Even though about half of all Americans use Facebook once a week,only 40 percent of people report that their church has an active Facebook page. Only 14 percent of Catholic Churches have a Facebook presence. And, only about 10 percent of people post or update their status with something about their church.
These statistics are from a new report from Public Religion Research Institute. The study reveals some insightful trends on social media and church. For instance, only 5 percent of respondents reported following a pastor or other spiritual leader.
It seems there are two things happening here. First, there is a disconnect between churches and their adherents with regard to connecting through social media. Second, a minority of churches actively use social media to communicate their ministries. I truly believe a lot of churches try “social media” and become frustrated with websites, Facebook pages, or other social medium. Here is why:
Churches think social media is a big mystery. Many churches believe the world of social media is like a Rubik’s Cube. You have to know the right formula or tactics to make it work. Social media is about engagement, not advertising. A lot of business think that their Facebook page is for sharing their specials or new products. That’s only a small piece of the social media picture. Remember, it is called social media. You have to engage, talk, and connect using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or other social media. Churches must find ways to engage through posting pictures, asking for favorite scriptures, posting sermons and asking people to respond, or commenting on their follower’s status with uplifting words.
Churches think social media is a waste of time. Many churches think social media is a young person’s toy. Facebook changed the day my parents and their friends started to friend me. Fifty years ago, if you wanted to find a church’s number or address, you used the phone book. Now, people just “Google it”. If 92% of people use a search engine, then they are using the internet to find products, books, vacations, restaurants and churches. The churches still spending ad dollars in phone books are only hitting a small percentage of people. Google ads by contrast are cheap, and having a website with basic info can cost a few dollars a month. Engaging through a website, Facebook, and Twitter can be done. If no one knows how in the church, then look for local classes on how to use social media. Or ask someone under the age of 20 to help.
Churches think social is too much work. It is easy to get sucked in playing Words with Friends on Facebook, but updating and interacting with people throughout the day can only take a few minutes. Many churches see how Rick Warren does social media and think, “That’s too much work.” Well, if you want to get the word out about your great church, then you need to prove it online. By setting aside 30 minutes a day, pastors and ministry leaders can check the pulse of social media. If you find out that your people are talking about the Olympics, then share a story of a star athlete who prays. Google searches for such info are quick and easy. Don’t think your church has to be the superstar of engagement. Just engage in a way that is meaningful and simple.
By thinking about how a church can connect, consistent engagement is the name of the game. You don’t have to be a “social media ninja” (I dislike that term). And, it’s not about volume of content, it is about active content.