I repeatedly get asked the same questions about social media by two different groups. The first group who hasn’t dived into social media yet asks ‘Everyone is on social media and we feel like we are missing out. What do we need to do to get started?’ Before you dive in ask yourself these questions. Do you have time to incorporate social media into your workday? Would social media fit as a valid channel of marketing and communications for what you do?

The second group asks ‘We’re on social media, but no-one ever seems to follow us.’ This group is just surviving, keeping their head above water and wondering if they should shut their Facebook page or Twitter handle down. If this is you, read on. Hopefully I can help you increase your engagement and move beyond just surviving in social media.

1. Be yourself

There is only one you. Don’t feel like you need to be channel anyone or anything. Social media is a very relaxed form of interaction. So go with the flow. Don’t be stuffy. Don’t be formal.

2. Engage

Often what you are posting is just the start of the conversation on your stream. Be prepared to engage and give feedback and follow-up advice. There is nothing worse than a social media presence that sucks. Don’t post once every month. Be there. Often. Ensure you post in the evenings when most people on social media sites.

3. Understand the social media ecosystem

Facebook recently changed a whole stack of features so understand what bare essentials you need to have ready before you start. It would also be worth your using your personal profile as a beta for what you are setting up so you can understand how the social media ecosystem really works. It helps to understand how conversations start and how to help foster greater conversations.

4. Proofread every post

Have you heard the saying measure twice, cut once? Because you can only post once. (Well. while this is not strictly true, you can delete your posts on Facebook and Twitter Google will index your post.) The reality is that once your fan/follower base becomes substantial, your fans/followers will very quickly point out the error of your ways. You can look really silly. I’ve been there. Check and check again. Your reputation will suffer if you don’t.

5. Don’t suck

Yeah I know. That’s vague. There are though many ways you can suck at social media. Not engaging, spelling everything incorrectly, never being on your page for months at a time are just a few of the ways that you can suck. There are some more ‘avoidable’ ways here (A bit of fun too hopefully).

 6. Get help

If you have the financial resources, employ a social media community manager (look it up). If you are like the rest of us, seek out someone who loves social media and ask them to volunteer their time and energy into being your volunteer community manager. With a little bit of training and guidance they will be able to step in and cultivate your community. It means you don’t have to be checking your phone every 1/2 hour.

7. Have a strategy

The number of times I’ve seen people join Facebook or whatever other social media channel just because someone else is on it amazes me. Work out how your social media presence will build your brand, communicate the messages, start the conversations you want people to have before you even touch the keyboard and sign yourself up. For example, I’m loving Pinterest, but Crossway isn’t there yet. We don’t have a volunteer, and more so, I haven’t nailed down a strategy. But it’s certainly got me intrigued how we can leverage it.

8. Get some tools to help you

There are many tools that will help you engage with your online community. Some will help you manage your time, some will help you engage with your fans/followers.

9. Understand what works and what doesn’t work

Social media is what marketing professionals call a very talkable communications channel. Word of mouth travels very fast. Some would say word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing. I like it because it’s free. If part of your strategy is to spread your brand and your message beyond your timeline, you have to understand what will make people share your content and what they won’t share. This is a post that I wrote that can help you if you want your message to spread. I got 100% more engagement after adapting these practices.

10. Learn from others

I’m a big believer in learning from others. From those from other churches who have a social media presence and other non-profit organisations and businesses in different areas. Don’t get stuck on thinking that you can only learn from the big church down the road. Look outside the box.

11. Tell others

If you have a social media presence, how is your audience going to find out about it? You tell them of course! If you’re in a church, promote your social media channels on your video news  Create an ad that tells people how they can connect with your church on Facebook and other social media channels. Promote them on your website (they should be at the footer of every webpage and on your landing page. Put the icons on your printed bulletin, on your electronic bulletin. On your invite cards. Basically wherever and whenever you can. Go and tell.

Your turn

What advice would you give someone just starting out in social media, or someone who’s social media presence is struggling? Leave a comment and a link to a relevant post below.

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