Depending on your viewpoint, social media is a necessary tool in our day and age. Everyone knows that you should be on it, but not many people know how to effectively use it to their advantage. It also doesn’t help that the social networks change how they disseminate information on an almost monthly basis. What’s the point of even staying on top of it?
I’ve read many books on best practices, implementation guides, content schedules and more, all in an effort to understand and utilize social networks. While it is definitely worth pursuing, social marketing can be fun at best and mind-numbingly frustrating at worst. To help out my fellow social adventurers, here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way.
1. Get a message
First decide what you actually want to communicate through social networking. My thought is that a church should communicate their community. After all, you have a website with your information. It has sermons, directions and more. But think about it. If you are wondering what a place is actually like – what people think of it, photos from events, candid conversations – where do you turn? Not the website, but Facebook. I focus a lot on showcasing our community – upcoming events, weekly photos from the services, what our members are doing, etc. Timely and relevant content that accurately portrays and communicates where we are as a church. Also remember that you will be catering to both your members and potential visitors. Members are the ones that will be sharing your content, so it has to be compelling to them, but visitors are the ones you really want to see the content.
2. Content is king
I would gladly see and like one excellent post a day over three awful ones – your content really does matter. Based on your message, write some ideas of content you will be posting each week. Do you want to post candid photos of your staff and volunteers working each week? iPhone photos of the worship team during service? Memes? This is personal preference, but it should align with your message. Personally, we utilize content from our services extensively throughout the week through memes, quotes, inspirational verses, sermon video clips and more. Since we also have many ministries at WRC, we do periodic promotions for them, as well as upcoming events.
3. Pick your networks
Pick up almost any book on social media, and you will read ‘you must do XYZ on the social networks ABCDEFG.’ I’m not saying that isn’t true, but let’s be honest. Most ministries are starting out and they will NOT be able to keep up with generating multiple posts with fresh content daily over 6 social networks. That’s not realistic and can be discouraging to the point of giving up. So, you should assess what you can actually do and start with that.
I focus on the big 4 networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. Each has their own focus and flavor, which I will touch on in the next blog. If you can do nothing else, start with Facebook. Facebook is very popular and most everyone knows how to use it. If you want to slowly start expanding past that, get a Twitter account and link it to your Facebook so that your Facebook posts propagate to twitter automatically. This is not a good practice to continue once you gain experience, but it may be a necessary one starting out.
4. Get a plan
More than anything else, you should NOT be shooting from the hip when it comes to social networking. Imagine trying to think of compelling posts and content three times a day over four social networks without a plan. YOU WILL GO INSANE. And trust me, it’s just not fun. So, now that you know what your message is, what types of content you will be posting and where you will be posting it to, you NEED to make an editorial calendar. You can find TONS of examples and templates online. I use OS X’s calendar, simply because I can drag and rearrange things easily and get a good overview of the week. When you plan out each week, think things over and be strategic. Maybe a post featuring your inner city social programs would perform better a couple of days before your next event so that it is fresh in peoples minds and encourages them to participate. Or a meme with an encouraging message is posted mid-week to lift people up and get them thinking about God. Ultimately your plan for using social media will depend on your message and content. Just remember that some kind of structure is needed to be successful.
Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon!