While most people push the importance of Facebook and Twitter for their church’s social media engagement, I’ve found — at least for student ministry in a big city area — that Instagram has been the most fruitful and effective platform for interacting with my audience. I find that most churches treat Instagram as the metaphorical sidecar of their marketing, but its popularity among those in their teens and twenties has made it a strong tool for engaging your audience.
Unfortunately, because churches seem to be so late to the Instagram game, I see many organizations that just aren’t utilizing it to its full potential.
Here are six tips that will help you step up your Instagram game and effectively strengthen your church’s social media strategy. Note: Many of these tips can apply to other social media platforms, but this article was written with Instagram in mind.
1. People Like to See People
I’m part of a team that manages multiple Instagram accounts. I went a long time not understanding why another team member’s Instagram account was getting significantly more likes and comments than the one I was managing despite having fewer followers…until I looked at the full photo streams side by side. I had been posting only graphic-based images created in Photoshop (instead of actual photos), whereas the other account had tons of photos of students, volunteers, and staff members. It means a lot more to your audience to see your ministry in action than just to read about it in a pretty graphic. Snap a photo during worship, highlight volunteers, show behind the scenes work with your staff; there are a lot of possibilities here. Bonus points if you tag the people in the photo!
2. People Connect With People, Not the Machine
This one was a tough pill to swallow. At the end of the day, no matter how cool/great/hip/life-changing your organization may be, people prefer to connect with people instead of an organization. Luckily, I’ve found a way to fill this gap: Promote your team! People who are invested in your organization are interested in seeing the “behind the scenes” work, so promoting the personal Instagram accounts of your team members will extend your marketing to places it might otherwise not reach. And on a similar note…
3. Utilize Your Audience (and Your Team)
Our team decided to do a little experiment for a large event we had last year. We sent the promotional graphic to a few strategic students in our audience and asked them to post it to their own Instagram accounts. The results were staggering: Students were getting 4-5x the amount of likes & comments that our official accounts were getting. Empowering your audience to advertise for you will spread your content so much farther than you could on your own. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to put our promotional materials on Dropbox and send out a public link for people to download.
4. Rely on Images, not Video
When I saw this post last year here on ChurchMag, I was really pumped. I created a few high production value videos specifically for Instagram, but was somewhat disappointed when they didn’t get the same amount of engagement from our audience. When I asked around, I found that a large percentage of people just scroll right past videos on Instagram. Whether by ignorance (not realizing the post is a video), impatience (not wanting to wait for the video to load/play), or inconvenience (checking Instagram in a place where the sound can’t be on), people just aren’t as likely to consume video content on Instagram. I’m not saying you should never post video, by any means; just don’t put all your marketing eggs in one video basket.
5. Be Interactive: Ask and Respond
Not unlike a normal conversation, people are much more likely to respond if you actually ask for their opinion. A few of my favorite questions to ask:
- What are you listening to? (on a post about music)
- How have you lived this out this week? (on a post with a sermon quote or Scripture)
- Will you be there? (on a post about an upcoming event)
6. Call Your Audience to Action
This tip I picked up from FUSE, the student ministry at Newspring Church. On a post for their regular Wednesday gathering, the caption was simple: “Tag your friends below to invite them to FUSE tonight!” This is a great (and easy) way to enable your audience to invite their followers to your events. You’ll probably also pick up a few new followers in the process.
Got any Instagram tips of your own?
Share them in the comments below!