Social media is an ever more important way to connect and engage with your congregation and your community. An effective social media presence requires concerted effort. You have to be intentional about where, when and how often to post. A social media calendar can help monitor progress.
This type of calendar works like a traditional one in that the goal is to save you time by defining and prioritizing tasks. As we’ve seen with an editorial calendar, the goal is to keep messaging fresh and consistent. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Determine the where
There are many social media choices: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Google. Each has its own personality and perfect content.
- Instagram and YouTube are for photos and short videos.
- LinkedIn appeals to professionals posting about business topics.
- Twitter is used by young adults to pass along news.
- Facebook is usually self-contained with discussion among followers.
- Pinterest is better at pointing people to your website.
Before you begin your calendar, do a little research. You want to know which social media platform best fits your message. Find out where your target audience meets online. Consult your church marketing plan, and determine which forums are best for your church.
Set the when and how often
Once you know where you’ll post, consider when and how often. It’s commonly accepted that different channels have different “rules” for the optimal number of posts to reach the greatest number of people. In essence, you have to be careful not to post too much or too little.
Facebook experts recommend three to 10 posts per week, but some reports suggest that more than five limits the sharing algorithms. The success of Twitter, on the other hand, thrives on multiple daily posts. YouTube channels may need one to four posts a month to succeed. You may have already discovered the sweet spot (in terms of number of posts) from previous experience.
If you’re just starting out, follow the experts. Consider (realistically) how many unique posts per day (week) your time allows for each channel. Aim for a lower output at the beginning, knowing you can adjust later. Read about how other nonprofits manage a social media calendar, including advice about what days/times are best for posting to the channels.
Build the calendar
A social media calendar can be as simple or as complicated as you like. The way in which you create your calendar will depend in large part on how many social media channels you are trying to manage. If your church is large, and you have a social media budget, you may want to consider paying for a cloud-based organization or social media calendar service such as Airtable, Claendly, Coschedule, or Slack. Companies such as these often offer a wide range of templates, allow easy team-sharing, and offer scheduling for automatic posts. However, you may be able to find a free social media calendar template that will also serve your purposes.
If your church is smaller or you have only two or three accounts to manage, you can even create your own calendar using an Excel spreadsheet, a Word document, graphing paper, or even a blank calendar. The objective is to have a calendar that allows you to schedule each post you plan to make for each forum. The trick is that you need to have enough room to include at least partial content, photo and links.
Once you have a basic template, it’s time to schedule your posts. This is the easy part; it’s just like scheduling any other appointment. Simply log the channel, date, and time you plan on making each post.
Add the content
Once you have reached this stage, it’s time to move on to the fun stuff — building your social media calendar by adding content. The idea is to place content in each of your marked cells. Obviously, if you are posting a blog or long article, you won’t be able to put the entire document in the cell. You can however, place a title, a link, or even a small photo there. Make sure that whatever you place in the cell is discernible and can easily lead you to the entire content.
If you are struggling about what you should post, here are a few suggestions.
- Start with important knowns. Predetermined live events, activities, announcements, birthdays, holidays, etc., should all be scheduled. Even if you don’t know the exact wording, you know you will be posting something about those things. So, schedule it.
- Remember, not all content has to be original. Be sure to share quality content from other sites: articles, quotes, memes, photos, videos, songs, graphics, etc. Always include the original links and to credit the original source.
- Mix it up. A good rule of thumb is that for every promotional post or donation appeal, you should have three other posts. Keep your posts varied. Tell about your ministry. Include personal testimonies. Create memes. Add humor. Talk about current events. Share about what your church is doing in the community.
- If you draw a blank as you look at all those empty boxes, consider having a monthly theme (like “Love” for February) or even daily themes (like Throwback Thursdays or Family Fridays).
- Plan, but remain flexible. Be sensitive and respond appropriately when a tragedy, disaster, or special situation occurs. You are not chained to your content calendar and should adjust as necessary.
Even if your posts are automated, never just post and forget. Regularly check your posts to see how they are performing. How many people actually viewed/read your post? Did anyone comment? How many shares did you receive? You may want to make notes on the calendar posts that perform especially well so that you can remember them.
Creating a social media calendar is a lot of work, but it is a time-saver in the long-run. Your goal should be to prepare about six months in advance. However, if that seems overwhelming, start with just one month and work from there. Once you have several monthly calendars completed, you will find it easier to tweak and update for future calendars.
Tricia K. Brown is a writer, editor, keynote speaker and Bible teacher. In addition to being a wife and mother of four sons, she is the sole proprietor of The Girls Get Together, where she and her team provide women's event programs for churches and other organizations.
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.