5 Tips to Jump Start Your Social Media Outreach
In marketing you need to “go where the people are.” And that concept is no different when it comes to evangelism and reaching your community. Coffee shop Bible studies, community events and other evangelistic outreach opportunities put God’s Word and your congregation on display by going out into the community. It is the essence of the “Great Commission” Christ gave in Matthew 28:19-20 where He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (ESV)” Notice, Jesus doesn’t say “Stay put and hope that people come to your building on the corner to learn what I’ve taught and commanded.” Jesus says GO… Get the Good News to the people!
The internet has a lot of negatives, but there are a lot of positives as well in this digital age in which we live. Almost everyone is connected to one another through social media these days. And the place where everyone is, is Facebook. When you need to “go where the people are,” digitally… You need to be on Facebook. Without a Facebook presence and an accompanying website, your church might as well not exist. The cost of the upkeep of a website is significantly less than running a year-long yellow pages ad, running ads in the local paper, etc. In June 2017, Facebook reported 1.32 billion daily users on average. With more than 2 billion unique monthly users in the month of June. In comparison, there are more people on a daily basis who look at Facebook, or search Google for a business in your community than subscribe to the daily paper or flips through the musty yellow tinged books that somehow are still in print and delivered every 3-4 months (seriously… How are yellow page businesses still a thing!?).
So that brings me to my focus of this exclusive article. I’ve made this available to you because you’ve signed up for my newsletter, which I will not inundate you with unnecessary emails or solicitations for 3rd party offerings. I want you, a servant of Christ in your community, to be better equipped to use social media and your website to their full potential. So let’s get to the 5 Tips to Jump Start Your Social Media Outreach.
1.) Have a functioning, informative and appealing website.
“Wait a minute… I thought this was an article about social media!” It is… You see social media marketing is really just an extension of everything that you offer. You want people getting more than just a post on Facebook or Instagram. You want them to visit your site, learn more about your congregation, listen to sermon audio, access great resources, etc. So directing people to your website is important. And just as important is having a site that is visually appealing, mobile-friendly, and well organized. There are several ways this can be accomplished, but it’s something that I can help you set up as well. Check out my congregation’s website to see what I’m talking about: http://loveland.church
The importance of having a web presence can’t be emphasized enough. With more people than ever turning to Google and Google Maps to find locations and local offerings, it’s vitally important to keep your website updated. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps you to show up higher in search results, putting your congregation in front of those searching for a church in your area. You cannot rely solely on just having a Facebook page. While there are a LOT of people on Facebook, there are also a LOT of people who are not. So you need to have a presence outside of social media that you can point people to from Facebook, and where people can find you through a simple Google search.
2.) Focus on Content.
What you post on your social accounts is incredibly important. And HOW you post it is just as important. What do you want to communicate to your audience on Facebook? Before you can consider this question, you need to understand just who your audience is. I think there are three categories of people that will see your content on social media:
- Church members (locally and worldwide).
- The religious community as a whole.
- The “unchurched”.
It’s important to understand your audience, because you need to consider them when you address topics and people in your content. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being caring and loving as Peter exhorts us in 1 Peter 3:15. So, whether you’re sharing a post about your upcoming Gospel Meeting or a sermon addressing the sin of homosexuality, be mindful of who it is that will be seeing this content. I’m not saying steer clear of content, just be mindful of your audience.
What kind of content works well on social media?
- Photos from a recent event (i.e. VBS, potluck, church softball game, golf outing, service project, mission work, etc.)
- Video promoting upcoming event (i.e. sermon series, gospel meeting, VBS, etc.)
- Live Video of Worship/Sermon (I’ll address this in further detail in a future article)
- Sharable, short video devotionals
- Blog posts (if you’re a preacher and you’re not writing blog posts, I encourage you to do so. If you write a weekly bulletin note/article, that can serve as a blog post and is definitely a great piece of sharable content)
- Prayer requests
- Sermon quotes (pick a line from your sermon, and put it over an image)
- Bible verses/inspirational sayings (See these examples of sharable images from Bro. Lee Snow)
- Short video of things happening at the church (i.e. VBS, congregational singing, service projects, etc.)
- Video preview of upcoming sermon/sermon series
3.) Engage your audience.
Engagement is key on Facebook. The more people who engage with your content, the better it will perform. “What is engagement?” Well, let’s start at the beginning of how Facebook works.
Facebook uses an algorithm which determines who will see what posts and when. Even if you have 1,000 people who like your Facebook page, it doesn’t mean all 1,000 people will see a post when you make it. Facebook uses its algorithm to determine who will find that piece of content interesting and delivers it to them. Let’s say, your of your page of 1,000, only 100 will see the post you made after 2 hours (this is called “Reach”). If those 100 people all engage with the post in some way, then Facebook will send the content out to more users that have similar interests or engagement history, thus increasing your “reach” exponentially. The more people who engage with your posts, the more people are going to see your posts.
So, now that we have that in our minds, what constitutes “engagement”? On Facebook, an “engagement” is counted when a user likes, comments, shares or clicks on your post. If you’re posting links, Facebook also tracks how long the user spends at the link they clicked on to determine the value to other users. If someone clicks a link and spends 5-10 seconds on it before navigating away, or coming back to Facebook, Facebook’s algorithm sees that as “click bait” (a link that doesn’t provide what is promised). The more people who interact in this way, the less Facebook will deliver it. In contrast, if a user spends 1-5 minutes on the link, Facebook’s algorithm sees the post as valuable so it will send it out to more people.
“How do I get my audience to engage with my content?” Great question, self… This is one of the most difficult things to get a grasp of when it comes to social media management. I consult with news media clients several times a month on this question alone. The key to getting engagement is to be engaging! Sometimes, it’s as easy as simply asking a question. If you have a blog post that addresses a hot-button topic and in the post you offer up a challenge to the readers, when you post the article on Facebook, you can ask, “How do you plan to apply _______?” That encourages the user to click the link and read the article, then come back and share their thoughts in the comment section. That’s 3 engagements right there: 1 click, reading time, 1 comment.
You can also encourage your audience to share the post. Do so at the end of your article, but also do so in the post on Facebook. Say something like “Pass this on to your friends/family!”
When it comes down to it, if the posts you’re putting up on social media, specifically Facebook, are not garnering any engagements, then you’re not going to get a lot of eyeballs on your content.
4.) Solicit the help of the congregation.
Social media is all about the “social” part. Facebook’s algorithm gives a higher priority to content that “friends and family” are sharing rather than what Pages are posting. That means if your cousin Martha posts about how annoyed she is with her sister Mary for not helping at the party yesterday (cf. Luke 10:38-42), you’ll see that before you see a post from your local news station’s Facebook page that you like. So it’s vitally important to get your members involved on your Facebook page. Below are some suggestions on how to encourage this.
- Advertise your Facebook page in your bulletin and on your website!
- If possible, have a “latest posts” sidebar on your website showcasing the latest posts and encouraging the user to “like” the page.
- In your weekly announcements, be sure to mention any new posts/sharable content they should help spread the word about by sharing on their pages.
- Lead by example… When a new post gets put up on the church’s page, be sure to share it yourself.
- If you have an event coming up, be sure to post about it on Facebook and encourage your congregation to share it.
- Facebook has an “Events” feature that allows you to put event details in and members can RSVP, which will show to their friends and family.
The more your members share content, the more people who don’t know about the church, or may not “like” your church page, will see that content and learn! A few weeks back I did a test to see how many people I could reach with a sermon video post. I used a $30 advertising coupon from Facebook to promote the post and reach more people. When all was said and done, that $30 lead to a reach of around 1,600 people. That’s pretty big for our Facebook page. A few days later, a couple at our congregation made the decision to be baptized into Christ for the remission of their sins. I posted a photo to our Facebook page after the event. It reached almost 1,400 people with NO MONEY used to boost it. Why did it out perform the paid promotional post? Because the church was engaged, and sharing the post. Look at the comparison below:
As you can hopefully see, the more value is found when the church engages with your posts. It’s always good to remind the church to share content that could lead others to Christ. If they’re concerned about what their “friends and family” on Facebook would think if they shared a sermon, then perhaps a lesson may be warranted to address being “ashamed of the Gospel (cf. Romans 1:16).”
5.) Be consistent.
Set a plan in motion and stay consistent with it. If you’re someone who sets a very specific schedule for your daily routine, slot out some time to build content for your social accounts. If it’s too much for you to do, find a volunteer in the congregation who is savvy and willing to help in this effort. It is absolutely an outreach mission if it’s approached with the purpose of bringing others to know Jesus Christ.
Remain active with your page. Keep content flowing, that way when someone is looking for a congregation, and they search Facebook for you they’ll see how active you are, be able to see great content coming from your church and it will aid them in deciding whether to visit or not.
Of course, all of this revolves around your willingness to GO. This method of outreach shouldn’t replace your other opportunities of getting out, IN PERSON, in the community to evangelize. Social media gives you the ability to reach a broad audience with the saving message of Jesus Christ. This is a FREE TOOL at your disposal to advertise your congregation and shed light on the Gospel.
If you have any questions about the content held here, if you’d like to schedule a one-on-one social media counseling session, or if you’d like to book a seminar on Social Media Outreach for your congregation, please feel free to reach out! You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
May the Lord bless your outreach efforts as you strive to bring more into the Kingdom of Christ!
— DD —