In fact, even in 2012, Buzzplant found that “Approximately 51% of churches claim at least one of their staff regularly blogs or posts on social media.”
I don’t think we can overstate the merits of a church social media presence, and I won’t recover this well-trodden ground, other than to quote church communicator Derek Ouellette:
Having a social media presence is essential to the health and vitality of every church or ministry organization in today’s world, and no church should go without being online. In fact, it’s almost a sin not to be online.
So, if we’re agreed on the importance of church social media, let’s consider some practical steps to using it well. Allow me to present, after much deliberation, 49 Don’ts and 1 Do for Church Social Media! Some of these might seem to be paradoxical, but that’s just how it is and you’re going to have to deal with it.
My hope is that these are beneficial to you and your church, and perhaps a little amusing too. If you make it to the end, you should definitely add your own experiences in the comments.
So, in no particular order…
Church Social Media Tips
1 Don’t assume liking a tweet counts as a reply
Celebrities do it because they get hundreds of notifications and they want to give the illusion they’ve made a connection with you. You don’t have this excuse, so reply properly!
2 Don’t ‘invite’ to a Facebook event and say ‘job done’
A lone Facebook invite is not an effective event inviting strategy – stop failing Facebook events!
3 Don’t post the same thing repeatedly
No one likes to see the same content every week, but…
4 Don’t just use content once
Your content should be good enough to share on several occasions. Not that this has to be shared in exactly the same way, mind. Create quality blog, website and video content that you can share again and again, promoting a different flavour of it each time – this makes an efficient use of your content creators’ time, as well as yours!
5 Don’t get depressed at engagement statistics
There are more important things to worry about, and there will always be someone doing better than you, so relax. One of the recent posts on the ChurchTrain blog claims there’s more to life than engagement, anyway.
6 Don’t ignore the data that social networks give you
Mine the stats for gold – these can be a source of ideas for improving your church social media strategy.
7 Don’t always post at the same time of day
Try out different times for different content and measure the difference in responses through your statistics. See what works for you.
8 Don’t feed the trolls
On the internet there are many, many arguments that you’ll never win, and trying to do so will cause more harm than good. With that said…
9 Don’t ignore interactions
Seek to reply positively and constructively to every comment or tweet you receive. Connect with the people around you, especially when they initiate the contact.
10 Don’t do it all live
There are some great social media tools out there, meaning you can schedule content in advance and use your time more efficiently. Nonetheless…
11 Don’t forget what you’ve scheduled
Even the most innocent message can come across as insensitive, heartless or worse in the wake of a public tragedy. Keep an eye on the news, and keep your scheduled posts in mind, so that you can postpone or cancel any content that has become contextually inappropriate.
12 Don’t give everyone posting access/permission
Listen, everyone will want to push their own messages through the church social media accounts, not least the pastor. Just because they ask doesn’t mean you have to obey. Other staff or volunteers may not have the same perspective and wisdom you do with regards to the church’s digital communication.
13 Don’t assume you have to do it all yourself
Your expert oversight doesn’t mean you always have to do all the work – share the load! Just make sure your helpers are on the same page as you. A solid social media strategy will help with this!
14 Don’t go in without a plan
It’s so important to have an idea of what you want to achieve, and how you plan to achieve it. ChurchTrain offers social media strategy training sessions to help you do just this!
15 Don’t keep the strategy to yourself
Sharing your goals and your methods will increase buy-in from other leaders and volunteers, allowing them to trust your plans as well as highlighting any areas for improvement.
16 Don’t overuse hashtags
Hashtags are great when used well, but too many hashtags can actually have a negative effect. In fact, this research from June 2016 has some interesting findings with regards to using hashtags on Facebook.
17 Don’t have too many profiles
Here’s an important point; only create a social media account if you’ve thought about the why, as well as the how, and if you’re going to commit to using it and keeping it updated
18 Don’t push a personal agenda through church channels
The church social media has enough to communicate without you using it to promote your own content. It might have a bigger reach than your personal accounts do, but resist the urge!
19 Don’t create all of your content yourself
Pretty much every company, charity, organisation, not to mention ‘person’ is on social media. Many of these are creating great content. Look for those whose content has an overlap with your message, and share it! This doesn’t just apply to Christian content – retweet and share messages from local organisations such as the council or local newspapers, just be selective and don’t share the same people’s content too often!
20 Don’t ignore other local churches
Friend them, follow them, ‘like’ them! Encourage local unity by helping to promote their events where appropriate, and celebrate with them when they have news to share.
21 Don’t forget tags
Tagging members in the photos you upload increases the reach of your content, as it will be shared in their networks as well as yours. Remember, you can tag photos on Twitter too, now!
22 Don’t over-tag your photos
Consider carefully who you’re tagging, and don’t go overboard, it’s all too easy to over-engage and seem a little bit creepy, as we talked about in this recent discussion in the Church Communications Facebook Group.
23 Don’t upload photos without permission
This should go without saying, but you need consent to take and share photos of people. Be especially diligent with photos of minors.
24 Don’t forget to spell check
Mistakes happen, but rule number one of the Internet is that you have to leave a comment correcting you’re (*your) grammatical/spelling errors.
25 Don’t worry about being clever
Sometimes simplicity is best, and trying to be too articulate/trendy/relevant can cloud your message, but…
26 Don’t neglect creativity
Use your imagination when considering the best way to communicate your message. Get others involved in this process to expand your brainstorming!
27 Don’t leave out pictures
Pictures are great, and communicate a lot about life at your church, as well as being proven to increase post engagement.
28 Don’t rely solely on stock photography
I’ve written on this many times, so I won’t repeat myself: here’s a short discussion on church stock photography.
29 Don’t ignore the website
Your website should have a friendly wealth of information about the church. Point to it often on social media, using your page and blog content as a stepping stone in to the rest of the site.
30 Don’t assume someone else is doing it
If you have a good idea for a post, don’t hold back in the hope that someone else will do it instead – just remember to check the upcoming schedule in case someone else has already planned ahead!
31 Don’t worry about posting something similar to someone else’s content
As the saying goes, there’s nothing new under the sun – so take inspiration and fill up your posting schedule. With that said…
32 Don’t outright copy your ‘competitors’
There’s a line between taking inspiration and flat-out stealing. Use others’ ideas, but don’t steal and repurpose their content… unless they’ve encouraged you to!
33 Don’t sink to their level
Sometimes people will post snide remarks, or have a dig at your church. Sadly, churches are sometimes guilty of this too. Don’t retaliate, don’t respond in kind – turning the other cheek applies online too!
34 Don’t follow too many people
Your church account isn’t for your personal use, get your own account! But…
35 Don’t post from the wrong account!
The ability to sign in to multiple accounts is a blessing and a curse – make double-sure that you have the right account selected before you post, if you want to avoid awkwardness!
36 Don’t post too much
We all know those people who seem to never get off social media, posting every 5 minutes. It’s annoying. Prioritise the messages you want to push, and spread them out throughout the week
37 Don’t post too little
Not to contradict my previous point, but make sure you’re posting regularly – no one is impressed with an empty-looking social media account. If you have an account, use it or delete it!
38 Don’t choose quantity over quality
There’s enough noise out there, stand out from it rather than blending in to it. I’ll be less impressed if you show me a church that posts ten times a day, than by a church that posts twice a week with considered, quality content.
39 Don’t just focus your social media towards the public
Church social media will have a mixed audience, including your own members and attendees. Your online channels can be a great way to give out information
40 Don’t post ‘insider’ content
Make sure that all of your content is accessible for people who have little or no pre-existing knowledge about your church, for example…
41 Don’t assume people know who ‘Judy’ is
Sound familiar? ‘Charity cake sale this Saturday, if you can help out, contact Judy’. Great, I’d love to help out, actually, but who on earth is Judy? In larger churches you could attend for years without ever having met Judy, and if you’ve never been to the church this is even more alienating.
42 Don’t focus on the number of followers or likes
These numbers can be so misleading, for better or worse. Don’t lose any sleep over it. Instead spend your efforts on reaching the crowd you do have in the best way possible. Still,
43 Don’t forget to promote your social media channels!
Of course, this needs to be done online (posting about your other social networks and how to connect, as well as mentioning them on the blog and your website). However, so many people forget the offline part! Encourage your members and attendees to connect with you online, by reminding them in services or other meetings. Perhaps they aren’t aware of the benefits, so sell it!
44 Don’t neglect your branding
This applies not only to your profile images and cover photos, but to other content you post – try to keep everything in line with your style tile, or your brand guidelines.
45 Don’t fail to stay in line with your ‘church voice’
The style of your writing is as important as the style of the imagery you use. Decide what your church ‘sounds like’ online (if you haven’t already), and stay consistent to your voice.
46 Don’t reinvent the wheel
There are many brilliant resources out there – I link to some of my favourite communication sites here.
47 Don’t rely on tradition
With that said, try something new! Don’t simply set and forget your social media with the same posts each week and month.
48 Don’t underestimate the power of social media
Online communication has so much potential, both for good and bad. Discuss what you want to achieve, use it well, and measure against these targets.
Last but by no means least:
49 Don’t be overwhelmed
Nobody’s expecting you to be an expert. Do the best you can with what you have available.
Perhaps I can sum these up like this:
Quality, Consistency, Creativity, Efficiency, and hopefully, Effectiveness!
Finally, a ‘do’.
Do pray, do seek God’s Will over how to reach the people around you, thanking Him for them, and for the myriad of wonderful tools He’s given us to do this job.