Creative Ways to Use Social Media in Church

Posted at May 24, 2011

In a recent post I talked about the philosophy of social media at church, and how it really should be viewed as a mandate. We have a great opportunity to make “digital disciples”, as Anthony Coppedge puts it.

OK, so you convinced your pastor to carve out some time to “do that social media thing.” Great! Now what?

  1. Have a plan, with measurable goals. If you’ve been reading our blog for any length of time, this won’t be a surprise. Any successful online effort begins with the end in mind. What is your goal with social media?  Here are a few examples of a desired outcome:
    1. Increase our visitation rate (due to people who find us online) by 25%
    2. Launch a Facebook page to extend our event/volunteer opportunity announcements
    3. Drive more signups to our Christianity 101/Skeptics class, by equipping our members to engage their unbelieving friends online.
    4. Increase the average time each person spends on our Website by 30%.
    5. Challenge every member of our church to refer a link to one sermon per month, for an entire year.
  2. Work across multiple media.  Don’t just focus everything on Twitter, or Facebook, your blog, or your Website. You need all of those things.  Have you heard about how kids under 18 never Email?  They text. Twitter is heavily used by 20- and 30-somethings. Professionals are more likely to view your site on their smartphones. Stay-at-home moms are heavily concentrated on Facebook.  Etc.
  3. Use a tool for measurement.  A goal is worthless if you can’t measure your results against it.  What tool(s) do you use to measure social media penetration?  There are several free and paid options out there.
    1. Google Analytics: this is the obvious choice for your Website. Use this to track overall traffic on your site, along with traffic sources, search terms, and “conversions” (not the “I prayed a prayer” kind of conversions… we’re thinking like marketers here, remember?). 
    2. Facebook Insights: if you have a Facebook page, spend some time looking through this amazing treasure trove of data. You can learn who (demographically) is visiting your page, what times they are most likely to come (so that you can post things at the most opportune hours), and how much reach your followers have.
    3. Google Alerts: Know quickly when someone is talking about you online.
    4. Tweetdeck (now owned by Twitter itself): the gold standard for managing social accounts.  Link your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. in one place.  You can even post from multiple identities simultaneously.
    5. The Table Project: a great new tool that allows you to “shout your message” across multiple media at the same time. Offers some cool features
    6. Raven SEO: This is a paid tool that aggregates all of your online and social activity into one dashboard. We use it for our own SiteOrganic marketing; it helps us track not only the stuff we’re doing, but also what others are saying about our organization, how well we’re perceived, and how our competitors are ranking in the same categories.  It costs as little as $19/month.
  4. Get creative.
    1. Use QR Codes in your bulletin or visitor cards, so that mobile users can quickly get to the information on your Website.
    2. Allocate budget dollars for Google Adwords, and intentionally market your church in your community.  For example, you could bid on keywords such as “lost my job”, “suicide”, “does God exist?”, or “hopeless.”  Do you think your church could help someone searching for any of those things? What if you created a landing page on your Website for targeted topics like these, and then led them to a personal contact with someone who could serve them and give them hope?
    3. Let each of your ministry leaders create a Twitter account; not just one for the whole church. If I’m in your singles ministry, I don’t really need to see tweets about VBS camp.  Having targeted twitter feeds gives you people more visibility into the things they care about.
    4. Create a Facebook Page for your church (or several). Only do this if you intend to keep it updated. It can contain discussions, event announcements, etc. One pastor allegedly posts “Happy Birthday” messages to people in his congregation every week.  It only takes a few minutes, and the information is easy to find on most people’s Facebook profiles.  Think of the impression this leaves on someone, when they see their senior pastor caring enough to send them a quick personal note on a special day.
    5. Tie your social media activity to the pulpit. For example, ask people to text their questions to you so you can devote your final week of a sermon series to FAQs. Or, announce in a sermon, “I don’t have time to go into all of the details on this topic, but please join me online this Monday at lunch, because I’ll be sharing an amazing story that you don’t want to miss.”

These are just a few ideas, among countless others.  You might also want to check out this editorial from last year’s Worship Facilities magazine; 21 Effective Ways Churches are using Social Media

We’d love to hear your success stories (or thoughts on the above) in the comments section below.

The more you can lead online, the more results you’ll see.  Ultimately, you can build a strong thriving community online (and offline) that has influence in the community. And influence is what it’s all about.

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