Churches are all over social media, which is a good thing. But are they doing social media right? That’s another question altogether. In many cases, sadly, the answer is “no.” Churches plus social media has often gone woefully awry. In an effort to prevent your church from careening over the precipice of a social media bad practice, we’re going to tell you what those bad practices are… It’s up to you to avoid them.
- Forgetting that you’re on social media. We touched on this issue in last week’s article about Twitter (Ten Ways the Pastor Can Use Twitter). It bears repeating. In many cases, churches jump on the social media bandwagon, simply to have a presence. And then, behold! they forget about it. This results in a torrent of other bad practices.
- Neglecting to use social media for its intended purposes. Do you know why your church is on Facebook? Besides trying to be relevant and appeal to the social media lovers of your congregation, you’re using it as a communication tool. So, communicate. Many church Facebook pages have a sad and dormant life. There is no activity. No updates. No nothing. Go ahead and liven it up a bit. (How long, really, does it take to announce the topic of Sunday’s sermon?) If you have it, use it.
- Not responding to people’s inquiries on social media. Here’s where it gets bad. Say an interested person wants to head over to your church worship service on Sunday. So, he finds you on Facebook and sends a message or posts on your wall or discussion board. What if you don’t respond? Customer service fail! Your church’s involvement on social media is a major aspect of your church’s testimony/reputation. Do a good job with it.
- Not drawing a clear line between an individual and an institution. So who are you on Twitter? Are you an individual tweeting about your love of the Greenbay Packers and shrimp grits, or are you a church, tweeting about an upcoming Parenting Seminar? Don’t blur the line. Sure it’s fine for churches to be winsome or occasionally whimsical on social media, but let people know who you are. If you want to be a tweeting pastor, fine. Let it be so. But if you want to be a tweeting church, your tweets will probably have a different flavor.
- Going berserk with social media ad nauseum. If some churches don’t do anything on social media, there are some churches that do way too much. A tweet now and then is wonderful. But forty tweets in one hour is too much. Facebook status updates coming through all day long can get tiring. (People will block you from their newsfeed.) Use social media platforms strategically.
- Being too salesy with your message. Remember, your church is not a vendor selling an event or product. Your church is a community of believers. Although social media can be a helpful “marketing” platform (I use the “m” word cautiously), it is best to avoid a marketing-style approach to social media. In other words, avoid this style of approach: “COME TO CHURCH THIS SUNDAY TO HEAR OUR AWESOME BAND. WE ROCK!!!” Or, “Community Church of the City – serving the best coffee this side of Seattle … for FREE!” Or “Sermon Coming this Sunday–the secrets you always wanted to know but never heard about your marriage!” It gets trite, cheap, and a bit loathsome. I’d be tempted to unlike you. Even if you do have good free coffee.
- Ignoring the conversation. If you’re on social media, you ought to be listening to what’s being said about you. Many companies maintain an excellent customer service presence simply by keeping up with what their customers are saying about them. On Twitter, all you have to do is a quick search of your Twitter name. Immediately, you’ll pull up a list of everyone who has retweeted you, commented about you, etc.
- Ignoring the “social” part of social media. It’s easy to think of social media as a one way street: you going where you want to go. But it’s not a one-way street, especially for churches. A big part of social media is the whole ‘social’ thing. If you’re on social media, be sociable. Retweet. Comment. Interact. Make friends. Fraternize. Fellowship. Don’t be an island. Be a sociable church on social media.
- Offer something of value. Few people will be a proud participant in your church’s social media experience unless you are actually giving something back. Essentially, this means remaining appropriately active on your social media platform. For example, keep people informed, tweet Scripture or inspiring quotes, provide a forum for prayer requests, post event pictures, other something like that. Give people a reason to interact on your social media forums.
Social media works, even for churches. But you’ve got to help it along. Part of doing that is avoiding these tragic social media mistakes. Did we miss anything? What would you add?
Read more articles on church social media.