Social media, as a church, should be on every pastor’s list of communication channels. Why? Because half the world’s population uses social media. Social media should be part of making disciples of all nations, as we seek to answer the Great Commission properly (Matthew 28:16-20).
Social media allows a church to reach two audiences: those needing the gospel (external) and disciples seeking to follow Christ (internal). These audiences need the church to have a conversation with them—to engage, inspire, motivate, and educate. Social media is a perfect place for an ongoing conversation. Yet most churches struggle with gaining social media followers, creating the best types of social media content, choosing the optimum times for posting to social media channels, and getting social media followers to engage.
So, let’s look at each of these four struggles for social media as a church.
1. Gain social media followers
Social media relies on people. And the church does too (those who follow and those who need to follow). Church social media needs to engage those who are following you and never rest until everyone who should follow, does.
Here’s how: Set up a page on the social media channels that make sense for your church. Most start with Facebook (it has the broadest audience), YouTube (the second largest search engine, next to Google), and/or Instagram (a great visually-driven, general audience). Some churches also consider Twitter, LinkedIn, and even TikTok (the most-popular overall downloaded app).
Best practice? Start with a limited number of social media channels, then build on your success. Choose an obvious name for your page that will work across all your channels as you add them. Write an “About” paragraph that’s keyword-rich so people will find you by your name and the content of this description paragraph. Be sure to include your town’s name, denomination, that you’re a church, and what your content will be about (more on that below). Then start promoting it to your members by regularly mentioning the value your social media content is to them and encouraging them to follow.
Caution: It’s rare you’ll attract external audiences if your members don’t want your content. Do what you can to build an audience. Use hashtags, and keywords, and run ads (or boost posts) to allow people (internally and externally) to easily find you.
2. Post better social media content
Success with social media as the church is about getting the content right. When you enter a room of people and are given the microphone, what you say is critical to whether or not people will listen each time you’re given the stage. Content matters.
Here’s how: Start by understanding your audience. Your content either attracts an audience because they want the content, or your audience will demand a particular type of content from you. For successful church social media, we must get that balance right. Consider these questions: Do you have a good number of followers? Are they mainly church members? Do most of them go to your local church? Then consider what they want. Don’t be discouraged if you only have a few followers. That makes it easier to give them what they’re looking for.
Best practice? Think about what they need, what concerns them, and what their goals are. Decide how you can post things that will be felt as solutions to needs and concerns or paths to their goals. Balance your content so it feels like something they’d use to fill their time.
Caution: Resist too much promotion or you’ll start to lose followers. Instead, consider how you want your followers to complete this sentence about your social media: “I love your posts because they’re always __________.” This thread weaving through your social media posts should be the same brand thread for your church ministries. So, when they’re attracted to your church social media for your thread, they’ll want to attend ministry events for the same benefit. Remember, your thread is based on what they want and need, and you’ll become known as someone who’ll help them find the solution. The type of social media posts matters too. Most prefer visual posts over words-only posts, so emphasize photos and videos of people who look like your audience. But resist the urge to add a lot of words over the images—unless it’s to add captions to videos, as most don’t turn the sound up while scrolling.
3. Optimal time to post to social media channels
Your followers add your content to their social media mix. As a church, stay in your content lane, but be present when they scroll through their channels.
Here’s how: The social media algorithms certainly help, but to ensure success, post when your followers are picking up their devices to scroll. Often, the optimal time to post is when your audience is bored. Many of us flip through our social media content when we first get up, take a break, have lunch, or after the kids go to bed at night.
Best practice? Create a regular pace for posting your social media content. Decide how many times a week is sustainable and then how many times per day, establishing the time of day that’s best for your audience. Interestingly, mid-morning on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays seem to work best. Mid-evening on weeknights also often prove to be good times to post to social media as a church. But try a regular schedule for your audience and adjust as needed.
Caution: How can you possibly keep up this schedule without it controlling your life? It’s difficult, but scheduling apps help. And many social media channels have internal scheduling abilities, with many suggesting the best time for posting (since they know when your followers are scrolling). Utilize their suggestions—they’re usually free. You can also use paid post schedulers that allow future posting on various social media channels. Their ease of use, algorithm suggestions, and ability to post to multiple social media channels from one place may be worth the cost. Also, while scheduling, be mindful of out-of-your-control events that may occur that’ll deem your scheduled posts inappropriate. Pause the posts till later and possibly post about the world or community event instead.
4. Ensure social media engagement
The power of social media as a church is proven through engagement with posts. That can be seen by the number of likes, comments, and shares. You should adjust your content or timing if you’re posting and seeing none of these. You want engagement.
Here’s how: Take the time to monitor your social media feeds (or turn notifications on). Reply to comments, like the posts your audience shares, comment on their feeds, and engage with them. If you’re not engaging, they probably won’t either.
Best practices? Follow and engage with your member’s social media and others who should be following your content. Set the example of what it means to interact, comment, and start a conversation. Consider posting questions that encourage your followers to interact with your thread (what your content is mainly about). You can also conduct surveys that may be used for upcoming sermons. Talk with your pastor to coordinate your social media with ministry areas in the church.
Caution: Don’t get discouraged by the lack of engagement. Great social media engagement takes consistency over time. Keep loving your audience and give them what they need along with what they want.
Mastering social media as a church is worth the effort. You can’t follow one formula though since every local church has different threads, a diversity of people, and different needs, concerns, and goals. So, try something and watch the analytics, adjust as needed, and don’t give up. Use your engagement to push the gospel message into all the world.