Social media is a mixed bag.
In one moment it can be an amazing tool for connecting with people, and in the next minute be the root cause of most of the world’s problems.
One of the most frustrating things about social media is that because of how fast its core functions change, churches, influencers, companies, and individuals struggle to keep up with the best practices.
When social media began offering options to brands, businesses, and churches, we learned that it could be a powerful advertising tool that cost us almost nothing.
Then the marketers got hold of it.
Then the celebrities came.
Now there’s a sophisticated algorithm running your life without your knowledge and we have to figure out how to make it work for us.
For churches, there are some things that we keep trying to use it for that social just sucks at nowadays. It’s like trying to saw a plank in half with a screwdriver. Wrong tool for the job.
Here are a few examples of what social media sucks at for churches.
Getting new eyes on your content and stuff
The algorithm of a Facebook page post is NOT your friend. When you post to pretty much any social media platform, it will only be shown to a small percentage of your followers. And I’m talking less than 2% small percentage. If those followers engage with the post, it will show the post to another small sampling, and so on.
Unless you want to pay for it, your organic social media posts are probably being seen by the same 2% of your followers every time unless it is shared. So social media kinda sucks for this.
BUT, it’s actually great for discipleship and inspiration! Using social media to move your audience towards Godly behaviors, thinking, and practice is a quality use for this tool. You’ll find they will probably share those types of posts too as long as they are meaningful.
Getting people to sign up for events and stuff
The Algorithm (which we will just call Al from here), has one purpose: to keep users ON THE PLATFORM. Links that take users off the platform are not favored by the great and mighty Al.
Take a look at your analytics. You’ll probably see what we usually see at Church Comm Team. The best posts on Facebook are the Live streaming services and the worst performing posts are the straight-up event invites.
You can keep hammering that nail with your needle-nose pliers, but the numbers don’t lie: hardly anyone follows your church to sign up for events.
However, social media is great for creating excitement about an event. Giving people FOMO (fear of missing out) is a great use of social media. Find ways to talk about why someone shouldn’t miss it instead of just telling them that they don’t want to miss it.
Don’t invite them, intrigue them.
Getting an honest look at the world and stuff
Social media is fake. It’s the highlight reel that everyone aspires to and no one believes.
Same goes for your church. If everything is great all the time, your followers will either 1) feel you are lying to them or 2) feel like you have attained a level of spirituality they will never reach, discouraging them to grow.
I’m not advocating for depressing posts about how sad you are today, but acknowledging that people are seeing therapists in record numbers right now or that there is massive division over EVERYTHING is something people need to hear from you.
It humanizes your church. And social media is great for leaning into authenticity. Video content allows pastors and leaders to speak to their followers just as they would from the pulpit and the people want to hear how you’re addressing the very real issues in the world.
Issues they are dealing with every day. If you never talk about it, they won’t feel like you are with them or even understand.
Authenticity is demonstrated in empathy and leads to ministry.
Getting people to give to your church and stuff
On this one, I’ll say that it’s not great, but it’s also not terrible. It all depends on how you ask or talk about it. Once again, it will require you to send them to a link off the platform, but people seem more willing to click these links than others.
However, most churches feel pretty awkward about asking people to give on social media. I think that’s the right reaction, honestly. But what you can do is provide the link in your bio and if they want to use it, great.
However, social media is great for showing them what you’re doing with what’s given. I like to use the phrase “you’re not giving to our church, you’re giving through our church.” Social is a place where you can thank them for their generosity and show them how you’re using the money given to the church to do God’s work. Just don’t forget to connect those dots for them in the caption.
Getting a whole bunch of awesome volunteers for stuff and stuff
The best volunteers are the ones you ask one on one, face to face. That continues to be true in most settings.
I’m not saying you won’t get first impression volunteers with an open call on social media, but it might be Dave, the guy who creeps out the ladies & smells like cheese. Poor Dave and his unfortunate choices.
But what social media is GREAT for is bragging on your current volunteers and showing what it’s like to serve at your church. I believe it zero times when someone tells me they don’t like their picture taken or having a fuss made about them.
What they really mean is that they don’t know how to react to it. But deep down, everyone likes to be appreciated. Even Dave.
At least twice a month, snap a photo of one of your volunteers serving and do a quick highlight. You can always put a contact email in the post caption for those who may want to serve too, but there are other, more efficient ways to get volunteers in my opinion.
Getting only positive feedback and stuff
I saved my soapbox for last. It has been my experience that church leadership would rather ignore a difficult issue than risk getting the dreaded negative feedback.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in meetings where we created entire policies for departments based on one or two people’s negative comments. It’s Ludacris…featuring Lil’ Bow Wow.
You can’t go three steps into social media without making someone mad these days. I say just post what you believe is right and accept that some won’t like it. They crucified Jesus, we can handle Frank not liking a graphic we made. And I don’t care HOW much money he gives to the church.
However, social media can be an incredible opportunity for demonstrating grace and peace to those watching how we deal with Frank. We can be firm, but kind. Honest, but gracious.
It’s what we would do if Frank walked into our lobby and began complaining about something to our face. Be the same in both places.
Social media is no silver bullet for getting things we want for our church. Getting exposure or more butts in seats or more income or etc, etc.
Social is NOT about GETTING. It is about GIVING.
What does your church GIVE to your followers via social media? That’s the question you need to answer before you ever set goals for social media.
Goal 1: What do we want to give our people via social media?
Goal 2: How do we want people to feel when they interact with us on social media?
Goal 3: What spiritual purpose are we leading people to with our social media?
Screw likes. Do something meaningful and stuff.