As we continue to follow government guidelines and recommendations during the spread of COVID-19, United Methodist churches are turning to social media more and more to connect with their congregations. While some churches were active social media users before this pandemic, many have just embraced this form of communication and have questions about what they should be putting on which platforms.
As a refresher for those who have been using social media in the past and information for those who are new to it, we’ll take a look at the main social platforms and discuss what to post and where.
The main social media platform recommended for churches is Facebook. If you don’t have the staff to maintain more than one social media channel, choose this one. About seven of 10 adults are on the platform, and it accounts for over 45 percent of monthly social media visits.
Not only is Facebook a great option for livestreaming your weekly services, it can also house plenty of other content.
Blog posts or articles you think your community might enjoy, photos of your congregation and church events, church announcements and encouragement posts are just some examples of what belongs on Facebook. All of these can be adapted to our current circumstances, and you can also utilize it for many new purposes. Many churches are generating increased interaction when they both post their weekly sermon and add more content throughout the week including worship, Bible study and even basic live check-ins from the pastor.
Once your church has a good grasp of Facebook, consider adding an Instagram account. Why? Because 1 billion people use Instagram every month, and 500 million people view Instagram stories every day. This is a great place to showcase photos of your church members doing what they do best: Serving! Show off your volunteers, pastors and members of your congregation.
Show “behind the church” footage the average attendee doesn’t see. Promote your services, show past events, current events and live stories of events taking place. This is also another great channel for scriptural, inspirational and encouraging content — anything that suits your church belongs here. Remember also to include your church’s video content here! Plus, #DontForgetToHashtag.
Twitter, with its 330 million active users, is a place for your church to be active. Diversify your content. This isn’t a place for your church to do the ministry it can easily do on Facebook or Instagram. With the emphasis more on personality, this might be a place for your lead pastor to shine.
Twitter moves faster and requires more posting. Think news vs. content. Retweet timely information from a legitimate agency (such as The United Methodist Church and UMCOR). Retweet your pastor’s tweets. Showcase outreach events, especially those that include partners you can include (tag) as well. Quick updates on service times, event times and any changes to your schedule can be noted here, too.
Participate in daily hashtags such as #SundayThoughts to join in on social conversations. Just remember – during times of crisis, it is recommended that organizations “lay low” on fast-paced social media such as Twitter. In that way, important information can be seen by those who need it. And, along the same lines, only use hashtags such as #COVID19 if you’re contributing useful, helpful and newsworthy information about important national topics.
While it may be obvious what type of content should be housed on YouTube, churches can greatly benefit from utilizing the platform. The content is pretty straightforward: videos your church has produced. As the second-largest search engine after Google, YouTube gives your church’s videos more visibility and can allow for cross-promotion.
Social media platforms work together to bring awareness for your church and, in these uncertain times, bring community and solidarity within your congregation. While you want to be careful not to overuse them, churches are seeing great response when they’re staying active on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter throughout the week.
Social media is more than being social. It’s a ministry. United Methodist Communications is using social media to inform, encourage, motivate, inspire, and engage followers of Christ--and we are resourcing churches to do the same. These efforts require financial support. If you believe in our mission, consider a tax-deductible donation to the work of United Methodist Communications through its Foundation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.