken the door of the local church for the celebrations of the birth and resurrection of Jesus. People who would never attend a church in September or June may stop by on Christmas Eve or Easter Sunday.
Unfortunately, too many pastors, church staff, and Christians in general poke fun of these people—they call them various names or joke about how they’ll see them again next year. It’s past time to stop chastising people for only coming to church at these holidays because rolling our eyes at these people often prevents us from embracing them.
But how can we use a digital communications strategy to encourage people in our communities to come to our churches on these Sundays in the first place? Is social media really worth a church’s time? Mark Dance has been a pastor in a number of contexts over the last 29 years and was most recently the Director of LifeWay Pastors, serving pastors with helpful resources as one who has been in their shoes. I asked him about what posture pastors should have toward social media. He says, “A good pastor wants to shepherd all five generations in the church. A multi-generational church needs a multi-media strategy that includes both older and newer tools. If you want to engage people where they are between Sundays—I can assure you that most of them are online.” Mark understands that, though it can be a lot of work, social media is worth it.
Social media is a valuable tool in the church’s toolbox to reach the community. Here are three simple ways social media can support churches as they work to get the word out about holiday services:
1. Start with a strategy.
One of the most critical mistakes most people make when deciding to do some social media work, in the church or elsewhere, is that they start working without a clearly-laid strategy with clearly-defined goals.
When I have consulted with churches or coached people internally in my role leading social media strategy at LifeWay Christian Resources, what I have found is that some people get so excited about improving their social media content without first taking the time to build out a strategy, a roadmap, to guide their work.
When it comes to social media strategy, there is a lot to consider, and it can be overwhelming.
This is why I always think it is good for a church to get some outside help, if they don’t have someone on staff who knows the ins-and-outs of social media. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking anyone under the age of 25 knows how to create a good social media strategy. They don’t. Churches should not hesitate asking for some outside help to create a realistic social media strategy that will maximize time and resources.
A key component to any good strategy is good goals…but what are “good” goals? I have always found the SMART acronym to be helpful.
Create goals for your social media strategy that are: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-related.
If you’re unsure of what all that means, just Google SMART goals and learn more about how to create goals for your social media strategy that are realistic and will help you reach your community and inform them of your holiday events.
2. Think about what kind of content would he helpful to people in your community.
Too many churches, companies, or other organizations see social media like a billboard along a highway. They use social media to inform everyone who passes about how awesome they are and why you should support their products or events.
Churches on social media should seek to serve their audiences, not continually pepper their audiences with how awesome the church is. This comes off as self-interested and sort of awkward.
The target audience of your church’s social media content must be always at the forefront of your mind as you create content on any social media platform. It’s easy to become so enamored with a fun idea or a certain kind of content that many social media managers don’t even consider if their audiences want that kind of content in the first place.
“But,” you may wonder, “How do I know what kind of content my community, my target audience, wants?” This is an important question to ask. How can you figure out what content works and what content doesn’t work for your target audience?
First, teach yourself!
There are some kinds of content that should be avoided no matter what the audience.
Read up on social media strategy and learn what works and what doesn’t in general. The social media landscape is ever-changing, which makes it exciting and annoying all at the same time! Those of us who oversee social media content must always be learning.
Self-educate through websites like Social Media Examiner or HubSpot that regularly provided helpful blog posts or PDFs about the best practices in social media strategy.
Second, test, test, and test some more.
So much of good social media strategy can’t be learned through reading articles or going to school. Much of the most valuable education you’re going to get on social media strategy is going to come from just trying all kinds of different ideas, evaluating what your audience responds well to, and figuring out how to make as much of that content as you possibly can.
Does your audience prefer graphics or videos announcing big events at your church? If they prefer videos, how long do they prefer videos to be? Answers to these questions will likely only be found by trying different strategies, evaluating the response, and adapting from there.
3. Run paid Facebook and Instagram campaigns to people in your community.
I left this action point for the end because it is, in my opinion, the most important.
Paid Facebook and Instagram campaigns are the most valuable social media actions you can take to get the word out about your big holiday services and associated events. There isn’t any question about it.
I was asking around about this with some of my friends who run social media at churches. Rob Laughter, director of Digital Marketing at The Summit Church in Raleigh, NC, shared some helpful insight with me when I asked him about promoting holiday services on social media. He said:
“The single most overlooked strategy for reaching a new audience — not people who are already connected to you on social media — is paid reach. A low-budget ad campaign, targeted to your local area, will get your event or service in front of people faster and more reliably than any other means on social media. Paid reach will also help you reach the 80-90% of people who do like your page, but won’t see your content due to Facebook’s news feed algorithms.”
Facebook is undoubtedly the most important social media platform for reaching people in most American communities, but it is also the most difficult to understand as a social media manager.
The tricky algorithm prevents the content you post from being seen by most of the people on the platform—even people who follow your page! This is intentional because Facebook wants you to buy ads in order to reach the people you want to reach.
As frustrating as that reality can be, it truly is one of the most important action steps to take when it comes to getting the word out about your holiday services.
How do you buy Facebook and Instagram ads? What’s the best way to create them? It can be pretty confusing, so make sure whoever you put in charge of the campaign knows what they are doing or has access to some help.
Christmas and Easter are probably the two biggest events on your church’s calendar. A well-executed social media strategy can support those holiday events and services in a big way. Don’t ignore social media just because you don’t like it or because you don’t understand it. Employ the help of a few people who understand it and can help you harness it for your advantage.