According to a study from ROAR, 77% of churches are using Twitter—second only to Facebook and ahead of other social networks like Instagram and Pinterest. But while some are effectively using Twitter to engage their church community, many churches are struggling to make sense of the platform. Twitter can be a great communication tool for ministry as long as churches avoid breaking these 10 commandments:
1. Thou shalt not be willy nilly
When diving into Twitter, Facebook, or any new platform, developing a strategy is crucial. And this social media strategy should fit within the overall marketing plan for your church. Don’t just jump on Twitter because that’s what everyone else is doing. Does it make sense for your church? Is the community you’re trying to reach there? Do you have the resources to effectively manage it? A lot of churches can answer yes to these three questions. But they still need to determine how to create tweets that will complement their other efforts, leading to engagement and awareness.
2. Thou shalt not be an egghead
Utilize the image blocks on Twitter to include relevant profile and header photos. If you don’t, you’ll forever have the image of an egg or some other default avatar representing your church. When people see this, they’ll assume the church either doesn’t use the account or doesn’t know what they’re doing—and they probably won’t follow you.
3. Thou shalt not be mysterious
Your church may have a unique name, but did you know there are about a jazillion named “Calvary Church” or “Faith Fellowship?” And that’s ok—they’re great names! But how will people know if they’ve found your Dallas campus or a church in Idaho? Complete your Twitter profile by using the bio portion—tell them who you are and where you’re located and link to your website.
4. Thou shalt not grow cobwebs on Twitter
Just like with other social media outlets, you should maintain consistency on Twitter. Don’t tweet 25 times one day, and then go silent for two months. This is a surefire way to lose followers. Establish some type of schedule or guideline—like 5 tweets each day—and stick with it.
5. Thou shalt not be a robot
Automation tools can come in handy for organizations like churches—but be careful not to over-automate. Some things can only be shared in real time. If people always see stale content on your Twitter because you scheduled your tweets two months out, they’ll probably unfollow you.
Keep track of current events and be practical in order to stay relevant to your online community.
During a national tragedy, a silly post or a funny picture of the pastor would be inappropriate. Even when otherwise harmless, tweets that have been scheduled should be reevaluated in these kinds of situations.
Your church should also avoid auto-following anyone who follows the church. Take a look at the profiles before follow backs. Do they seem like legitimate accounts? Or are they sending out spammy links? Creating community through mutual relationships is great, but be sure to protect your church from fake accounts.
Finally, avoid sending canned private messages to new followers—especially asking them to like your Facebook page or take some other action immediately. They just followed you on Twitter, so prove that you have something to offer them before asking for more.
6. Thou shalt not use Twitter as a boxing ring
People expect churches to hold firmly to certain values. And you should. But that doesn’t mean you should employ your Twitter account to debate eschatology and hot topics with strangers. These discussions can get heated, and the last thing you want to do is scare people away from your church because you lost your cool in a tweet war.
7. Thou shalt not be anti-social
Sometimes in the mad dash to come up with clever, relevant tweets, churches forget that Twitter is a social network. You’re supposed to engage with your community—answer their questions, thank them for retweeting your content, and sometimes even respond to their criticism. Rather than break the sixth commandment (on this list, but please don’t murder anyone either), kindly respond to any negative words and direct the conversation offline if possible: “We’re genuinely sorry you had a bad experience at Faith Church. Please see the private message we just sent you so we can fix the situation.” Follow up with those who aren’t just trolls, and they may become your greatest cheerleaders after you make the effort to clear things up.
8. Thou shalt not toot thy own horn
In the age of selfies, it can be difficult to remember that social media was not designed for self-promotion. Make sure your church demonstrates humility by not just pumping out its own updates, but also sharing information from others that would be useful to your audience. Don’t become your own graven image or retweet every positive comment about your church. Focus on your community rather than vanity metrics like number of retweets or shares.
9. Thou shalt not host a takeover
Remember that the church Twitter account should be about the church. It’s great to post a photo of the staff or share what the day-to-day operations of the church look like. But don’t get carried away. Some churches run out of ideas, so the pastor starts posting selfies or the secretary tweets out photos of her lunch each day. Keep in mind that this isn’t a personal account, and your community is looking for relevant, useful information about your church—not pictures of a bologna sandwich.
10. #Thou #shalt #not #use #9 #hashtags #in #every #tweet
Please don’t hashtag every single word in a tweet. And please don’t hashtag words like “thou” and “use.” Even though hashtags have been around for a few years and are becoming popular on multiple platforms, many people still don’t understand the concept. They were intended to make it easy for people to find more content on the same topic. So if your church is tweeting the link to a sermon on being a witness for Christ, then try a hashtag like #saltandlight. But what are the odds anyone is searching for #wecantwaittoseeyouatcommunitychurchonsunday? (I bet you had to try a couple times to even read that!)
If you have a decent following on Twitter, consider using a custom hashtag for a church event or campaign. For example, when hosting a large conference, encourage attendees to tweet live with a hashtag like #CCC2014. It will get people engaged and create buzz around your event.
The key here is to always use hashtags wisely and sparingly. Limit yourself to two or three max per tweet.
Check out these other great resources as you develop your church Twitter strategy: