Grow Your Community Through Social Media Automation: A Recap from ENGAGE Conference 2020

This blog post comes from Darcy Peter’s presentation at Engage Conference. Darcy is a Customer Advocacy Lead for the Customer Engagement team at Buffer. Prior to her work at Buffer, Darcy served as a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, grew and sold her own fitness business, and served as a founding member on two non-profit boards. In this session, Darcy outlines tips on starting and maintaining your church’s social media marketing.

In 2019, 69% of adults used at least one social media site. That number has risen every year and will most likely continue to rise. Additionally, 80% of people between the ages of 18-49 are on Facebook. And Facebook isn’t just a young person’s game anymore. 55% of people 50 years old and above are on Facebook. Across the globe, there are 3.48 billion social media users which represents a growth of 288 million users (+9%) since 2019. Visualize your congregation. How many of them do you think are represented in those statistics?

Social media automation can help you build community within your congregation. In the 2018 Non-Profit Marketing Guide, “community” was one of the top priorities non-profits cited for aiding communication with their audience. How can community be facilitated? Churches facilitate community in a number of ways. Small groups, service projects, kids camps, missions and more are all ways churches facilitate community.  But what about social media? 25% of non-profit leaders said that if they could hire one new person in their organization it would be to handle social media posting. That’s big not just because they would hire a person, but because they understand the priority of social media for their operations. 

The 2019 Non-Profit Marketing Guide asked non-profit leaders to self-assess their efforts of engaging their communities. 33% of effective non-profits said that engaging their community was an essential goal while only 17% of less effective non-profits said the same. While 33% may seem low, it was the most-stated goal in the survey, making it the top priority for the most non-profit companies. 

So, how does social media automation help us build community with our congregation? It allows us to reach them in their homes when they don’t always make it to their seats on Sundays. Beyond a one-time Sunday morning delivery, what is your church doing to foster a 24-7 reminder of the message? Your social media accounts can be used to promote events and share reminders, but those are marketing initiatives. What if you also used your social media accounts to share reflections, ask questions, or share quotes from your worship gatherings? Doing this allows you to extend your once-a-week message to fill the entire week. 

Instruct your church members to click the “see first” feature on their social media profiles. This will allow them to see your latest post when they log in. Your inspiration will be front of mind and increase your engagement.

How can you build community through social media?

  • Share video snippets of your sermon. Add a follow-up question to the post and connect them to the remainder of the message.

  • Share quote graphics. Use a quote from the sermon, highlight a relevant passage, or reinforce the theme of the week with an additional quote.

  • Ask a question. Follow-up on the theme by asking an application question. This creates an opportunity for discussion in the comments.

  • Take a poll. Poll your audience on an aspect of the previous week’s sermon or use this as research for future sermons. Share the results of your polls in your sermons.

  • Leverage Facebook groups. This allows your congregation to chat with one another throughout the week.

  • Use live video. This allows your church to chat with you and one another as you deliver information.

Darcy’s company, Buffer, provides social media management software to churches and non-profits. Social media management tools primarily do three things:

  • Schedule posts. This allows for automatic publishing. You can upload all of your social media posts at one time and schedule them for release at later times.

  • Engage with incoming conversations. Messages from followers come in one central place for you to respond instead of bouncing between multiple social media platforms.

  • Analyze metrics. Metrics allow you to see what kinds of posts resonate with your audience and gives you demographic information on your audience.

Social media automation is meant to empower and enhance community, not as an inauthentic way to reach more people. 

Darcy outlined three Do’s and Don’ts for social media management:

    Do make every post thoughtful. Don’t just post to post. 

    Do engage with followers. Engagement = community building. Don’t just send it and forget it. 

    Do take time to assess your metrics, at least monthly. Don’t just post blindly. 

How can churches use social media automation to their advantage?

Reduce manual effort.
Social media management automation allows you to program posts and manage comments all in one place, reducing the amount of time you spend navigating between platforms.

Replace manual effort with smart tools. Social media automation tools give you insights into your post engagements. These insights allow you to see what types of content your community regularly engage with, the optimal time to post, and even which platform your community prefers.

Maybe you won’t have to hire a social media manager. Instead of creating a dedicated staff position, you may find the time you save and insights you gain from utilizing a good automation platform help you improve social media engagement enough.

Darcy outlined three ways that social media management software can help reduce manual effort.

    1.  Social media automation reduces the amount of time it takes to publish each post by hand. Navigating between multiple platforms can be cumbersome. Creativity is also manual effort that can’t be planned. Social media automation allows you to utilize your creative inspiration as it comes and schedule posts across multiple platforms in advance.

    2.  Social media automation utilizes the social platform’s native functions.  Notifications can be messy. Social media management platforms help you keep your notifications organized so that you can easily respond to each comment, message, and DM. 

    3.  Social media automation utilizes the social platform’s native analytics. Individual platforms have different ways of measuring engagement. Understanding each measure on each platforms is similar to having to learn multiple languages. Social media management platforms bring all of your analytics into one place and put them into one common language.

Social media presents tremendous opportunities for us to both create community within our churches, but also to be a “front door” of engagement with our communities. A good social media automation platform and strategy may be especially helpful for your church while you are meeting digitally during the coronavirus pandemic.