By Jonathan Howe
Social media is still a new tool that many churches are using to reach people in their community. Like it is with anything new, mistakes are made along the way. Most of the time they are accidental and harmless, but sometimes they can really embarrass the church and, consequently, hurt the cause of Christ.
What are these mistakes that churches make on social media? Here are just six of the most common:
- Using poor grammar and spelling. You might think it would be standard procedure to check the spelling and grammar of social media updates, but it’s not. While I understand the shelf life of a tweet or Facebook post is relatively short, we should still strive for excellence and display command of the English language.
- Not getting permission to post pictures of kids at the church. This happens less frequently than the other mistakes, but the consequences usually include an irate parent. This is also very simple to avoid. At the very least, notify parents ahead of posting pictures of kids, or have them sign a waiver allowing the church to use pictures of their children. Proactive communication by the church often goes a long way to easing parental concerns.
- Doing too much or too little. This mistake has much to do with strategy—or in this case a lack thereof. Not knowing what to post, when to post, and where to post can lead to less engagement by your audience online. A quick rule of thumb for church accounts: try to keep Facebook posts to less than four per day and public tweets to no more than one every two hours.
- Failure to use hashtags. If you’re hosting an event or special service—or even a regular worship service with a sermon series name—brainstorm and use a hashtag that can be used to engage your audience more effectively. Some examples: #ChristmasAtTheMoon, #EasterAtTheBallpark, #MakeLifeMatter.
- Posting inappropriate content. This is another mistake that seems obvious to avoid, but it’s the one that can cause the most public problems. This is also another reason to have more than one administrator on every account. In most instances, the content is posted accidentally or is posted from the wrong account using Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. The administrator may post something they meant to send from their personal account or in a text, and instead of going to one or just a few people, it goes to several hundred or several thousand. Mistakes happen, but extra care is also needed.
- Not responding to questions in a timely manner. Want to give your church a bad reputation in the community? Don’t respond to simple questions or requests from guests. Churches have a certain perception in their communities. When you are slow to respond or fail to do so altogether, you are telling people in the community that they don’t matter to you.
I’m sure there are other mistakes to add to this list. What have you seen (or what have you done) that could be added to this short list of common mistakes?