Bart Blair: This is season 3 episode 12 of The Missional Marketing Podcast, I’m Bart Blair, and I want to thank you for tuning in to this episode. We produced this podcast so that we can help your church grow by leveraging digital marketing and effective communications. And we put out new content just about every week so that we can help you in whatever role you play in your church communications and church marketing to be more effective at what you do. We want to help you reach more people in your community for Jesus by leveraging the digital tools at your disposal.
Bart Blair: Now, if you’re new to the podcast, you might not know that typically what we do on this podcast is, I, and my co-host Jason Hamrock, who’s the CEO of Missional Marketing, we sit down and we interview some really amazing guests. Every once in a while, Jason and I just have a conversation between the two of us. Today, it’s going to be a little bit different because I’m going to kind of interview myself, well, not really, that would be kind of strange, I’m not interviewing myself, but I’m going to share some things with you, some thoughts that I believe that I hope will be helpful for you, especially if you’re trying to maximize your effectiveness on social media. And I have some insight to believe that just about everybody who’s in church communications is trying to do some things to be more effective at social media, and I’ll explain to you why I believe that is the case.
Bart Blair: But before I do that, I just want to remind you that if you’re not subscribed to the show, make sure that you do that, whether that’s on your favorite podcasting app or on our YouTube channel. Or maybe you’re actually watching this on our website at MissionalMarketing.com, we post these episodes there as well. Wherever you listen, wherever you watch, make sure that you have subscribed so that you don’t miss any future episodes. And if you’re finding this content to be helpful and useful for you, please leave us a rating and review. You know how the algorithms of the interwebs work, and if you leave us ratings and reviews, thumbs-ups on Facebook, or what have you, you know that it’ll help more people find the podcast and we would appreciate that.
Bart Blair: So here’s what I’m going to do today, I’m going to share with you what I consider to be a simple, sustainable social media strategy. That was way too many S’s, but I’ve been a pastor and preached many sermons, and I know that alliteration sticks. So sticky, a sticky title for this episode is A Simple, Sustainable Social Media Strategy.
Bart Blair: I want to give you a little bit of background as to why I believe that this podcast episode will be helpful and relevant for you. Here’s the deal, a few weeks ago, my colleague Jenn here at Missional Marketing, she’s one of my other coaches, we had the opportunity to travel to Nashville and spend a day at the Church Communications Conference. Hats off, thumbs up, and a big salute to our friend Katy Allred and all her team at The Church Communications Group, they put on a great conference in Nashville where we had a roomful of people that manage church comms. Some of them were church communications directors, and some were worship pastors or worship leaders, or office administrative people, but they had a hand or have a hand in the digital marketing, and the digital outreach, and the social media, and communications in their church. And we got together and we listen to some keynote speakers and we sat around roundtables. And after each keynote speaker spoke, we actually talked about what we learned and what we wanted to take away from that particular talk. We actually talked specifically about how we could apply the things that we were instructed on by those keynote speakers into the context of what we were doing in our very own churches. And so it was super practical, very hands-on, we met a lot of people and had a lot of opportunity to hear about what different churches are doing and how they’re managing their communications, their marketing, and so on and so forth.
Bart Blair: But this was the piece that stood out to me, is that at the end of every keynote speaker, I think there were five. There were four or five. I can’t remember exactly. And only one of those keynote speakers was actually talking about social media, the other four were speaking on other topics related to marketing, creativity, communications. Yet when we had our roundtable discussions, almost every tactic for deploying the things we were learning into the context of each person’s church almost solely focused on social media. In fact, every conversation sort of gravitated back to, how we’re using Facebook and Instagram and TikTok and Reels and other social media platforms that churches might be experimenting with. And I walked away from the conference asking myself the question, why is it that in communications we default so quickly to social media being the primary place that we measure our communications effectiveness?
Bart Blair: Now, I, like, many of you, I’ve sat in meetings and conferences and things with church pastors, and I’ve heard a pastor say to their communications director, oh, this needs to be on social media, post this on social media. And there seems to be this natural thing that happens in the context of church, that when we’re working on something, it just needs to be on social media, get it out there, get it out there on social media as if getting it out there on social media is going to make the impact that we really want to make with whatever it is that we’re working on.
Bart Blair: And if you’re a church communications professional, you know exactly what I’m talking about here. And so I know social media is one of the places that we can post content, we can create content, and we get almost immediate feedback as to whether or not it is hitting the mark, whether or not we’re actually accomplishing something. The problem is we’re always, in the organic space, fighting against the organic algorithms that Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and the other social media platforms have worked against us, they would like us organizationally to pay to play. And so there’s only so much that we can accomplish organically in our social media strategies. And so one of the first things that I think is important for us to do when it comes to social media in churches is to temper our expectations with what we can actually accomplish in social media.
Bart Blair: Social media is not a communications strategy, social media is part of an overarching communications strategy. There are some things that are better communicated via email, or text message, or phone calls or announcements on Sundays, or a billboard on the side of the road, maybe, every once in a while, you might want to do that. But there is a place for social media, it is important, but I think it’s always important that we have realistic expectations for what we can actually accomplish on social media.
Bart Blair: And so with that being said, I developed a strategy years ago that I didn’t call it this, but today I’m calling it the simple sustainable social media strategy, to give you a place to start, a place where you can actually invest your time, your energy, and your creative talents in social media to try to get the most bang for your buck without overdoing it, without spending so much time on social media that, as one pastor said to me one time, I can spend a whole day posting stuff on Facebook and I get to the end of the day and I don’t know if it was worth it. It was kind of like sitting and eating a five-pound bag of M&Ms, it seems like a really good idea while I’m doing it, but I get to the end and I don’t know if there is any value. And of course, there is no nutritional value in eating a five-pound bag of M&Ms. It tastes really good while you’re doing it, especially if you like the peanut kind, but in the end, I don’t know how much value there is in that. And we can kind of get sucked into the social media black hole without knowing if what we’re doing is really moving the needle as it relates to our church, church growth, discipleship, and what have you.
Bart Blair: So anyway, with all that being said, that was a pretty long preamble, I get it. Thanks for sticking with me. I’m going to give you this simple, sustainable social media strategy that has four components to it. Four components. I’m going to tell you what those four components are, and then I’m going to break each one of them down. They are information, invitation, inspiration, and celebration. I’ll say them again and sorry the last one didn’t start with an I, but the first three did. Information, invitation, inspiration, and celebration. Now I’m going to break each of these down, and I’m going to tell you that if you can build a social media strategy where the posts and the content that you’re creating and you’re posting fall into one of these four categories, and then you can find a good balance for how much content is going into each of these categories. You’ll find probably a more sustainable method of creating and posting social media content. You can have more consistent content online. And I think that you’ll also get more engagement, I think that you will find that the content that you’re producing, that you’re creating and that you’re posting, will be more engaging. So let’s break those four categories down.
Bart Blair: The first one is information. This is the one, that by default, as a church, we’re best at. You’re sitting in a planning meeting with your senior pastor or with an executive pastor, and this idea comes up and this is this thing we’re going to have happen and this thing that we’re going to do, and he tells you, go post it on social media. Get this on Facebook now. It needs to be on Facebook. And we’re good at that, it’s basically making announcements. It’s taking whatever the Sunday morning announcements are, or whatever events are on your calendar, and creating social media posts for those. And I would say that the majority of churches probably have about, I’m just throwing some pastor math numbers at you here, probably 75% of the content that we create is informative posts. We’re informing people of events and things that they need to know about. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if all you’re doing is using your Facebook and your Instagram accounts as a digital bulletin, you’re not going to get a whole lot of engagement. I’m just going to tell you that, you probably know that. So information is part of the strategy, but it can’t be everything that you post.
Bart Blair: It is important, so an information post would be, Hey, we’re having a baptism on Thursday night, it starts at 7:00. Or a canned food drive on Sunday to benefit the local food pantry. Or an information session for a mission trip that’s coming up on Thursday night. Or whatever the calendar events might be, you’re posting those things on social media, that’s information.
Bart Blair: Now, there is a little bit of nuance between information and the next one, which is invitation. Invitation is when there’s actually a call to action in the post, so I’ll use some of those same examples. We’re going to have an information night on an upcoming mission trip, and we want you to RSVP for that meeting, and so there’s a link for something to click on that gives them the opportunity to RSVP. Or we’re going to be doing the baptism class leading up to the baptism, and if you’d like to register for the baptism class, here’s a link that we want you to use to sign up. So information is, merely, we want you to put this on your calendar. Invitation is, we want you to put this on your calendar, but we also want you to respond, there is a call to action, so it is an invitation for you to actually do something.
Bart Blair: So those are the first two components, information and invitation. And like I said, I think most churches, I said 70% on information between those two, a lot of churches, they’d be like 90% of the content that they’re creating. And again, nothing wrong with that, but you’re not going to get the most engagement on that, and not get that feedback that you’re looking for in terms of whether or not the content you’re creating is actually engaging and inspiring people. Okay?
Bart Blair: Which brings us to the third ‘I’, which is inspiration. What we want to do is we want to use our social media platform as a place to do ministry, and we want ministry to inspire people, we want it to inspire people to live their lives more holistically for Jesus, to take the next steps in their faith journey, to be more involved in our church and in our mission. We want to inspire people to do those things.
Bart Blair: And so we need to carve out space in our social media calendar for inspirational posts. Now, the default for me, the easiest way to do this, is by repurposing sermon content from Sundays, right? Every week your senior pastor is creating content that can be repurposed for social media, whether you have the ability to record video and do short video snippets, that’s one way of creating that content. And by the way, those video snippets will work the algorithms of those channels very well, create video snippets that can go in Reels, and TikTok, Instagram stories, and you can use them on Facebook, and videos always perform well. But maybe you don’t have the capacity or the bandwidth to be able to do video clips, you can still do quotes, past quotes from your pastor’s sermon, quote your pastor, scriptures that were used in the Sunday morning message, and create posts that are inspiring, that are repurposing that Sunday morning content. In fact, I would suggest that every church should have at least five posts every week repurposed from the Sunday content, it helps keep that fresh, it helps your pastor’s sermon live on beyond the Sunday, and it helps continue to disciple people on what they were learning when they were at church on a Sunday morning. So, inspirational content.
Bart Blair: Now there are other things that are inspirational. One of the most inspirational things that we see is baptism videos. If you record baptism videos or photos from baptism, that is inspirational to people, but tie that to maybe someone’s faith story, someone’s testimony, or someone’s story about how God has impacted their lives. Find stories to tell that are inspirational, and create content that inspires people to take the next steps in their faith journey.
Bart Blair: So those are our three ‘I’ information, invitation, and inspiration. And then the fourth is the one that I think we need to probably, if I’m managing a social media account, probably 50% of my content is going to be celebration. Pastors and leaders will tell you that what you celebrate is what you elevate or you elevate what you celebrate. So whatever you’re celebrating as a church is what is going to become normal in the context of your church and the culture that you want to develop. And so, again, you could say that a baptism video could just as easily be a celebration, celebrating new life when people place their faith in Jesus. Celebrating milestones in the life of your church. Celebrating that volunteers have shown up and performed some activity to bless somebody else in the community with photos and a story.
Bart Blair: One of my favorite celebration stories, or ways to celebrate on social, is to create a monthly or biweekly volunteer profile. I’ve never heard a church ever say that they have too many volunteers. In fact, most churches say we don’t have enough people in our children’s ministry, we don’t have enough people on our greeting team, we don’t have enough small-group leaders, we don’t have enough people to serve in all of our ministry roles. One of the ways that you elevate that is by celebrating that. So the 1st of the month and the 15th of the month, or what have you, I like the 1st and the 15th. On the 1st of the month, we’re going to take a picture leading up to this a couple of weeks before of Bob. Bob serves in the parking lot, and we’re going to get a picture of Bob out in the parking lot with his orange vest on, and his flag, and his walkie-talkie, and we’re going to ask Bob a few questions. Hey, Bob, how long have you served in this ministry? What do you like the most about it? And why do you keep doing it? And then we’re going to write that out in that social media post, Bob’s been serving this ministry for five years, and what he loves the most about it is getting to serve and hang out with his friends on Sunday morning, and what keeps him coming back every week is the fact that he knows he’s helping people who are new to the church, find a great parking space and make it easy for them to get into the worship service. Do the same thing with a children’s ministry volunteer, do the same thing with a student ministry volunteer, do the same thing with somebody who’s volunteering at your church’s food pantry, or whatever it is, what you celebrate is what you will elevate in your church. And by the way, you can repurpose those posts in your weekly newsletter. Not everybody who gets your newsletter is on social media and vice versa, so you can actually take that piece of content and repurpose that for your newsletter. People will celebrate, and that will be some of the most highly engaged content that you create. Celebration content, anything that celebrates life, life change, the values in your church, and think creatively about that.
Bart Blair: So those are the four components of a simple, sustainable social media strategy information, invitation, inspiration, and celebration. Even if you only post four times a week, if you could post that even 25% of the time, each one 25% of the time, you’ll have some variety, you’ll have some content, and I promise it will lead to more engagement on your social media channels. It also gives you and your team the ability to think through a better strategy for implementing social media.
Bart Blair: So I hope this has been helpful, this is something that I’ve been doing for years with a number of churches that I get a chance to work with, and I’m hoping that you also will find this to be helpful. Hey, if you’re watching this on the YouTube channel and maybe you’ve tried something like this, or maybe you have another idea, we’d love for you to leave a comment on the YouTube channel about what maybe you tried. If you have something that is simple and sustainable, or maybe some variations on what I’ve shared in this podcast episode today, I would love to hear from you.
Bart Blair: Thanks again for tuning in to the Missional Marketing podcast. Again, my name is Bart Blair, typically on the show with me, I have my co-host, the CEO of Missional Marketing, Jason Hamrock. If you’d ever love to meet with one of us to talk more about how we can serve your church, make sure that you click over to our website, MissionalMarketing.com, and go to the contacts page. And from there you can actually schedule an appointment with one of us, or one of our highly capable teammates, and we love to talk about how we can serve your church. God bless, thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll see you next time.