Whether it be to increase awareness, grow membership or to share a message, social media is a helpful, cost effective tool for religious groups today. Many religious groups have already found success using social media by connecting with their members and keeping them engaged, involved and active religious advocates. So, if your congregation hasn’t already joined Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, it’s time to begin!
Mars Hill Seattle Church, for example, does a great job posting to their Facebook page to engage their audience. They also use Twitter, podcasting, Instagram, Pinterest and Youtube for posting sermons, advice and announcements.
Temple Israel (Memphis) also reaches their congregation through Facebook posts. They post announcements, event photos,weekly updates and stories to grow connections as well as make new ones.
Mars Hill Seattle and Temple Israel (Memphis) have large congregations and followings, but don’t let that discourage you! It’s easy for any religious organization – big or small – to use social media to join the conversation and increase membership.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Talk to your current audience
Start an open conversation about your audiences’ social media usage and what they would like to get out of your organization’s social media. Ask them what platforms they use the most, what times of day they check them and what information they feel is lacking or wish was more readily available to them on a daily basis. This will give you a great idea of where to begin. If you start off by trying to appeal to your current members, then they are more likely to share and support your social media efforts.
2. Integrate social media into your outreach program
Social media is a smart, cost effective tool to support your outreach program. 89% of Americans ages 18-29 use social media sites today, so this is an excellent way to recruit a younger demographic.
While using social media for your religious organization may seem less personal than the traditional communication, John Dyer, director of web development at the Dallas Theological Seminary, argues that if used correctly, it’s effective. “That’s where the younger audience is,” he adds, “You kind of have to go where they are. It would be a mistake not to go where they are. But I still think the primary purpose of things is to draw them in to meeting face-to-face.”
3. Follow, follow, follow
The best way to receive followers when you have a newly created social media platform is to reach out to them first. Follow all of your current members who are on Twitter and then encourage them to follow you on your other platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Next, you want to encourage your members to reach out to their friends who might be interested in joining your religious group. Lastly, you want to follow potential members in your community.
4. Brand yourself
Many of you may already have logos or customized images for your religious group, however if you don’t have any yet, it is important to create them before you join any social platforms. Once you have a clear brand, then you want to use consistent images on all of your social media outlets.
Dave Bourgeois, author of Ministry in the Digital Age, reminds religious organizations to stay up-to-date with a look and image. He says, “Even the logos and colors we use must keep up with the latest styles; what previously looked cutting edge may now convey the message that your ministry doesn’t ‘get it’ anymore.”
Also, make sure to include a link to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages on all of your organization’s bulletins, pamphlets, website, newsletters and emails. This will increase your followers, as well as increase your reach to potential new members.
5. Set Up House Rules for Facebook
As an organization, it is recommended that you set up ‘House Rules’ on Facebook that allows your followers to voice their opinion in a safe environment. The best way to do this is by including a mission statement in your “About” section of your Facebook page that explains the purpose of having your Facebook page, what you are looking to do as a brand on this platform and to motivate your fans to act in a desirable way. You can also help filter negative feedback by responding to comments positively or deleting ones that cross the line. All of these things will help keep a positive tone for your page and make followers feel welcome to post whenever they want.
Ask the experts at iScream Social how you can get your religious organization started with a custom social media plan today! Add your questions to the comment section below.