Do you need a church social media strategy? I get that question quite a bit as I am talking to churches about technology, communications, and marketing. There are a lot of churches that are using social media but not thinking much about precisely what they are trying to do or even why they are doing it. At some point, they decide that maybe they should have a plan.
So, do you need a church social media strategy?
Absolutely, yes. And absolutely, no.
Let me explain.
If a church is going to invest time, energy, and money into social media, they should absolutely have a social media strategy. Otherwise, they are just expending effort with no clear path to actually accomplishing anything. However, if after seriously considering the time, money, and effort required to make something happen with social media, a church may decide to put their energies somewhere else. And that is just fine. In some ways, working to develop a social media strategy may be an excellent way to determine whether or not you need one. And, actually, deciding not to invest in social media at this point is a strategy of its own. It is setting a strategy to prioritize other efforts. It comes down to this: If you are not ready and willing to develop a purpose and measurable objective for your social media efforts, the time and labor that you are expending may not be worth it.
How Do We Decide?
So, how do you decide whether or not to develop and implement a church social media strategy? I have developed a few questions to guide your decision. The good news is if you decide you do need a church social media strategy, answering these questions will get you pretty far down the road to developing one.
Question 1: What Do You Want to Get Out of Social Media?
This is an important question, and many strategies stop right here. To be appropriately cliche, you can’t get where you are going if you don’t know where you are trying to go. Rarely does anyone stumble into an effective strategy. There are several general directions a church can go here. Are you looking to use social media to engage with new people? Or, do you want to use it to connect the members and guests you already have? Yes, you can do both. However, unless you are prepared to commit to a Herculean effort up front, you won’t likely succeed doing both right away.
Pick one. Then try to refine it. Connecting with more people is great, but a real strategy needs focus. Maybe there are a lot of new young families in your neighborhood, and you want to reach them. Or, perhaps, your goal is to create a more intentional community with your current members by giving them a place to keep up with their church family. If you can really pin this down with clarity, the rest of the process will be a lot smoother.
Question 2: How Will You Know if Your Church Social Media Strategy has Succeeded?
Church people don’t like measuring things. It feels strange trying to quantify something that surpasses our understanding. Most of us have heard sermons on the parable of the lost sheep and understand the worth of bringing even one person into a relationship with God. This leads us to justify nearly any effort or expense if we can find one person who was impacted by it. That’s great, and you can just keep doing that if you want.
However, if you want to make an impact on your church and community, you might want to move past that. Sure celebrate every last conversion but don’t let that keep you from evaluating the best places to funnel resources. So, set a goal. What would have to happen for you to know that your social media strategy was a success?
It may take a little more research into social media to begin to understand some of the metrics that you can measure but just start with your overall vision. This is an excellent place for statements like, “Our social media strategy will be a success if we can increase the number of first-time visitors by 20% for our Christmas Eve services.” Or, if you have a more internal focus. “Our social media strategy will be a success if 30% of our congregation is connected to an online group.” You can refine these later, but if you don’t start with a goal in mind, you won’t likely get there.
Question 3: Do You Have All the Tools You Need to Implement a Church Social Media Strategy?
Many churches jump into social media without really knowing anything about it. There is no shame with investing a little time poking around and learning about the different platforms and how they are used. However, social media is a complex, ever-evolving medium. Just because you have people who are on Facebook and someone with Twitter and Instagram accounts doesn’t mean you are ready to invest in a full social media strategy.
Social Media Marketing is its own specialized field. You don’t necessarily need extensive training and experience to succeed, but you do need someone to invest in a little education. Fortunately, there are some great blogs, books, and online courses about social media marketing. Once you start learning the basics of social media marketing, you will realize that there are several online tools and apps that take much of the repetitive work out of social media campaign. Some of these are free, but the really great ones can cost money. The trade-off is vital to consider.
Churches love to go the free route. However, if you are serious about results and don’t want to burn out staff and volunteers, investing in the right tools may be worth the expense. That all becomes part of the decision process as you are determining whether or not to implement a strategy.
Question 4: How Much is this Church Social Media Strategy Going to Cost?
What draws a lot of churches to social media is the thought that it’s free. Speaking in terms of actual dollars spent directly on social media, it can be. But that does not take into account labor. If a church is considering making this part of the work of a staff member, what work will be shifted or eliminated to give this person enough time? As you move through step three, you may see that a serious strategy will take more time than initially thought. If volunteers seem to be a better option, are there enough people committed to this work, and will it be taking them away from any essential roles they already fill? If going the volunteer route, will it still require the attention of staff to mentor and monitor those volunteers. And, once you learn more about the ins and outs of social media, what about other potential expenses? Will you need some Facebook Ads to help get things rolling? Does it make sense to use an application like Buffer to help schedule and analyze social media postings?
Question 4: Are You Ready and Willing?
Now, you are ready to make a decision. Once you know what you are trying to do, how you will measure success, have evaluated whether or not you have all the needed tools, and determined what it will all cost in terms of dollars and people, it is time to decide. There are three possible decisions you can make.
1. No. This is just going to be too difficult or resource intensive to handle right now.
2. Yes. You are ready to move forward in developing a full church social media strategy.
3. Yes, but. The church is prepared to move forward but needs to limit the scope a bit.
Number three is definitely a possibility. Sometimes for questions one and two, we may dream a bit bigger than our reality can handle. That is just fine. Go back to the first step and try again with a smaller goal in mind. You may find, as you work through the rest of the steps, that you can create something a bit more manageable.
If you land on number one, that is okay too. Maybe with what you have learned, you can revisit in the future after you have figured out a way to eliminate the obstacles.
If you end up deciding to move forward, it is time to get to work. I am in the midst of compiling some tools to help you develop that strategy. Stay tuned!