In Part 1 of “What is Your Church’s Twitter ‘Why?’“, I reviewed using Twitter in a micro-targeting way to connect and engage current church members, guests, and friends with Twitter. Whether or not that is intentional, it seems to be the default strategy of most churches I find on Twitter.
But what if your church’s goal on Twitter is to reach new people who don’t already attend, or even know about, your church?
In my post, “One Question To Ask Before Your Church’s Next Post on Twitter,” I offered a three-part assignment. The first part was about defining your Twitter strategy. The next two parts were about determining whether or not your work on Twitter was aligned with that strategy.
Let’s look at the second two parts of the assignment through the strategic lens of trying to reach new people.
Look at Your Current Followers
This is very easy to do. Just go to Twitter.com, log in and click on followers. You will see every person who is following you. If your Twitter strategy is to reach new people, your followers should not be limited to people you already know.
Also, if you are trying to reach new people who might be interested in your church, a large portion of them should live nearby. This doesn’t mean they all have to be local. Growing a network on Twitter is more complicated than that. However, if you don’t start gaining some local followers, you aren’t going to connect with people who might be interested in your church.
So How Do You Know Who is Local?
Well, there is the hard way and the easy way. The hard way might work for you if you don’t have a lot of followers. Just look at your followers, one by one, and see who they are.
If you have a lot of followers, or are just looking for an easier way, try a service like tweetsmap. Here is what my @pastorwill followers look like on a map.
Now, my goal is to reach people anywhere in the world interested in improving their ministry effectiveness. So I am happy to see numbers come from all over the U.S. and around the world.
But let’s zoom in on the map.
If you are looking to engage with people who might be interested in your church, you are going to eventually want to see your biggest percentage of followers clustered around the location of your church. There is nothing wrong with having followers on the other side of the world but just remember, these are not the people most likely to get involved in your church.
Especially for a local, micro-targeted strategy, your total number of followers is not nearly as important as who those followers are.
So, what if local people aren’t following you?
Don’t feel bad. Most of the churches I have analyzed have very few non-member, local followers. That’s okay. You can grow your local following base.
What can you do?
(You are going to notice some similarities here to the steps for growing the number of church members, guests, and friends list from my other post. However, these are focused on local people not already related to your church.)
It’s pretty simple yet not necessarily easy – you need more of your people to follow you. Here are some ways to make that happen:
1. Promote Your Twitter Handle Everywhere.
Just printing your Twitter handle in your bulletin isn’t going to cut it here. You need to make sure it is available on all of your external communications. If you are advertising or promoting anywhere, make sure you include your @mysuperawesomechurch.
2. Follow Local People.
There are two ways to get a lot of followers on Twitter. One is to become famous. And being famous is not always enough. You need to be famous and tweet interesting things. Two is to post interesting stuff and start following people. This is how most twitter influencers end up with thousands of followers. If you consistently post relevant content and consistently follow people who might be interested, a bunch of them will follow you back. And remember, you aren’t looking for thousands of followers, you are looking for local followers.
But How Do I Find Local People to Follow?
I have some recommendations.
Follow Local Businesses, Organizations, and Media Outlets.
These accounts might follow you back, especially if you post content that is interesting to the community. They may be trying to do the same thing as you: reach local people. If you are in a small community, this may be a limited list but that is okay. If you are in an urban or suburban area, you may decide to be more selective about which businesses and organizations you follow.
Follow the Accounts that Follow those Local Businesses, Organizations, and Media Outlets.
Just click on their listed followers and click “follow.”
Do a Local Search.
Go to https://twitter.com/search-advanced. Once you are there, you can search near a specific place or places. You can also narrow that search with words and phrases. You don’t need to follow every account you find but don’t just look for other Methodists or other church people. Remember, you are trying to find new people to engage with!
Look at Your Tweets
While there may be some tweets that will work for this strategy as well as a strategy to engage current members, guests, and friends, a church needs to be intentional about content to reach new people.
Just consistently telling people about your church is not likely to get them to engage with your content. But what if you engage in the community conversation? If you want to engage with people who aren’t church people, you need to offer something other than church content.
Read that last sentence again. Think about it. If you are reaching out to people who aren’t already interested in your church, what makes you think they will be interested in announcements about your church?
So What Do You Tweet About?
This is really about taking common sense into the online realm. If you meet someone in the grocery store, do you immediately start talking about your church? Some people do. Most don’t find it effective. We usually begin conversations and relationships around common interests. What does your church have in common with people who don’t attend your church or don’t attend church at all?
Share Good News
There are good things happening in your community. You may find out about them from other people on social media, from the local paper, or just by being in the community. Celebrate things that the community is celebrating.
Is there a big event happening in your community? Do you have information? What about helpful tips about where to park? Do you know some of the best spots to watch 4th of July fireworks? Is something happening at your local school?
Share Ways You Are Engaged in the Community
People who don’t attend church may not know that churches do more than gather on Sunday morning. If your church is engaged in disaster recovery, running a food pantry, or cleaning up a local park, let people know. They might want to join in. At least they will know that you are really a part of the community.
Share Support, Thanks, and Encouragement
This can be general or specific. Why not tell people you are praying for the students taking standardized tests? You could use a tweet to thank your local police, firefighters, and first responders. People always need encouragement. How about some words to get them through their day?
Share Information on Church Events for the Community
Many churches already do this. Pumpkin patches, community picnics, concerts, and other events are great things to share, especially if they are mixed in with some of the other content listed above.
Most of these things won’t get people to come to church on Sunday but they may build relationships. If your content is great, people may share it. They may remember, at some point, who shared it with them. They may begin to have a different view of your church. Then, maybe, when you share the occasional invitation, someone might accept.
This is Just a Start
Once you have a clear strategy and begin to grow your following and expand your content, there are plenty of ways to continually increase your impact. Using hashtags, including graphics and images, optimizing share times, automating tweets, and recycling content, are just a few ways to improve your results. But that is for later. For now, start following and start tweeting!