“Just google it” has become my children’s standard response when trying to find the answer to a question. The question can be anything from finding directions to a birthday party, researching for a school project, looking for a new recipe or searching for the best deals on electronics. The word Google, as a verb, is now actually found in the dictionary! So much information is accessible online with just a click.
We now use the internet as our primary way to access information. Gone are the days of using phone books, encyclopedias and newspapers. Word of mouth now includes reading information on social media. When it comes to communicating church life to members, spreading awareness, sharing information about church events, encouraging stewardship and even seizing evangelism opportunities…all can be done via social channels.
Four social channels that are widely used are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Periscope. Each has unique aspects that can be used to successfully communicate and engage.
Facebook is ideal as it has the largest number of members, yet still allows for personal connections. Comments can be made on posts and privacy settings can be adjusted to public or private, depending on the group, event or post.
- Facebook allows you to create an individual page for events and invite current members. This is an easy way for members to invite others through the event page and spread awareness and information with friends and acquaintances.
- Facebook has more notification options. The frequency of receiving notifications can be adjusted as needed. It is important to be aware of posts made to each page, as well as possibly responding to comments.
- Facebook syncs with most apps, like your church management software apps. This makes keeping up with comments and posts easier.
- Facebook also allows for paid promotions. You can pay to Boost Posts which allows posts to appear more frequently in News Feed so there is a better chance the audience for the posts will see them.
- On Facebook your posts can be any length you want. You can include pictures and links as well.
Twitter uses posts of 140 characters or less called Tweets, which can include links and pictures. Twitter has over 271 million active users who tend to be younger than FB users, with 35% between the ages of 18 and 29.
- Twitter is a more effective way to communicate time sensitive information, as it gets it out in real time. People like to follow news and events through Twitter as they are happening.
- Twitter is more about information and less about connection. People follow others on Twitter that have shared interests. It is a good way to reach people with no previous affiliation with your church, but have similar interests and values. For example, if you have a guest speaker that is also a sports star, that might draw the attention of Twitter users that follow sports info.
- A Tweet has a lifespan of about an hour, as 92% of engagement with a Tweet happens within the first hour of being tweeted. This is why it is so important to have someone following up with the comments, questions and responses to your updates.
- It also helps to attach photos to catch the reader’s eye. Since Twitter updates happen so frequently it helps to include things in your posts that draw attention.
Instagram is a photo and video sharing app for smartphones. One of the unique aspects of Instagram is that posting always includes a picture or video,so it is a great way to visually cast vision and share your message.
- Instagram attracts the younger demographic, typically teenagers. Over half of American teens and people in their early 20s are on Instagram. Of the 200 million active users, 53% are between the ages of 18 and 29.
- Instagram is all about the power of the image, rather than the words posted with it. Posts should be a mix of fun photos from events and the people involved in your ministry.
- Instagram has unique filters and photo editing options, which makes it ideal for engaging users through photo contests. Take advantage of these capabilities that make Instagram different from FB and Twitter. People love sharing their photos through contests and seeing what other people have done with photos.
- Instagram is a great place to highlight superstar staff, employees and volunteers to thank them.
Periscope is a video streaming app that works with Twitter to live stream to your followers and allow other to comment on it.
- Periscope provides great opportunities for live communication. It is relatively new so generally the more tech savvy people currently use it, so your audience will be smaller.
- Periscope is a great way to showcase staff culture. Members enjoy knowing more about their staff and the way they relate with one another.
- Periscope can be used for question and answer sessions about sermons or events.
- Periscope could be used to do a tour of the church, which might interest both members and non-members.
- A Periscope video, once posted, can be replayed for up to 24 hours. After that it is removed from the app, but can be saved to your smartphone, published and shared online in other ways.
Stick with fun, simple, engaging and consistent content and you’ll be able to build a following from your congregation. If you really put some effort into it you can reach even more people than you might have anticipated! This can be as simple as 20 minutes a day, but the key is to actually manage it every day. As our world has moved to predominantly online communication it is essential for our churches to join in and be a strong presence.
Out of the four social channels mentioned, where have you had the most success connecting with your church members?