Posting on social media sites on behalf of your church is just as important, and requires just as much integrity, as speaking from the pulpit.
Q: It seems like every business, school, and organization wants me to like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Should our church be on these sites? Any tips for how to do it?
A: You're right that businesses and other organizations are looking for your attention on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. In fact, Facebook.com is one of the most visited web sites in the world. Odds are that most of the people that call your church home have an account on Facebook and check in there almost every day. That means that your ministry has the opportunity to touch people every day, whether the doors of the church are open or not.
Don't think of Facebook as a place to advertise. Instead, think of it as an extension of your church's lobby, fellowship hall, or coffee bar. Facebook is where people go to be social. They want to find out what is happening at the church, both in the programming and in the lives of the people. It is a place for announcements, but it's also a place for small group fellowship, devotional thoughts, and prayer!
It's easier than you think to get started:
1. Go to www.Facebook.com/pages to create a page. There's a difference between a page and profile. Make sure you're creating a page and not a personal profile. In Facebook terms, you want people to "like" your church's page, not "add as a friend." Facebook will then walk you through the process, step by step.
2. Let people know about your page. They can't "like" it if they don't know it's there.
3. Begin posting! Remember, you're posting things to engage people, not just to tell them what time you're having dinner. Share your thoughts about a Bible study discussion in addition to the information about the programs. Post once or twice a day. If you post too much it will fill up people's feeds and could be frustrating. Too little, and they'll forget you're on Facebook.
4. Pay attention to what people comment. I can't stress enough that Facebook isn't just to broadcast information. It's to start a discussion. It's a great chance to have discussions that may not otherwise take place at the church.
Creating a Twitter account is even easier, but can seem intimidating. It's okay to take one step at a time. Start with Facebook, and once you're comfortable with how it's going, consider expanding your social media presence to Twitter as well. Twitter provides another great platform for discussion, with shorter posts that occur in an even more real-time format than Facebook. It's perfect for discussions happening during an event. Some churches are even encouraging people to tweet during sermons to increase interaction.
Facebook and Twitter are the two most popular social media sites, but there are many more. Ministries can use the unique strengths of other networks like Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. How far your church wants to branch into social networking depends only on the time you, your staff, and volunteers have to put into it, and your imagination.
Finally, remember that social media doesn't have to be a one person job. If you're not comfortable on Facebook, find someone at the church to help you. Make sure that it's someone you trust to be a voice for your ministry. Posting on social media sites on behalf of your church is just as important, and requires just as much integrity, as speaking from the pulpit. Even so, there are likely people on your leadership teams who are ready to share the responsibility.
Mike J. Tufano is consumer engagement coordinator at Nazarene Publishing House and manages social media accounts for the organization.