Kerri Ann Cruse
It has been said, and rightly so, that the new front door of a church is its website and social media pages. Before setting foot inside a sanctuary, the majority of guests will first visit online, looking to see if this particular congregation meets their expectations of what makes a good church.
Having a lively social media or online presence should not be seen as distracting from the work or the mission of the church. In actuality, it complements it. I am not advocating that social media replace the necessary, in-person work of evangelism. Rather, view these platforms as tools in outreach. When properly utilized, they can help create contacts and connections where the gospel can then be shared.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help guide your church as it looks to participate in one or more of the major social networks.
The big three social media platforms are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You don’t have to be on each one. Choose what is best for the demographic of your church and your church’s outreach strategies, and do it well. If no one in your congregation is on Twitter, for example, then pick a different platform. Also take note of your social media volunteer’s skill set. If graphic design and good photography are not their strong suit, then perhaps stay away from Instagram as it relies exclusively on graphics.
Churches and small businesses often create a new social media page and then immediately invite people to like their page. Doing this before you post any content is like screaming for someone’s attention and then having nothing to say. You’ve lost your audience’s engagement before you’ve even begun. Post three to six times before you invite people to follow your page. These posts won’t receive much response, but you are setting your next post up for success. Now, when people visit your new profile, they will have a feel for what to expect and can easily decide if they will want to follow your page.
Now that you have the tool, use it. Posting often increases your reach to more people. As you increase your reach, you increase your opportunity for engagement. A page that’s barely used will lose followers and give a bad impression to future visitors.
Pick set days and times of the week to post and do so consistently. This not only makes your job easier, it also helps followers know what to expect and shows visitors that you are attentive. For example, maybe every Wednesday you post a link to listen to the previous Sunday’s sermon, and every Friday afternoon you share the bulletin for the upcoming Lord’s Day.
Don’t post just to post. Make sure what you are posting is useful to your audiences (current members or future visitors). The more relevant your content, the more valuable engagement you will obtain. Poor quality posts or images do more harm than help. They distract and turn people away. The websites Unsplash, Pixabay, and Pexels offer high-quality, royalty-free photos free of charge or attribution. If your church doesn’t have someone proficient in graphic design, Canva is an easy-to-use website that allows one to design graphics for free.
There are many different types of posts to keep your audience engaged and to reach out to different people. Here are a few suggestions:
Engage with other OP accounts for ideas of what to post and to share their content when applicable. The denomination has a few social media accounts, including the official OPC Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter account. New Horizons also has a Facebook page, as does Short-Term Missions, Disaster Response, and Home Missions. Consider also engaging with the social media accounts of other NAPARC churches in the region or other churches in your presbytery.
Posting and managing your social media doesn’t need to be the pastor’s (or pastor’s wife’s) job, and perhaps shouldn’t be. To make sure you are able to post quality content consistently, assign someone to be your church’s social media coordinator. There may be someone in your congregation who enjoys creating graphics, writing copy, and interacting on social media. This is a great opportunity for that person to serve the church! If desired, the coordinator could send all scheduled posts to someone in leadership at the church for review before posting.
Facebook has a built-in scheduler you can use to schedule your posts in advance. Social management platforms like Hootsuite allow you to schedule posts for free for up to three different social media accounts. This can save you time and energy. Instead of taking ten or so minutes every day to post something, you could spend thirty minutes one day a week to schedule all of your posts.
Utilize the “Insight” section of your Facebook page, Twitter Analytics, and Instagram Insights. Take time every month to see how your posts are doing. Which type of posts is most interacted with: videos, photos, texts, quotes? What days and times is your audience online? Learn and adapt as you move forward.
To the right is an example of a post on the OPC Facebook page. Every Monday I post an inspirational quote on our denomination’s social media accounts. This screen grab is from Facebook. Note that when I cross-post this to Twitter or Instagram, I make sure to caption it with the hashtag #MotivationalMonday—this is already a popular hashtag for the day, which allows me to “jump on the bandwagon” for the day and gain more engagement. I have set fonts and colors for the OPC accounts, which makes creating new posts easy since there are guidelines to stick to. I recommend you create some similar style guide for your congregation and save yourself a lot of work in the future! I also make sure to include our logo in every post so that, no matter how the image is shared, people will know it originated from the OPC page.
With the many likes and shares this Facebook post received, this gospel-centered quote was seen by over 8,753 people. Praise God!
The author is video and social media coordinator for the OPC. New Horizons, March 2020.