Recently we’ve been talking about getting started in church communication. Last week we got more specific with visual worship and this week we’re going to focus on social media with the help of Deanna Mingo. She’s the founder and lead digital evangelist for Divyn Media, a digital marketing agency that specializes in social media strategy, content development, training and support for churches and nonprofits. She’s managed social media accounts for Soul City Church in Chicago and New Direction Christian Church in Memphis, Tenn., and coached several faith-based and church-affiliated organizations on best practices for social media management. She also participated in the recent Creative Missions trip to Alaska.
What’s the one thing you wish you had known when you were getting started in church communication?
Deanna Mingo: When I started in church communication, I wish I would have had a better understanding of the persisting tension that exists when it comes to social media and the church. Although the technology is becoming increasingly popular and the reasons for using social media in ministry are stronger than ever, there are many struggling to see its validity. My perspective was a bit overly optimistic when I started and I wasn’t prepared to properly address the pushback.
How do you deal with congregations that are stuck in a ‘That’s how we’ve always done it’ mindset and are resistant to trying new things?
Deanna: Although my goal is to empower as many churches and organizations as possible to learn and implement social media into their marketing, the reality is that everyone won’t adapt. For churches who are willing to entertain the idea, I try to present a strong case for social media, sharing user statistics and clearly explaining how it can be used as a powerful ministry tool. It’s especially helpful to show how other churches are successfully using social media to reach and minister to people. When you make the connection between the tool (social networking) and the desired result (spreading the gospel and making disciples), it’s harder for people to deny its value.
What was your first great success as a church communicator? What made it work so well?
Deanna: One of my first great successes as a church communicator was seeing online activity from an Easter campaign I led for New Direction Christian Church. It was a 45-day social media campaign called “Follow” resulting in 2,700+ Facebook likes, 150+ comments, 400,000 Twitter impressions and 75,000+ Twitter accounts reached. The goal of the campaign was to challenge people’s ideas about what it really means to be a follower of Christ. What made this campaign work well was sharing great content (photos, videos, testimonials from an online story board and a 30-day devotional guide) and consistently encouraging people to answer questions and share their stories.
What was your first great failure? What lessons did you learn?
Deanna: My first great failure was a Mother’s Day photo sharing campaign gone horribly wrong. There wasn’t enough push online and at church to properly inform people and get them involved. Plus, we didn’t clearly explain the details of the campaign (using a specific hashtag, where to post the photos) so there was some confusion about how to participate.
I learned that simple, clear instructions are a must and need to be repeated often. I also learned that there has to be a connection between what happens at the physical church and what’s happening in the online community. This means on-stage mentions, graphics in the walk-in slideshow and perhaps even printed flyers. All of these measures can help push a social media campaign and reinforce that it’s something important and worthwhile for members of the church community to do.
If a church is just starting to get serious about communication, where should they start?
Deanna: Before launching any communication efforts, a church should figure out who specifically they want to target and what voice they want to convey. Develop a solid understanding of your community and organizational goals, and allow that to drive how (and where) you communicate. Your goal for social media shouldn’t be posting just to post, but rather sharing with intention to be able to achieve a desired result. Identify a target audience, establish marketing goals and set guidelines for how your messages should be communicated.
How should a church get started in social media? What should they post, who should do it, which site do they start with?
Deanna: Being organized and planning well is key for social media. I recommend that churches identify one or two volunteers within their community to manage their online presence. These volunteers should be good written communicators, actively using social media, and familiar with the church’s culture and values. Churches should present them with social media guidelines, discuss marketing goals, and set expectations for how they will represent the ministry. Then, monitor their work online and offer constructive feedback often.
It’s also important to share quality content on a regular basis. Churches should post daily and consider sharing the following content on their social media pages:
- Key points from weekly sermons with any related graphics.
- Engaging questions about sermon topics.
- Key points from the weekly children’s ministry curriculum (this is a great opportunity to allow parents to be reminded about what their kids are learning about God).
- Sermon video links.
- Photos from weekly services and special events.
- Reminders about service times and locations.
- Reminders about children’s ministry check-in.
- Scriptures for upcoming sermons.
- Messages about special events with graphics.
- Online prayer request links.
When deciding which social media platforms to use, there are two things churches should consider: who is your audience and where are they most active online? Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world, so it’s a great place to start. Start simple and grow slowly. You never want to take on more platforms than you can manage.
How can a busy church find time to do social media in a way that’s going to be effective and not just neglected?
Deanna: There are lots of great tools that can help churches manage and monitor social media well. I recommend using the online brand management service HootSuite (free for up to five social media profiles). Churches can save time by scheduling messages using HootSuite. Facebook also has a scheduling feature now that can be utilized.
If you’re looking for more help on getting started, check out the rest of our Getting Started interview series. Another resource that might be a big help is our new book, Dangerous: A Go-to Guide for Church Communication. It covers a lot of the basics, from big picture strategy to practical stuff like Facebook and writing.