Churches Still Aren’t Listening on Social Media

Churches Still Aren’t Listening on Social Media

September 21, 2016 by

Six years ago, Mickey Mellon wrote an article on how churches aren’t listening on social media. He conducted a simple experiment on Twitter to test how local churches would respond.

In short, they failed. Out of 11 churches he reached out to directly, only one responded. One.

How often does this happen? A potential church-goer contacts a church directly with a question only to be flat out ignored. We can all agree that this is a missed opportunity and needs to change.

The Re-Do

Since it’s been a few years, I wanted to test again and see if anything had changed. Using similar methods, I tweeted at 20 Atlanta-area churches over two consecutive weeks to test their reactions.

My optimistic guess was that half of the churches would respond. I sincerely hoped that we had made some noticeable strides forward since 2010.

The Method

In addition to the 10 churches* Mickey reached out to during his experiment, I added 10 more church to make it an even 20. I also expanded the experiment from one round of tweets to two.

To ensure that these were active Twitter accounts, I only selected churches that had tweeted sometime during the past year and had at least 100 tweets total. I also made an effort to vary the churches based on size, denominations and location around Atlanta.

The sizes of the Twitter followings also covered a wide spectrum. The church with the most followers had over 13,000, while some of the accounts had less than 100 followers. The average following of all 20 churches was 2,700.

*One church included in the original experiment has deactivated their Twitter account since 2010.

The Experiment

In two consecutive weeks, I tweeted simple questions at the selected churches and recorded their responses. The two questions are those any first-time visitor might ask: what is your sermon about this week, and when are your worship times?

To prevent timing from skewing the results, I scheduled all tweets ahead of time using Tweetdeck. Both weeks, the tweets were scheduled for Thursday mornings. In theory, this gave the churches enough time to respond before Sunday.

The Results

  • Of 40 tweets sent to 20 churches, I received only six responses from five churches.
  • One church responded both weeks and did so in less than 30 minutes both times.
  • The first week I only received the one response; the other five responses came during the second week.
  • Five out of six responses came within two hours or less of my question tweet.
  • The sixth came a few hours before we were about to publish this article.
  • Another church followed me, but never responded. They obviously saw my question and took an action, but didn’t bother to answer the question.

The Findings

I was surprised at the lack of responses to these direct questions on social media. I was confident that churches would have improved with their social listening over the past six years. But I was wrong.

Granted, this experiment is only a small sample size. And there are plenty of factors that could have influenced my less-than-scientific investigation. But the results were still disappointing.

Perhaps the issue is with Twitter. It’s seen a slow decline in engagement as others like Instagram and Snapchat have experienced a meteoric rise. However, based on this experience, I wouldn’t expect that churches will be any more responsive on these newer social platforms.

In the meantime, churches need to do a better job of answering when guests (or nosy church bloggers) reach out to them with questions. In a time when we crave authenticity, answering those who are trying to engage with you should be an obvious first-step toward social media relevance.

How to Improve

So how do we improve? The first step is to truly value engagement with people on social media. Why else would your church be using Twitter?

Gerry True puts it like this: “Heartfelt things are going to be shared on social media, and if we’re not listening to that, people translate that into ‘You really don’t care about me.’”

Van Baird also shares the importance of listening in ministry. In his mind, we should listen more often than we speak. If we don’t, we’ll continue to miss opportunities to reach people.

Post By:

Robert Carnes


Robert Carnes is the managing editor at the Orange Group and also serves as an assistant editor here at Church Marketing Sucks. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. Previously, he worked in communications at two United Methodist churches in Metro Atlanta.
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One Response to “Churches Still Aren’t Listening on Social Media”

  • Fr. Richard Jones
    October 9, 2016

    Two things you failed to recommend for churches that are on social media are: #1 They need to have a specific social media strategy that is consistant and measurable. #2 Any church on social media should have a single person, preferably from the pastoral staff who is experienced with various social media platforms, and who is in charge of all social media, including postings and responses. That person should then make a weekly report about social media numbers and interactions at the pastoral staff meeting.



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