I’ve held off on writing this series for several months, for two reasons. First, I’m in grad school, and I’m writing my thesis right now. It’s taking up all of my extra brain space, but today, I need a break. Second, I recently made a huge mistake on social media—which we’ll come back to in the second post—and I wanted there to be some space between my mistake and my (hopefully not hypocritical) attempts to offering insight and advice on this site. It’s been almost five months since then, so I think we’re ready to begin talking about why your church needs a social media policy.
We know that people are more likely to visit your website before they visit you in real life. Before they even go that far, people will most likely interact with you on social media first. Whether that interaction is directly with your page or indirectly through a parishioner sharing one of your page’s posts, this is where people will be forming their first impressions of your church.
That alone should be reason enough to develop a cohesive policy for your online outreach. This reason is not alone; it has friends.
Bad Spreads Fast
I’ve previously written about a terrible ordeal I had responding to some negative social media comments while one the ground at a church event. We were trying to hold a small fair for our town that would be capped off with a fireworks display. Sadly, a large amount of rain and a smattering of funnel clouds ended that.
We took cover and waited to see what our next steps would be. Fortunately, it all moved through quickly. Unfortunately, most of our crowd had gone home. However, the fireworks company was still ready to launch, and we knew that we couldn’t manage to reschedule the event. We had one option: run the show anyway.
I posted on social media that the fireworks will still be set off at their scheduled time and posted some photos of the show afterward. Some people expressed regret that they couldn’t see it. Others were furious.
One guy even told us that we should have not set the fireworks off and given the money to the poor instead. Apparently, he’s never heard of contracts, downpayment, or even the term “non-refundable.”
So there I was, for an hour or more after the event, trying to put out fires. It took work, but I managed to get most people to understand why we went for it. The “help the poor” guy wasn’t having any of it though, and I’m not surprised, being that the core of his argument was used by Judas Iscariot in an attempt to further embezzle money from Jesus. From Jesus!
But I digress.
The point here is that bad news and bad impressions spread quickly online, and they are difficult to shutdown. It’s way better to have policy in place to help prevent the negative than to try to deal with the aftermath.
It doesn’t take much to put you or your ministry in the whole. A single tweet can wreck you nearly beyond repair. That is why you need a policy but even more so you need a social media plan.
Social media should be fun, but be careful when you post online. Be committed to your social media plan. And be sure your hot takes will find you out, so why not just save those for small group?
Over the next few posts, we’ll be looking at some elements that your church might need in a social media policy, but we’ll also talk about why you need to plan your social media presence.