9 Do’s and Don’ts for Your Church Instagram Account

One of the fastest growing social networks in the world is the picture sharing service Instagram. If you are not using Instagram for your church, you should take a look at starting an account. Of course like any new social media tool, there are some general do’s and don’ts that you might want to abide by in order to get the most out of Instagram.

9 Do's and Don'ts for Your Church Instagram Account

Remember Everything is Square

One aspect of Instagram that takes getting used to is that everything is displayed in a square format. There are no panoramic, landscape or portrait shots. Keep that in mind as you framing your shot.

Go Behind the Scenes

Instagram is a great way to take your church members behind the everyday scenes of your church. It can be little things such as prepping for Sunday morning parking to being backstage before someone is getting baptized. Taking these type of shots on Instagram allows you to make your church feel smaller and more personable.

Do Not Take Photos of Children Without Permission

Be smart and ask parents for permission before posting any photos of their children on the internet.

Create Criteria for Who You Will Follow

At some point, you need to figure out you are going to follow. Are you going to follow everyone who follows you? For our church, we have determined that we will follow our ministers, ministries and ministry partners (para-church organizations that we partner with).

Cross-Post to Twitter and Facebook

There’s been an ongoing debate about whether or not you should cross-post your Twitter and Facebook posts. With Instagram, I believe you should cross-post to Facebook and Twitter as it will give your account the exposure it needs. Plus, Instagram integrates nicely with Facebook.

Visit the Official Instagram Blog

You might not be aware that there is an official Instagram blog. It’s full of tips, ideas and updates.

Use Statigram to Get Your Analytics

Just like Twitter and Facebook, you can get analytics for your Instagram account. One way to do this is to use the tool Statigram. With Statigram you can see comments, statistics, embed your photos and get an RSS of your Instagram photos.

Back Up Your Photos

Make sure you grab a copy of your photos for safe keeping. Use services like Instaport, InstaBackup, Frostbox or IFTTT to download copies of your photos and store them on a backup drive.

Use the Share Url Feature

While Instagram does make it easy for you to post to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Foursquare, it also gives you the option of sharing the URL of your photo as well. This is great for emailing and posting on Google+.

Question: Do you have any tips for Instagram users? Click here to share below.

How to Increase Your Church Staff’s Involvement in Social Media

So you’ve built a volunteer team, you’ve created a social media content calendar but you still can’t get your church staff involved in social media. If this describes you, don’t worry, getting your church staff involved in social media isn’t an easy task.

However, there are tremendous benefits once your church staff does decide to engage in social media. When a church staff engages in social media you get the benefit of additional content, a wider online presence and a better understanding of your church.

So how do you help your church staff get started in social media? How do you make sure they know what the best social media practices are? Well, there aren’t any quick fixes, but I’ve compiled a few tactics that have worked for me and I’m sure will work for you.

Host a Tutoring Session

I would guess a good portion of your church staff wants to engage in social media, but they don’t know where to start. In fact, they may be afraid to ask. Take some time to host a group tutoring session. Invite everyone on your church staff and let them know they can join regardless of their skill level. Make the tutoring session as non-threatening as possible. Also enlist other staff who are social media savvy to help tutor church staff as well.

Show Examples

While goals and strategies are essential to making sure we understand the “why” of social media, concrete examples shouldn’t be overlooked. Giving your staff some real life examples can help them grasp concepts and help eliminate early mistakes.

Also don’t worry if your staff mimics other social media user’s tactics. Sometimes the best way for your staff to learn is by patterning themselves after someone else. Over time they will begin to find their voice and stand on their own.

Get the Early Wins

The quicker you can get wins for your staff, the sooner they will get on board with social media. I have found that an easy area to start is with building a Facebook Page for your Kid’s Ministry. Why? For one, (assuming you have the parents’ permission) funny or cute kids photos are usually make for great social media content. Second, parents are more likely to “like” the Kid’s Ministry page and the corresponding photos if their child is involved. (Vacation Bible School week is a great time to try this.)

Provide Early Feedback

As you know, sometimes it’s difficult with social media to know if you are doing it “right”. Try setting some base markers for your staff to let them know if they are headed in the right direction. The markers can be something simple like the number of new followers or retweets on Twitter.

Providing early feedback also ensures that your staff doesn’t start to form bad habits. Set up weekly or bi-weekly meetings to walk through each social media channel to make your staff understands what the best practices are.

Get them Blogging first

I’ve written before about why I think it’s important for your staff to blog. However, one reason I haven’t touched on is how blogging can make social media easier for your staff. How? Well, I find that a lot church staff aren’t sure what to share on social media. By blogging your staff creates their own content that they can share. Also, since it’s their own content they created, they have more of an incentive to share.

Getting your staff active in social media is no longer something that is a “nice” thing to do. If you care about your staff and your church, you’ll start the process of equipping them for the world of social media.

Question: So how do you help your church staff get started in social media? Click here to share below.

Is It Time to Audit Your Church’s Social Media?

Audit is often seen as a dirty word. Mostly because it’s usually tied to the I.R.S., but also because it implies an invasive look at an area of life that we would like to keep to ourselves. However when it comes to your church social media, an audit can be a very healthy process for you and your church.

Is It Time to Audit Your Church's Social Media?

A social media audit forces to you to take a step back and reassess where you are and where you want to be. It also ensures that you are taking big picture view of your church’s social media and not just focusing on the latest tactics and tricks. To help you get started with a church social media audit, I’ve compiled a list of questions for you to use.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, however, it should get you started in making sure you are on track. Take a moment and walk through these sections below and answer each of these questions. Be honest and review your answers to help you determine your next action steps.

Walk Through Each Social Media Account

  • Does each account have the proper branding?
  • Is the contact information up to date?
  • Does each account have a unique password?
  • Are you providing unique content to each account?

Reassess Your Analytics

  • Do you have analytics in place for each of your social media accounts?
  • Can you easily get ahold of your numbers and do you know what they mean?
  • Is it time to get some training on how to read analytics for social media accounts?
  • Should you invest in an analytics service?

Check Your Content’s Messaging

  • Is your social media content on message?
  • Does the tone and style feel like you church?
  • Are you using language and terms that are familiar with your church?

Getting People to Engage Your Content

  • Are you getting the response you want out of your church members?
  • Do your church members know what you want them to do with your content?
  • Are you posting at the right times and hitting your audience where they are at?
  • Are there key church members who could help spread your content?

Engaging Your Audience

  • Are you being “social” with social media?
  • What is the percentage of engagement to content are you putting out? Are you not engaging and just publishing content?
  • Do you have notifications set up to let you know when people are interacting with you?

Reassess Your Goals

  • Do you need to redefine what success is?
  • Are your goals realistic?
  • Do your goals align with the mission of the church?
  • Does everyone on your church staff know what the goals are?

Are There Other Social Media Networks That You Should Invest in?

  • Are there new emerging networks that you need to spend time on?
  • Is your audience migrating somewhere else?
  • Are there social media networks that are taking up too many resources?

Questions: Have you done a social media audit before? Was it beneficial? If so, why? Click here to share below.

Interview with Kenny Jahng About Social Media, Communications and Failure

When I started this blog, I made a short list of bloggers and experts that I wanted to interview. On top of that list was Kenny Jahng, who is Pastor of Media & Innovation at Liquid Church and blogs at Godvertiser. Recently, Kenny was kind enough to let me interview him.

What made Kenny Jahng one of my first choices to interview? Well, first he has an MBA from Columbia, an MDIV from Princeton and second, he happens to be really knowledge about social media, especially in regards to the church and non-profits. In this interview, Kenny talks about church social media, church communications and fear of failure.

How and why did you get into social media?

Trying out social media for the first time was just a part of being intentional about trying about new technologies or methods (check out My Own [Randomization] Ritual). The WIIFM (what’s in it for me) was evident very early for me. I met people like @djchuang early on and started to build relationships across the Twitterverse naturally. Once you figure out the WIIFM, it’s easy to starting figuring out how to integrate something into your workflow and routines.

A running theme that I see in your writing is how critical it is for churches to clearly communicate. Why do you think that some churches find this difficult?

It used to be ok to focus on preaching and programs in a church because there was as steady flow of people looking for churches in any community. Today, as we move toward a post-christian world, external communications is a need that hasn’t been well attended to previously. My thesis isn’t that the secular world is against telling stories of faith, religion and the church, it’s just that the church hasn’t been good at telling compelling and engaging stories. If you are able to do that in a fresh and relevant way, everyone will take notice.

You and your church have a presence on various social media networks. Do you have a plan for each network or overall strategy for social media as a whole?

We have overarching objectives for all of communications. We use specific social networks with the understanding that each is best suited for different types of content and audiences. I encourage using the S.W.A.T. framework I have developed over the years for producing strategic communications plans. (FYI, I have an upcoming blog post series on my SWAT framework, but here’s an overview slide that explains it briefly)

There are a lot of new social networks being launched. How can a church decide where to invest their time?

One great way is to build some experimentation time into your schedule. You’ll never innovate if you don’t plan for it. You might have a team brainstorm noteworthy subjects to investigate.  Then divvy up the tools and have people do some research. Finally,  have them report back and discuss as a group again. Basically, you have to spend the time to keep looking at new things, especially in this environment today.

Earlier this month you wrote about failure and how fear prevents innovation. What advice do have to church’s who are afraid of failure?

When working with entrepreneurs, you often hear the phrase, fail fast, fail forward. If what you’re trying out doesn’t clearly give you enough feedback to let you know if it’s right for you or not, it is hard to know if it’s working for sure or not. You want to “fail completely” so you know that you need to move onto the next thing. And “fail fast” in that , the quicker it happens, the sooner you’ll get to the right solution at the end of the line.

Failure is failure if you don’t learn from it, and if you don’t move on from where you are right now.

Failure is failure if you don’t learn from it, and if you don’t move on from where you are right now. If you’re innovating well, you’re always moving to a better place. This applies to how you manage teams, relationships, projects, programs, interactions with external and peer organizations, and more. Being humble is a huge part of it. We don’t know it all. We can only get better as much as we are humble enough to know that God has more in store for us, now as well as later.

A lot of churches are diving into social media with their congregations by first explaining “what” they want them to do (like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter). However, they usually don’t explain the “why”. How can churches do a better job of explaining the “why”?

AH! Great question. That’s why we define the “WIN” early in the SWAT framework. That’s equivalent to the “WHY” you are talking about. If we take the time to plan strategically and be intentional able what we do, especially in social media and messaging, it will only make it easier for our audiences and communities to engage in a constructive way.

Thanks Kenny for spending time and giving some great insight. If you have enjoyed this interview, follow Kenny Jahng on Twitter or visit many of his numerous sites here.

An Open Letter to Pastors About Social Media

Dear Pastor,
You’re awesome. I pray that you hear that a lot. Hopefully your congregation is your biggest group of cheerleaders who encourage and pray for you on a daily basis. I know that each week can contain ups and downs, and it’s easy for people to forget that.  However, there’s something pressing that needs your attention and leadership.

It’s time you got serious about social media. I know you’ve heard your church members telling you to “get on Twitter” or ” like this Facebook page”, but it’s more than that. There is a whole conversation going on out there and your voice is needed.  Now, you probably have a pretty good list of reasons for staying away from social media.  You might think you don’t have the time or it’s too much self-promotion.  Whatever your reasons are, I am sure that some of them are valid.

While I can’t answer all of your concerns, I can tell you three key reasons why you should be engaging in social media.   Hopefully after reading this and little investigation of your own, you can join the social media conversation.


Is Your Church Website Ready for 2014?

Yesterday I read a tweet from Jonathan Howe about the rise of mobile traffic on one of the sites he currently manages. It brought back to mind a recent stat that I read from Mary Meeker stating that by 2014 majority of internet traffic will come from mobile devices.

Think about that for second. This means that a majority of people coming to your church website will be using a mobile device. I don’t know about you, but that raises a whole set of questions when planning and thinking through strategy for your church website.  Is your church website ready for the mobile users? What does it mean to have a website that is “mobile ready”? Can you have a great mobile and desktop experience?

There are no easy answers to those questions. However, you can begin the process of getting your church website ready for your mobile visitors. Here are a few ideas to get you going.

Think Mobile First When Designing Your Site

When you are thinking through your church website design and function, you are going to need to think about mobile version first versus thinking about the desktop. So instead of designing around a screen that is 1366×768, you are should be thinking about screen that is 640×960.

Now keep in mind by doing this you are going to create some problems. One of which is that you will need reevaluate your content and whether or not it’s mobile friendly. Are your articles too lengthy? Are you using outdated technologies like Flash? Are your menus simple enough to fit on a mobile screen?

Try a Responsive Design

One way provide a great mobile experience is to create a responsive website design. A responsive website design “responds” to the size of the screen and adjusts accordingly. Here is an example from the Village Church:

See how the content remains the same, however the website elements responded by becoming smaller? Now if this seems difficult don’t worry. There are plenty of great responsive templates out there (click here to see a few), as well designers who know how to creates responsive sites as well.

Use a Mobile Service or Theme

If you don’t have time or don’t want to change the way your site looks there are some alternatives for creating a mobile site. One option is using services like Mobify or MoFuse. With these services you can create a mobile version of your church website without having to alter the desktop version. If you use WordPress, you can use a plugin like Jetpack and WPtouch or purchase a mobile theme.

Just like social media, mobile devices are here and won’t be leaving us anytime soon. The quicker you can get your site ready for mobile users, the quicker you will be providing a better web experience for not only your members but future visitors as well.

Question: Is your church website mobile ready? If so, how did you make it happen? Click here to comment below.

Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan via Compfightcc

Six Free WordPress Themes for Your Church

If you are on a tight budget with your church website you know how hard it to get a good design at a reasonable price. Hopefully, you can a solid designer who will deliver a quality design within your budget. However, there are times when you need a design to get your church off the ground quickly with little to no cost.

Now if you are invested in the WordPress platform there are a lot of “free” themes out there. Some of them are great and others leave a lot to be desired. However, to save you some time I’ve researched and listed what I think are six quality free WordPress designs for your church.


Click here to download.


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Click here to download.

Question: Do you use WordPress for your church? If so, what theme are you using? Click here to comment below.


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