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How to Create a Social Media Plan for Your Congregation

blueprintAnyone can create a Facebook page, Twitter feed or YouTube channel.  Almost no one has a plan for how they will use it.

If you want to be successful in social media, you must have a plan.

This post will help you create a plan that fits your congregation.  It covers these topics:

  • Having Clear Goals
  • Being Consistent
  • Capturing Your Content
  • Automating to Save Time
  • Developing a Schedule
  • Studying the Statistics
  • Where to Begin

Five Key Questions

Your answer to these questions will shape your overall plan and what, when, where, why and how you post.

What is your goal?

What do you want to accomplish with social media?  Be clear what you want to achieve.  See it as one part of your overall congregational goals.  Set modest and achievable goals.  Remember, these will be achieved over time, not right away.

Who is your audience, or audiences?

Who are you trying to connect with?  It’s probably a combination of current members, people in your extended community, and total newcomers.  It may also include friends, family, and colleagues.  So, you want to gear it accordingly.  Don’t fill it up with insider announcements.  Make it, dare I say, more evangelical.

What unique value do you provide?

This may be the toughest of these questions.  My best answer to this question is something like “inspiration,” whether it be quotes, Bible verses, prayers.

What makes your congregation different?

There are a millions of Facebook pages and blogs.  You need to distinguish yourself. Consistently highlight what makes your congregation unique, what sets you apart, whether it be commitment to social justice, a focus on spirituality, work in your neighborhood.  What is your unique story to tell?

How committed are you to doing this?

Social media is about building relationships - and relationship are developed over time. Think of this as a long-term project and ask yourself if you are committed to seeing it through.

Be Consistent

In social media, you build followers and engagement by sharing quality content consistently over time.  People know what to expect when they pick up the New York Times.  You want them to feel the same way about your Facebook Page.  If I bother to look and click, I’m going to find ____________.”  It seems counter-intuitive because everything in social media is so instantaneous, but success in social media comes from long term thinking and planning.  The more disciplined and consistent you are over time, the more people will engage with you and your content.

Capture Your Content

One big advantage pastors and churches have is that they generate loads of content: sermons, newsletter articles, educational materials, music, and so on.  Some are of these are easy to capture and share.  Posting a sermon text or newsletter article on a blog is pretty easy.  Start with something like that.  You don’t have to create new content to be effective.  Just capture what you’ve already got.  Oftentimes just a smartphone, flipcam, or digital recorder will do the trick.

Automate as Much as Possible

Spend more time on creating great content and less time posting it.  These free services can save you a ton of time:

  • Get a social media client that allows your to schedule posts in advance.  I love Hootsuite, but there are plenty of others.
  • The Twitter App for Facebook Pages will feed anything you post on your Facebook page to your Twitter account.  Even if you don’t want to be on Twitter, create an account and set up this App.  You get credit for having a Twitter feed with absolutely no work.  [Add the App in your Facebook Page settings.]
  • Many blogs have options for automatically sharing your new post when it is published.  You might also look at Networked Blogs, which will pick up your new blog post and link to it on your Facebook page. [Add the App in your Facebook Page settings.]
  • If you want to podcast any audio, iTunes takes ten minutes to set up and you never have to think about it again.  All iTunes needs to create a podcast is the blog RSS where you post your audio.  iTunes reads the feed and uploads your audio automatically.  [Go to the iTunes store, select podcasts from the top menu, select “Submit Podcasts” from the Quick links menu and type in your blog’s RSS.]

Create a Schedule

You want to have a framework that gives consistency, but also leaves room for spontaneity.  And you probably don’t want to post more than twice a day.  At Redeemer this is our pattern:

  • Monday: Sunday’s Sermon is posted on our Wordpress.com sermon blog.  We share it on our Facebook page with Networked Blogs, which then feeds out to Twitter and our Website.  The audio from the sermons feeds out to iTunes, which reads the blogs RSS feed and picks up the audio.
  • Tuesday: Our weekly 2 Minute Bible Study is posted on Redeemer’s YouTube channel.  We share it on our Facebook page, and it goes to Twitter and the website.
  • Wednesday: A Food Pantry item reminder is posted on our Facebook page, then Twitter and the website.

Those are the regularly scheduled posts.  We consistently put up event reminders and pictures from events.  We also occasionally links, videos, pictures, or news that connect with what’s happening in the congregation, the synod, or the ELCA.

Study the Stats

This is critically important: watch how people respond to your content.  Keep and eye on when people like, comment, share, or respond.  This will give you some anecdotal information about whether people are engaged by your content or not.  Social media sites also provide extensive statistics for free.  Pay attention to these - how many hits you get on a blog post, views on your YouTube video, active users on your Facebook page.  This will tell you what your readers, fans, or followers are looking for.  Gear your content accordingly.

Start Small, But Start

With the array of social media options, it is hard to know where to begin.  My advice is start small.  Begin with the technology you feel most comfortable with.  Make sure that it is manageable - both in terms of the technology and the time.  Consistency over time is more important than doing everything at once.  Quality is more important than quantity.  Once you become proficient at one or two things, then you can add something else.

Finally, this is a learning process for all of us and there is a lot of trial and error involved.  Be patient and keep at it.  Don't worry if its not perfect.  You will get lots of credit for trying.  It shows that your care.

Does your congregation have a social media plan?  How has it worked for you?

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