To say that social media sites are here to stay is an understatement. Current estimates report that “74% of online adults use social media networking sites.”
What does this mean for your church?
Having a social media presence—an active one—is crucial.
But I don’t want you to look at social media like another task to add to your already growing to-do list. Instead, you should view social media as an asset to your church.
At their heart, social media platforms allow you to connect directly with current members of your church community and possible new members as well.
It’s a place where people with shared interests come together to create an online community filled with videos to make you laugh, inspirational messages, and an endless amount of virtual connections.
Because social media sites have become so popular, there’s a plethora of different platforms to choose from.
You can opt for the most popular one, Facebook, which allows you to post anything from announcements to simple links, or you can choose one like Instagram, which is more focused on picture and video updates.
But these are only two of the dozens of social media platforms to choose from.
So by now you may be wondering which ones your church actually needs, and that’s exactly what today’s article is for. I’ll be showing you the best platforms to use and give you some helpful tips along the way.
Facebook has become a household name, so this is definitely the first place to start. According to Pew Research, “71% of online American adults use Facebook.”.
As the most used social media site, Facebook users are no longer just Millennials and younger generations. In fact, Pew reports that the fastest growing demographic of users on Facebook is the 65 and older age group.
This is great news for your church.
With Facebook, you have the power to connect with the largest amount of social media users with a wide range in ages. That’s a huge audience to have right at your fingertips!
Here’s What You Need to Know About Facebook:
Facebook posts are known as ‘status updates’, which let users know what your church is up to. A status update can also be an inspirational image with a quote or even a video.
This church chose to share an inspirational quote and message with their status update. Their followers had something to think and talk about that day thanks to their church’s prompt.
Facebook is also one of the easier, more user-friendly platforms, so it’s no wonder that people are more likely to use it these days. It gives you plenty of options regarding what you can post and works best when you use a variety of different visual elements such as sharing videos, images, links, and inspirational quotes every so often.
On the other hand, you can think of our next social media platform as starting or joining a conversation instead of only sharing a status update.
Twitter is another commonly used social media platform and tends to draw a crowd interested in speaking their minds and engaging in conversation.
Facebook and Twitter do not share the same demographics.
The Pew Research article I mentioned earlier tells us that the majority of Twitter users range in age from 18-49, with hardly any users in the 50+ category. Now, that’s not to say no one above the age of 50 is using Twitter, rather, it’s just not as loved by the 50+ crowd as the others.
Despite the smaller demographic age range, Twitter is still extremely popular.
With Twitter, users are more likely to join in on a conversation and are just as ‘active’ as those on Facebook.
Here’s What You Need to Know About Twitter
Twitter users create posts called ‘tweets’, similar to a Facebook status update.
These tweets can be used to start or add to a conversation. The only difference here is that you are limited to 140 characters with each update (this includes spaces, hashtags, and links).
This is where the term ‘tweet’ comes from: each update is like a short and simple message that users can quickly read and respond to.
I have to admit that this is one of my favorite things about Twitter. The character limit forces members to get creative with their messages and get right to the point.
Twitter is also known for its hashtags.
We talked about hashtags in depth in this article so I won’t go into too much detail here, but just know that hashtags turn into searchable links that people can use to connect to ongoing conversations.
These hashtags make it easier for your church community to find what they’re looking for.
For example, you could create a hashtag called #Fall2015Retreat and attach it to every tweet your church posts that’s connected to the upcoming event. Now your members have an easy way to find out that latest updates on the retreat, plus, they can also get involved and share their own excitement using that hashtag as well.
Next on our list of social media platforms we have Instagram.
As I mentioned earlier, Instagram is more image and video centric. You cannot post a status update on Instagram without first choosing an image or video to upload.
Similar to Facebook, you can caption each photo or video or let the image speak for itself. And unlike Twitter, you’re not limited to a character count with Instagram.
Current estimates from Pew report that 26% of adult internet users are active on Instagram, but I’d say that percentage is growing exponentially every day.
What I like about Instagram is that it combines a visual element with the hashtag feature of Twitter so each post is searchable and eye catching.
Here’s What You Need to Know About Instagram
Because users scan their feed fairly quickly, striking images and engaging videos work best.
One thing to note: videos are limited to 15 seconds on Instagram, which doesn’t give you much room to elaborate on what’s happening in each video, so you’ll need to get creative!
You can use Instagram to post inspirational quotes, event details, and even video snippets of your sermons.
One downside to Instagram is that when you post links in your status update, they are not clickable. This is a definitely different from Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, you’ll want your church’s website URL in your profile description so users can go back to your main page to learn more.
For some interesting ideas on what to post to Instagram, you can check out The Creative Pastor’s article here.
With dozens of social media platforms to choose from, your best bet is focusing on these top four for now. They are the most popular and most used and will also give you the best boost in search engine rankings.
If your church does not have any social media presence yet, then I’d start with Facebook and Google+ since they’re so similar. Eventually you can branch out to Instagram and Twitter once you and your team get the hang of it.
The most important thing to remember with any social media channel is to remain active and encourage your users to respond with each post. You can do this by ending your posts with a question to help facilitate a chat.
Once you start posting regularly, the two-way conversations will flow naturally.