How to Create Hashtags for Your Church’s Social Media

One of the first questions, I’m asked when working with someone on church social media is, “What’s a hashtag and should I use it?”. While some might scoff at hashtags, they are extremely useful at tracking conversations, creating awareness and meeting new people.

However, you need to be careful when creating hashtags. While hashtags can create value for a conversation if they are not carefully constructed they can create confusion as well. Of course, there’s not a perfect science to creating hashtags, but there are some best practices that you will want to adhere to.

The Shorter the Better

Why would you want a short hashtag? First, it allows for more room people to compose their tweets. Second, it reduces the chances of error since you are dealing with less characters. Finally, shorter makes the hashtag easier to remember.

It Needs to Make Sense

This might seem obvious to some, however, it’s easy to start using acronyms and insider language when creating a hashtag. While the hashtag may seem applicable to your audience, if you make the hashtag too difficult to understand, then you reduce the number of people who might join in the conversation.

Do Your Research

When picking your hashtag make sure you do your research. Your hashtag needs to be unique so it’s not confused with another social media event. For example,  I was recently running a campaign called #athome for our new family ministry at church, however, I did not that #athome is also used by people who exercise at home as well. So when searched #athome, you might get a stream of tweets with people in their workout clothes. Not exactly my plan.

Strive for Consistency

It can be a small thing, but decided on the front end what characters will capitalized which ones will not. There is not a technical difference, however, you want to there to a visual consistency in the materials you have produced.

Question: How do you use hashtags for your church? Click here to comment below.

Three Ways to Kill a Website Design Process

I read a post while back by Phil Bowdle that reminded me once again how important it is to clearly communicate during the design process. This is especially true when trying to design your church website.

No one wants to kill a website design process, however, it can happen if you’re not careful. I’ve seen a lot of great concepts fall flat for different reasons. Do you want to avoid common mistakes? Are you looking to make sure that create the best possible site for your church? You can do this by avoiding these three common traps.

Not Clarifying Your Requirements

Before you fire up Photoshop, install WordPress or even surf the web looking for inspiration, take the time to clarify what your requirements are. This is the most important part of the entire process. When you have clear expectations of how your site should function, you give yourself a roadmap to follow. This roadmap will not only help you, but your team members as well.

Using Subjective Terms Throughout the Process

While terms like “pretty”, “nice” or “modern” may seem like the best way to describe what you want in a church website, they provide little help in the process. The quicker you can move to using objective terminology based on desired outcomes, the quicker you will get what you want and need.

Fear of Losing Your Audience

Understand that with any new church website design you’re going to have detractors. Inevitably someone will complain about the menu, graphics or the removal of some feature. However, don’t let that fear prevent you from pushing forward with your design. Yes, you may get some pushback, however, your audience will adjust to the changes over time.

Two Types of Church Websites, Which One Do You Have?

Church web design can be a tricky thing. Everyone on your staff will have a different opinion on what you need and there are a whole host of vendors out there who offer church specific solutions. What gets overlooked though is that church websites aren’t shaped by the design, they are shaped by audience they are intended for.

Lately, I have begun exploring the possibility of redesigning our church website. This of course has led our web team to ask a lot of questions. However, the question that seems to rise to the top is, who is our church website designed for? After doing some research I find the most church websites fall into two different camps.

Seeker Driven

This is the type of website that caters to those who are either seeking a church or seeking faith itself. This is reflective in the menu and content. The menu focuses on basic visitor information such as time, directions, location, staff and a brief “about us” paragraph. If there are visuals on the front page, they are used to communicate the church’s mission.

This type of approach seems to be used by a lot young churches as they are starting out. The challenge for these churches is sustaining this type of design as your church body grows more diverse and you begin add more church programming.

Member/Attender Friendly

This type of website usually tends to be more event driven and can often use internal language on the site as well. The menu is usually geared towards information for current members/attenders or visitors already familiar with the church. There is still information for visitors, however it is usually a smaller subset of information on the page.

I see this happen a lot with established church’s who are still building their digital presence. The website for those church’s is really just an digital version of the Sunday bulletin.  Of course, this means that these churches could be missing out on potential visitors.

Is There a Middle Ground?

I think there is room for a middle ground. However, that middle ground is best achieved by bringing in designers and experts to help speak into your design. Let these experts have an honest discussion about your content, strategy and your goals. Also let them speak into your processes to make sure that “feature creep” (adding more features slowly over time, until your site becomes overloaded) doesn’t occur.

Is it time for you and church to take an inventory of its website’s purpose and goals?

Question, who is your intended audience for your church website?
Was that a factor when it was designed?

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via photopincc

Should You Tweet During a Worship Service?

Growing up in a church I was told treat the church worship service a lot like a library, somber and quiet. I was to remain as still as possible and pay attention to the front of the room (I was definitely not raised charismatic). That was almost twenty years ago, now when I look out at a worship service, I see things have definitely changed.

Should You Tweet During a Worship Service?

Now when I look across a worship service, I see various devices as church members are texting, tweeting, updating their Facebook statuses and well, just checking the time (we can’t be late for the lunch buffet down the street). More importantly though, I see people using social media to communicate about what is going on in the worship service in real time.

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8 iPhone Apps to Help Create Great Church Instagram Content

There is a lot buzz over the social network Instagram and rightly so. Instagram is one of the fastest growing social networks and it can provide a lot interesting ways to get your church’s content to your audience. I’ve written before on how to use Instagram and shown examples of church’s doing it well.

However if you are like me, your are not a professional photographer and you need all the help you can get. Today, I am going to take a moment to highlight eight iPhone apps that will help you create better Instagram content for your church. This isn’t a random list of apps that I googled, these are the apps that are on my iPhone right now and are used on a daily basis.

Over

Over is my personal favorite. With Over you can add text to any photo. One reason why I love this app is the large selection of high quality fonts that you can choose from. They also have some predesigned artwork that you can use as well.  Unlike other iPhone apps that allow you to add text, Over has a polished feel to it.

Diptic

Diptic let’s you create photo collages of your pics. It’s a great way to get multiple shots in one Instagram post so you don’t have to post multiple times.

Camera+

Camera+ is my go to picture taking app on the iPhone, in fact I hardly use the stock camera app since this one is so great. With Camera+ you can control exposure, shutter speed and zoom.

TagsForLikes

If you use hashtags with your Instagram photos (and you should), TagsForLikes is great for generating hashtags based on the subject you select. You can also see what hashtags are popular and trending as well.

Fast Camera

Do you find yourself taking action shots, but constantly getting blurry results? With Fast Camera, you can eliminate that problem. When you launch Fast Camera, it immediately starts taking pictures in a rapid fire motion, making sure that you at least get one great photo.

Mextures

Think of Mextures like Photoshop for the iPhone. With Mextures you can add layers of lighting, textures and use predesigned templates created by professionals.

VSCO Cam

VSCO Cam has become the hot camera app lately for its’ minimalist interface and controls. I love this app because of its’ filters and the level of control you are given when editing your photos.

Phoster

Okay, technically Phoster won’t help with you Instagram since it renders your photos in portrait format. However, it does have really well pre-designed art that you can apply to your photos to make them like look mini-posters.

Question: What iPhone apps do you use to create your church’s Instagram content? Click here to share below.

How to Turn a Sermon Into a Tweetable Moment

If you want to proliferate your church’s content, then you need to give people something to share. I’ve written before how your church members can be your best advocate. If people are given quick, digestible information then they will share it for you.

So how do you give your church members the tools to share your content? How do you take a Sunday worship service and turn it into shareable content?

If you want a great example of how to do this, then check out NewSpring Church. Every week they break down the sermon into 140 character quotes with hashtags that their members can tweet throughout the week. These tweets are placed in a blog post, where church members can easily find them (click here to see an example).

However, I would add a little wrinkle to what they do. Try adding a “Click to Tweet” option on the end of the tweet so it looks like this:

If Nashville is the buckle of the Bible Belt, it’s no wonder our nation’s pants are falling down. [Click to Tweet]

What is Click to Tweet? With Click to Tweet you can carve out any text and make it very easy for people to tweet. Simply head over to clicktotweet.com, enter the text and any other information that you want to have tweeted (shortened url, hashtag, etc…). It should look something like this:

Next, take the link that is generated in the bottom box and place it on your webpage next to the text you want tweeted. I like to to create a link entitled “Click to Tweet” next to the text. Now when someone clicks on your “Click to Tweet”, link a window will pop up with a pre-filled tweet for your visitor to tweet out.

Try this out and see how your church members react, it may take some time for people to catch on. However when it does catch on, you will continue to turn your church members into your your best advocates, which will make social media that much better for you church.

Question: Do you tweet during or after the sermon? What tools do you use? Click here to share below.

How To Build a Church Social Media Volunteer Team

You can’t do it alone. That is one of the first things I learned when leading my church’s social media efforts. I quickly learned that in order to keep the social media content flowing, I was going to need a team of volunteers to get the job done.

Building a volunteer team is not easy. In fact, I think it’s one of most difficult jobs that churches have. It’s one thing to ask church members for money, it’s another thing to ask them for their time.

So how do you build a church social media volunteer team? How do you form a group of people that will help further spread your church’s message and provide the help you need? Well, if you are looking at building a church social media volunteer team here are three things you need to know:

Scout Out Existing Church Members

You probably don’t need to go outside of your church to find volunteers for your social media team. All you need to is see which church members are currently active on social media right now. Do you know someone who is active on Twitter or Facebook? Is there a person who is an Instagram genius? If so, start with these people since getting them up and running will take no time at all.

Establish Clear Guidelines

When someone joins your social media volunteer team make sure you have clear guidelines on how they will operate. Guidelines will let everyone know what is expected of them and of you. Guidelines will also make sure that the content posted will be consistent with your church’s brand. Here is a quick rundown of some areas to cover:

  • Posting Information in Real Time
  • Protecting Confidential Information and Relationships
  • Upholding Our Church’s Values and Its’ Brand
  • Respecting Copyright Laws

Rotate

Don’t wear your volunteers out! Make sure that you build enough depth on the team so people can take a break from volunteering. It’s easy to overuse volunteers who are good at what they do. Give your volunteers a break and give others a shot at flexing their social media muscles.

Volunteers are essential if you plan on growing your church’s social media presence. Remember you can’t do it alone. If you try, you will find yourself burning out and maybe resenting the work that God has called you to do. Take some time and build a volunteer team and let them join you in building your church’s social media presence.

Question: Do you have any tips on how to build a church social media team? Click here to share below.

Photo Credit: riekhavoc (caught up?) via Compfightcc

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