Once you decide to use social media, you must decide how you are going to use it. With social media being such a big trend in the world today, churches need to embrace it. A recent “Lookout” article stated that “the mutual mission of community building makes churches and social media a natural fit.” Where it may be seen as such an obvious fit for a church, the approach to social media must be approached like any other ministry outreach of the church.
Before entering into the ministry of social media, the church should consider a few questions in advance:
- What are you trying to accomplish through your social media program? How will you measure your goals?
- What will your church be able to do through social media that the church would otherwise not be able to achieve? What needs does it fulfill?
- What resources will you need in order to start and maintain the social media program? Consider additional time, talent, and funds that will be needed.
- Most importantly, how will God be honored through your churches use of social media?
Here are some suggestions for how your church can approach social media. Firstly, a Facebook page is becoming more and more common for all brands. This is a good way to post information and to gain information about interest in your church. Secondly, Twitter is now the leading “microblogging” site. Twitter can be utilized by churches by encouraging real-time feedback, share links, blog posts, announcements, and other interesting information. Youtube can be used to upload videos to a churches channel. The benefits of this is wide access and interest. Links can be sent via Twitter and Facebook to encourage traffic between all of your networks. Churches also have the option to start a blog. “When a blog is built into a church’s main website, it can help the site’s search engine optimization through its natural supply of keywords” (Lookout). Finally, one platform that many more churches are using is podcasting. Churches are using podcasts to post their sermons for many people to listen to.
So how do you start your social media plan? It is important to remember that “social media must complement and enhance your ongoing communications and methods of outreach.” Most churches will need a full social media team in order to successfully utilize social media. Social media must be frequently updated. Social media must be open to feedback. Social media must have clear guidelines and expectations. Ultimately social media must be simple and clear or people will get lost in the mess. Social media should be an extension of your church and not a separate part.
Frequency is the key to effective social media. Most people suggest these guidelines:
- Blog once a week (200-500 words per post)
- Update Facebook information two to three times a week (include images when possible)
- Tweet one to two times a day (can be used more, but don’t over-do it)
I think this quote expresses the key to why a church should use social media: “It is a lot less intimidating to go online and experience a church than it is for people to walk through the doors of one.” People often find walking into a church they know nothing about very intimidating. A churches’ social media presence is now often a person’s “first look” into that church. It can communicate so much to an interested person and depending on how social media is used, that message can be a positive one (“I’m interested in knowing more, maybe I’ll go see what it’s all about”) or a negative one (“I don’t think I even want to try that one”). Ultimately, social media is simply “a very remarkable tool that when used well can bring God’s people together.”