I love social media. I written time and time again about the benefits of social media for non-profits and churches. I’m extremely passionate about it and if your sit down with me for a coffee and ask me about it, just sit back and get comfy. You’ll be listening a while. One of the trends I’ve noticed is that I get quite a bit of attention as being an expert at social media for churches. It’s not true, and here’s why.

Honestly, I’ve probably failed more times than I’ve succeeded. You only see my highlight reel. So in an effort to be transparent, I want you to know that I don’t consider myself an expert on social media. Passionate yes, guru, no.

Having said all that, I do love it when something comes off and the ball is hit out of the metaphorical park. Success does make me feel all warm and gooey on the inside. Pride does that.

But today I’d like to share with you so that you can learn from my failures. Hopefully you’ll learn how to avoid making the same mistakes I’ve made.

1. Don’t assume everyone is with you

Not many people understand social media like I do. The power and potential to reach out into the broader community like no other communications channel. I expect everyone to be on this page, yet most aren’t. My inability to communicate this means that most people see social media as another promotions channel. Yet, the reality it is so much more than this.

How can you avoid this? Tell everyone you know that the worst performing shared, likes, retweeted, +1’d social media posts are usually promoting something. That means that the post doesn’t usually go very far and isn’t seen by very many people. Sure the person who’s job to promote the event will feel better, but in reality the post doesn’t engage people and quietly disappears into digital heaven to be seen no more.

Another way to avoid this is to have lots of door way conversations. Be an advocate for the social media strategy and share with your peers ahead of time why you are taking the approach you are. Education takes time. But it is very effective in the long run. Remember you are in a marathon, not a sprint. Your strategy will win out in the end by taking the long-term approach and giving lots of examples on what works and doesn’t work.

2. Change

I’ve been guilty of getting into a social media posting rhythm that has led to lower engagement (Planning your social media out is a good thing. In fact I created a social media calendar that you can copy here. Planning and scheduling is essential just like with any other communications channel). The challenge though in the content creation is to keep it fresh and new. People will interact less and less with the same old posts. Routine works for some, not for many. That means you have to vary up the styles of posts. Here are a few imaginative examples you can start with.

One of the ways I try to keep my content fresh and new is to look at what others are doing. Not just churches, but organisations and companies. I also look in my own personal feed and look at the posts people engage with and those that they don’t. Note: Candy Crush sharing won’t get you anywhere :).

3. You are not the expert

As I said at the top of this post, I know now I’m not the expert. You aren’t either. It’s when I think I know everything that something comes along to disprove that fact. In my roles as the communications guy, I have to be a generalist. Sure my passion is social media so I do try to up-skill my specialist skills when I can, but there will always be those who are ahead of me.

My advice would be to stay humble and keep learning from others. I read numerous blogs, I also tune into the #Chsocm Twitter chat when I can to learn from others when I can.

4. Don’t be a solo operator

By now you’ve probably heard the cliché that there is no ‘i’ in team. But it’s true. You can’t do it all alone. You need good people to support and lead. I hit a ceiling where I had no choice but to rely on others to create the content, post the content and invest into the online community.

As soon as humanly possible delegate as much as you can. I’ve found that it has helped me work on social media strategy rather than working in social media trenches. I still chime in from time to time, but I need and appreciate my team so much. I could never do without them.

5. Be spontaneous

I have been at times been too rigid and fixed to my content calendar. To the point where I have pushed new posts down the list because of this. This doesn’t need to be the only way. In fact like I said in point 2 regularity can actually reduce your reach and share-ability.

There are some moments when your content calendar should be put on pause. For example you may hear a really insightful quote. Type it in Take a photo and share it. Sure it may not be the peak viewing time, or a brilliant photo. But there is something about being in the moment and capturing it that will resonate with your audience.

It is usually the moments where you think ‘I wish I had a camera.’ or ‘I wish I was taking notes’ where you should be posting. Don’t hesitate. Try it out.

6. Be willing to fail again

I try as much as I can to mitigate risk. It’s not a bad thing. I generally not a risk taker, but in the immediacy of social media taking risks, trying new things can actually be good. The problem is that my aversion to risk and my love of routine can mean that our reach and interaction can dip.

Now taking risks doesn’t mean you have a license to be stupid. Go off message, rant or troll. Risk taking means that you are opening up yourself to the probability that your post may suck. That it’s life may be shorter than it should be.

Those kind of risks are okay to take. Try something new. Go on.  Pick up your camera and find the story.

Your turn

Have you ever failed in social media or something else and learnt something from it? Please share your insights below.