What I’ve Learned About Using Social Media to Promote Ministry

Social Media 200cIf you’ve never used social media it can be very intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be.

If you’re a pastor, you’re already doing the hardest part of it – producing content that’s worth sharing. Social media just extends the sharing part.

In this post I want to help reduce the intimidation factor by showing you what The Big Three social media formats are (email, Facebook and Twitter) and what the purpose of each of them is, by using a simple analogy anyone can understand.

Imagine all the content you produce – sermons, articles, videos, podcasts, etc. – as a magazine. But instead of waiting a month for a magazine to come out, each article is available as it’s produced.

That’s what a blog post, like the one you’re reading now, is. An article in an instantly updatable magazine. (Blog = magazine. Post = article).

But you don’t need a blog to use social media. How to set up a blog is something we’ll talk about in a later post. For today, whether you’re blogging, writing or preaching, I want to show you how to use social media to do something we should all want to do. Get your content to as many people as possible.

 

Content Is King

This is where everything starts – with good content. I’m a firm believer that without solid content there’s no need to have a blog to begin with. Or magazines. Or sermons. Or a church.

In the work you and I do as pastors, content is king – or it should be. The content is the message we want people to know. So we work hard to have something of value to say, then we edit, edit, edit. We decide whether to use this passage or that one, a personal story or an anecdote we heard, this word or that word…

Then, when Sunday morning or our blog posting day arrives, we put it out for people to hear or read – wishing we had just a little more time to make it just a little better.

But, once it’s preached or published, that’s it. It becomes like a magazine that people can consume, discuss, argue over and pass on to others, whether they decide to include you in the conversation or not.

 

Owning My Content Just a Little Longer

That may be the scariest part of being a communicator – for me anyway. The idea that other people now have control over my words after I’ve sent them out. People will form opinions about what I have said or written that may or may not be true and I have very little, if any, say about it.

But that’s the risk you take when you decide to put your thoughts, feelings and ideas out there.

What I like about social media is that it gives me some ownership of that content after it’s gone out into the public. And after nine months of using The Big Three to promote this blog, I feel like like have a bit of a handle as to how it works.

If we picture a blog post or sermon like putting out an issue of a magazine, here’s how we use our email list, Twitter and Facebook to promote that magazine.

 

Your Email List – The Committed Subscribers

Having an email list is like sending a magazine to the homes of subscribers. In fact, it’s exactly that – electronically. These are people who have already bought in to your ideas and want to hear more about them. They’re your core constituency. In church terms, these are your church-going members and tithers.

Don’t take them for granted. And don’t overwhelm them.

I lost some subscribers a couple months when I ignored, then overwhelmed my subscribers by mistake.

Due to an email glitch, more than two weeks of my blog posts didn’t go out to my subscribers. Then, when it got fixed, it was like unclogging a pipe. All the backed-up posts went out at once. To make it worse, the “Read More” button in all those emails emails was broken, so no one could get to the website from the email. So I unintentionally overwhelmed them with useless emails after unintentionally ignoring them for over two weeks. Big oops!

But don’t worry. Once an email list is set up, that’s a rare occurrence. I’ve been sending out a weekly email to my local church members for over 5 years without a problem. (Ironically, something like that happened with this post, as you can see in the first comment. I hit the wrong button and sent it out when it was only 90% finished and on a day I don’t usually post, so I had to rush to clean it up before everyone read it – small oops.)

 

Twitter – The Magazine Rack

Twitter is like a magazine rack. It’s where people go to browse and see what catches their eye. Since some of them might be interested in what you’re selling, you place your product where people can take a quick glance at the cover, hoping they’ll want to read more.

That’s what Twitter is, for people trying to market their content. It’s like designing a cover that will catch people’s attention so they’ll decide to look a little deeper.

Twitter only allows 140 keystrokes, so you won’t write your content there. But you can use bite-size pieces of your content to intrigue passers-by into pausing and opening it further.

If you’re not on social media, don’t start with Twitter. If you are on social media and you’re ready to give Twitter a try, don’t start by putting a lot of content up. Start by spending time on it every day, like browsing through a magazine rack. Get an idea how it works, first.

If you’re over 30, Twitter has a steep learning curve. It’s worth it, but it takes time. Instead, start your social media at ground level, with…

 

Facebook – The Living Room Coffee Table

Just what it sounds like. Facebook is the place people gather who know each other already. They chat about the past, then when things slow down a bit, they see what else is going on.

Facebook has a longer shelf life than Twitter. People will look back on your timeline and see what you posted before if they like what you’re posting today.

 

Yes, There’s More

That’s all I’m doing with social media right now. It’s taken me this long to have some basic understanding of the dynamics of the Big Three without coming close to mastering them. But I’m comfortable enough with them now, to add one more to my list.

As an author, I’m leaning towards GoodReads as my next social media endeavor.

What do you suggest? And why?

  • Pinterest? (Ripping out an article and putting it on the bulletin board)
  • LinkedIn? (Giving a magazine to other industry professionals)
  • Instagram? (The old photo album)

 

So what do you think? How have you used social media in ministry and what would you suggest I try next?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

(Social media photo from Jason A Howie • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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11 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned About Using Social Media to Promote Ministry”

  1. Hi Karl,
    I love your blog, and this is a sad first comment… but it looks like you may have posted a rough draft or unfinished copy for this article… facebook section is blank. A parentheses at the end anxiously waiting for that secret thought. And the word “mare.”

    But I really love your blog, as a fellow small church Pastor, it is a breath of fresh air!

    1. You’re right, Mike. I hit “Publish” without knowing it. It was only about 90% done and was planned as a sequel to a post entitled “8 Arguments Against Social Media – And Why Your Church Needs to Use It Anyway”, which will come out next week. Oh well.

      I’ve gone in and cleaned it up. Thanks for the kind comments.

      1. I know a number of folks who post reviews on GoodReads, including my daughter. For those who read (and I’m encouraged by the number of young people in my circle of friends who do so), it’s a great resources for “what to read next.”

  2. I like how you’ve compared each social media outlet to how a magazine “works.” We’re on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And Pinterest, but that’s more for giving me ideas (so far). Facebook has had the best results, and more members of our congregation use it to communicate with us than use email. Looking forward to hearing what others have to say!

    1. I plan to do that eventually. The challenge is that it’s not as easy as the “start a blog in 20 minutes” videos promise. Yes, you can have a blog up in 20 minutes. A good blog, however, takes a LOT longer. And it would require a series of posts to walk people through. But yes, I do plan to get to that.

  3. Very helpful. I’m a junior PR major and I’m constructing a social media strategy plan for my church back home. I’m interested in dabbling in Pinterest. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the usefulness of this platform. Specifically for young families/moms and creative ways to teach children about God.

  4. coppergigi@yahoo.com

    Hi, I’m Karl’s wife, Shelley, and I am on Pinterest. It is a great tool to use! You can find out all sorts of interesting ideas to use, share and collect while keeping it all in one place. There are many creative crafts and lessons as well as scripture verses and so much more. It is easy to start your own page and boards. Pinterest is continually growing and expanding and I go there often for all kinds of inspiration.

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