Jumpstart your Social Media Presence

jump-start-social-mediaMany 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. When you say something on social media, you swear you can hear the echo. Here are some tips to combat that and jump start your new or resurrected social media presence.

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.

Contests

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.

Electronic Giveaways

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.

Good Content

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!

Action Item

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!

Can Your Content be Weaponized?

weaponizing-contentWords and images can hurt. Those originating by our friends and family can hurt more. And those that have the supposed backing of religion can be devastating. Curate your digital ministry’s content to prevent these kinds of scars. This article goes into various ways your well-meaning content can lead to pain.

Remembering Sadness

Facebook had a feature called “Year in Review” a while back. It showed you some of your most popular posts as a highlight of the year. The problem was that often those posts received attention because they were heartbreaking. Mothers saw pictures of their unborn children lost to miscarriage. Friends saw posts of pictures of friends they lost to cancer. People saw photos of their previously whole family before divorce tore them apart. There were many cases where the most popular memories were painful ones. Consider how your congregation will feel around specific holidays and post appropriate content. Remember that for every few people celebrating, there is one mourning a loss.

Avoiding Sidewalk Preaching

Most churches frown upon the idea of a sidewalk preacher, yelling about doom and gloom. I imagine you and your church want to promote the message of the Gospel. You promote love and forgiveness above all things. Many passages of scripture can be taken out of context to shout a message of hatred and exclusion. Avoid posting content that could be easily converted to a message of anger. Yes, we know unforgiven sinners face an eternity of suffering in Hell. But until that day occurs, strive to save everyone with demonstrations of Christ’s love. Echo these sentiments on your website and social media presence.

Discouraging Unwarranted Interventions

Often times people will feel too exposed to shout to the masses. Sidewalk preachers seem too radical. Yet the same posture in the comfort of their own home feels safe. Avoid giving people fuel to post and share information about their loved ones. First, I am not social worker. But interventions should occur only when many people observe destructive behavior. Not when one person feels goaded on by an out-of-context piece of scripture found on the Internet. Do not provide the fuel for someone’s anger to shatter a family. Encourage your audience to seek professional help first.

Action Item

You will not get every social media interaction right. But do what you can to not get it wrong. Consider every way your message can be twisted. I am not saying to not stand behind scripture. But please do not choose controversial pieces to start an online debate. Save more confrontational verses for one-on-one conversation where you can explain the cultural context. Do not provide a well meaning member the ammunition to create a big “church hurt”. Because scars left by the church, be it in person, or digital, leave deep wounds. Provide content that promotes love and healing as often as possible.

This article was partly inspired by The Big Web Show #144 Design for Real Life with Eric Meyer

Photo courtesy of Free Bible Images

Finding the Tipping Point for Digital Ministries

tipping-pointThe concept of “going viral” is not new to the Internet. Many news stories, videos, and images have all enjoyed their few moments of online fame. Yet how do you do the same for your digital ministries? If you think about it, Christianity itself is a great example of something going viral. What started with about 120 people on the day of Pentecost, has turned into billions. In this article I will summarize one aspect of how things become popular; the people involved.
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Avoid the Summer Slump with Digital

summer-slumpSummers are typically seasons where ministries languish. A steady stream of distractions keep congregations away from regular church services. Vacations keep members occupied on weekends. Children are home from school make weekdays hectic. What can you do to prepare for the summer slump? Here are a few digital solutions you can begin working on now.
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Appreciating Social Media Logistics

social-media-logisticsYou often do not think about how the tomato in your grocery story got there. You are just happy to have tomatoes. The same goes for social media posts. There are typically many people involved in posting that content. This article is not so much a persuasive article as it is informative. Use it to help others understand just how complex the journey can be for your average social media post.
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Avoiding Your Digital Ministry Wilderness

social-media-wildernessHave you tried to get a new digital ministry started, only to have it shot down? I am sure there were many reasons why. That platform is dangerous. We do not have any time to waste. Our congregation does not use the Internet. Despite the arguments, there are ways you can move on. This article walks you through the steps you can take to overcome that adversity.
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Your Social Media Miranda Rights

social-media-miranda-rightsSocial media can be a fantastic tool to promote the message of the Gospel. It can also be a weapon used against the church. Many times it is our own fault. This can be a result of poor security practices. It can also be a post that is sent by mistake. You may not have any real rights on the Internet. But I explain some guidelines you should follow using the famous Miranda Rights.
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CWS Podcast – Ep 79: Repurposing Your Content For Bigger Impacts

cws-podcast-logoOne problem most churches face is consistent content production. Regular updates tell users you are an active congregation, regardless of your size. It also gives search engines new pages to index. Plus, active pages rank higher in search results. But who has the time to create regular updates? You do. In this podcast I will tell you where you can easily repurpose content for multiple channels of communication.
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Make Technology Personal in your Church

personal-touchMany people dislike the introduction of technology into their church. They may feel that it removes that comfortable, personal touch. Yet I contest there are ways to make a process digital, but still personable. Show how using technology does not mean only working with a machine. By using trained church members, you can help digital interactions. Show how to extend the church experience throughout the week with social media.
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Breaking Down Silos: Church Teams

church-silosDo not create church digital experiences without consulting others in your church. This sounds simple enough, but it happens all too often. The web team changes the website and the address on printed material is no longer valid. You also need to ensure the opposite does not happen. Your youth ministry leader may start a social media account without anyone else knowing. Here are a few tools for keeping lines of communication open and flowing.
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Breaking Down Silos: Digital Experiences

consistent-silosVisitors rarely visit just one of your digital platforms. They might start on social media, then move to your website. A member might get an email newsletter, and proceed to a landing page to sign up for an event. They should move between spaces with ease and without interruptions. Breaks in that process will confuse and possibly turn away potential members. Here are several ways to remove those silos for your church’s various digital experiences.
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Navigating Dangerous Digital Spaces

dangerous-digital-spacesMission workers often find themselves in dangerous situations and places. In fact we find that responses to the Gospel are quite plentiful in the midst of adversity. This is true in the digital world as well. Some digital spaces have a reputation for helping us sin. The Internet has many pits waiting for us. From pornography to dating sites specifically made for having an affair. Yet the opportunity to reach people is too great to ignore it. Here are a few places your church could shine a light into.
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