When I became a writer, social media gurus insisted that you must self-promote. Like many Christian writers, self-promoting felt the opposite of the Gospels’ message, but marketing has improved since the early years of blogging. Social Media is now about telling the story of your brand or organization. Or in the case of a church or missionary organization, telling the stories of the faithful, sharing the Gospel, and realizing that social media is about digital discipleship, not just for marketing. Hard and fast rules became flexible, like how long a blog should be, how often to post on Facebook, or even how to use Instagram with its three possible platforms.
Recently, Jenn from Jenn’s Trends did a podcast with Convince & Convert on how to use Instagram. In the podcast, she said,
- Treat Instagram as three platforms:
- Curated traditional posts that are of high quality and good content.
- Stories are spontaneous, but be consistent in the quality and content.
- IGTV: Instagram videos can go as long as ten minutes.
- A word about IGTV:
- Use hashtags.
- It’s not live.
- It’s not “stories”.
- Hashtags on Instagram should contain this formula when using 15-20 hashtags:
- 3-5 popular hashtags that have a usage of 500,000 to 1 million users.
- 3-5 moderate hashtags that have a usage of hundreds of thousands.
- 3-5 niche or more specific hashtags
- You can use the search on Instagram to research hashtags and get suggestions, much like doing an Adwords account and researching keywords.
Not surprisingly, the popularity of an Instagram post is based on interaction. Facebook owns Instagram and changed its own algorithm in January 2018. Jenn suggests posting less and better quality content on Instagram so people want to leave comments and react. The podcast was full of good advice. As a church or a missionary organization, what can we do with this information?
It begins by asking the questions:
- Who are our neighbors?
- Have we looked at the data to see the people groups in your area?
- Have you considered how you might serve globally and locally using social media?
If Instagram should be treated as three platforms, what can that look like?
Curated traditional posts can be:
- High-quality images that capture unguarded moments of church life.
- Biblical messages that tap into what your community is struggling with.
- Biblical messages that also speak to the people whose first language isn’t English with hashtags that tap into the groups other people groups hang out in.
“Stories” can be:
- Questions from doubters to encourage other doubters to feel more comfortable to respond.
- Church life.
IGTV can be:
- Ten-minute sermonettes.
- Teasers for any of the ministries that are happening.
- Question and Answer sessions.
More importantly, do you have a digital team from the congregation who can respond, even mentor others online? Do you have a digital team that has cross-cultural experience and knows a second language? Thom Rainer shared in 5 Realities of Evangelism in North American Churches, “It should come as no surprise that we found evangelism does not happen unless the church is intentional about it. Effective evangelistic churches are intentional with their community outreach efforts and in their personal relationships.”
While we must market, remember that social media is more than just announcing your services, but about ministering to people of all ethnic groups by empowering your congregation with the right tools and creative direction.