Social media is a buzzword that has been circulating for a while now, and I think it is about time I write a series that really digs into how your church can harness its power. If your church dabbled in social media before and got no results, that singular and probably disjointed venture left a bad taste in your mouth. Perhaps you have yet to do anything because you are afraid to venture in. Many churches think it will consume too much time, and pastors and leadership shy away from it. The worst scenario is that you think it is a waste of time, with no measurable or tangible results. Regardless, please give church social media another glance as we look at it from a more integrated and strategic perspective.
Why Church Social Media
As you know, every few years a buzz word creeps to the top of the Internet's vocabulary. One recent buzzword for marketing professionals is social media. Social media is an extension of the Web 2.0 movement, where websites went from static, read-only, pages to interactive mediums. It focuses on connecting and engaging people; which sounds like a perfect arena for your church to grow.
Social media existed before Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. It has its roots in chat rooms, Email lists, bulletin boards, and forums. What changed was the idea of instead of expecting people to come to the forum on your own niche website, you go to a centralized space centered around communication first, and your niche areas second. These specialized spaces became the primary ways people to discover others keep in touch with friends and family... and have fun playing a game or two. With all that out of the way, what is the first step in using this for your church?
Step 1: Personal Account
Before joining a social network as an organization, first learn how it is to be a user. Understand how to interact with people there, learn the culture, and the etiquette of the space. By using a particular platform, you better know how to use it to reach people. If you have a smart phone or other mobile device, you will see how those devices change how often you consume content, and how much you interact with it. You will gain an understanding for how long a post is typically viewable before it gets lost in the shuffle of time, as well as what kinds of content are interacted with and shared the most.
Step 2: Organizational Account
Many social media platforms allow you to create an account associated with a business. Places like Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn want you to have a personal account, and a business page. Spaces like Twitter do not care as much, and you need to learn how to juggle multiple logins and passwords to effectively use them. However, there are a plethora of internal and 3rd party tools to help you manage these. Google+ and Facebook have great mechanisms for allowing you to manage multiple pages, and even assign co-ownership to other members. Both TweetDeck and HootSuite monitor multiple accounts on Twitter and other networks.
Action Item: If you have not done so, become familiar with the various platforms, especially the ones you think fit best with your church social media strategy. Explore, learn, and acclimate yourself to the culture. Also, ensure you contact any design resources so your organizational account pages are properly branded with your church logo. If you are feeling ambitious, connect those accounts to one of the tools mentioned in this article and schedule some posts. Better yet, see how you can automate posting from your website. Plugins for platforms such as WordPress post to common platforms automatically; making your job easier, and driving more traffic and links to your website. Then wait until next week as I delve into more next steps for bolstering your church social media efforts and integrating them with your other ministries.
Photo courtesy of Christophe Libert