Many churches have a presence on social media. But how do you start something new? Or what is more common, how do you revive an old account? The feeling of hopelessness may be overwhelming. Here are some tips to combat that and jump start a new or old social media property.
Broadcast Your Presence
This does not mean you should broadcast on social media. That medium is best utilized as a conversation area. What you need to do is let people know where you exist. For starters, this means putting social media icons on your communications. This could be your website, bulletins, and email newsletters. Mention them during your announcements, podcasts, or anywhere else you are talking. Yet I challenge you to take it a step further. Do not just say "follow us on (insert platform here)". Give them a reason why. Tell them they will get the latest news, updates, devotionals, etc. While it may not cost any money for them to follow you, they are paying with their privacy. You may see more of their profile if they follow you. Or you now have the ability to send direct messages to them. Regardless, treat them with respect and only deliver what you promised.
Crowdsource Your Reach
With every post, ask people to like and share. But instead of asking the entire church to do this, keep it in a smaller setting. Ask parents to share info about your youth ministries. Have your Bible studies share posted content with each other. Social media platforms make their money from advertising. They will count it against you if there is a massive change in how your audience shares your posts. Keep it segregated to a specific ministry or group so the jump in shares is not significant. For more information, see my article that digs deeper into this idea.
Pay For Your Reach
This is the first of two options that involve sending some money. When you broadcast on social media, you only reach a small percentage of people that like or follow you. The easiest way to boost your presence is to pay for it. Yes you can ask people to share your content. But this ensures your message reaches more of the people that showed an interest in your church. The good things is that most social media platforms provide you statistics. This way you can measure how effective each post is. Plus most website analytics packages show how many visitors came from social media. Use this to justify future spending, or know when it is time to change tactics.
I will be honest in that I am not a big fan of this option. Bring in a visitor with the hopes of winning some sort of physical prize. But if you need to build an audience quickly, this is the way to do it. Many "unchurched" people are willing to click on a link to take them to a contest. I would suggest that you tie your gift to the Gospel. Giving away an iPod? Have an audiobook version of the Bible on it. Contest for an iPad? Load it up with plenty of Christian eBooks. Just balance the request with the gift. A larger prize means giving more verifyable personal information. For me, that means at least a name, email, and phone number.
This may be a softer alternative to giving away a tangible gift. Use the Gospel connections from the previous example. Yet instead of a contest, just give them away. Also, I would just make it a smaller gift and ask. Does your pastor have a book? Perhaps you can give away a few chapters as an eBook in exchange for an email subscription. Maybe you have a creative church band that created some original recordings. Give away a popular worship song when someone follows you on social media. The ideal thing is to give away something that is somewhat cheap. The price the users pays is an opportunity for you to communicate with them.
Call to Action
Whatever way you get people to visit your social media platform, have a next step ready. You want them to follow on Twitter, like us on Facebook. Then what? Subscribe to a newsletter. Next, ask for church membership. Then move on to volunteering opportunities. How about small groups and Bible studies? Determine the path from curious visitor to fully-engaged member. Then lay out those opportunities along your digital funnel. I explored this idea in another article about Avoiding Dead Ends. The goal is to make learning about the Christian journey as easy as possible.
You can find many easy ways to draw a crowd. To keep them around, you must have good content. Make sure your deliver your daily devotional with regularity. Do some post production work on your pastor's sermon podcast. Hire a designer to review your email newsletter templates. This might mean having to hire some help. You spent time and money getting someone to your digital ministry. Do not waste it by not having good content for them!
If you want to blow up your social media game, you must do at least one of the first five steps. But know that the last two are required. Remember that your goal is not a temporary increase in engagement. The Kingdom deserves new, engaged believers, not passive interest. Also, inform your leadership that some of these options will cost money. Lastly, let everyone know that not all statistics are equal. Work with senior church leadership to determine what figures they want to change. Remind them that views and followers are a passive form of interest. Focus on numbers that show engagement.
Now that you make it to the end of this article, start the process off well with prayer. Ask for wisdom and guidance, as well as the discipline to follow through with His plans.
Photo courtesy of Theophilus Photography
Thanks to T.J. Boykin for asking me about this topic!