Whether you avoid using the Internet or spend all your free time on Facebook, being put in charge of your church’s social media accounts is a major responsibility. Let’s go over some social media basics and give you a few ideas about how to best use these networks for your church’s benefit.
Before you get started, it is important to ask yourself or your team, “What do we want to accomplish with our social media?” Many people feel a need for an online presence, but they aren’t sure what they have to say or what information they need to share. A social media account without any clear goals or purpose can be confusing to navigate and annoying to follow. Maybe you are just looking for a place to post announcements, or perhaps you’d like to use your page as a place to document the history of your church; maybe you want your page to be a space for spiritual conversation. The purpose of your social media account will shape the type of content you post and share.
Once you figure out your purpose for posting online, then decide where all of your posting will be taking place. There are new social networking sites and apps popping up every day, but for now, let’s focus on the biggest ones. Twitter is a website that limits posts to 140 characters, making it the best option for sharing short statements or links to interesting content. Instagram is a photo- and video-sharing app best used for sharing slices of life. Facebook allows users to share almost any type of content and the ability to comment on everything and create conversation means that it is most people’s home for online social activity.
Certainly, you can have a presence on all three networks, but consider using your time and energy wisely by focusing your efforts in the place that makes the most sense for your church. Ask around and see where people would most like to see your updates! It might even make sense to use different platforms for different audiences within your church; for example, Instagram might be the best place to share content relevant to your youth group.
The hardest part about running a social media account is coming up with interesting things to post. You want to be posting regularly and have lots of people interacting on your page…but sometimes the idea well just runs dry. Here are three types of content you can easily find and share on a consistent basis.
Photos are the absolute most popular type of post being shared on social. Share memories with old pictures from your church’s archives. Try to make sure that every church event has at least one person in charge of taking photos. Ask church members to send you any great shots they took themselves (and make sure to give them a photo credit when you post). After these events, pick out the best pictures to share online rather than uploading every single photo taken. People would much rather see the ten best pictures of the night than sort through one hundred mediocre ones. Also, keep in mind that it is best to get a parent’s permission before posting photos of kids online.
This applies specifically to Facebook. Church events should not have separate Facebook pages; each one should come under the umbrella of your church, and Facebook Events is an incredible tool often underutilized by churches. Not only do they allow you to get a prospective head count for your event and provide a forum to answer event questions, they also make inviting new people to church functions incredibly easy. Plus, Facebook provides users with constant reminders that your event is coming up, so no one will miss out! Just remember that all events created by an official Facebook Page are completely public. Click here for a quick guide about how to create an event from your page.
Social media provides an exciting opportunity to continue the conversation beyond Sunday morning. A great way to do this is by sharing quotes from Sunday’s sermon on your page throughout the week. Not only is this spiritually uplifting for everyone who was present for the sermon, but it also gives newcomers who might be scoping out your church’s online presence an idea about what kind of messages they can expect to hear when they visit. You can also post quotes from other sources throughout your church such as lines from the Bible study you’re using, Bible verses, and even things overheard in a children’s Sunday school class. To make these quotes beautiful to look at, you can use easy tools such as Pablo, Quotes Cover, or, my personal favorite, Canva.
Most importantly, make sure to foster a sense of loving community on the page you manage. Just as our online selves are a direct reflection our real-life selves, your church’s social media accounts are a very public reflection of your church family and the values you promote.
Sandra Amstutz is the Social Media & Digital Content Specialist for Cokesbury at the United Methodist Publishing House. Follow Cokesbury on Facebook and Twitter for content you can share with your church!