Psychology has told us two things about first impressions:
- People make first impressions based on appearances
- First impressions are very hard to change
If you can be intentional about the way you present yourself, then you can play an active role in how you are perceived.
This has significant implications for your church’s social media strategy.
Your church’s social media presence says something about your church.
Let me explain:
You can make a positive, enduring effect on someone’s willingness to attend your church with the way you portray your church’s presence online.
The key to creating a great first impression with those who find your church online has everything to do with implementing the right social media strategy.
If you mail it in and use an outdated social media strategy, you could very well be pushing young people away from your church.
Here’s the good news:
There are simple steps to creating a church social media strategy for church growth that will make young people flock to your church.
If you decide to use these steps, you’ll not only attract young people to your church—you’ll become the church that young people in your area will want to attend.
1. Create social media mission statement
Before you even pick a twitter username, you need to sit down and meet with your church team to answer one question:
Why are we creating a social media presence?
- Are you creating a social media presence just for you?
- Are you creating a social media presence just to look cool?
- Are you creating a social media presence because you want to look hip?
- Are you creating a social media presence because you’re scared of falling behind the times?
These are all bad reasons to create a social media presence.
Social media is just one way of communicating with people in the world.
Beneath the “Why?” of your social media should be a deeper question:
Why do we interact with people?
The answer should be clear:
As a church, we have a mission to communicate the gospel as excellently as possible and to make servant-hearted disciples of Jesus Christ.
There you go.
Your purpose is evangelism.
Your standard is excellence.
Your aim is maturity and love.
Most churches who struggle with social media are fearless in sharing the gospel.
Most churches who struggle with social media are passionate about maturity and selfless service.
If that’s your church, and you struggle to create a social media strategy in which you feel confident, that’s because you’re struggling with how to communicate and practice the gospel excellently.
That’s a very important realization your church leadership team needs to have:
If we create a social media presence for our church, it should be excellent.
If you can start with excellence, you will have the posture of a learner.
If you start with excellence, you won’t be satisfied with cliche, tired, ineffective social media strategies.
If you start with excellence, your social media strategy might not be a home run right out of the gate, but it will become a home run.
And it’s important to recognize that many churches who think they are good at social media violate some key principles of excellent communication that explain why they can’t get any real traction for church growth from the internet.
Begin with a mission for your church’s social media.
Don’t skip this important step.
2. Pick a social media sharing service
Ask one of the younger people in your church who knows about social media:
What are the best tools for managing our online presence?
There are many great church social media management products such as Buffer, Coschedule, and Hootsuite.
Once you create your social media, consolidate their management into a single place and assign a point-person to run your accounts.
3. Create a brand manual
Once you’ve created your social media, consolidated them onto a single management platform, and assigned management responsibilities to a competent member of your team, task them to do this:
Create a brand manual.
A brand manual doesn't have to be long.
A brand manual can be a single page.
A brand manual simply expresses what your communicative strategies will be for social media.
- Only use high quality, light-oriented images from a specific site
- Create a clean, uncluttered aesthetic that looks like it represents a unified brand and vision
- When custom colors are used, select from these specific three colors
- Do not post about politics
- The voice of social media will be a collective representation of church leadership, not the idiosyncratic voice of the social media manager
- Do not post images or text relating to drugs, alcohol, or profanity
- Do not engage in lengthy social media debates with those who post negative comments on our posts
- Do not post low-resolution, low-quality images.
This brand manual can be tailored to each church to capture the tone and voice that the church wants to create as it cultivates its online presence.
The brand manual should be an open document that grows and changes as the church’s social media presence becomes clearer through maturity over time.
4. Use quality media tech
Social media is meant to be consumed over one’s phone, but this is where many churches make the common mistake of producing their content through the mobile phone.
Do not produce your social media content through your phone.
Your media assets should be produced on a desktop for several reasons.
First, images should either be high quality stock images from an aesthetically appealing website or church images from a high quality camera used in church.
Underexposed and off-hue photographs serve as a blotch on your social media presence and communicate that your church is unconcerned with excellence in the church.
If you want to post pictures of your church on social media, then create a strategy to produce excellent pictures.
Second, social media text content should be written offline. It’s easier to write better content on your computer than on your phone.
This doesn’t mean you can’t manage social media from your phone. But your content should be produced through professional protocol that is part of an intentional workflow on a desktop.
Otherwise, your social media copy and media will have an amateur feel that will communicate “old person using new technology” to social media users, which will more often repel than attract.
Get a high quality camera, use a high quality stock photo website, and produce high quality audio and video.
5. Ditch over-the-top filters
When Instagram’s popularity started surging in 2011, it was very popular to put various filters on your photos such as sepia, “old film” templates, and high-contrast, high-grain modulation.
Don’t do this.
Produce media good enough that, under the worst circumstances needs very little editing, and, under the best circumstances, needs no editing at all.
This goes for video, audio, images, and text.
Professionalism without flare is feels too corporate.
Social media fads without professionalism are tacky.
Professionalism with a subtle flare to inflect the viewer’s attention should be your aim in all images, writing, sharing, and posting.
6. Post more videos
Video is the wave of the future.
If you’re writing more than 100 words on social media, nobody is reading it.
Create high-quality video content that is easily shareable.
This can be on YouTube, but even better are 30-60 second clips from your sermons that are focused on a particular issue or topic that viewers will want to share.
Simply include a watermark in the corner of the video that promotes your church and share it from your church’s account.
People will like, follow, and engage with your online presence if you can create and package content that works well on social media which, again, is currently very short-form video content.
7. Create social friendly paid ads
Many of the highest-converting social media ads today are videos of leaders making a high-energy, condensed appeal to the viewer while looking straight into the camera.
Don’t spend your time talking. Spend your time writing the perfect script for you video so that it only needs to be fifteen seconds long.
Make the video personal, incentivizing, humorous, professional, substantive, and practical. Make sure it meets these six criteria.
Here are a few example scripts that could work very well for a church invitation:
“Hey I’m Pastor Bill at South Hampton Baptist. Listen, before I was a pastor I struggled getting to church on time. Here’s the deal: We’re offering free lattes at our church coffee shop for everyone who shows up 15 minutes early to our 10:30 service this Sunday. Hey, I’m not above bribing you to come to church! Hope to see you there this Sunday, August 15th.”
“Are you stressed about finding an Easter egg hunt this Sunday? We’ve got the biggest Easter egg hunt in town with games for kids and endless Five Guys burgers for adults. Sounds too good to be true? Hey, it’s Easter. Crazier things have happened on Easter Sunday.
Come to Emmanuel Church this Sunday for the most elaborate easter egg hunt in town. We’ve got the Easter Bunny. We’ve got endless burgers. Come join us for the 10:30 service and experience an Easter you’ll never forget.”
Keep it short and sweet. Give a clear call to action with details.
Depending on the size of your church, your budget for a social media ad might only be $200, but that $200 will go a long way when you can target the ad to people only in your city of a certain demographic, and with young children.
Social media ads may feel like a vanity purchase, but I assure you—they are not. For example, when it comes to Facebook ads, there are several legit reasons your church should consider running ads on that platform.
8. Focus on emails, not followers
Churches commonly make the mistake of focusing too much on the numbers under their social media accounts, and not enough on the actual relationships with the people who follow them.
It’s important to remember that the social media platforms own your relationship with all of your followers.
However, if you can convert those followers into email subscribers, then you own that email list.
You own that relationship—not the social media company.
It’s crucial that you have an email signup form prepared that you regularly share on social media.
There are several good email subscription services, such as MailChimp, ConvertKit, and Drip.
Pick one and build your list.
If you’re new to email list building, then I recommend using MailChimp.
MailChimp is free and very versatile.
Once you build a more sophisticated platform, you can consider more advanced options such as ConvertKit and Drip to capture more emails and more effectively market your church to your local area.
9. Give more than you take
There is a business personality who is very successful on social media named Gary Vaynerchuck — or “Gary Vee,” as he calls himself.
Gary has a great social media philosophy called “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.”
The basic premise is that 3/4 of your social media posts should add value, and only 1/4 of your social media should be self-promoting.
His point is this:
If people experience your social media account as primarily adding value rather than requesting value, then when you ask for something from your audience (such as “Come to church!”), they will be more inclined to trust that your request will add value to their lives.
In other words:
Don’t swarm your followers with requests.
Your “Add value” to “Request” ratio should be 3:1.
10. Member highlights
When you share content about your church, don’t let it be too corporate.
Showcase your happy, lovely, fun-having church members at events so that people will wish they were at your church.
A picture of someone clearly enjoying the world’s best-looking cheeseburger at your church is a much better way to market your church BBQ than a word-picture that says, “Come to our church BBQ!”
Featuring church member highlights accomplish two things for your church’s social media strategy:
- It communicates that you actually care about your members
- It shows rather than explains your call-to-action (a picture of people having fun is always more persuasive than a tweet that says, “Join us! We love to have fun!”
Member highlights are a way of proving to onlookers that your church really is a place that people should want to belong.
11. Partner with other churches on social/crossovers
Sometimes churches can have a bad reputation for not “playing nice” with other churches.
Be the counter-culture in your town.
If you’re a pastor, go to the basketball night at another church and post on your church’s social media account how much fun the other church is.
You won’t lose people to his church.
If anything, people will see that you’re a generous, fun-loving, friendly pastor who cares more about building relationships than building a following.
You will never lose by partnering with other pastors to promote their churches.
You will build social capital and a reputation for loving generosity that will be irresistible for people looking for a church with a pastor who is caring, warm, fun, and not puffed up with his own ego.
12. Run giveaways
Run monthly giveaways on your social media to grow it initially.
- tickets to local sporting events
- gift cards to restaurants
- Free books from the church library
- Movie tickets to the local IMAX theater
Give away things that cost you less than $50 but could gain you hundreds of local followers.
Make your only condition to enter the competition that followers must:
- Be a new follower within the past week
- Share the giveaway on their social media with the hashtag #YourChurchsName
Giveaways are a largely underrated strategy for gaining followers.
Don’t neglect it.
Over to you
If you utilize these social media strategies for your church, your chances of growing your social media following drastically increase.
The reason your chances increase is that these strategies will make your online presence more and more excellent.
The better you get at giving, the more people will be interested in belonging at your church and engaging in your community.