Nearly half of the world’s population is on social media. If the Seventh-day Adventist movement is to make strides in sharing the Gospel, we must be present where the masses are.
Use these action steps to grow your church’s online audience, boost engagement, and serve more people.
1. Know your Social Media Target Audience
Who are you creating content for?
The vast majority of church Facebook pages I’ve seen seem to be talking to themselves.
They’re conversing only with their church members.
While you do want to maintain communication with your members, the purpose of church Facebook pages is to reach the community and connect with visitors.
How you communicate with an audience is based on who is in your audience.
For example, the language you use when speaking with a Christian audience will be different if your audience is primarily Buddhist, or atheist, or college students.
By knowing the people you want to serve, your church can be more effective in meeting their needs.
Choose a day. Gather your team (or maybe it’s just you) and assess the community around the church.
Answer the following questions:
- What is the socioeconomic status of my community?
- What might their interests/hobbies be?
- Are there young families or seniors?
- Are there schools in the area?
- What kinds of businesses are there?
- Are there people walking their pets?
- Is it an ethnically diverse community?
- What are their religious backgrounds?
- What kinds of jobs might they have?
Creating your social media strategy without basic knowledge of who you are trying to reach is like making a dress for someone you did not measure.
At the end of the day, you have a dress—but your customer will not buy it, no matter how beautiful it is…because it doesn’t fit!
It’s worth it to spend the time to get to know the people in your church’s neighborhood.
We’ve provided a help sheet to facilitate your data collection on your target audience.
2. Create Meaningful & Engaging Posts
Take a moment to look at a few Facebook pages of Adventist churches.
What kinds of posts do you see?
As you scroll, the most common posts are usually about an upcoming (or recent) event at the church.
Other times, you might find a scripture graphic or a picture with the words “Happy Sabbath.”
While there’s nothing wrong with these kinds of posts, if you want to grow the page and boost engagement, create posts that compel page visitors to like, comment on, and share the post.
In early 2018, Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social network is now primarily concerned with content that sparks “meaningful interaction between people.” They are looking for posts that encourage dialogue between Facebook users.
Content from family, friends, and groups (more on groups later) will rank higher than business and church pages.
This means the content on your page must inspire discussion among your visitors.
Following the example of Christ, we see that He reached the hearts of people because of His willingness to have discussions with them. His conversation with Nicodemus and the woman at the well are among the most memorable.
Here are a few examples of post types that spark discussion:
- Asking questions
- Live videos
- Photos & Videos
Phrases to Avoid
Facebook’s algorithms frown on posts that include direct Calls to Action, like “Comment Below” or “Tag a Friend.”
Steer clear these phrases. Instead, ask questions that will inspire people to respond in the comments section.
3. Set SMART Social Media Goals to Stay Focused
If you want your church’s mission to grow online, you need to have a focus. Setting goals helps you to know what you are aiming for and guides you to stay on target.
It’s Not Just About Likes
A lot of ministries and churches are active on social media, but without goals, they are unable to measure the success of their page. Or, they simply deem their page successful if they have a certain number of “likes.”
But by creating SMART goals, you can accomplish much more through your page.
SMART goals are:
- Specific; the goal is a clear and obvious intent or aim
- Measurable; provides criteria by which you can measure
- Attainable; having the materials, resources, energy to achieve the goal
- Relevant; has to matter and matches the overall purpose of your church
- Timely; has a deadline, includes tasks with start and finish dates
Your goals and target audience description are an important part of your overall strategy. So be sure to take the time you need on this.
Include Your Pastor
Gather your team (including your pastor at some point) and discuss what you would like to see happen in the next 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months.
Be clear about what you want to achieve.
Set KPIs in place. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are quantifiable measures employed to assess the progress of your page.
Create deadlines and review your goals to make sure they line up with the mission of the church.
4. Use Social Media Ads Effectively
Even with best practices in place, to reach more people on social media platforms like Facebook, you need to create ads.
Remember, Facebook is a business.
Whereas in times past you could count on getting organic reach (the number of people who see your content without advertisement), it is becoming increasingly difficult to get your page to show up on the newsfeed of your target audience.
To reach more people online, you need a budget (even if it’s $20).
Ministry leaders are sometimes intimidated by the idea of creating digital ads.
However, if you have your strategy in place and you know your target audience, you can use Facebook ads effectively.
Don’t Self Promote
Ads are not meant only to promote a conference or church event.
Remember, the overall aim of your page is to reach and connect with people, while meeting their needs.
When an organization meets the needs of an individual (without inviting them directly to be a part or join), that organization is building a reputation in the mind of that person.
This can persuade the individual to join the organization (or buy from a brand) not because they were invited, but because their needs were met. They consider the brand as something of value and relevant to their lives.
The same applies to the Seventh-day Adventist church.
If Adventists meet the needs of people online, there’s a greater chance they would want to know and experience more. And digital ads can help make that happen.
Keep in mind, people can sniff out inauthenticity from a mile away. Don’t try to portray on social media what is not a reality for your church.
Consider the following questions when creating ads:
- Am I targeting my audience and the community around my church?
- Will this ad grab a “scrollers” attention?
- Does this ad convey the overall mission of our church?
- Will users consider what’s being promoted as relevant to their lives?
- Is the ad mobile-friendly?
Facebook Pixel is a code embedded into your website to help you track the success of your ad. Data is given to let you know traffic to your site or content download is as a result of the ad.
Check the Size of Your Ad
- Image ads: Size: 1,200 X 628 pixels. Ratio: 1.91:1. Text: 90 characters. Headline: 25 characters. Link description: 30 characters.
- Video ads: Format: .mov or .mp4. Ratio: 16:9. Resolution: at least 720p. File size: 2.3 GB max. Thumbnail size: 1,200 x 675 pixels. Text: 90 characters. Headline: 25 characters. Link description: 30 characters.
- Carousel ads: Image size: 1,080 x 1,080 pixels. Image/video ratio: 1:1. Text: 90 characters. Headline: 40 characters. Link description: 20 characters.
- Slideshow ads: Size: 1,289 x 720 pixels. Ratio: 16:9, 1:1, or 2:3. Text: 90 characters. Headline: 25 characters. Link description: 30 characters.
When you have some time, learn how to Create Facebook Ads.
Also, read this blog post for more on social media ads.
We’ve covered this subject before here. But it’s still a topic we need to address.
You are Bound to Receive Negative Comments
When social media is a part of your daily life or ministry, at some point you will come across a comment that disturbs your spirit.
While writing this article, someone posted a comment on our page that made me angry. I was inclined to fire back; I wanted to “publicly humiliate” the commenter.
But this was not the best course of action.
I stepped away from my computer (literally moved away) and prayed for a few minutes before responding.
If you are creating engaging posts, engagement will come for sure but you also need to be ready to put out fires.
Remember these tips:
- Do not respond out of anger, and don’t take comments personally.
- If someone is consistently combative or argumentative (or trolling) you can block them or hide the comments.
- You don’t need to block everyone who disagrees with you or have different beliefs. Disagreements are not a problem, being disrespectful is.
6. Schedule your Posts
A common reason church social media directors give for not posting content regularly or maintaining the page is the lack of time.
Let’s face it, most social media strategists for churches have full-time jobs and are not able to give hours worth of attention to the page every day.
But this problem can be solved through scheduling.
Scheduling your posts on Facebook (and other platforms) can save you a lot of time. You can plan your posts for a week or a month (or longer at a time).
Schedule Seasonal Posts
But be on the lookout in case a crisis (local, national, or international) happens. Your church does not want to appear insensitive by seemingly ignoring a critical situation because your posts are automated and do not match the current happening.
Also, be mindful of seasons or holidays. When scheduling your posts, think about what holiday might be coming up and try to create content to pair with the time.
How to Schedule Facebook Posts
Facebook posts are quite easy to schedule.
- Log on to your church’s page
- Click the “Write a post…” box
- Insert your post (graphic, video, etc.)
- Instead of Clicking “Share Now,” select the drop-down arrow and click “Schedule”
- Select the date you would like the post to be published
- Click “Schedule” to confirm the date
- Click “Schedule Post” to save it
While scheduling your post saves you time, stay on top of your scheduling calendar so the posts are timely.
7. Plan your Livestreams
While streaming your church’s sermon on Facebook is beneficial to those who are not able to attend your Sabbath services, the Facebook Live button can be used in a variety of ways to boost page engagement.
Include a Host in your Livestream
If you decide to stream your service, add a personal touch by having someone introduce and close the program.
The ‘host’ can use an intro similar to this:
“Thank you for tuning in to our Facebook Live for our Sabbath service this morning. Wherever you are, we hope that you are blessed.
We would like to connect with you. If you have a prayer or song request, send a message right here on our Facebook page. Perhaps you would like to study the Bible more. We have an online Bible study group that meets on Sunday evenings for 45 minutes. To sign up, just send us a message and we’ll send the necessary information to you.
Once again, thank you for visiting our Facebook page!”
This intro can help the viewer feel connected to the community.
It also gives several Calls to Action (a direct prompt to get the audience to respond and take action). This is an optimum way to get your viewing audience directly involved.
Plan your livestreams and be intentional about what you hope to accomplish as a result. Planning and goal-setting will help you make improvements, thereby, growing your audience.
As you plan, check out this article to learn about 6 creative ways to use Facebook Live for ministry.
8. Create Facebook groups
As we discussed earlier, Facebook aims to encourage meaningful interactions between users.
Studies show that people who actively use social media (commenting and engaging) have lower risks for loneliness and depression. This is in comparison to those who passively use social platforms (just scrolling).
To encourage more engagement and dialogue, more emphasis is being placed on Facebook Groups. Groups are Facebook communities formed with individuals who share a common interest. These groups can have millions of members.
By creating groups for your church’s page, you have a unique opportunity to connect with members and visitors.
Nona Jones, leader for Facebook’s Faith-based Partnerships, compares groups to different rooms in a house while your page is the front door. The aim is to get visitors past the front door, into the house where you can build bonds with them.
Groups open the door for more dialogue and provide a personal feel.
You can create groups for various branches of your church. So, rather than creating different pages for the youth department, women ministries, or the music department, these can be groups that members can join.
Get church members involved in digital evangelism by inviting them to create groups based on interests or Bible topics. Through this method, they have a group of people that they can disciple.
How to Create a Group:
- Click “Create” in the top right of Facebook and select “Group.”
- Enter your group name, add group members, and then choose the privacy option for your group.
- Click “Create.”
- Once you create your group, personalize it by uploading a cover photo and adding a description.
For more, read this article about creating your church’s social media ministry.
Most important Step
We covered a lot, and I hope you’re feeling inspired. As you get excited to make changes, remember, you don’t need to try to cover all of these points at once. Choose one item and work on that for the following week.
The most important thing to remember is the aid you have available to you through the help of the Holy Spirit. Social Media is a mission field, so do not hesitate to pray during the process of building your church’s page.