I’ve been around Twitter and Facebook for quite a while now and more recently Instagram. If I could hit the rewind button on some of the things I’ve done really badly I would. I’ve seen many church leaders use social media really well. However some pastors and leaders have well, ahem, sucked at it to be honest (myself included at times). Some haven’t understood what social media really is and how to get maximum leverage from it.

Social media is a wonderful opportunity for church leaders, para-church leaders to build a platform of social influence that can extend well beyond the four walls of a Sunday experience. For example, it’s an opportunity for your congregations to see what you do beyond Sundays during the week. It is also a savvy way for your church to move beyond the corporate church Twitter, Facebook or Instagram accounts and put a human and personal touch to everything that is social about the mission and vision of your church. This is an exciting opportunity not just for your senior leader but your whole church staff in personalising your church’s social media influence.

If you are a church communications pro please pass these tips onto your church staff and leaders. Social media is simply the best way to extend and amplify your church’s voice.

Here are a few tips for church staff and leaders I’ve learnt along the way which I’d love to pass onto you. Again, please feel free to share them around!

1. It’s all not about you

Social media is a social communication channel. It is your opportunity to be the real you, but you have to realise that it isn’t all about you. Help others. Serve others. Reach out to others.

Whatever your favourite social media channel is, whether it is Facebook, Twitter or Instagram amongst others, follow people who you know back. Following people back on social channels such as Twitter and Instagram actually shows that you are interested in what they have to say. Social media is like a party where there are circles of conversations going on, imagine if someone ignored you in your party circles?

I’ve seen plenty of church leaders who hardly follow anyone back and they especially need to get this principle. Social media is a conversation, not a broadcast.

2. Be social. Engage. Don’t just broadcast

I know, I know, your time is important to you. You are an important and busy person. If you are on social and you have to realise that social media isn’t just another broadcast communications channel for what you want. It’s a conversation about what’s possible. Influence is far more powerful and effective than instruction. Social media is the digital campfire of today. Who are you talking to?

I remember when I started blogging and all I would do is broadcast my posts. I thought that I had a reasonable frequency in my posts but I soon got feedback that I was spamming people. Gulp. Sorry!

I remember when Rick Warren actually responded to something I said (Yes it was really him). I mattered to someone so amazing and so global. People love to feel special. We all hope that what we say has value and can make a difference.

3. Highlight and celebrate the things that really matter to your community

Celebrate people who do great things or are causes/issues that you care about. It shows the real you and where your passions are. People love knowing what you care about outside of the one hour every Sunday. It helps people connect into who you are and what you are passionate about.

4. Be devoted

No I’m not asking you to marry social media, just be there. Be devoted to your social channel. There is nothing worse than seeing a leader who is only there when they want to say something that is important to them. Be all there when on a regular basis. Schedule it until it feels natural.

5. Be sustainable

One of the most common complaints is that ‘I don’t have the time’. But every leader I know wants the platform. If you want to build your platform then you have to make the time. For you that might be 15 minutes a day or hours, whatever you can sustain without impacting negativity on your focus at home or at church.

6. Be real/transparent

Tell us how you are doing. People love honesty and transparency. It helps build a picture and build an affinity with the real you. We all love emotional depth and honesty. I’m not just talking about your feelings, it could be your family experiences, sports team, hobby, book you are reading, or things that are shaping you at the moment.  These can really build trust and relationship.

7. Don’t outsource your profile

This is one that really gets my goat. Maybe when you are getting started and learning the ropes its okay to get initial help and input from your staff. But social is meant to be an informal channel to those who are really interested in you. Once you learn the ropes, take the training wheels off and go solo!

8. Ignore the trolls

Not everyone is going to love what you do or say. The social media space is a competition of ideals and worldview. Everyone is going to let you know what they really think. Some do it gracefully, some don’t. Trolls are an unfortunate part of the social world. Ignore them, block them or report them if they go outside the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

9. Social isn’t a promotional tool

Don’t just tell us what your latest album, message, seminar, service is all about. Talk to your followers, share with them. Interact with your followers on a human level.

10. Think Glocally

Your followers can come from anywhere and everywhere in the world. Most of my online followers are the from North America. Love you all! It won’t just be people who are in your local area. I’m always surprised and intrigued by how people find out about me, it will be exactly the same for you too!

11. Identify your tribe and love them

You will have those that just follow you and those who are your ‘greatest fans’ (no stalkers allowed 😉 ). The ones that interact and engage with you the most. These followers are your cheer squad or tribe. Whatever funky term you want to use. They are your most loyal, passionate people who really care about what you think and say. Identify them because they can help spread your message further and faster.

12. Take photos

A picture can say a thousand words. Instagram is a great way to visualise what you are doing right now and its very quick for the time poor pastor or leader. If you travel a lot it helps people visually comprehend what you are on about.

These are just a few tips on how church leaders can use social media. If you think this is useful for your network please share it. If you can add some more tips I’d love to hear from you. Comment below.