In the modern landscape of 21st century Christianity, no church can afford to avoid social media. In a time when the Pope has joined evangelists, apologists, and presidents on Twitter, many a faith-based organization stands to get left behind should the opportunity to spread the Word online be passed up.
But, though we may all know the necessity of social media, it can still be a tricky world to enter. With so many distractions to scroll through, how can a church make a mark on Facebook feeds?
Here are five ways to build up a successful social media platform for your church.
1. Develop a light touch
The modern attention span is growing ever shorter. Whenever you are posting, try to keep the content brief, thoughtful, and if possible, fun. Twitter makes this easy for you by keeping everything to a 140-character limit, but just because other platforms allow for more doesn’t mean you should abuse the privilege. Brief updates about the church, quotes from Scripture, and quick thoughts will allow easily distracted internet users to absorb your message and stick around for more.
2. Make the content dynamic
Short and sweet is great, but even better is to show your message instead of just writing it out. Many churches simply get by with providing announcements of upcoming events on social media, which leaves a drab and uninteresting body of content that might keep the faithful informed but fails to bring anyone in who isn’t looking for an update on the church calendar.
A better way forward is to imagine all the different ways social media offers to make your followers want to visit your page. Create videos like sermon bumpers to hype your upcoming sermons. These short videos add drama and entertainment that a long, detailed post will never get across. Instead of just posting a verse from Scripture, turn it into a catchy image or .gif (short, repeating graphics). Posting short clips from recent sermons can also help engage your readers and remind them of the power of God in a way the words on the screen may fall short of doing.
3. Spread yourself out
When you start considering all these useful, flashy forms of communicating, it becomes apparent very quickly that the primary social media sites aren’t going to be enough. The biggest dogs in the hunt, Facebook and Twitter, are the obvious places to log yourself into the online community, but don’t be afraid to expand into other social media to increase your dynamism. Create a YouTube channel and start posting those videos or even a church vlog (video blog). Post your Scripture images and photos from recent church events on Instagram. Offer your pastor up for an occasional Snapchat.
There are a number of platforms out there that have targeted audiences that might not be as dedicated to checking Facebook. LinkedIn can bring in more of a business dynamic, while Flickr tends to attract the more artistic visual crowd than Instagram. Even consider starting a blog on your website.
4. Integrate your message and keep it consistent
The sky is the limit with different social media platforms; just don’t spread yourself thin. Ideally, if used correctly, these multiple platforms should be a boon, allowing you to put up more content that can then be shared in multiple places. Your Instagram posts can also be posted on Facebook and Twitter. Your Snapchat can be advertised on Google+. Linking everything together creates a homogenous atmosphere that suggests a busy, active, and interactive church.
Make sure your message and tone remains consistent, though. If it comes down to keeping content consistent or cutting content, always go with quality over quantity. Making sure everyone involved in your social media presence is on the same page about where your church stands and what it stands for is crucial. No matter where a follower clicks, they should be presented with a different side of the same church.
5. Remember to be social
Finally, all of this is only useful if you have people looking at what you are sharing with the world. There’s a reason these are called “social” networks. It can be tempting to simply use these platforms as another pulpit, as a place for one-way conversation in which your church speaks and the internet listens, but to maximize your church’s presence, it’s helpful to try to engage as much as preach. Respond to others who message you, share content from other users, and link to thoughtful, on topic articles. You might extend yourself and connect with other likeminded churches online and share each other’s content. By seeming available and building up good will in the online community, your efforts will be responded to in kind, and you can expect far more positive feedback.