How to apply social media best practices and attract visitors
Last week, I looked at how to fix 3 things and improve your social media results. This week, I’ll look at how a church should apply social media best practices to its public pages. The first part in a mini-series!
Public pages provide a platform to attract and engage
What are we talking about here? The public-facing, anyone can see everything pages on Facebook, Instagram, and the like. Due to their visibility, they provide a great way to attract new visitors and to encourage or otherwise engage anyone who follows the page.
When we look at applying social media best practices, your main pages have two essential purposes. First, through photos, videos, and other content, they should show the life of the church. The content can include anything from the collective joy of recent baptisms to service projects. They also provide a sense of broad community and an evangelism tool for members throughout the week.
Posts for your public pages achieve this by following the three E’s of social media:
- Entertainment: social is fun! I’ve seen churches get high reach by posting polls with gifs, asking broad, timely questions, or humorous videos.
- Encouragement: As a community, we are called to encourage one another. Share moments from a recent worship service. Ask people about a scripture passage that means a lot.
- Education: People get all kinds of news and information from social media. You see everything from local news to recipes within our feeds. Use this to your advantage! Testimonials, especially videos, can be a great way to show how Christ changes people’s lives. Decisions, service experiences, discipleship growth, and more all provide rich material to educate those who either find your post in their feed or look at your page.
With gray verification badges on Facebook pages going away at the end of October, posting quality content is more important than ever to show the platform (and page visitors) to prove their “authenticity.”
Stay focused and keep up with Facebook changes and their current social media best practices
Let’s turn back the calendar pages a few years to 2016. At that time, Facebook started making changes to the platform prompted by numerous concerns and general user disengagement. As a business, Facebook wants to keep people on their platform. The audience is what sells the ads. Keeping their audience is an issue for any medium that sells advertising. After spending 14+ years in the media business, I can vouch for this! And as the church, we have a story to tell, so this audience is also of interest to us!
Think of it from their perspective. If you’re a platform that continues to have more and more content available, then that means following those social media best practices and pushing forward the best content to keep your audience growing.
Quality content from engaging pages gets more visibility than so-so content from pages that get little interaction. I’ll keep saying it. Much of what I’ve discussed has focused on Facebook. However, you can see this on other platforms. YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and others present “recommendations” for additional content you might like, based on your interests, what’s popular, or other factors. They want to keep you there. They do that by presenting “the best” fresh content they have available.
A big emphasis lies with the concept of relationship, which makes sense. We’re talking about social media here – it’s social! There’s some level of relationship. When we look at Facebook, the largest of the bunch, we see factors of how their algorithm works. Facebook wants to know how engaging content is, and if there are markers of a relationship.
- Reactions: Loves and Wows show strong, positive responses to content.
- Conversations: Comments back and forth between a person and the page indicate relationship.
- Shares: People sharing your content essentially endorse it as valuable.
Focus your content on entertainment, encouragement, and education to engage people and grow relationships. This focus gives guests and the platforms what they want, and align with the next point of attracting visitors.
Leveraging your focused social media content to attract visitors
People research EVERYTHING online now. Restaurants, kids’ soccer cleats, glass measuring cups. Houses, real estate agents, plumbers, and contractors. Research online has become a significant part of the decision-making process – choosing to attend a church is no different.
Even when you get referrals from a friend, you are likely to do a bit of research still to get yourself acquainted.
Hi. I’m new here.
Put yourself in the shoes of a potential first-time guest. If this is hard, pretend you are moving to a new city and look for a new church. Better yet, ask someone in the middle of this now! Pay attention to the questions or concerns that come up and what that process is like for a church seeker.
Most commonly, people want to know the following:
- Will I feel comfortable there? Will people be friendly? What clothes should I wear?
- What is worship like at the church?
- Will my kids like it? Is it safe?
Hey! We see you, new person! We want to help!
You can address questions like these through photos or videos. Better yet, provide just a tiny bit of information that will encourage them to link through to a page on your website with more robust visitor information.
- Photos of people Sunday morning, greeting people show what they can expect, and if they need to iron their dress shirts.
- Video or photos from a service showing people in worship, engaged with what the speaker is saying, and more.
- Encouragement through scriptures, worship clips, and more blend together with those questions around comfort, friendliness, and worship. The reactions and comments provide a sense of the church family and allow the church members to encourage one another as well.
- Showcase the kids’ experience from check-in to what goes on in class.
While the changes Facebook has made (and keeps making) can be frustrating, I find it helps to flip the script and just follow their published social media best practices. What social media platforms are looking for is relevant information their audience wants to see. And that means addressing these questions and providing engaging information that helps new visitors in their decision-making process.
Continuing the conversation from guests to members – stay tuned!
When it comes to presenting content strategically to potential visitors, it’s not all on social. The experience ties in with your website, search, and reviews. What happens after they come back, and you want to guide them from visitors to a part of the community? How do you communicate to the current congregation in today’s heavily digital world? I’ll dive into that more next week!
If you’re head is spinning and you feel like your church could use some guidance, the team at Firm Foundations Marketing helps churches just like yours! Learn more here.