A few years ago, you could get away with winging it – flying by the seat of your pants when it came to social media and that would be passable. After all, that was better than the church down the road, right?
That’s not the case anymore. Now everyone and their mother (and grandmother, for that matter) is on social media. It’s now where the conversations are happening, the relationships are being built, and trust is being formed.
Winging it doesn’t count anymore. The people in your community that you want to reach aren’t going to settle for winging it, and you won’t be nearly as efficient or effective without a social media strategy.
Here are the seven steps that will help you create the perfect social strategy and make your posts more effective each and every time you post:
1. Create SMARTER goals
Creating a social media strategy without goals is like driving with a blindfold on. You might get somewhere, but probably not where you wanted to go.
The same is true of your social media presence. What do you want to accomplish in the coming weeks and months that would make a positive impact for your church? What do you think would really move the needle for helping your church grow or communicate more effectively?
One way to accomplish this is to set SMARTER goals. This framework was created by Michael Hyatt and it’s perfectly applicable in this situation. Setting SMARTER goals means creating goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Risky, Time-keyed, Exciting and Relevant.
I think the main part of that framework is the R for Risky. If you set goals that are just a little above what your social media presence accomplished last year, what would be the point? If you have 3,000 followers and your goal is to increase that number by 100 more followers, would you actually have to change anything to help reach that goal? Probably not.
At the same time, shooting for a goal that’s too high probably isn’t the smartest thing either. Saying you want to have 1 million instagram followers at the end of the year, unless you already have 900,000, probably isn’t that attainable. A goal that is completely out of reach is just as demotivating, if not more, than a goal that you could fall into without even trying.
Goals to consider
With so many potential things you could set goals around, how do you know which goals to set?
This will be different for every church, but usually there is some concrete goal that your church either already has or can create around outcomes you would like to see happen.
Here’s a couple to get you started:
- Increased church awareness: Increasing awareness in the community of your church
- Increased event sign-ups: Getting more people to sign up for events throughout the year
- More website visits: Driving more people to learn about your church through your website
- Building a community: Helping to create engagement through social media channels that will help people stay engaged in church life between weekends
- Social listening: Listening to what your social community is posting and engaging in that conversation
Each of these goals will drive the rest of your social strategy and set the tone for the actions you take. Make sure they are specific and something you want to work towards.
2. Determine your audience
Roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults are Facebook users, but does that mean that’s the social channel you should focus on? Not necessarily. To figure out the right channels to focus on, you first need to know who you want to target.
The biggest mistake churches often make right here is to say they want to target everyone. Churches, listen up. You can’t target everyone. You actually have to pick, and here’s why:
Your social followers are all in different stages of life. Different age groups think differently, talk differently, and connect differently. A 23-year-old college grad doesn’t look, sound, think or talk like a 65-year-old plumber that just retired, who also doesn’t think like a 35-year-old mother of 3.
The starting point for determining who your current audience is should be a mix of two things:
- Who am I reaching already? God gifts each church and each pastor differently to reach different people. You won’t reach everyone, and that’s a good thing, as long as you are good at communicating to the types of people you do attract.
- Who do I want to reach? This is good to consider because you may want to adjust slightly to pull in a different audience than the one that currently comes to your church. A word of caution here: it’s usually quite difficult to reach too far outside the audience you currently reach effectively. In other words, it’s usually not that effective to try to reach millennials if you’re currently reaching 65 – 80-year-olds.
Determining the makeup of your audience isn’t just about age and gender though. At a minimum, you should consider several factors, including:
After you know who your target audience is, your next step should be to determine which social media channel they usually hang out on. For example, around 78% of 18 to 24-year-olds use Snapchat on a regular basis and around half of them are Twitter users, so if you see opportunity in engaging that audience, those are probably social media channels you should consider being on.
To get started, visit sites that talk about which audiences align with which social media platform. One of the best here would be the Pew Research Center (this is a secular company, despite what the name might suggest).
3. Determine the metrics that matter
Setting goals is the easy part, but actually translating those goals into the metrics you look at on your social media profiles are where a lot of churches go wrong.
Often times, churches will get caught up in the vanity metrics, which include likes and followers. However, neither of these metrics necessarily mean that your church is actually accomplishing the goals you set out to accomplish.
After all, does having 1,000 more followers mean that there are necessarily more new visitors on Sunday? Maybe, and maybe not. A better approach is to take a step back and evaluate which metrics we think actually matter in relation to our goals.
Engagement metrics often paint a better picture of what’s really going on in your social accounts than followers. After all, a large part of social media is building relationships and trust, and what better way to tell that relationships are being built than seeing people interacting with what you’ve posted?
Large audiences and eye-catching content are great, but here are a few other metrics you might want to pursue as well:
4. Find inspiration
Please don’t misconstrue this part of your strategy. The idea here is to get inspired and see what is currently working on different platforms, not to copy what the biggest church in town is doing with their social media accounts. Ideas are great, but ripping content, graphics or even creating something closely resembling something else you saw isn’t called getting inspired, it’s called stealing.
But there’s more to it than just not stealing. That church whose Facebook posts you like so much has their own audience, which is probably at least a little different than your audience. They are talking to their audience, which won’t translate to how you would talk to your audience.
So be kind, and don’t steal. Just get inspired by others.
And it’s ok to not just look at churches. In fact, I advise it. Some of the best businesses have great social media accounts, and you can pick up ideas from anywhere. They don’t have to be a church to have a great idea.
If you are having trouble finding social media accounts to look at, just do a quick Google search of “churches in [your city name here]”. Little tip here: searching on Google maps instead of just Google might give you more accurate results when trying to find churches that are close to you.
After identifying the churches whose social media profiles you like, write them down, along with the networks that they use well, how many likes or followers they have on each network, and maybe even make a note of your favorite posts.
This can also give you a good idea of how you are tracking with other churches in your area in followers vs. attendance, meaning does your church have a similar number of followers as other churches that are around the same size?
If you are lagging, that may be an indicator that you need to invest more time and energy into social than you already are. If not, know that you are probably doing a decent job already, but don’t use this as an excuse to stagnate.
5. Build Engaging Content
For any social media presence on any channel, content is where the rubber meets the road. Content determines how engaged your followers will be, how many followers a certain platform will have to some extent, and whether your social media goals will be accomplished.
In short, content is king. But not just any content will be effective. You have to create content that is authentic to who you are as a church.
What does that mean? It means creating content that reflects your church and not trying to be something you’re not.
It also means your content should engage, inspire and entertain way more than you promote.
A big mistake many churches make is treating their social media accounts like an email inbox. Every time they have a “blast” – something they way to promote – they shout it out through social media.
But social media isn’t email. It’s called ‘social media’ for a reason. And that reason is that it’s social. It’s where people gather and connect, not where they want to be “blasted”.
As a general rule of thumb, try to engage, inspire and and entertain around 80% of the time, while promoting things that are happening in the church around 20% of the time. That will make sure people stay engaged and listening to what you have to say instead of tuning you out, or worse, unfollowing your church altogether.
Content, as a whole, comes in several different forms. The key here is finding the balance between what is engaging and what you can realistically produce:
Different types of content you could produce include:
- Blog Posts
6. Engage with your audience
Ok, you’ve planned out and built engaging content, and you’ve posted it to your social media channels. Now what?
It’s helpful to remember once again that social media platforms were built as networks where conversations happen. So now is the time to listen and be a part of the conversation.
In social media, just being present is a huge part of creating trust and building relationships. It’s all about engagement, and making sure you are responding and interacting to what others are saying.
There are social media tools that can make listening and interacting an easier job. It’s also helpful at this stage to have volunteers help with crafting quick, helpful responses to questions or comments.
After posting, make it a point to respond to every comment that you can, even if it’s a quick response. You want to foster community and engagement, so the more you engage, the more your community will engage with you. This creates a loop of engagement that will thrive over time.
7. Track and improve
As with anything else that you implement for the first time, you’ll never get it right on the first try, and there’s always room for improvement. Your social media strategy is no different. You have to be willing to track the affect your actions are having and then adjust based on what you find.
This step consists of three tasks:
- Track: In this part, you gather information about what happened. This data could come from your website analytics and the analytics provided by each social platform. Gathering this data and creating reports consistently is key to understanding changes in performance.
- Analyze: In this step, after you have looked at the data along with the individual content, decide what worked and what didn’t. Some posts might have been total duds or total winners, but most posts will be somewhere in the middle. Notice the trends, and decide what you’d like to do more of or less of moving forward.
- Optimize: This is the step where you make hard decisions, scrap what’s not working and do more of what is. After all, as the old saying goes, if nothing changes, nothing changes. In other words if you don’t make any changes nothing will ever improve. Time to make those changes.
That’s it! Use these 7 steps to build a social media strategy that will engage your audience more than ever before.