Around the Fireplace: Get Ready for Church Social Media Sunday #SMS16

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Kathy Copas
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism

Sunday, September 25

One of the clergy in our diocese asked me a  few months ago if we would ever again have a churchwide Social Media Sunday.  I half-jokingly said, “Well, isn’t EVERY Sunday a church Social Media Sunday?!”  But, we do, indeed, have a designated Sundayrapidly approaching in which we are called as Episcopalians, churchwide, to give some special attention to how we engage the world via social media.  So, yet another clergyperson invited me in to brainstorm with him last week about some things he and his parish might do to more intentionally embrace social media, particularly Facebook.

Facebook has been around for a good long while now but continues to evolve. Paralleling the development of mobile technology, Facebook has emerged as a primary tool for church shoppers.  Research has shown that Facebook has become just as important, or even more important, than church websites when people are seeking basic information about a church these days.  Why?  One of the reasons is that people initially just want to get a quick and easy basic sweeping sense of what a church is doing in real time.  What are its members talking about and working on these days?  What do the photos and/or videos and conversation tell us about this church and how it may or may not be a good fit for us?  What have other guests experienced?  What events are coming up we may want to connect to?  Websites, even greatly mobile-optimized ones, are increasingly becoming more second-line resources, while Facebook pages and open groups have become more frontline first impression tools.

So, what are some things we can all consider about better using Facebook as—for starters—Social Media Sunday 2016 approaches?  Here are a few that have emerged over the past few weeks in discussions at various parishes.

  1. Have something—anything—relatively current posted on your Facebook page or group,  By relatively current, we’re talking at least within the past month, preferably the past couple of months.  Not last Easter or Christmas and definitely not in over a year!
  2. Always post a visual with any bit of news. This can be a photo, meme, infographic, or video.  Posts with visuals get lots more attention and, with a simple Google search, you can find many resources out there that will help you import or create simple visuals right on your phone. The more visuals and multimedia people can access on your page, the more your Facebook presence will reflect a real sense of what your parish is about.  And, while beautiful and general church memes can be effective, what always works best and appears most authentic is images of real people in your church engaged in ministry and interaction with one another.
  3. Use Facebook to increase your pastoral care potential. The general rule about Facebook is to use 20 percent of your time with it to share your own news and 80 percent to interact with your followers or friends.  It is a rich and very personal tool for offering care for those going through a life transition, experiencing illness, or even celebrating a birthday or anniversary.
  4. Use Facebook for starting conversations, posing questions, and generally keeping the dialogue going between Sundays. Talk about the lectionary coming up the following Sunday, what your midweek Bible study group has been discussing, how a mission project is going and what is needed to better support it….  The ideas are endless and newcomers can easily be invited and encouraged into your conversation.
  5. Learn a bit about Facebook metrics and “pushing” posts about your page, your church, or an upcoming activity or project.  For a very small amount of money—often as little as $10-$20, you can push your post onto Facebook news feeds that you select by variables such as geographic area, extending your reach dramatically.

One of Facebook’s best new tools is “Go Live” and we will be using/demonstrating that here in our diocese on Tuesday, August 23, 7 p.m. for our special Media Monday.  If you have joined our Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis page, all you have to do is go on Facebook at that time, where you will see a message “The Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis is live.”  Just click it on and you can participate via comments and posts.  If you happen to miss it, you will be able to access it later. This tool holds much potential for any parish.  Using a smartphone, you can live broadcast on Facebook a sermon, music, or even your entire worship time or church school program.  How cool is that?!

So, hope to see you on August 23 as we learn together, and brainstorm together, how we can make Episcopal Social MediaSunday on September 25 the best ever and add new tools and possibilities to our longer-term social media profile!.