Unfiltered: Real Church Planting Conversations

Social media & the church

Episode Summary

Social media’s rapid growth offers great opportunities — and challenges — for churches. Abby Hillmer, creative director at Blu Wave Social, joins Converge church planting leaders Lee Stephenson and Danny Parmelee to discuss how your church can improve its social media presence and engagement.

Episode Notes

Social media’s rapid growth offers great opportunities — and challenges — for churches. Abby Hillmer, creative director at Blu Wave Social, joins Converge church planting leaders Lee Stephenson and Danny Parmelee to discuss how your church can improve its social media presence and engagement.

0:53 Abby talks about what she does at Blu Wave Social.

1:57 Abby shares how a church’s social media presence led her to decide to follow Jesus.

2:36 Lee asks Abby about the three biggest mistakes she sees churches in using social media.

2:50 The first mistake she sees is churches not using social media.

3:25 Abby discusses social graphics.

5:06 Churches miss out when they don’t respond to comments and messages.

6:49 Abby says churches need a different strategy for each social platform.

8:29 Danny talks about the value of authenticity on social media.

9:06 Lee asks Abby how churches can create greater engagement on Instagram and Facebook.

9:36 She says churches shouldn’t post more than one announcement a week.

10:48 Abby talks about the best times and days to post on social media.

11:39 She discusses the benefits of resharing posts on Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories.

12:12 Abby recommends using videos and photos of people in your church to bring a human element to your social presence.

12:45 Lee asks Abby: How many times a day and week should churches post on social media? When does it get to be too much? When is it not enough to create engagement?

14:15 Danny asks Abby if it’s OK for planters and pastors to hand off social media responsibilities to a volunteer.

16:29 Abby talks about how to plan out and schedule your social media content.

Episode Transcription

Lee Stephenson: Everyone, welcome to the Unfiltered podcast. My name is Lee Stephenson, I have the joy of being the executive director of Church Planting for Converge. And my co-host here.

Danny Parmelee: I’m Danny Parmelee. And I oversee church planting for Converge MidAmerica.

Lee Stephenson: And we’re excited to continue just having conversation I think to Danny, like, this is a prevalent conversation kind of, for churches right now with what we’re dealing with. And just because of the COVID influence within the local church of really having to rethink and think through strategies of online engagement. And so I’m excited that today, we’ve got a special guest. And so we’ve got Abby from Blu Wave Social, and I’ll let you introduce yourself real quick, Abby, and tell us a little bit about Blu Wave.

Abby Hillmer: Awesome. Thank you guys for having me. This is super awesome. So my name is Abby, I’m the creative director at Blu Wave Social. And so Blu Wave Social really is our birth blessing that really helps businesses online. It’s been cool during this COVID season, we’re in the digital marketing space. And really, what I oversee is the creative department, which is social media, copywriting, design, all that fun stuff. So it was a passion of mine, ever since high school. And it’s really cool to see how God’s taken that from a little seed into a business. That’s, it’s amazing for me to look at this season right now and be like, OK, I understand just the need, and the lack of understanding really in this industry.

Lee Stephenson: Yeah, no, and timing couldn’t be better for you guys to get this thing up and off the ground, and then all of a sudden see everything move with a pretty major digital platform. And you guys, you work with both marketplace industry, but also nonprofit churches and stuff. So you there really is a breadth of work that you all do. Is that correct?

Abby Hillmer: Definitely. Yeah, we work with different businesses in different industries. But it’s been cool. I know personally, the reason I got saved was because of a church who had an incredible social media presence. So it’s cool that I followed them for like a year and a half. And now turning around, you know, there’s nonprofits are moving into social media, some are more ahead than the other. But it’s been cool to do the research and kind of see how much it’s grown even in the past year.

Danny Parmelee: And church are usually on the front end of culture and technology, right?

Abby Hillmer: Right.

Lee Stephenson: She’s being nice. Abby, when it comes to church world and their engagement, social media, what are let’s say, what are the three biggest mistakes that you see churches in how they use social media?

Abby Hillmer: Yeah, that’s a good question. I would say, three biggest mistakes. Well, the first one is just not using it. I don’t you know, there’s different reasons people aren’t on social media, whether they don’t know what to do, they don’t really have a plan. But my biggest advice is to just start, people are on social media, and they want to follow you because they want to see your content, they’re not looking for perfect. They just want to see you and connect with you. So one, just being on social media is a big thing that I know, my parents’ church isn’t on there. They’re kind of trying to figure it out during the season. And so that’s definitely No. 1.

And then No. 2, I’ll go ahead and talk about the graphics like the visual effect with things. So I’ve noticed with, you know, not just churches, not just nonprofits, but businesses in general, if they feel like they need to be too professional, because social media, you know, specifically if we’re talking like Instagram and Facebook, compared to LinkedIn is a casual place people are not in suits and ties when they’re scrolling on their feed. Most of the time, everyone’s usually pretty comfy in their own private space. And so when they’re reading, they aren’t expecting, they don’t need a fancy presentation. And so I see that some people try to fit a theme like a graphic, a clean theme that kind of looks the same over and over again, are always uses the same font or always follows a certain format. And when you are too uniform in that way, I’ve noticed that the numbers in the analytics really decrease for the stopping the scroll. So the social media, the goal is to stop the scroll because people go miles on that thing when they’re scrolling. And so to get them to stop for even just a second or a few seconds to catch their eye. The graphics need to be different. And that’s something I’ve seen with some of the, I would say leading churches in the industry in social media is their graphics are always different. I know some churches have the blessing of having a whole graphic design team. But I’ve seen the most success in people who are actually really changing up their style instead of trying to stick to the same thing over and over again. 

And then really, let’s see the third one. This is a big one. And I like to think of social media, like social media, it’s used as a place where people engage. So people want to talk, people want to communicate, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Facebook, where the comment sections just get crazy. And there’s so many conversations going on at once. But people spend a lot of time on there. And so they want to have conversation. And when churches aren’t what I see them missing, sometimes not responding to the comments. That’s one thing, it’s kind of like someone reaches out and puts their hand out there to say hello, or to comment on something or, you know, kind of open up and share their heart. And they’re not met back with a response. And so I would definitely, as a church have someone who is in charge of the DM’s, the message requests, and then responding to comments. And, you know, sometimes you can’t get them to get to them right away. But getting to them, at least in the same day, I think is very beneficial. Because if someone comments and they’re not responded to they might not engage again, just because they’re like, Oh, they don’t talk back. So really talking back with your audience is a big one, too.

Lee Stephenson: Oh, those are great, great suggestions. Let me let me ask you just a clarifying question. When it comes to the different social media platforms out there, when you think through the four major platforms, you kind of mentioned them quickly, when you’re talking. You’ve got Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Can a church have the same type of strategy across all the platforms? Or should they have a unique strategy per platform and the way that they use it?

Abby Hillmer: Yeah, that’s, that’s a good question with how each platform is different. So there’s a different demographic, a different audience, on Instagram, compared to Twitter, Twitter compared to LinkedIn. And so I feel, Instagram and Facebook are the sister platform, so usually have a little bit a little older demographic on Facebook, and a little younger on Instagram. So those can usually be a pretty similar vibe, you know, there, you talk to a 40 year old, maybe similarly to a mature 20 year old. Maybe. I say that you can really have a similar tone to Twitter. Definitely. I feel like the shorter the better. I know there’s only a certain amount of characters. So sometimes, and when it comes to content, you have to maybe take what’s created on Instagram or Facebook, look at it, don’t overanalyze it, but make it more concise. What’s the bullet point? How do you want to hook someone for just a quick thought, and then LinkedIn is definitely you know, really, depending on your churches, brand vibe, more professional. So I would switch the tone, just a little bit more professional on LinkedIn. But also at the same time, I’ve seen people use content for Instagram, Facebook, and make it fit LinkedIn just as well. Even really big brands that are not churches, they do the same thing. And it’s just kind of nice. They’re staying true to their voice. So don’t think that you need to become a different person, a different organization, because of the platform, you’re still you. But sometimes just changing. If you need to be a little bit more professional on the LinkedIn side, and definitely more concise on Twitter.

Danny Parmelee: I think that’s a really good point to have just authenticity, which even goes back to what you were saying, kind of in the beginning, what were church planters, pastors in general, they’re always comparing themselves. So they’re seeing this professional organization, or this big-time church, have has these graphics, or because like, Oh, someone told me, there’s younger people on Instagram, I need to have this really hip cool look or picture or whatever. But the value actually is in authenticity. And I just think that that’s just a really key thing that you brought up.

Lee Stephenson: Abby, when it comes to like weekly engagement. What are some tricks of the trade that you say? Do this churches and it will help create greater engagement? You know, is it doing live videos? Is it you know, is it is a certain font, is it length of post, and I’m talking about let’s talk about the two major platforms, so Instagram and Facebook?

Abby Hillmer: Yeah, so a couple tips. Let’s see. First thing that I think is important to start out with is, you know, churches always have different groups going on. There’s always a sermon coming on Sunday. So there’s announcements to be made, but you only want to have like one announcement per week. You don’t want your page being all about like, what’s next, what’s next, right? So that is definitely a tip that I would stick to. Another one is, you know, what are you going to post on the rest of the day. So there’s a lot of different options. There’s a lot of amazing resources and videos on YouTube. I know Pro Church Media has really done a lot of research and has some good content out there. But I found that even just working with Harvest is that when you kind of talk about the algorithm for a second, and so algorithm is a big word that can sound scary, but really, it just means like how it works. So it’s not chronological, like it used to be. Instagram and Facebook show what gets the most engagement. So you might post something, you know, say it’s Thursday morning at 6 a.m. But someone might not see it till later. But if there’s no engagement, they might not see it. So we really want to one, be aware of time. And a general rule of thumb is 11 o’clock, depends on what time zone you’re in, but 11 your time zone, and then the gap between, I’d say 3 o’clock, or maybe around dinnertime is a good, just general rule of thumb. But posting on Friday, something more lighthearted something, whether it’s a meme, whether it’s a just a fun quote, it doesn’t have to be super deep. But getting that engagement before the weekend where you are inviting them to church the next day, you know, at the end of the day with, you want them a part of your community, you want them to feel a part of something and welcome. So getting that engagement up before an invite on Saturday is what I would say. So that’s another great tip that I found to work well when you’re just kind of talking about more of the algorithm side of things, and also putting resharing your posts on stories. And the reason I say that is because there’s two different types of people in the way that they scroll, I don’t know, if you guys can kind of think about what you do. When you open your Facebook or your Instagram, some people are scrolling on their feed, and some are clicking through stories. So once a post is made, if you reshare it to your story, you’re gonna like doubly catch the attention of whatever audience is on there. And then there was one other thing that I feel like is a really good. Oh, you were touching on live videos. So Lee, yeah, that’s definitely something I would recommend when churches can show more of their faces and more of the people that actual humans versus just graphics, I just made things, I would definitely recommend a combination of both, I think both are really important. So whether it is live videos, whether you do have someone in your church that can be taking photos to be recycled as content, that human element I think is really important when it comes to content.

Lee Stephenson: So good live pictures versus just static stock photos is that what I’m hearing you say too. So help us understand like, when it comes to a church posting as well, how many times a day? Or how many times a week, should they actually be posting? When does it get to be too much? Or when is it definitely like you’re just not doing enough and so engagement’s not going to happen.

Abby Hillmer: So I don’t really, there’s not a secret magic number. That’s like the sweet spot, I definitely think you know, if you can, churches, I’ve seen posts two to three times per day, and it can work out. It’s not that they’re doing that every single day. But if they have something to be talking about, if they have value to be shared, definitely you can be posting two to three times per day. But you know more on the minimal side of things, I would say. It really depends on your staff where you’re at, but I would say at least five posts per week. That way you are reiterating things from the message you are talking about things going on and people follow you and they know that you’re going to be posting content, they don’t follow you. And then when you do, it’s sort of a surprise, they’re actually looking to hear from you looking to see your content. So I would say that’s about that’s the scale about from five posts per week. And then you can be posting several per day. But again, that that depends on if you do have things to be talking about in quality. I guess recycled content is the way that we talk about it.

Danny Parmelee: I have two questions. So for church planters that are like I just I can’t do this social media either. I don’t have time, I don’t have interest. Um, is it OK? And especially for a church planter? Who I mean so much revolves around them and their vision, is it OK for them to hand this off to a volunteer to say, I want you to run the social media. So give me some of the pros and cons of kind of handing that responsibility off. And then also you’re talking about content. How much should this be thought through? So in other words, whether that is the church planter or the church planter that does hand it off to say, OK, well this week or this month, you know, how do they go about planning it. Are there some apps that are your favorite apps, Planoly or those types of things, that you’re like this is the one that I choose to use, because it just helps with that consistency and thinking through the content.

Abby Hillmer: Yeah, so let’s see, I would say if you know, the person planning, the church is super busy, and they need someone to help them. I think that is great. And kind of back to what I was saying earlier, you’d rather be posting than not. And I actually want to the churches, I do follow on my personal feed I saw last night, they were having their five-year anniversary. So they grew from the garage to this awesome thriving building now. And I didn’t hear about them until they were this thriving building. But I scrolled back on their feed back to the you know, the day one or even pre day one. And they had just these awful photos of what service look like back then even just the back of the room, you can’t really see anything that’s going on. And the caption wasn’t super captivating, but the fact that they were still putting on there, I felt like I got to be a part of it. And so that was I would definitely not be too critical on the quality of content, be posting photos. At least start somewhere, you know, we’re all beginners. And if you someone’s doing this, two months later, six months later, one whole year later, you’re going to see a lot of growth in terms of content. So I would just be, you know, have a conversation every however frequently, you want to make it about any directions sit down, make content at once, so I had photos that I had shot previously. And I had, I would sit down and make some graphics and I would go through planning the week or you know, you can even plan out the month depending on how much information you have making that content calendar and using a scheduler, I would say some of the basic ones. Hootsuite is a very general a good one. I know the ones that we use. We have reporting on our social media. So I the ones that we use more for agency side of things, not necessarily churches, but Hootsuite is the one that I’ve heard the most success with, for people who are you know, just looking to plan for themselves. I also used Later, Later media is more Instagram based. And if you want to schedule like an Instagram story, you can schedule stories on their stories don’t automatically post. That’s one thing that Instagram is working on right now. But you can schedule your stories for engagement. And then you’ll get a little text when it’s time to post it. And then someone just has to click the button. So it’s a little, it’s not as automated. But I would definitely look at automating your content. That way, you get it all taken care of. And you don’t have to think about it throughout the week or every single day to be posting something.

Lee Stephenson: I love those suggestions. I personally use Canva as well and had great success with that. And I think that’s a great idea too, is just do some YouTube, find some Instagram stars out there that are you know, intentionally training people on how to use these resources. And it’s like so many things, find what works for you, and then just implement the plan to be able to make sure that at least there’s a level of consistency and good content being driven out there to as you said before, it’s about creating the conversation more than it is about just sending out information. And so I think those are great tips. Abby, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate the time and your expertise and just sharing a little bit about how can we get better with a social media presence and engagement for our local churches. So everybody until next time, keep it real. This has been the Unfiltered podcast.