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3 New Year’s resolutions for church communicators

The beginning of a new year is a natural time for reflecting and evaluating on what we want to keep and what we want to do differently in the coming months. If one of your "to dos" is to address a dip in your engagement online, particularly through social media, you're not alone.

In 2016, 60 seconds on the internet generated an average of 3.3 million Facebook posts, 65,972 Instagram photos, and 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube. And while you aren't competing against every single post or video uploaded around the world, your ability to grab and hold attention when your posts do make it onto someone's screen is vital.

Take Facebook for example. They have estimated that the average user has 2,000 items loaded in their newsfeed each time they log on. On top of the sheer size of the competition for attention, Facebook now prioritizes family and friend posts over age posts. Increasing competition for a shrinking number of slots in the newsfeed is not encouraging news.

Here are three resolutions that will help you make a bigger impact by crafting content that connects.

Pivot away from one-to-many communication

We often talk and write online as we do from the pulpit or stage: one-to-many. We write our post or film our video as if we are addressing a crowd. Even if you have a large online audience, most individuals are scrolling Facebook while watching TV or checking Instagram while waiting in line.

The solution is to shift to a one-on-one or one-to-few communication style. When writing a post, think of words, phrases and a structure you would use when writing to an individual or a small group. When you film a video, especially if it is for a platform like Instagram Stories, speak conversationally, as if you were using video chat.

And speaking of chat, the user base of messaging apps has surpassed the number of people on social media. Encouraging your community to engage with your ministry through platforms like Facebook Messenger can create a one-on-one experience.

Refocus your approach on each platform

Research shows that we should be posting an average of once a day on Facebook and Instagram. This relentless schedule leads many of us to post the same thing across all of our accounts. That means we miss benefitting from the unique culture of each social network, miss being stellar on any of them. For example, hashtags lead to increased engagement on Instagram, but hashtags aren't really a thing on Facebook. Posting the exact same content on both platforms will miss the mark on at least one and maybe both.

In addition to learning the specific ins and outs of each network, we must pay attention to who is following us on each network. Use Facebook Insights to discover demographic information about the people who like your page. Similar information is available on Instagram if you have converted to a business profile.

A common discovery, though not universal, is that the Instagram audience is younger. Tailoring the content and the style of the post to the platform will make it more personalized and more effective.

Finally, we should pay attention to what actually works with the audience on each platform. Brady Shearer of Pro Church Tools has developed an easy way to grade your social media posts using your analytics data. Making intentional, data-driven analyses will help you do more of what works and less of the rest.

Try out more video (especially live video)

While every marketing expert has slightly different advice on how to approach social media, all seem to agree that video is a key to social media engagement and growth.

Video is simply more attractive than text-only posts and static images. The movement, draws and captures our attention, stopping the scroll.

You don't need the latest ultra high definition camera to produce engaging video. The camera on your smart phone is likely good enough. And filming with your smart phone and speaking as if you're talking to someone via Skype or FaceTime is the style of video communication most prevalent on social media today.

To kick the authenticity and connection factors up, try going live on Facebook or Instagram. A recent survey on live video found that 80% of respondents prefered live video to blog posts and 82% prefered live video to other types of social media posts. Encourage engagement by asking questions and responding to comments as they are posted.

BONUS: Recruit and train more volunteers

All three of these resolutions will likely cost more time and energy — at least in the beginning. While they have the potential to increase your effectiveness, they will increase the number of hours required per day or week.

Be on the lookout for volunteers who can help. Even if you want to keep content creation for yourself, you can find someone who loves numbers and is good at spreadsheets to grade the posts touched on in the second section.

Building a social media or digital communications team can be a great way to get young adults or even older youth involved. It can also provide those in your congregation with communication and creative skills a way to offer their gifts to God.

Dan Wunderlich

Rev. Dan Wunderlich is an extension minister focused on worship, communication, and creativity with the goal of helping ministries and their leaders better connect with their communities. Find out more about his work and his podcast "Art of the Sermon" at DefiningGrace.com.

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