A complete guide to starting out with church social media

A complete guide to starting out with church social media

An in-depth, back to basics church social media guide – from the ground up.

How do we implement a church social media strategy? Does our church need social media?

This guide will get back to basics with church social media advice for your organisation.

 

ChurchTrain’s Church Social Media Guide

 

Contents (click to jump to that section)

Why should our church use social media?

Decisions, decisions

Choose your platform

Setting up your profile

Content, Content, Content

Post Frequency

Creative Content

Week by week

Tone of voice and branding

Maintenance and consistency

Engaging/Responding

‘Reach’ and Closed Communities/Groups

 

We’re going to cover quite a lot, some of which might be obvious to you – in which case, feel free to skip that section and go on to the next! Don’t forget to bookmark this guide for future reference!

 

Why should our church use social media?

Let’s start off with some research, shall we?

 

81% of the US Population Has At Least One Social Media Profile. Source

 

Fully 74% of Facebook users say they visit the site daily, with around half (51%) saying they do several times a day. Source

 

When it comes to extreme averages, teenagers take the prize. Their daily average time spent on social media is nine hours a day. That’s longer than most people spend sleeping or in school. Source

 

In case these few cherrypicked statistics haven’t persuaded you, I’ll say it again. People spend a large amount of time online checking their social accounts, so this is a case of ‘going to where the people are’.

Ultimately social media forms another set of tools which you can use to contact your existing audience, and reach new people.

 

Helpful Reading

Church Outreach – The Online/Offline Divide – ChurchTrain

Church Online: Social Media Book (Author Interview) – ChurchTrain

How Do Your Social Media Habits Compare to the Average Person’s? – Entrepreneur

Social Media Use in 2018 – Pew Research Center

101 Social Media Statistics You Need To Know To Build Your 2018 Strategy

Swift to listen – how not to do social media as a Christian – ChurchTrain

 

Decisions, decisions

First steps

Given the breadth of social media platforms, and the many different ways they can be used, there are going to be some decisions involved.

But it’s hard to make choices about what you’re going to do without stating what you’re trying to achieve. (If you’re a ChurchTrain regular, you’ll know that this is a drum I like to beat well and often.)

Your aspirations might have several bullet-points, as social media can be quite versatile. You may have multiple aims – but the important thing is to set out your goals from the start.

 

Who are you trying to reach?

Existing attendees? New contacts in the local area? Existing contacts who have grown distant?

You can break this down even further in to ‘people types’, too; Commuters/Entrepreneurs/Youth/Different cultural backgrounds/Families/Retired/Singles/Men/Women

 

What are you trying to communicate to these people?

Are you trying to inform them about your ministries? Invite them to events? Straight up preach the gospel?? It’s likely that you’ll want to say different things to different types of people.

 

Answering these questions may not feel practical, and you might need a strong coffee to get your brain firing. Nonetheless, these are essential to the rest of your strategy, and will inform the rest of your decisions.

 

Helpful Reading

6 Simple Questions to take control of your Church Comms

Church Online: Social Media Book (Author Interview) – ChurchTrain

 

Choose your platform

Next steps

Yes, I’ve said platform, not platforms. Don’t go mad here.

It’s important to be realistic with your resources. Social media is a very current platform. Every post is dated, so it’ll be obvious if your profiles have been neglected.

Avoiding a neglected feed - Church Social Media Guide - ChurchTrain

There are tools to help with posting frequency, and managing multiple accounts (which we’ll come on to later) but my point still stands. Take it one step at a time.

 

How to choose?

There are lots of resources to learn about the benefits of each social media platform. The very nature of this area can mean that it doesn’t take long for a resource to become outdated.

Taking Facebook as an example – it used to be the coolest site around. Facebook started life as a network to connect university students, and grew to be one of the biggest websites on the internet. In fact, as of 2018, it’s still in the top three! Source

These days, speaking very broadly, it’s a place that many of these same people will only visit occasionally. For these, Facebook has become a glorified ‘address book’.

Older generations, on the other hand, are the fastest growing demographic for the network (Source), using it as a way to keep in touch with children, grandchildren and other friends and relatives.

Still, we have to start somewhere. At the end of this section there are some links which can give a deeper view, but here is my simplified view of the current major networks, informed by some recent statistics.

 

Social Network Monthly Active Users (Source High-Level Notes
Facebook 2.1 billion+ Very diverse user base. Personal profiles connect as ‘friends’. One of the biggest sites on the web.
Twitter 330 million+ Microblogging (character limit on posts). One-way ‘follow’ relationships.
More of a real-time feed. Lots of brands and celebrities. Over 1.5 billion registered users.
Instagram 800 million+ Very popular with 18-34s. Photos and videos only, with captions, but not links.
Hashtags used heavily to tag content.
Snapchat 300 million+ Mainly private sharing of photos and videos, with individuals or groups.
Requires time, but could be effective for reaching younger audiences.
LinkedIn 200 million+ Professional site, largely for personal use, though organisations can have profiles, too.
Two-way connections, option to pay to message non-connected people.
Google+ 395 million+ No longer a major player but still has a loyal following. Useful to set up a Google Business profile. ‘Circles’ act as communities for sharing content.
Youtube 1.5 billion+ Upload video content, which can be watched, or shared elsewhere. Ability to subscribe to ‘channels’.
Even more users who don’t sign in, one of the biggest sites on the internet.

 

Hopefully you can see from this table that different networks will help you to reach a different audience.

Now it makes sense why we considered our audience and our aims in the previous section!

 

Helpful Reading

Social Media Statistics 2018: What You Need to Know

49 ‘Don’ts’ and 1 ‘Do’ for your Church Social Media – ChurchTrain

Premier Digital Social Media Seminar 2016 – ChurchTrain

Global social media research summary 2018 – Smart Insights

UK Social Media Statistics for 2018 – Rose McGrory

 

Setting up your profile

Once you’ve chosen which network to start with, you’ll need to sign up and create an account.

Generally this isn’t too difficult, as the websites are designed for ease of use, so they will have a step by step process for signing up for a profile and learning your way around the site. In case you get stuck, there’s a helpful step-by-step article linked at the end of this section.

Once you have your profile, here are some helpful guidelines for filling it out:

  • Upload a profile image and a cover photo. For the sake of convention and clarity, I would usually start off with the church logo as your small, square profile image, and a photo of the outside/inside of your church building as the larger cover photo.
  • Write a short description or biography about your church. Don’t go overboard with the length (most networks will limit you anyway!). Try to give a summary of the church, with helpful information. This might be a good place to include your main service times, too, if you have space!
  • Link to your website! So many profiles neglect this. Whilst your social media can achieve a lot, it’s unlikely to be a replacement for an informative, well designed church website.
  • Choose a helpful handle/account name/web address. If you have existing social media accounts, try to keep them consistent.For example, if you’re called ‘David’s Cross Church’ you might aim for DavidsCross, DavidsCrossCh, or DavidsXChurch. Of course, you’ll only be able to choose a name that hasn’t already been taken!

The main aim for your church social media profile page is to give a clear, instant sense of who you are.

By all means, make your profile look attractive – and keep the colours and styles consistent with your brand styles used elsewhere.

But don’t overcomplicate things – you’ll confuse people if you include too much.

 

Helpful Reading

How to Set up Facebook, Twitter and Every Other Major Social Media Profile – Hootsuite

 

Content, Content, Content

Ok, so you’ve wisely chosen your social media channels, set them up and made them look pretty. But at this point, they’re still a little bit empty.

How to post and schedule great church social media content and avoid empty profiles! - ChurchTrain

Let’s fix this!

The whole idea of using social media strategically is based around a stream of content, i.e. your social media posts.

The exact nature of your posts will depend on which network you’ve chosen. For example, tweets posted to Twitter will have to be beneath the 280 character limit. Or photos on Instagram will generally have multiple hashtags to show the topics, causing the content to show up when people search for similar images.

The first thing most organisations do when it comes to social content is to dive in headfirst.

Picture this. They write and share a few updates on day one. Then, days or weeks later, they log on to post another message or two. As the novelty wears off, and the enthusiasm fades, these visits become less frequent. So, when a user visits their profile, all they learn is that it hasn’t been updated in a number of weeks, and any posts that are present are few and far between.

 

How to combat the ‘bare page’ & keep your social media accounts up to date

Let’s get super practical. Instead of diving straight in, let’s come up with a plan!

First things first, let’s decide how often to post.

 

Post Frequency

How often you post is another thing which will vary dependent on the social network in question. However, it will also depend on the level of time and attention you can dedicate to managing your social media marketing.

Whatever you decide, it’s good to have a basic set of guidelines, so here’s a guide to baseline posting frequency on different networks:

 

Social Network Post Frequency
Facebook 2-3 posts/week*
Twitter 6-10 posts/week*
Instagram 3-4 posts/week
Snapchat 3-4 posts/week
LinkedIn 1-2 posts/month
Google+ If you have an engaged following, 2-3 posts/week, why not!
Youtube Depends entirely on the nature of the content you’re producing!

*Perhaps more if you’re making use of Facebook/Instagram ‘stories’ which show up in a different place for your followers, but disappear after 24 hours by default.

 

As you build your rhythm, you’ll learn what works for you, and what is manageable. Even at this point, it’s still worth keeping this documented, as it will keep you disciplined, and focused on using social media strategically as a church.

So if that’s how often we plan to post, what do we post?!

 

Creative Content

There are so many ideas of types of content churches can use to reach people via social media.

There are some helpful links below to help you come up with ideas, but here are some common starting points for churches:

  • Pictures of the preacher, with a quote from the teaching (and possibly a link to watch/listen to the sermon online)
  • Information and graphics for current/future sermon series
  • Simple videos with church news or notices
  • Prayer points from the church ministries (note: think carefully if you’re planning to post personal prayer points in public)
  • Details of upcoming events, with details of how to sign up
  • Shared posts from other churches/mission agencies/organisations that the church supports
  • Updates from mission partners (again, be considerate of what information is shared online)
  • Stories and testimonies from people within the church, sharing what God is doing in your community
  • Reminders of service times, or other timely updates, such as around mother’s/father’s day, bank holidays or the old classic – the clocks going back/forward!

My #1 top tip for creating content for church social media: look around!

Look around you - find church social media inspiration from other people - ChurchTrain

Always be on the lookout; keep an eye on other churches, and take inspiration from them. Don’t stop there, though, look beyond churches! Research brands and companies that you like: observe their social media habits, and emulate the good bits! Learn from their ideas, and repurpose them for your church.

Hint: Facebook pages even have a way to monitor ‘competitors’ in the page settings, called ‘Pages to watch’.

 

Helpful Reading

24 quick ideas for church social media posts – CPO Toolkit

Enthusiastic, Infectious Church Communications – ChurchTrain

100 Killer Ideas For Your Social Media Content – Forbes

15 Social Media Ideas For Your Church To Use This Week – Pro Church Tools

The Ultimate List of Church Social Media Post Ideas – Adam McLaughlin

47 Blog & Content Ideas For When You Have A Mental Block – Make a Websitehub

 

Week by week

What does this look like in practice?

If we combine our posting frequency with our content ideas, we can develop a content schedule – an outline of what we hope to post, when.

Of course, this isn’t a rigid structure that has to always be followed to the letter, but, again, it gives us a solid underpinning for those times when we’re struggling for ideas.

The following is a rough outline – make it your own, and then give it a go in the real world!

I’ve included several different social media platforms to illustrate how they can work together, but you can start off with the one you’ve already set up!

 

Purpose/Aim for each network
Network Purpose
Twitter A place for church announcements, news and sharing other content – regularly updated
Facebook page Updated less often, official church announcements
Facebook group Place for members to share links and discuss, ministry leaders to post updates here

 

Outline posting schedule
Type of post Max tweets/week Max facebook/week
Weekly recurring ministries 8 Highlight 1-2
Monthly recurring ministries 1/event 1/event
One-off events Depends on event 1
Blog posts 3 1
Sermon Series 1 1
Recordings of services 2 1
Livestream starting 1 Sometimes
Sharing external events 3 1
Small group leader reminder (with recording link) 1 0
One-off Campaigns Depends on event Highlights
Prayer Weeks Lots – maybe hourly! Highlights
Event changes/cancellations 1/event (2 for big) 1/event (2 for big)

 

Of course, many of the post types listed above won’t happen every week.

Don’t aim for complexity on your first attempt – your church social media strategy might look a lot simpler.

The key thing is to make a plan, stick to it, and then develop it further when you feel comfortable doing so!

 

Tone of voice and branding

A brief note on tone of voice. It’s helpful to maintain a consistent tone across your written and spoken communications.

In essence, this means acknowledging what your church ‘sounds like’.

Generally churches opt for a warm, reasonably informal tone. This carries over from your Sunday services, to your website, to your print publicity. If your social media is overly formal or informal, it will stick out, being at odds with the normal voice of the church.

The bigger your communications team is, the more likely this is to need addressing, as more people write on behalf of the organisation. Chances are, in a small church, there will only be one or two people writing your content, so it shouldn’t be a huge issue!

The same is true of the other visual element of your church brand. Aim to use a similar style of imagery, colours and fonts across your social accounts, and all other communications.

In short, make sure that your church is recognisable!

 

Maintenance and consistency

Good going – we’re about half way through this church social media guide!

By now, we’ve got some great ideas for content, and an idea of when and where to post these updates.

Great!

But let’s not forget the clichés: this is a marathon, not a sprint; fail to plan, and you plan to fail…

I won’t apologise for banging on – I’ve seen it happen too many times!

If you don’t devise a plan to maintain these efforts, they won’t last long.

Fail to plan and your social media efforts won't be sustainable - ChurchTrain

So here are some questions to cement this strategy in place:

Who

Simple – who’s going to be responsible for your church social media? Who will plan, create and schedule your content?

Hint: Whilst it’s important to know who bears responsibility, this person can delegate! Don’t be afraid to ask for help, particularly when it comes to content creation. Why not have a monthly content session, to share all your creative ideas in a group, and provide different viewpoints!

When

When and how often will this person do the work?

Don’t be daunted by this. Just because you’ve decided to post to Twitter 3 times/day, don’t assume you have to log on daily to do this manually!

As we touched upon earlier, there are some great tools to help you schedule content, my favourite of which are listed in the ‘helpful reading’ at the end of this section.

Even with these tools at your disposal, it’s important to answer when the work will be done. Will you prepare your content on a weekly basis, or will you perhaps set aside a morning each month where you write and schedule your social media.

However you choose to work, put it in the calendar, and stick to it!

How

How you choose to work is up to you. You may prefer to write each message one by one in your preferred scheduling tool. Or you may wish to create a spreadsheet and upload the posts in one go.

If you are planning on using photos related to what goes on at your church, I’d definitely suggest arranging some shared online storage for your photo library, if you don’t already have one. This means the whole church photography library is available to be shared with whoever needs access – there’s a link to a helpful blog post about this just below.

 

Helpful Reading

Social Media Scheduling Tool – Buffer

Social Media Scheduling Tool – Hootsuite

Smart Sharing Saving Stress – Shared Resources for Church Creative Teams – ChurchTrain

 

Engaging/Responding

In planning all of this, it could feel as if social media is a very one-way platform. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

It sounds obvious - social media should be social! - ChurchTrain

Church social media should be… social!

Your content should be designed with starting conversations in mind, rather than providing closed statements that don’t encourage a response. But this is only the first step.

You need to listen, and respond!

It's important to listen to your audience, and to respond to them - ChurchTrain

Unlike content scheduling, which is better done in advance, engaging with your audience is much more of a real-time job.

In order to continue a discussion, you need to make sure your responses are timely.

Of course, this has to work for you. Managing the social media for your church should not take over your life.

 

Here is the way that works best for me:

Check in every 2/3 days to respond to any comments or replies. This will vary depending on how much engagement the account receives, but in general, this is often enough that it won’t feel like you’re too late with a reply. At the same time, it’s also infrequent enough that you don’t feel like you’re spending your every waking minute logged in!

My exception to this, however, is with private/direct messages. For these, I make sure I get instant notifications, and I reply as quickly as is convenient.

 

My reasoning for this: if a person has taken the time to write and send a private message, the chances are they’re asking a specific question, which likely requires a timely answer. Other responses probably aren’t so urgent.

When it comes to enabling notifications – it’s down to personal preference. Again, don’t let it take over (not everything needs an immediate reply!). With direct messages, it helps that for many small social accounts, they’re infrequent enough that it doesn’t feel like a huge chore.

 

Etiquette

When it comes to ‘how to reply’ to comments and messages, your brand tone of voice should still apply, but the main thing to remember is to be helpful.

Sign off your messages with your name – make it personal, so that the recipient feels like they’re talking to a human being! Being friendly will go a long way. And of course, if you don’t know the answer to a question, point them in the right direction, or offer to do some digging on their behalf. And make sure you get back to them!

 

Helpful Reading

Providing great social media customer service – Zendesk

Church Communications Facebook Group

If Mixpanel Can Write One Of The Best Customer Support Emails Then So Can You – Inbound

 

‘Reach’ and Closed Communities/Groups

As I’ve written elsewhere on ChurchTrain, ‘reach’ in marketing essentially refers to how many sets of eyes have come across your post.

Why is this important? Because not everyone will see everything you post on social media – even if they follow your account or like your page.

Why is it not top priority? Because there’s only a limited amount you can do to influence it! Social reach is, for the most part, decided by the algorithms that the social network uses to choose what to prioritise in users’ feeds.

There are some things to avoid, but for the most part, just keep doing what you’re doing, and provide quality content that people want to read and engage with.

Whilst still affected by algorithms, closed communities such as Facebook Groups can be a great way to increase your reach. Posting in groups makes it much more likely for your audience to see your content.

However, for this to work, the individual user needs to be in the group! If they’re a member, there’s a higher chance they’ll see group content – whether it’s posted by you, or another group member. In fact, they’ll often receive a notification.

Still, there are downsides. With pages, your content is public, and can be seen by friends of people who engage with it. With groups, there is zero chance of someone seeing group content if they’re not in that group.

For this reason, I’d suggest that groups and pages are used to compliment each other, rather than exclusively. Many churches use groups to effectively communicate with sub-communities within the church, for example members of specific ministries like a youth group.

 

Helpful Reading

The Five Types of “Engagement Bait” That Will Make Facebook Downrank Your Posts and Demote Your Page – MeetEdgar

4 Reasons We Created a Facebook Group – Church Juice

Everything You Need to Know About Using Facebook Groups – Hootsuite

How to Build and Manage a Private Facebook Group – Digital Marketer

Stop Failing Facebook Events – Intelligent Inviting for Church Events – ChurchTrain

 

Conclusion

So there we have it! ChurchTrain’s Church Social Media Guide.

 

If you have any useful insights, or resources that you’d like to see included in this guide, get in touch!

I’d also love to hear from you if you’ve found this at all helpful – I aim to please!

 

One final link of related reading, right here on ChurchTrain: 49 ‘Don’ts’ and 1 ‘Do’ for your Church Social Media.

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