The world of social media is full of people promoting things for free, but how do you get them to do that for your program, event or worship service? If you really want to leverage social media to promote your program or event, you must implement an excellent church content marketing campaign.
Content marketing is the process of using non-promotional content (articles, videos, blogs and so forth) in which your audience is already interested and gently guiding them to a contextual and relevant call-to-action, like attending your church, learning about small groups or participating in an outreach event. Instead of creating advertisements and sharing events on Facebook (not that you shouldn't do those things), you will share excellent content related to whatever you are promoting to position your church as a thought leader around that topic.
Consider topics like family spiritual life, raising faithful children or lifelong spirituality. After you choose the topics on which you think your church should be an authority, tie your annual events and ministries to those topics, create an editorial calendar and start creating content.
Here are several ideas for collecting, creating and posting that content.
1. Collect existing content
You likely already have a ton of material available from your leadership team as they have spoken, delivered lessons and written devotionals for your newsletter. Try to identify any content to which your leadership team has access and get permission to republish it.
If you are having guest speakers or workshop leaders for an upcoming event, they often have articles they have published elsewhere. Republishing their content gives you an excellent opportunity to add a direct mention of your event when you introduce the author: "Jane Smith, Speaker at the 2016 FUMC Marriage Conference."
2. Brainstorm original content
After collecting existing content, it's time to create your own. Remember, these pieces don't have to be long, just helpful, so that people will share them. Here are a few topics and content-marketing ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
Children's spirituality - Consider using content from a resource like Baby Steps as inspiration for an article like, "How to help your children grow spiritually in the first five years," or use the scope and sequence from the Deep Blue curriculum to inspire weekly family worship and devotion that go along with that week's lesson.
Community outreach - Consider promoting holiday outreach, events or books within pieces like "Beyond Bunnies and Eggs" or "Behind the Scenes with Old Saint Nick."
Small groups - Think about promoting your groups within articles about fellowship or team-building ideas.
Youth group - Newcomers in your community often do online searches for "children's activities in [your city]." Make sure they find your content by creating pieces like icebreakers and fun games for kids.
If you actually want web visitors to find you, be sure to include certain keywords such as "childrens activities in [your city]." Learn more about how to draw people in with great webpage titles and use these church webpage examples optimized for search engines as a base to tailor your church website.
3. Use online idea generators and brainstorm tools
Several online topic generators can help you get the ball rolling. We recommend Hubspot's Blog Topic Generator, which takes three keywords and instantly generates five topic ideas like "14 Common Misconceptions about Christianity" to inspire original content.
4. Make people laugh
There's nothing quite like humor to make content more shareable, and the internet is full of tools to help you do just that. Just be sure the humor is appropriate for each context.
One current trend in internet humor is the meme (you know the silly images with words on them). You don't have to know Photoshop to create one. Simply go to Make a Meme or Meme Maker and they will walk you through the process of choosing an image, inserting text and sharing.
If you want to add motion to your joke, use the free tool Giphy to create a GIF out of your own video or select from thousands of pre-made selections.
If you want more photo editing features than a typical meme generator offers, but still need simplicity, check out PickMonkey or Aviary. For more advanced graphic-design features, consider the free photoshop alternative: GIMP.
5. Automate your sharing
Getting a large number of people consistently to share your content can be a chore. However, if you have created the content using a blog or website that uses RSS, your entire team can automate sharing with IFTTT (If This Then That). IFTT is a free service that uses simple conditional statements (called recipes) to automate tasks like scheduling social media posts or turning on your porch light when you get home.
6. Build on your success
If you track your statistics, you will quickly realize that some of your articles are better than others at attracting your audience. Build on your success by writing companion content to your hit articles and link to it from within the popular pieces. You can also get more mileage by recycling or repurposing popular pieces to fit within other media channels.
Once it's published, repurposed and shared, you can sit back and allow your content to work its magic in driving eyeballs, interest and people to your church!
When Jeremy and his wife are not playing with their four children, he oversees youth and college ministries and leads the evening worship service at Christ UMC in Mobile, Al. Jeremy is an author of several books and resources that you can find at JeremyWords.com or follow him on Twitter!