I’ve been following Darrel Girardier’s blog for the last couple months and his website has quickly become one of my most recommended resources for churches looking to do more with their social media. As the digital strategy director for Brentwood Baptist Church just south of Nashville, TN, he and his team juggle online content for a full spectrum of ministries. When I mentioned that I thought 90 percent of churches hand all of their social media over to their youth workers, he wasn’t surprised at all.
With all the responsibilities youth workers have to balance, I know that they are some of the smartest and most talented folks in the church. I believe Darrell would completely agree. So I wanted to ask him:
“What do you think churches could do better with their social media?”
He shared a lot with me but here are four key thoughts I walked away from the coffee shop with:
Clearly define the goals of your social media.
Like anything else, you first have to figure out what your goals are and make sure the rest of the staff, especially the lead pastor who handed you the social media keys, clearly understands them. Otherwise you won’t be able to communicate wins effectively. So if it’s to increase likes on Facebook, to foster more engagement on Twitter, or to share more family resources on Pinterest, be sure to define those expectations first so that everyone is on the same page.
Post more than just a digital version of your bulletin.
Darrell pointed out that he knows most churches expect to get results by posting the exact same content in the same way it’s shared in their bulletins. But that method just doesn’t work. The information in your bulletin is most likely simple facts with notes about upcoming events, registration deadlines, potluck updates, small group times, staff contact information, etc. That display of information makes sense on Sunday mornings because it is absorbed in the presence of loving and caring people. An actual human hands it to you with a pleasant smile and maybe you sit next to someone who shares a personal story about their recent mission trip. The bulletin clearly communicates the “what” and sometimes the “how” of your information but the stories of life change will communicate the “why.” If you remove the warmth of humanity, then you leave out why your church matters.
Social media can communicate the “why” but it takes a rewrite. Instead of just telling when small groups meet, share a video about why small groups matter. When you want students to know about registration deadlines for mission trips, start asking students who went last year to talk about powerful impact it had on their lives. Those kinds of stories are all around you and they’ll communicate the “why” first, so that people are ready for the “what” and “how” details.
Keep up with technology or your ministry will quickly become irrelevant.
As a paraphrase of Moore’s Law, Darrell shared how amazing it is that the cell phone in his pocket is more powerful than the computer he used in college. The development of technology is constantly enhancing and changing our culture. It’s impacting every aspect of our lives, including our faith, and social media is a testament to that. If a church isn’t bought in or doesn’t understand yet that social media is important, that disconnect with culture is creating much bigger problems than what a Facebook page can fix.
Financial investment is an important aspect of keeping up with technology, but setting aside money for social media is laughable for a youth worker who has a $15 ministry budget. So take advantage of great low-cost apps like PicLab or Legend and use the free option for HootSuite.
Choose the right context.
Darrell left me with an adaptation of Bill Gate’s famous 1996 prediction:
“If content is king, than context is kingmaker.”
What you say matters but the context you say it in matters even more. For our purposes, the context includes any social media channels you choose, the way you decide to publish your content on those channels, and how you promote it. Keep in mind the different “languages” of each social media platform. For instance, Instagram was created for sharing quality, in the moment images. But knowing the language of Instagram also means understanding that you can’t add a link to a comment, so typing in the long URL link for your camp registration under your awesome picture isn’t going to matter.
One of my favorite resources for understanding the context for most social media platforms is Gary Vaynerchuck’s “Jab Jab Jab Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.” In it, he explains why some content works well on some social media platforms and not on others, and more importantly, why that matters. As far as I know Gary isn’t a Christian and he can be a bit profane at times, but I have yet to run across someone who communicates those kinds of details as effectively as he does.
So now I’m curious…