The amount of time that any congregation spends using social media to promote its ministries will depend much on the size of the congregation and staff. Small- and average-sized congregations may find it necessary to limit themselves to only one or two social networks.
The key digital communications in any-sized congregation should be the website and email. They are accessible to all who are online even if they never use social media.
By far, the main source of social traffic to UMC.org is through Facebook. Congregations that can only focus on one social network should start there. The second network you choose likely will depend on your target audience, the type of material you want to share and the knowledge and comfort level of the person who will manage the account.
It may be possible to increase the number of social networks used by sharing duties and starting a social media team, but you will need to make sure that all communication is coordinated and consistent.
Designate one person on staff or in the congregation to stay up to date on the latest best practices in social media and share that information with everyone who is involved in this effort. The leader of your social media team should be someone who can devote at least 10 hours a week to the efforts.
Larger congregations should consider having a staff person focused part time on social media and keeping on the cutting edge of digital communications. This should be included in the job description so the person would be expected to devote significant time to this critical communication form.
Many congregations may question whether they can afford to have a person devote significant time to social media. However, research shows that online communication will not only enhance participation in congregational activities, but it will also enhance the impact of fundraising efforts, including stewardship campaigns. The social media manager needs to learn the best methods for online fundraising in addition to having the time to make posts.
The largest congregations should consider hiring a full-time new-media manager to maintain their social media and blog presence. This would include regular engagement with the congregation and community online and creating graphics to use on the various networks.
No matter your congregation's size, if you find yourself overwhelmed, it is best to cut back on the number of social media networks you manage and focus your efforts effectively.
How much time should be spent on the various outlets? Do only what you can do well. Don't feel that you must do it all.
- Website and email (five to 40 hours weekly): Since this is the foundation, remember to spend at least five hours here each week. Large churches could even make this a full-time position.
- Facebook (four hours): Post and schedule status updates for the church four to six times a week. Include time to respond to comments and track the "Insights" data. You may need to add another hour if promoting an event on Facebook.
- YouTube (one hour): Upload video, create playlists and subscribe to other feeds. Use this time also to see how other churches and nonprofits use YouTube. See how to get started on YouTube.
- Instagram (three hours): Post one or two images or videos daily. Also take time to like other peoples' posted content. View more tips about Instagram.
- Design graphic visual content (three hours): No matter what networks you use, your efforts will be enhanced by taking the time to build branded images, infographics, videos, presentations and banner images. Get more bang with graphic design.
- Research (two hours): Stay current on the latest in nonprofit and church technology. Subscribe to the MyCom e-newsletter. To subscribe, visit UMCom.org.
Using additional social networks will require additional resources. Make sure you decide wisely how to spend your time. Learn about the various uses of social networking before making the leap.
-- Andrew J. Schleicher is a project coordinator with United Methodist Communications.