NASHVILLE (BP) -- Being an effective social media manager means doing more than just sitting on Facebook and Twitter all day. It requires keeping up with trends and changes in trends so that necessary changes to strategy can be made.
Changing strategy to keep up with trends isn't about being "trendy" or "cool" as much it is about being effective. When social media managers aren't aware of what content is working well or how social media platforms have changed their rules, they are not able to do their job as well.
So here we are in 2020. What is changing and what is staying the same in the social media landscape? Here are five basic trends that churches ought to note:
1. Every platform is increasingly different.
I have the opportunity to help a number of Christian organizations and churches through social media consulting, and one of the most common mistakes I see is treating every social media platform the same. This strategy is often born out of a lack of time or resources to create content specific to each platform.
Back in the early 2010s, this strategy worked. Social media platforms were still so new, and many of them had not yet developed their distinct identities. As a result, the same content worked on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.
Today, every social media platform has its own sort of subculture, and what works on each platform will vary. The dimensions for images and video are different. Recognize these things and create content specific to each platform.
2. People are moving from public spaces to private spaces.
Social media has almost always been about public connections with friends or strangers around the world. It's always been about posting pictures from a family reunion and tagging family members so they could have the pictures too, or digging up those funny old high school photos to share with your friends.
These days, private social media spaces are starting to get a lot more attention. Features like Facebook Groups, Instagram direct messages, and apps like Snapchat all continue to grow in popularity.
What this means is that churches should be ready and willing to use features like Facebook Messenger and Facebook Groups to communicate with church members and those in the surrounding communities about needs, events, and other items.
3. Facebook ads continue to be effective.
For a long time, Facebook ads have been the most effective form of paid advertising in the social media world for most people. Why? Facebook knows more about its users than any other social media platform. Say your church is having an event for mothers of young children. You can create a Facebook ad that is targeted to mothers of young children who live within a 25-mile radius of your church, and you can even run it on Instagram as Instagram is owned by Facebook. That is far more effective than any other kind of social media ad.
This continues to be an effective strategy, perhaps more effective than a postcard campaign in a lot of communities, and churches should be using it well. It can be a bit confusing for someone new to social advertising, so do some research and find some help!
4. TikTok is huge, but not worth a church's time.
TikTok is a short-form video social media platform used primarily by teenagers and young adults. It is exploding among young people, who are often the catalyst for the newest social media platforms.
5. YouTube is still the biggest social media platform in the world, so use it well.
According to Pew Research, about 73 percent of U.S. adults and about 90 percent of Americans ages 18-24 use YouTube. You may not think of YouTube as a social media platform, but it is, and it is the largest social media platform in the world. It is also the second largest search engine in the world behind Google, which is technically part of the same company as YouTube (Alphabet).
YouTube can be hard for churches, especially churches that do not have video equipment to record sermons or other kinds of video content. As I have worked with churches and Christian organizations over the years, I have found it to be an area of tremendous opportunity.
A Closing Reminder
Creating and maintaining a good social media strategy does not need to be a top priority for churches. It may be weird to read that sentence from someone who works in social media and cares deeply about it. But it's just true. The local church needs to first focus on the incarnational ministry it does with people in its community before it worries about putting together a great Instagram strategy.
However, churches should work to use the gifts God has given them in all spheres, and social media is an important avenue of communication that cannot be ignored. It is important. It is difficult. But it is not ultimate.