By Katie Allred, ChurchCommunications.com
Does your first impression online match what someone experiences when they visit for the first time? How many people are turned off by your church’s online presence when they might actually enjoy your church in real life?
This article is going to cover how to strategically communicate your church’s vision, values, and culture online.
We’re going to begin with social media, chat a little about websites, and finish with some practical strategies for smaller churches just starting out.
The Voice and Tone of Your Social Media Matter
Your Facebook Page is your church’s online marquee. It’s your church’s front door. What you say through social media and how you say it—the pictures and videos that you post—and when you post—all tell a story of your church’s culture.
There are many churches—most churches—that solely post graphics and inspirational content to their social media channels. I don’t think that’s wrong, but I think we can do much better than that. I challenge you to think differently about the story your church is telling online. Remember that social media is often the face of your church to many non-believers.
I love what Seth Muse said in our Church Communications Facebook Group,
“I think you have to saturate your content with your church’s culture. It has to become a unified front of how you talk as well as the type of content you show.”
Remembering that, let’s go through a checklist of things NOT TO DO on your social media:
- Don’t post only inspirational content
- Don’t post only about internal events, and;
- Don’t use internal lingo or jargon.
Your page is really for non-believers. If you want to send updates to your congregation about events then use email or a Facebook group! But a Facebook Page, your Twitter account, or Instagram is and should be for people OUTSIDE of your church. It should give them a taste of what your church’s culture is like. “Taste and see…” if you will.
How Can You Align Your Social Media Strategy with Your Church’s Vision, Values, and Culture?
Social media is constantly changing and rearranging. What worked last year won’t work this year—so how can you keep up?
I want you to take one clear message from this article: AUTHENTICITY IS KING.
What do I mean by authenticity?
Instead of just posting bible verses into the void, why not sit down with your pastor and ask him about his favorite bible verse? And then sit down with someone else. Keep going! Continue asking each person in your congregation.
You have to be intentional. These conversations just like in real life, don’t happen by accident, so plan for them!
Take more photos and tell more stories of your members because really it’s your members who create your culture. For example, next Sunday, take a quick headshot using portrait mode on your iPhone. Ask that member, “What is God teaching you right now?” Post that image and the quote. Tag that member so that there friends can see they were quoted on your page.
Bonus: you also get the reach of their friends and family.
It’s simple, but it’s so effective. It’s a clear win for you and for the church.
Here are some other ideas for questions to ask your congregation:
- What does our church’s mission statement mean to you?
- What did the sermon teach you today?
- What is something you’ve been praying for?
So let’s reiterate what you SHOULD DO on social media:
- Take pictures and tell stories
- Ask questions, and;
- Use LIVE video
Adam McLaughlin said in our Church Communications group,
“We are clear about our four core values. Before anything gets posted, we evaluate how it communicates at least one of our core values. Living out our values communicates our culture.”
Another great way to communicate your vision is to do Facebook Live interviews. Every week our pastor sits down with someone who’s a minister on our staff to talk through an event or a ministry opportunity.
Some ideas for Facebook LIVE include:
- Live prayer
- Short devotionals
- Recap the last message
- Promote the next message
- Tell a member’s story or you could also interview them if you like
- Whiteboard live video, where you fill the whiteboard before you talk and use it as an outline.
Facebook has recently started penalizing pages that use something called “engagement bait”, which is basically where you are asking your audience to “like, share, or comment”. What is awesome about doing these “interview style” posts is that you don’t have to ask for engagement, engagement will find these type of posts.
Remember that social media is a conversation, not a billboard. You want to be authentic and develop online relationships that lead to in-person relationships.
Align Your Web Strategy with Your Church’s Vision, Values, and Culture
If Facebook is your front door, then your website is your living room. It’s the place where people can really get to know you and experience you.
There are 3 things people are looking for when they come to your website:
- They’re looking for times and directions.
- They’re looking for past sermons.
- They’re looking for your staff listing.
Make your vision, values, and culture clear through your website by giving people very clear calls to action.
What is a call to action? It’s basically when you ask the user to do something. When someone enters your living room, you tell them to make themselves at home, right?
A clear call to action could be sign up for an email newsletter, plan a visit, or register for a class.
These “calls to action” help the user know what to expect from you and help give them a clear course of action to take with your church.
If they sign up for an email newsletter, they’re looking to get to know your church better. I would recommend putting a newcomer on a drip campaign. A drip campaign can strategically share your vision, values, and culture by emailing that potential guest with one email a week.
During that drip campaign be sure to include even more “calls to action”. What do you want that potential guest to do? Come to church this Sunday and meet you at the welcome desk?
Spell that out for them. Tell them exactly how they can do that. Do you want them to sign up for a class for more information? Send them a registration link.
Remember how I said: Authenticity is king? It’s still king of your website too.
It’s important to fill your website with real pictures of your congregation. Guests want to know what they will be experiencing on Sunday morning. Let them know by highlighting pictures of your members.
Your website is your living room—it shows people who you are and how your church is doing life together.
Easy Steps for Growth for Small Churches Using Social Media
Start by deciding what social media channels you want to hone in on. You don’t have to use every single social media channel. Choose the platform that works best for you and go all in.
Next create a weekly calendar for posting. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
An example weekly calendar could be:
- Sundays: Photos in the moment
- Mondays: Video Live Interview with Pastor and Minister
- Tuesday: Share a photo and story you took on Sunday
- Wednesday: Recap the Sermon with Your Pastor
- Thursday: Video Live Interview with a Member
- Friday: Share What to Look Forward to on Sunday, and finally,
- Saturday: Feature a Local Business Your Church Loves or Feature a Member Doing Awesome work in the community
A lot of these things you can schedule, except for live videos. I recommend using Grum.co for Instagram scheduling and Hootsuite for everything else. There’s quite a few platforms to choose from so feel free to choose whatever works best for you.
If you chose to go all in on Facebook, I recommend you “invite the likers”. Go to your church’s Facebook page. Now, I’ll wait…
Click on your most recent post that has likes. Now click the “likes”. Do you see a box that came up with “Invite” beside some of the names? You can now get people who have liked your posts to now like your page. This has increased our reach tremendously.
- We’ve covered a lot in a short period of time. So here are some key takeaways:
- In social media and on your website, authenticity is king
- Remember social media is a conversation, not a billboard.
- Feature and interview real people from your church
- Create a clear call to action on your website
- Create a calendar for your social media so it will get done, and;
- “Invite the likers” to your church’s Facebook page
Katie Allred is the co-founder of Church Communications. She currently serves as assistant professor at the University of Mobile and is the director of the Good Work Agency.