Gone are the days where there are big debates whether or not churches should be utilizing social media. According to Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of all adults are active on social media. If we're going to be effective as the Church in reaching our culture today, it's critical for us to take a serious look at how we can utilize social media for ministry.
Through my years in ministry as a communications and creative leader, I've talked to a ton of Pastors and church leaders about social media. The interesting thing I've found is that they all seem to be experiencing the same challenges and frustrations.
Almost every church I talk to is unsure of their strategy, overwhelmed at trying to keep up with posting, and frustrated that they're not getting more engagement.
So how do we fix that? It starts with building a solid foundation and a social media communications plan.
6 Essential Steps To Building A Social Media Communications Plan
Step 1: Start with Why
It's easy to start a social media presence these days without ever defining what the purpose and strategy is behind it.
Why are you using social media in the first place? What are you hoping to accomplish? What's your strategy to help get you there?
If you're doing it just because everyone else is doing it, or you're just looking for a new place to post your bulletin announcements, don't waste your time.
For us at West Ridge Church, our social media strategy is to inform, engage and encourage our audience. What does that practically look like for us?
We inform our audience through sharing next steps and opportunities that would add value to their lives. We share stories of people who have been impacted by what we offer at the church and give people a clear call to action for how they can take their next step.
We engage our audience through building community and conversation.
Social media is more like tennis than bowling. It's about two-way interactions through listening and engaging with our audience. As a church, we're intentional about sharing stories, humor and prayer requests that foster conversation and engagement.
Engagement doesn't end with the content you post. It starts there and provides a platform to engage with anyone who is taking the bold step to engage with you on social media.
We encourage and resource our audience through helpful content, scripture, resources, inspiring quotes and challenges for the day.
There's a very real possibility that what we share may be one of the few positive posts they see all day in their feeds. That's an opportunity for us to share hope, love and encouragement.
Step 2: Establish your social media platforms
Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Snapchat? Pinterest? Google+? The options are endless, and it can be difficult to know where to start.
Before you go out and create a bunch of accounts, here are a few things to consider. What platforms are actively being used in your congregation? What platforms are being used in your community or demographic you're trying to reach? The answer to those questions can make all the difference for deciding where to start.
Once you have your list, you have to identify what your bandwidth looks like as a whole for being able to post, monitor and respond on each of the platforms you've chosen. Remember, slow and steady trumps fast but unsustainable. Focus on building a solid presence that your audience can rely on.
Step 3: Define your audience
Who is our audience? What do they value? What type of content are they looking for on each platform?
As church communication leaders, we have to think like our audience, not staff members. Staff is looking for promotion and awareness. Your audience desires relationship, value and engagement.
This is the kryptonite for most church social media platforms. The vast majority of churches get their start in social media with a "what's in it for me" mentality. Every post seems to be asking people to sign up, show up or share.
To be successful with social media, you have to deposit more than you withdraw and share content that will add value to your audience.
Take the time to define the audience you're trying to reach. This step will help you become an advocate through what you share.
Step 4: Outline the content you want to share
The content you share should be an overflow from your strategy. As you work through your strategy, identify the types of content and sources you can utilize.
If you ever find yourself stuck on what you could be posting, here are some practical ideas to get you started:
Events and programs
First time guest resources
Tease the topic or service for that week
Key next steps that you're announcing in service Volunteer opportunities
Small group/Sunday school opportunities
Questions around the topic from sermon
Stories of life change
Ask for prayer requests
Behind the scenes
Photos from events/services
Respond to current events and trending topics
Video content from services
Set list from songs in services
Repost audio/video from sermon
Challenge for the day
Memorable quotes from sermons
These are all just broad ideas. How you bring these ideas to life is by infusing them with your unique story and voice as a church.
Step 5: Create a communications schedule
Now that you have ideas and content sources in place, the next step is to build a communications schedule.
The best place to start is by building a weekly rhythm for each of your platforms. Once you decide on the platforms, number of posts per day and the type of content you want to share every week, you can build a weekly rhythm for your social media communications plan.
Here's an example of what that could look like for a church using Facebook (3 posts per day), Instagram (2 posts per day), and Twitter (3 per day).
Having a weekly rhythm in place takes much of the guess work out of what you should be posting. It gives you a starting point to build off of and tweak from each week. Now, you can fill in the gaps with other content that would be timely or engaging to your audience.
Step 6: Assemble your toolbox
There are hundreds of tools that you can utilize to help you create engaging content on social media. Here are a few of my favorites:
Social Media Scheduling & Monitoring
sproutsocial.com, hootsuite.com, bufferapp.com
Web: canva.com, designfeed.io
Software:Adobe Photoshop, Pixelmator
unsplash.com, pixabay.com, rocketrepublic.com, pexels.com
gracewaymedia.com, creativemarket.com, graphicriver.net, creationswap.com
Where do I go from here?
Social media is hard work, but it's worth it.
Don't be afraid to fail. Start somewhere. Don't get so lost in what has to be promoted through social media that you lose sight of the purpose of it.
Try new things, take risks, and don't forget it's about relationships, not follower count.