Elements of a Social Media Strategy
The resource list below has a number of good references for helping you develop a comprehensive social media strategy. Ideally this strategy will be one component of an overall communication plan for your congregation that includes all the ways you interact with your members and the community. A good strategy provides a rationale, plus some structure and foundation for this aspect of ministry. Basic strategy elements should address some of these questions:
- What’s the plan? Involve key stakeholders in planning a strategy. What is your organizational strategy … where does social media fit in? Help the group answer the basic question of: What are your objectives? Evangelism and outreach? Information for members? Inspiration?
- Who is your target audience? Are you primarily trying to reach and connect members, or are you primarily hoping to reach out to the community and prospective members? Most congregations are trying to reach both, but you should still describe your audience as thoroughly as possible, since you will want to target your efforts and possibly use different channels to reach different audience segments.
- Why are we considering this means of communicating? Outline your reasons for this initiative. Social media offers the possibility for collaborating with purpose. It can extend the community that gathers on Sunday morning into the rest of the week and integrate “church life” into daily life.
- Where? When choosing a social media platform, the most cost effective and successful approach is usually to boldly go where your members are. Are your members active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, etc.? This may mean setting aside your personal preference for social media platform in favor of reaching your members where they are.
- Public vs. Private space? Eventually you will probably need both: outposts where your members already are; home spaces for private groups. You can also build private spaces within public spaces (e.g. private Facebook groups). Start with where people are. If you outgrow that, consult with key users and get their buy-in before branching out.
- Who will implement the strategy? Are you willing to shift your thinking about congregational communication, and shift your time from other tasks, to feed and monitor a social media presence? This work is a great opportunity for lay leadership, but staff oversight and some level of participation is needed. Your strategy needs to identify the human resources that will be applied to setting up and maintaining a social media presence.
- How will the strategy be implemented? Transforming into a networked organization involves trust and getting more people involved. This is easier when you have a policy to empower staff and volunteers to communicate freely in a responsible way. Develop work flows for how information will be shared over time, and a schedule of who will monitor and support this virtual community on a regular basis.
- How will the communication needs of all members continue to be met? It is important to avoid creating a “technology gap” in your overall communication strategy, where members without the means or desire for digital connections are left out. Using online community to help mobilize volunteers to connect with the offline community can help fill this gap, as well as on-demand printing of some essential communications for those who indicate that preference.