You and I are living through the biggest communications shift in the last 500 years.
While we didn’t ask to be born during this era, we are here nonetheless, so it’s our responsibility to navigate the constantly shifting landscape in which we find ourselves.
Here’s a fun little exercise. Think about how old you were in 2006? (I was 15.) Think about the fact that 2006 was not that long ago. And yet, in 2006 the following platforms did not exist as part of our cultural experience: Facebook, iPhones, Netflix, Instagram, Airbnb, Uber, Snapchat, Dropbox . . . I could go on.
In just a decade, new apps, websites, and social platforms have radically altered the way we communicate with each other — completely transforming our cultural landscape.
The first communications job I took at a church was as a part-time Media Director. I didn’t know much about social media at the time, but I was eager to learn on the job so I consumed as much training material as I possibly could.
Amazingly, only 5 years on, much of what I learned then is no longer applicable. As proof, let’s take a look at 5 social media rules that used to exist, but have already changed.
Rule #1 – Auto Posting Between Platforms
If you wanted to be a savvy social media marketer in 2012 you set up your Facebook posts to auto-publish on Twitter. Two birds, one stone. (Well, technically Twitter is the only bird.) This cutting-edge 2012 strategy is completely useless today. Auto-published posts from other platforms are obvious and, thus, ignored.
More importantly, as social media has evolved, the language of each individual platform has also evolved. Meaning, the way you publish on Facebook can’t be the way you publish on Twitter, or Instagram, or anywhere else.
Each platform requires its own attention and strategy, and that leads into the second rule that has changed.
Rule #2 – Publishing Identical Content On Each Platform
Five years ago, publishing the same content on every platform was common practice. But this social media strategy is antiquated and, frankly, annoying.
If I’m already following your church on Facebook, and you post identical content to Instagram, why should I follow your church on Instagram? I’m just seeing the same stuff.
But don’t worry, expired rule number three can help with this.
Rule #3 – Being Active On Every Platform
When I think of the rise of social media, it reminds me of the Gold Rush — everyone frantically trying to stake their claim and hit it big. In a climate like that, the more platforms you could be active on, the better your odds were of hitting it big.
Was Facebook where the gold was? Or was it going to be on Socialcam?
Social media has matured a great deal since its Gold Rush days. We now know who the major players are and where the big mines were dug. Thus, it makes sense to spend the majority of your church’s efforts on Facebook. And once you’ve got a solid strategy in place there, move onto Instagram.
Don’t feel the obligation to be active on every platform. Go deep instead of wide.
Rule #4 – Expecting People To Follow You On Every Platform
Just as you don’t need to be active on every platform, it’s important to recognize that the people in your church aren’t active on every platform either.
Social media has evolved to a place where each of us has our preferred platforms. I, for instance, spend the majority of my time on Twitter. Why? Because of sports and the live element. Others prefer the visual nature of Instagram. Folks on the older end of the spectrum prefer Facebook because of connections with family and friends.
This is why it’s important to have an active presence on social media where the majority of your audience already resides. For most churches, this is Facebook. But if you’re a student ministry, this is likely Snapchat.
Rule #5 – “Engage The Conversation”
The rule I heard the most when I first began managing social platforms for churches was this one: “Engage the conversation.”
Philosophically, this always made sense to me. But practically, it didn’t work out as well as I wanted.
Today, I follow a similar, but distinctly different rule, “Create the conversation.”
Every day I’m having dozens of conversations with people in comments and DMs. How? By posting conversation-provoking content.
Rather than engage a conversation that already exists (somewhere?), I want each of the posts that I publish on social to provoke thought and responses.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the pace of change on social media. You may even want to give up, reasoning that “if things are going to change this much, why even bother.”
The great thing about social, though, is that the storytelling element never changes. Sure, some nuances and best practices shift, but storytelling is a timeless communication medium that has never changed – and never will. Think of social as just the latest vehicle that carries our message and tells our story.
Use articles like this one to stay on top of shifting trends (like the fact that you seriously need to turn off auto-posting), and devote the majority of your efforts to becoming a storyteller on social. This is the best way to future-proof yourself and your church in the rapidly shifting social landscape.