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How Your Church Can Make Real Connections Through Social Media

Orange Leaders
Orange Leaders Wednesday January 14, 2015
<? echo $type; ?> How Your Church Can Make Real Connections Through Social Media

by Austin Graff

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about social media it’s this: It’s all about human connection. Virtually every social media platform was first created for and because of human connections. Facebook was started to connect friends in college and grew to connect families and friends. Twitter began as a way to connect with influencers. Social media gives us the opportunity to show up, be seen, and connect with other people. However, the question remains, how does a church connect with real people on social media?

For the last several years, my team at International Justice Mission, a leading human rights agency trying to end slavery, human trafficking, and other forms of violence against the poor, has grown our social media followers from 0 to 500,000 . . . on no budget. We lacked the dollar signs, but we didn’t lack connection. We deployed a strategy based around connecting with our social fans by:

  • Reaching out to new followers. We tweeted at them. We asked them questions. We retweeted them. We celebrated them. The result? An army of loyalists who share our content without being asked. It’s because of our loyal fans that we have one of the highest engagement rates for a non-profit on Facebook.
  • Treating social media as a customer service arm . . . and taking it seriously. Interacting with the vast majority of tweets and Facebook comments. Use the “favorite” button on Twitter if you don’t want to retweet something. It’s a great way to tell your social fan that you saw their tweet and appreciate it. Answer any question asked of you on social media. If someone asked you a question on the streets, it would be rude to just walk by, right?
  • Deploying the 80/20 rule. 80 percent of our content across all social platforms are “gives” to our social fans whether it’s an inspiring graphic, a free resource, or a creative video. These posts demand no action allowing us then to devote only 20 percent of our posts to asking our social fans to take an action. Social media is like a real relationship. If someone you met at a church event only communicated with you when he or she wanted something, you’d start to avoid that person. Social media is the same, which is why it’s important to create the best practice of giving to your fan base.
  • Use Twitter to connect with new audiences. There’s a time and place to create your own hash tag (For example, around events), but the goal of a hash tag is to reach new audiences. Research top daily trends (a great place to start is on the home page of your Twitter account on the lower left hand corner) and use those hash tags if relevant. Also, Twitter gives you access to people you may otherwise not have access to. Research your local celebrities, newscasters, businesses and reach out to them on Twitter inviting them to events and/or asking them to share your content.

Of course, a good social media strategy will include beautiful, inspiring content and leveraging the newest social media technology or app, but at the end of the day, those things are lost without human connection. My favorite author and TED Talk speaker (Google her TED Talks on vulnerability and shame), Brene Brown, says, “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Considering Brene is active on Twitter (@BreneBrown), I know she’d agree her quote applies to social media too!

Austin Graff is the Digital + Social Media Marketing for International Justice Mission He leads IJM’s social media presence of 500,000+ fans across seven platforms. His social media strategy for the launch of IJM’s latest book The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence won PR Daily’s “Best Global Media Relations Campaign in 2014” award. Connect with him on Twitter: @AustinKGraff + @IJM, Facebook, Blog.

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