In part one, How Instagram can breathe life into your media ministry, we discussed how to use Instagram and provided steps to get started. Now we'll dive into even more tips and tricks to get the good word out to your audience.
While many individuals use Instagram for personal entertainment, one of the downfalls of the app is that it does not allow you to include live links in the post, caption or in the comments. Many people see this as a severe deterrent to using Instagram as a way to drive traffic to a church website or other relevant sites. However, there are a few ways to get around this limitation.
1. Add customizable links to your Instagram profile. While you can’t link from Instagram, live links can be included in your profile. Add a link to your Instagram bio and make sure to steer followers in that direction in your caption. For example, include a statement such as, “For more information, click the link on our profile.” Most often, you will want to include a link to your church website, but occasionally you may want to change the link to a site more specific to the content of your post.
2. Create a second Instagram account specifically for this purpose. While a little more complicated, the gist of this trick is to add clickable links to Instagram by creating a separate Instagram profile for the purpose of sharing specific information. Since Instagram profile links are clickable, you can create a separate account with specific information about the event/ministry you are wanting to promote. So, for example, if you want to promote your vacation Bible school, you could create a separate account titled “@OUR VBS” and include that link in the caption of your original Instagram post. When followers click on the profile link, they would find information about your Bible school and a direct link to a site where they could sign up.
3. Add a shortened version of your URL when you leave comments. Even though the links are not live, they can be copied and pasted into a browser and used “the old- fashioned way.” While this method is not as convenient as a live link, it may still generate some traffic to your site. In addition, the links will become usable when shared by followers on other social media platforms. You can use services like Google URL Shortener or Bitlinks to create short URLs. Bitlinks is great because it gives you the option of creating a custom link, like bit.ly/MyComSignUp.
Once you have figured out how to include links, the doors open for even more Instagram tips for churches. Here are a few.
4. Start simple. Advertise sermon times and sermon series. A link in your profile should connect followers with your church website where they can discover more information about your church.
5. Connect your followers with other members of your congregation. If you have congregants who write their own blogs or use other media forums to share their testimonies, you can include a picture of them with a caption saying something like, “John and Susie have traveled all over the world sharing the gospel. Check out our profile for a link to read their story.” This is another time when a separate Instagram account might come in handy.
6. Recruit volunteers for special events. Share an Instagram call-to-action for volunteers. Make sure that you direct interested volunteers to where they can find a link for sign-ups.
7. Encourage small group participation. Share pictures of small groups in action, studying God’s word, sharing a meal or volunteering in a local service project. Invite people to join a small group and direct them to where they can find more information or sign-up.
8. Get personal. As a pastor or church leader, people want to know about you, not just the “church” you but the “at home” you, too. Help them by posting pictures of you spending time with your family or cheering on your favorite sports team.
9. Share a prayer. Post a picture related to a church mission effort or a global or community problem. Then include a short prayer in the caption. For example, share a picture of the food the church collected for the local homeless shelter. The caption could read, “God, please be with the homeless in our community. Bless this food to the provision of those who are hungry. Help us to be aware of their needs and to help meet those needs.”
10. Highlight the talents of your congregation. With permission, include snapshots of artwork, designs and crafts or short videos of musical selections created or performed by church members. Always get permission first, and always give appropriate credit of the photographer.
Most importantly, to make Instagram work for your church, you need to use it consistently, creatively and cleverly. Always include your church name and some form of contact information with every picture and include a way that followers can find more information. With a little creativity, Instagram can be so much more than just a picture-sharing application. Take advantage of this innovative tool to reach your church and possibly engage a new audience.
Follow us on the official United Methodist Church Instagram @unitedmethodistchurch. You can expect to find inspirational quotes, bible verses, hymn lyrics prayers accompanied by beautiful photography from around the United Methodist connection.