It's easy for businesses and entrepreneurs to understand (or learn) why they should be on social media - showcase their products, launch a new service, and of course, grow an audience. You probably see articles everyday about top 10 reasons to do _____, and five best ways to do ______, etc.
But, what about churches?
Churches don't have products to sell, they don't have giveaways and sales. How can they use social media? Why should they even bother? Because most people attend church for two reasons: to grow in their faith, and to have community.
Businesses use social media to sell, launch, promote, and grow an audience. Churches also want to promote their services and events, but churches can also use social media to create community. (Brands can do this too, but that's a different blog for another time.)
In my experience, some churches are "scared" of social media, or only use it to post one link a week to their news feed. (Here are some crazy stats on churches and social media.) There's so much more that can be done! Gwinnett Church is where my husband and I attend, so I am partial to them, but they rock their social media presence like few other churches do. (Because I attend this church, I know a little more about the church as a whole, and some of the behind-the-scenes - more than if I were to look at another church's social media presence.)
Related: Visual Storytelling on Social Media
So, here are three ways that Gwinnett Church rocks their Instagram.
1. Highlight their staff and volunteers.
The three photos above are different in nature, but all are highlighting their staff or volunteers
- The Wishing Jar image on the left, is a lullaby album (and book) completed by two of the musicians that lead worship at the church. To support them (and spread the word), the church gave away a copy on Mother's Day.
- On each staff member's birthday, the church posts a collage of them. The post usually talks about how great this person is, and invites everyone to wish him or her a happy birthday. Doing this helps make a large church feel smaller!
- For each sermon series, a hashtag is created. This particular sermon series was about working at our job (that most people hate), and working at it for Christ. In the middle of the series, they let one member/volunteer) "take over" the Instagram account for a day to show off his dream job! Again, making a larger church feel smaller.
2. Highlight events (especially community ones)
Every church has programs/events - some small, small large. The best part of community events, is being able to use community hashtags and expand their reach.
I want to note - each of the three events above had multiple photos throughout the entire event, not just one. :)
- A church picnic on campus, after service - complete with food trucks, branded frisbees and music. There were multiple photos with groups of friends, just like this! As bad as it sounds, people love to see themselves in photos! (And they're more likely to share photos that they're in!)
- A food truck + concert night at a local amphitheater. Being in the community had two big benefits; 1) Being able to use local hashtags more, and 2) Church-goers could more easily invite non-church-going friends. This event also had it's own hashtag, and since everyone loves to take selfies at fun, Friday night events - more exposure!
- This last event was more of an unofficial event - but strictly promoted on Instagram (while others were promoted on stage and through email, etc.). One Friday night, those who knew about it, went to a local ice skating rink for some fun! "Wait, why were so many people at the rink last week? How did you know about it? Oh, I guess I don't follow them on Instagram!" ... now they will!
3. Highlight memorable quotes from the sermons
Now, this step takes a little more thought - because you need a creative team (or a freelance graphic designer, like myself... cough, cough) to create these for you. Of course, there are photo + text phone apps out there that you could easily just create something on a whim. BUT, these three graphics you see above tied into the same artwork that was used on the screens on Sunday. Same design elements = easier recognition, easier for your audience to recall the sermon.
How does this create community?
A few years ago, Gwinnett Church created their own hashtag, #FORGwinnett for church attendees to use online. But, they took it further than that. Soon, they had t-shirts that people could wear around and spread the #FORGwinnett message. Then, car window clings and magnets, more t-shirts, coffee mugs. People wore their shirts all over the community, nation, and even world - declaring their #FORGwinnett love!
One Sunday, after service, the church served up some Rita's Frozen Ice for everyone. As I was scrolling through the #FORGwinnett hashtag afterwards, one picture caught my eye and I clicked on it. Then, I went to the profile and saw that this girl and I had a lot in common. Long story short, that girl and I are now (and our husbands) are really close. A few weeks ago, one small group (not staff) used the #FORGwinnett hashtag to reach out to the online community, and invited anyone and everyone to a picnic at a local park.