“Social media is confusing.” “Social media is hard.” “It takes a lot of time, and you probably won’t see results right away.” “There is a lot of bad stuff on social media.”
I have heard these and a lot of other reasons not to use social media for your church. Let me provide one reason your church should use social media – it is where the people are you want to reach. Social media can seem like a pointless chore – especially if you don’t engage it the right way. I am not a big fan of pointless chores, but I have seen the power of social media, and I want to see your church tap into that power and use it for Jesus. There truly is no other place where you can post something online, and hundreds or thousands of people you would never come into contact with otherwise can see it and interact with it.
I want to help your church use social media well. In order to do that, I want you to learn:
— who your audience is
— how to speak directly to them, and
—how to reach more people for Jesus.
Churches successful at using social media are able to help their current attenders grow spiritually and reach people that have never heard the Gospel. Here is the first of three tips to help you use social media to make an impact for Jesus.
1. Post to the Right Channels
This is the first thing you will need to decide as you determine your social media strategy. What channels should you post to? There are so many choices, and very few churches have the time, resources, or know-how to post well to all of them. To help you choose which to post to, here are brief descriptions of the pros and cons of the largest and most commonly used platforms.
Facebook continues to be the biggest of the social media platforms. A serious benefit to Facebook is the ability to post many different types of content. Of course, you can post images, videos, and text posts, but you also can promote events, add live videos, link to other content, and create public or private groups. Facebook also offers amazing advertising opportunities for those who have the budget and know-how. Overall, Facebook is the most versatile platform with the opportunity to reach the most people.
Facebook isn’t without its faults. Getting any organic traffic (meaning no paid ads) to a Facebook page is difficult. Facebook has made it so few of your followers will see the posts you create. Another issue is that Facebook’s audience trends older. So if you are looking to reach an audience under 40, you may want to consider other platforms on this list.
Use Facebook – it is too big not to be engaged. However, you’ll need to experiment to see how it works best for your church and your audience.
Instagram is an incredible way to engage with your audience. Organic views are easier on Instagram than on Facebook. “Stories and Reels” continue to be effective for reaching more people, even those who do not have a relationship with your church. The demographics of Instagram are slightly younger than on Facebook. Another plus for Instagram is the use of “hashtags.” When used correctly, hashtags can help connect your church to people who normally wouldn’t be exposed to your content.
Instagram only allows image and video posts, which is limiting, especially for smaller churches that don’t have the staff to devote to photography and video. Also, Instagram does not allow adding a link to any posts, which makes it harder to promote blog posts, events, or resources you want to share with your audience.
If you have either staff or volunteers willing to shoot pics and videos or create images, Instagram is a must. This is the best social media platform for reaching new people and building an audience. Remember, learning how to use “stories and reels” is the best way to reach the most people.
YouTube has an enormous reach and is the second most used search engine, behind only Google. If your church makes video content, this is the most obvious place to share it. Another YouTube distinctive is that it isn’t as temporary as the other social media platforms. If you post a video and it shows up for a popular search term, that same video could get traffic for years. This means that if you have the time and resources to devote to shooting good quality videos, YouTube should be one of the cornerstones of your social media strategy.
YouTube is only for video, and for smaller churches, this is the hardest and most time-consuming content to create. Traffic generation strategies for YouTube are also generally more difficult than the other social media platforms.
I would highly recommend using YouTube as a place for people to find past sermons. Beyond that, I only recommend it if you have talented video creators on staff (or volunteers) that are willing to regularly create videos that answer people’s questions or are in response to keywords that people would search for on YouTube.
There are a lot of people on Twitter who use it religiously. If your church’s target audience is among those that use Twitter, this can be a good platform for you. Twitter also allows sharing of all types of posts and links, which is handy when it comes to promoting resources and events.
Twitter takes a lot of work because Twitter feeds fill up quickly. To reach your active Twitter users, you have to post multiple times a day, which can get tiresome for staff and can annoy less active Twitter users. Also, unless you are committed to growing a large and active following on Twitter, it isn’t going to do much for you.
Unless your target audience is active on Twitter, you create and share a lot of content, or you already have mastered all of the other platforms on this list, I wouldn’t recommend using Twitter.
*Check back next week for part 2 of this 3-part tech resource
Kurt Abel is the founder of Two Cans Media, a digital marketing and web design agency that specializes in helping churches and Christian nonprofits. He has been married to his wife Ann for twenty three years and they have two children, Luke (17) and Zac (13). He serves at The Church at Green Hills in La Habra, where he is a deacon and a teacher for the first through fourth graders.
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