The Unwritten Rules of Social Media Ministry

The “unwritten rules of social media ministry” come in no particular order of importance. I’ve attended social media marketing seminars, and participate in a lot of webinars, and one of the most annoying things that consistently comes up, is that presenters seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that those attending come from markets ranging from populations of under 5,000 to over 400,000.

Hopefully, this breakout session can provide information that is applicable in whatever market you find yourself in, regardless of size and population.

The information that we will go through is not your typical “how-to” type of information. Going through that would be a poor use of your time. If you don’t have a Twitter account, a Facebook account, don’t know how to create a Facebook Page, a business Instagram account, there is this wonderful little resource that you may have heard of: Google.

Most of these social media platforms also do an excellent job of walking you through the set-up process. 

If you don’t have a social networking presence, I recommend signing up for a personal Facebook account, setting up a Facebook Page for your church/youth group/ministry, creating an Instagram account that can be linked to your Facebook Page, creating a Twitter account, and if you are feeling super determined, create a Snapchat account for your ministry.

If you are signing up for a Friendster, Myspace, or Vine account, well, you’re signing up for dead websites. Don’t do that.

Earlier, we determined that the information that will be provided won't be arranged in any particular order of importance. There is one particular item that must be said first and must cover every aspect of what we do throughout this session.

 

Jesus is Lord, and content is “king”

In the world of social media, the phrase “content is king” is thrown around and is often accepted as the paramount motto in the industry. Social media and networking professionals, community managers, and YouTubers understand that in the world of social networking, you can not rely on your existing popularity, your budget, or your personality to keep you relevant to the consumer. Releasing quality content at  a consistent rate is the only thing that will keep you afloat in the social media/networking world.

Looking at social networking in this way can be a little difficult when applying it to the context of ministry, but to have a successful social media ministry, you must accept this new mindset, but also mold it and adapt it to your ministry.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24 (ESV)

While we need to focus on the content that we are creating, we also must not compromise what we believe for likes, comments, or shares.

You may find or create a great piece of content, that will attract people to your church and youth group by the thousands, but if it doesn’t have an end to give God glory, then you must reassess everything that you are doing in your social media ministry.

 

Viral Video is Dead

I know what you’re thinking: “I just watched 5 viral videos today.” Most of you have seen or heard the Pen- Pineapple-Apple-Pen video at this point. So how can Viral Video be dead?

There is a great YouTube channel called Corridor Digital that has created some awesome videos. If you’re not subscribed to them on YouTube, and need videos to show before, during, or after your Youth Group, you need to do so immediately. (Disclaimer: some of their videos has content not suitable or appropriate).

Recently the directors at Corridor Digital, Sam and Niko, created a second YouTube Channel that shows their behind the scenes footage, and the process of how they create their videos.

In a recent video titled ”Viral Videos are Dead,” Sam explains why they are changing the format of Corridor Digital from short 2-minute videos, to longer experiences.

The way that people are taking in video content is becoming closer to how we take in television. 

Have you heard of Rhett and Link? They got their start doing short videos that went viral, but now they have all but abandoned their YouTube Channel, and will post videos very rarely to that channel. Their daily long-form podcast called Good Mythical Morning, that was originally their side project, is now becoming their main form of income and views.

For businesses, views, shares, reach and interaction translates to income and ad revenue. 
For ministry, views, shares, reach ad interaction translates to potential opportunities  of ministry and relationship building.

So why is this happening and how does this affect your ministry?

Let’s say you were to stand on the corner of the busiest intersection in your town. While you were standing there, you had the most adorable dog come up to you, and pee on your shoes.

People driving by think it’s funny, they tell their friends, their friends tell their friends, and so on and so forth.

In this situation, you are getting attention, but do you know who gets the reward? The person sharing this story with their friend. 

When we succeed and get that one great piece of content that everyone enjoys and connects with, they connect with the content, not the creator of the content. 

How do we change this?

 

Be Consistent

How do you get attention and the reward for having a cute dog pee on your leg? You don’t just do it once. You do it once a month, once a week, once a day. 

Every Thursday and Friday you go out and stand on that same corner, and turn your white shoes, to a nice yellow green.

The reason that Good Mythical Morning is becoming successful, is because Rhett and Link are consistent with their content. They have carved out their corner of their audience’s thoughts. 

Your presence on social media has to be the same. You don't have to post every day. Actually, I don’t recommend posting much more than 3 times a week. 

 

What Sites Should I Use?

What do you think is the most popular or most used social networking sites/apps?

Where do you think Twitter falls?

Number one? Number two? Number three?

Twitter actually fails to make it into the Top 5 used sites/apps. Twitter is currently sitting in 9th place, at 313 Million users, with Skype and Baidu Tieba (China’s largest communication platform) slowly catching up with Twitter at 300 Million active users each.

So what does this mean for Facebook?

Facebook sits in first place at a “paltry” 1.712 Billion active users.

Instagram is in eighth place, only one place place above Twitter, but with nearly 200 Million more active users, at 500 Million. 

If you’re a fan of sports gambling, you may want to look at the odds of success. If you bet on Twitter over Facebook your probability of winning is around 15.4568%. Your probability of losing is 84.5432%.

But my youth use Twitter, and younger people use Twitter. Isn’t that who I should focus on?

Absolutely, but understand that the majority of Twitter users, also have an active Facebook account. You also have to ask yourself, why are your youth and younger people in-general attracted to Twitter over Facebook.

They’re trying to get away from mom and dad! Older generations are having a harder time understanding why people Tweet, or how to use twitter. You may remember @OldManSearch, which is a Twitter account that started around 2011. This account was created for an 81 year old man who thought Tweeting was how you searched for answers on the internet.

On June 15 2015, he tweeted “hi how many ants are there?”
Shortly he followed that up with a more formal question, “how many ants are there?”

When it comes to youth ministry, you are not only trying to make a connection with the youth, but you are also trying to make a connection with the parents. The same applies for using social media in your ministry.

When you post from your church’s page on Facebook, you have a chance to not just reach your youth, their friends, but also their parents. Take this opportunity to attract youth and have the bonus of having transparent communication with parents.

Facebook should be your main priority when it comes to social media platforms, but you should use any site or app you have available or popular in your market. The following information has a focus on Facebook, but can be adjusted and applied to Twitter.

 

Page Likes Don’t Matter

Page likes are a great indication of how many people have had some sort of interest in your church or ministry. This interest may be passive or active. A page can have 5,000 likes, but has no interactions within their posts. Unfortunately, because of Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm; a person liking your page, doesn’t guarantee that they will see your post. This is in large part due to Facebook’s attempt to have businesses pay for sponsored boosts. 

Sponsored boosts are an option for your church posts, but their are ways to use social media with a more intentional outreach, that should also encourage more interaction within, around, or about your posts.

 

Share>Comments>Likes

This is where your congregation becomes an active part of your social media ministry. During a worship service, express how important it is that your congregation takes the steps to share your posts. Some of your youth or even older members may be still learning how to speak about their faith and their church with others. Giving the opportunity to share your posts can be a big step for their faith development.

The more shares you have, the greater your potential reach becomes.

In May, I wrote an article about the “Ten Things All Poplar Bluffians Know.” The post had 469 shares. With a population of little over 17,000, how many people do you think were reached on Facebook with this one post? That one post reached 33,501 people in Poplar Bluff and the surrounding areas.

My review for Batman v Superman reached 29,939 people.
My biggest reach on one singular post was for my review of the movie 13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. That post reached 90,401 people.
Fox Radio Network is based in a town with a population under 20,000, and only has 1,330 Facebook page likes. Yet over the past year, we have reached well over 100,00 people.

Imagine your ministry reaching that many people in one year. You might be thinking, "but these posts aren’t dealing with our ministry. How does my post about the youth Christmas party reach 29,000 people." Honestly, it doesn't.

"So what do I post to get a high reach?"

 

Take What Works, Apply it to Your Region

Have you heard of Buzzfeed? Have you heard of The Onion? Have you heard of Clickhole? These three websites have mastered shareable content. It is important to study this content, and understand how it works for you. My “Ten Things all Poplar Bluffians Know” was my attempt to make a Buzzfeed-esque post. People love Top Ten Lists, uplifting videos and stories, cute things, fluffy things, and people love the controversial. 

The Onion is a satirical website that a lot of people accidentally take seriously. Click Hole is essentially to Buzzfeed as The Onion is to news.

Earlier this year I decided to make an attempt to use my skills of creative writing and comedy, and my knowledge of what people share and click on, and I created The Faux Fox. The Faux Fox is a section of foxradionetwork.com that has satirical articles focused on the Poplar Bluff area.

The first Faux Fox article was titled “Is the Poplar Bluff Panda Express Already Haunted?”

Construction on Panda Express had just begun in a spot where teenagers park their cars to do, I don't know, teenage things. The joke was so absurd, but also very familiar to everyone in the area. It brought back memories, it got people excited for what was to come, and it was something made just for them.

That post ended up getting 118 shares with a reach of 14,497. That was the very first post on that Facebook Page, with only one page like: me.

Are you a basketball fan?

If so you may have heard that Kevin Durant had quite the dramatically drawn-out free agency this summer. As soon as it was announced that he was close to making his decision of where he was going to play next, I quickly threw together an article with the headline “THIS JUST IN: Kevin Durant Could Sign with Poplar Bluff Mules.” Everyone knows that Kevin Durant isn't going to play for Poplar Bluff High School, but it was a fun laugh that got 153 shares.

Satire may not be the way to go for your church’s posts. This is just illustrating how to take an existing formula that works, giving it some local flair, and using it to reach those in your community.

 

What do all of these posts have in common?

 

Share Original Content

When you look at all of these posts, they’re all content that I had created. We didn’t find a cool article that could possibly interest our audience, and just hit share. Often times, I will see church pages share an article from a website that they have no affiliation with. It may be good information, but doing that shows no intention or effort to connect with your community or congregation. 

When you create your own content, you are doing it with your youth and your community in mind. Your original content can be pictures, videos, and blogs/articles.

 

Point to Your Website

One of the first big steps to using original content effectively, is creating or adjusting your website to have space for blogging. The majority of your posts on Facebook should point directly to your website. This is common practice for websites like Buzzfeed or any news site. Why?

Remember when we said you can’t reach 29,000 people with your post about your Youth Christmas Party? You can still get that information to that amount of people, by attaching that information to other posts/blogs/articles. 

The reason most posts you see are clickable links to articles outside of Facebook, is because that leads to ad revenue for those websites. When you visit an article, you are bombarded by advertisements. If you were interested enough to click on a link to a specific article, those running the ads on the website have an idea of what else interests you and when else they can try to sell you.

 

Here is where you take what marketers and advertisers have learned, and use it for the benefit of your ministry and kingdom of God.

 

Make your blog, article, or pictures direct people to your website or Facebook page, where you post information about what you have available for youth, children, and adults.

Imagine approaching someone that you have never met and trying to invite them to church for worship, youth, or some sort of event. Hopefully, you’re not walking up to that person, grabbing them by the shirt, and just scream “JESUS!!!!!” That’s probably not the best tactic. You approach the person and introduce yourself. Find out that person’s interests. If you have common interests you discuss those. Then you have your opportunity to invite them to whatever service you would like.

Your posts should resemble that. Some of your posts are used as introductions, to show that you're a mostly normal human being. Other posts are your opportunity to make the intentional invite. 

 

Know When to Post

When you post something can be extremely crucial to the successfulness of your post. If you’re wanting to reach your youth, you might have a hard time doing so with a post at 10 a.m. on a school day. In that situation wait until after school ends to post. Adults are most active on social media between 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. If you have a post that takes longer to consume, wait until most people are off work, between 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. 

It’s hard to get any reach early on in the week, but Sunday and Monday is a great time to follow up with what happened in worship on Sunday morning. You could even simply post one picture from the service with a simple, “thank you for joining us for worship” as your caption.

Use the scheduling tools on Facebook to your advantage. You can schedule Tweets with apps like Tweetdeck.

 

Set Appropriate Expectations

You will be posting these blogs, videos, and pictures in an attempt to reach as many people as you can. Not all of them are going to get you a reach of 50,000 people. Not all of them are going to reach more than 1,000 people. Don’t panic. Do you remember the Ronco Rotisserie infomercials? What was the catch phrase? “Set it and? FORGET IT!!!” 

Don’t publish your post, and sit there and wait for the likes, shares, comments, or reach go up. You will drive yourself crazy! Make your post on your church’s page, share that post on your personal page (to help get it on the newsfeed of your friends and family), and walk away for awhile. Be sure to come back to it, and reply to comments or like comments when you can, but staring and obsessing over the numbers won’t make them go up.

 

Express Yourself

You may be the type who doesn’t want to have a personal Facebook or Twitter, but if you decide to make an effort to extend your ministry into social media, you have to extend yourself into social media as well. Use your personal account to share the posts from your church’s page or Twitter account. You’ll also be able to make these shared posts more personal and explain why it is important to you. This is where you use the tool of personal testimony to make an effect on your network. There are a lot of people you know who might not care about your church yet, but they do care about you. Use that your your advantage.

 

Keep Your Direct Messages

If you are in ministry, especially youth and children’s ministry, using the direct message features in most social media apps are a great way to connect with your students. You must be cautious doing so, though.  It does give you an opportunity to have unmonitored conversations, but the saved messages help keep you and the rest of your leadership team accountable. If you interact with a student in an inappropriate manner, that student has the ability to show that to people who will take the proper actions necessary. If someone accuses you of being inappropriate but you feel that isn’t the case, you can use the messages to prove otherwise.

 

Commit to Consistency and Quality

Some churches will be able to hire an individual or team to handle the social media needs for their church, others will have to get volunteers to mange their social network, and even more so will have to rely on youth leaders or paid staff to take on the responsibilities. Whichever boat you and your church fit in, remember to be consistent and never miss a week of posts. To help keep your quality up, approach someone you trust to have good taste in design or advertising, and ask for their opinion. This can be done by a collection of people, but their should always be one final voice to help keep the messaging clear and concise. The last thing you need is someone else posting the same thing to the same page, but with a different message or image.

When I first came on board to Fox Radio Network, one of our sales people had been managing our Facebook page. When holidays came around, I would have planned out posts and designs specific to the holiday. I would go to post that, and then I would look at our Facebook page, and there was already a post that didn’t go with any of our branding or messaging. 

Eventually we had to have the hard discussion of not giving her the ability to post to our page from that point on. Everything that anyone wants online for the radio station goes through me. Everything that anyone wants online for the church goes through me. I’m not better or smarter at this stuff. I just care a lot, have the experience to learn these principles that we just went through, and know how to put them into practice. 

There is still so much to say and learn about social media ministry, but hopefully with these simple tips, principles and “Unwritten Rules,” you will have a great foundation to a more effective web outreach.


Nico Cuevas is the Youth and Young Adult Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Poplar Bluff, as well as the Web and Social Media Manager at foxradionetwork.com.

You can reach him here
Twitter: @NicoSayThings
Facebook: nico.cuevas
Email: nico@fumcpb.org