Dave Shrien, host of the Church Marketing Podcast, wrote this tweet a last Tuesday asking people about social media for churches and where they spend most of their time as social media managers:
Social media managers – what part of your job takes up the most time??
— Dave Shrein 🚀 Be Original (@daveshrein) April 8, 2015
I instantly sent my reply that I took most of my time to create structures and engage with other people, which I will get into of what that means later in this article. I then decided to scan the replies of what people responded with and found that most (at least at the time of looking) were about creating content, whether through visuals or writing something great.
So I decided to send out my own tweet stating that content is not the purpose of social media and Dave and I had a great conversation that you can read through here:
I know what your thinking,
“What?! Jeremy, you talk about creating great content for social media all of the time.”
Let me explain.
Creating Great Content Is Necessary
Nobody wants to read the same thing over and over again. I don’t want to hear your sermon on Sunday at church, then listen to the podcast of the same sermon, and then read about the breakdown of it on your blog. You need to take time to be creative in pulling out key quotes from the pastor, noting Scripture, having a video or podcast episode that does follow up or offers a further challenge, and ask challenging questions for people to put into action what they saw. That takes time to create and is necessary for any social media platform.
But I hope that is not the majority of your time because the goal of social media is not to create content.
That’s why we have websites and blogs and podcasts and YouTube. Create content for people to be inspired, challenged, and invited into a deeper faith with God.
But social media as a whole is not a place for this. In my eBook, Digital Marketing for Churches that Want to Succeed, I talk about how the goal for social media with churches is to be a marketer and/or an engager. Content should not be the focus of social media. As Michael Hyatt writes in his book Platform that I subscribe to, your website is your home base and social media is just a tool to use, not a place to launch from. What if Facebook went the way of MySpace in three years? Your content that you worked so hard to create is gone. All that effort, all that creativity, and all that time for not.
The Point of Social Media
I see social media, as Dave pointed, as a place for us to tell our story. But that’s to invite others to join in a dialogue. The purpose of social media is to engage in conversations whether to get people to come to church, to dive deeper into a relationship with God, or to share the Gospel to those that have never fully heard the magnificent story of our Creator and Savior. Story has already been decided for us with the Bible, vision groups for your church, and the pastor’s Sunday morning message.
The purpose of a social media manager is not to create content, but to extend the conversation into the digital space.
For churches that have a dedicated volunteer or staff person who is managing your church’s social media presence, why reinvent the wheel by creating content? Instead, put your time and energy into creating systems by which pastors, deacons, volunteers, secretaries, parents, and congregation members can feed you great content which you can then use, reuse, repurpose, and come back to in the future. So you spend 90% of a workday creating systems and an hour simply creating content. The story can be told and then you can put it on the Internet.
Certainly, you will need to put it into the correct formats. I don’t want to read a whole story notes on Twitter and it makes for a terrible blog article. Images don’t create themselves. And quality standards must be met, but if you go this route, you will have a flood of content to choose from and get the ability to take the cream of the crop.
For churches who do not have a dedicated person, you are doing this, but note that you are wearing two different hats here. Your time on social media is not a place to create content, that’s for the pastor hat. I know when I did youth ministry, I had to note to myself that social media came second to the message I was giving that week, the teens and parents who made appointments with me, and the church I had to serve within.
What Needs To Shift
Creating content is good, but the focus should be on relationships.
If you spend the majority of your time with social media creating content, you’re doing it wrong.
Instead, try the following:
- Reply to comments
- Analyze what content did and did not work.
- Update old information
- Seek out congregation members and leave them warm wishes.
- Tag people on your photos. Want engagement, I promise this will be a huge benefit.
- Ask for prayer requests and when you get them, pray for them in that very moment and then follow up with the pastor for further action steps.
- Plan out strategies for the next three weeks or three months with big events.
- Connect with community leaders, other churches, and people not in your congregation online.
Do any of these things or all of them and you will be spending significantly less time creating content and more time engaging.
As a benchmark, I found myself posting 5-12 times a day across three social media platforms, but only dedicating 3 hours a week to creating content. The other 37 hours of the week went to making the digital ministry a place to connect.
I’d love to hear your feedback on the conversation.