Church and Social Media (Part 1)

Church and Social Media

Guest Blogger: Ben Larson

A pastor in my town recently got in touch with me to ask for my help. He was trying to get his fellow staff to get behind developing a social media strategy. But they weren’t going for it.

It’s an ongoing struggle in thousands of churches these days. The most popular questions are: What do we have to gain from social media? Will it really bring in enough new people to make it worth it the trouble? Isn’t it just a fad? Will it make young people like us more?

I think those questions miss the mark on why social media is important. My buddy that asked for my help was hoping for some definitive statistics on the benefits of social media. He wanted to know the Facebook fan to visitor ratio, or how Twitter growth correlates to youth group growth. Those statistics don’t exist, though, because the impact of a good social media strategy can’t be measured numerically.

I don’t consider myself an expert, but I’ve been running social media for my church since 2010, and here are a few reasons I think every church should have a social media strategy in place.

If you aren’t on Facebook and Twitter, you don’t exist.
Imagine you’ve just heard about a new restaurant. You go online to Google them, and [gasp!] they don’t have website. When a restaurant or any other organization doesn’t have a website, there’s a little voice in your head that says, “That restaurant doesn’t really exist.” These days, having a social media presence is as important to looking like you exist as having a website.

Social media is a powerful tool for communication.
Where do you go to see what your friends and family are up to? If you’re one of the 1 billion people with a Facebook account (as of October 2012), you probably go to Facebook. So why would you expect people to look anywhere else for information about upcoming church events, sermons series, and guest speakers? Rather than seeing social media as a burden, recognize that it is a powerful tool for communication with your people.

Twitter and Facebook can expand your reach.
There are two truths you need to know about social media’s ability to increase your reach: the first is that social media definitely CAN increase the reach of your message outside of church and create opportunities to partner with other churches and ministries. But the other truth is that reach and networking don’t happen overnight. Expanding your reach via social media takes time: both the investment of time into managing and growing your fan/follower base and the months and years required to build a solid reputation.

Assuming that I’ve convinced you that your church needs to enter the world of social media, Here are three markers of health you should look for in your social media presence:

You are posting in your accounts regularly.
This is a no-brainer. Posting once a week is not enough. You should be posting or tweeting AT LEAST three or four times a week (not all on the same day) for your account to appear healthy and in use.

There is frequent interaction on your posts and tweets.
It doesn’t matter how often you post or tweet if it looks like no one’s listening. This is especially important on Facebook, because over time your posts will begin to show up in fewer and fewer news feeds if no one is engaging with your updates. Can’t get any fans to ‘like’ your posts? Have the staff at your church do it or email your friends and family and ask them to start liking, commenting, replying, and retweeting. Every little bit helps.

Your page isn’t all about you.
This can be especially difficult to sell to a pastor or church staff. Why would we spend time and energy promoting someone else’s message? Isn’t it hard enough to get our voice heard through all the noise without creating more noise ourselves? The key is to make your social media presence more useful to your fans and followers by sharing things they might find interesting. You shouldn’t solely promote yourself and your interests. Everybody knows advertising when they see it. If people can sense just by breezing through your page that the only reason you created it was to ‘sell’ them your message, don’t expect them to stick around.

That’s all great, but now what? Where do you start? What do you do? We’ll look at that in my next two posts: Social Media Strategy I – The Big Picture and Social Media Strategy II – Nuts and Bolts



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