By now, most parishes know the drill. Someone gets the idea to make a social media channel for the parish community. By show of hands, you sign up for three of the most popular (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and appoint someone to post. There is a little bit of conversation about what to post and how often, but for the most part, not much else is discussed.
For the first two weeks, your social media accounts are added to each day with inspirational quotes, announcements from the bulletin, special Mass times for an upcoming holy day, and maybe a few birthday shout-outs to some long-standing members. You get a few likes and a couple comments from regular parishioners, but as the weeks progress, engagement slowly starts to dwindle.
And then, the internal dialogue begins:
“Maybe it was quiet on our social media today because it’s a federal holiday.”
“Maybe no one ‘liked’ this post because we posted it too early.”
“Wow, we got double the likes on this post … but why? It’s the same as the last three I posted.”
One surefire way to become discouraged with social media as a parish is to focus on the lack of engagement in the beginning. But with nearly everything worthwhile, you need to understand that, while you need to start small, your goal should be to focus on the people who ARE liking and commenting. Now the question becomes — how do you nurture that group of loyal followers so as to grow it?
Read on for ways you can engage the followers you currently have, and begin to set the stage to welcome more.
FIGURE OUT WHAT THEY LIKE
Figuring out the likes and dislikes of your current followers is total detective work. You need to be observant, try different strategies, and post content that you then need to analyze. If you find you get a lot of likes and comments on Fr. Phillip’s latest bulletin column than, say, your weekly “thought of the week,” feel free to discontinue that particular post and look for something else to try — just make sure that you give it enough time to really take hold before you decide it’s not working.
POST CONTENT THEY CAN RESPOND TO
Sometimes, it’s fun to come across a social media post that actually invites followers to express an opinion, share a memory, or offer some advice. Some favorites of ours for parishes are:
Christmas Eve Mass or Christmas Day Mass — which team are you on, and why?
What are you doing for Lent? Share with us!
This Sunday, we hear from the Gospel of Matthew on the importance of giving of ourselves for the greater glory. Share with us a particular time when you had to make a hard decision. What was the outcome?
Social media algorithms are tricky. Some days, it may appear as though you cracked the code with a large number of impressions, but then the following week, you get five views on your most popular weekly feature — what gives?
One major key to getting your content out there is to be consistent. If you are going to post every day, try to make it during the times that people are more likely to see them. There’s a great guide from Hootsuite that lists the best times to post your content over a wide array of platforms. For example, they suggest 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday is the best time to post on Instagram. When it comes to Facebook, the suggested times are 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and on the weekends from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. So keep that in mind when deciding when to post.
POST VALUABLE CONTENT THEY CAN’T FIND JUST ANY WHERE
When the content is good and hard to find elsewhere, people will actively seek it out. Try to think of things that are not easily accessible to followers. Do you host Donut Sunday once per month? Wait until the day before to let people know what the “Flavor of the Month” donut is by posting it on Facebook. What about updates from the youth group that went down to Florida to aid in relief efforts? Post their photos and videos for easy sharing. Maybe you have a particular coupon in next Sunday’s bulletin — share on social media what the deal is, and how they can access it.