As many may know, I am the guy behind the social media at my parish in Plymouth, Michigan – Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church.
I’ve been asked several times and contacted by many who want help or insights into developing and designing a social media strategy for Catholic parishes.
So, I’ve decided to quickly write down a very basic, beginner’s outline for starters. You can use it to begin to think about some of the aspects of running an effective social media strategy at your parish. These simple first steps can also be tweaked and modified according to your parish’s needs.
Important to note that this strategy can also be modified to fit almost any organization, religious or not.
As you begin thinking about your social media strategy, remember that social media is a tool to communicate your organization’s story or message. It is to act as window or magnifier of an already-established brand.
Think of Our Lady. I’m not calling Our Lady a ‘tool’ or comparing her to social media, but her vocation according to her own words, was to “magnify the goodness of the Lord” (Luke 2).
At my parish, OLGC, our story or message is this: choosing to live as a disciple of Jesus is abundant life. Everything I do, write, post, or communicate with social media is part of a larger strategy to communicate that message.
As you make your way through the steps (and again, these are very basic outlines and starting points) always have in the back of your head that these social media tools should only be used to communicate an already-established message.
Step 1: Choose A Team
In order to make your social media strategy effective, there needs to be an organized team. There are several ways to go about this, but I suggest the following:
- One team leader (mandatory) who is responsible for the ‘final decisions’ if there are any.
- This person must be 100% committed to Jesus Christ as an intentional disciple;
- Committed to only posting content in accord with the magisterial hierarchy of the Church;
- knowledgeable in Catholic teaching enough to be able to teach; and,
- Must demonstrate his or her ability to write well
- Team Members (optional) who act as support
- Help find content
- Help post content
- Find team members through word of mouth or bulletin announcement
- Extra Back-end Administrators (mandatory)
- These people have access to the passwords to the accounts in the rare event access to the social media accounts needs to be revoked from the team leader
Special Note: Team Members are optional because sometimes it’s easier to find one person who is good at the job and let them run with it. This strategy also allows for voice consistency.
Second Note: Should you pay an employee for this position? Highly recommended. Listen – social media communication is not a fringe thing. If you do this well, more people will visit your facebook page every week than read your bulletin, and you pay somebody to do your bulletin’s content too. Not to knock volunteers, but if they get busy with another more important project, your parish’s public presence will suffer.
Step 2: Identify Your Goals
You should know why you’re getting the parish into using social media. You can’t possibly know what steps to take if you don’t know the destination. Some noble goals would be:
- To evangelize parish members who follow the page
- Regular scripture/ daily readings updates
- Posted homilies, written, video, or podcast
- To inform parish members and the community of parish events
- Bible Studies
- Parish gatherings
- Special liturgies (baptisms, weddings, funerals)
- To communicate to parish members of (arch)diocesan and other local events
- Ordinations and other special liturgies
- Regional news, events
Step 3: Choose Your Social Platforms
There are a million and a half social media platforms out there – some new ones have been created and launched in the time it took you to get this far. I suggest starting with Facebook and Twitter. That should be enough. Twitter, in fact, you could hold off on if you’re not ready.
Facebook is a must though.
To start a Facebook account, head on over to facebook and get an email address registered. Facebook makes the process easy once you’re registered.
Step 4: Identify Your Resources
Now that you’ve chosen your platforms that you will be using to reach your social media goals, you have to figure out what resources you have to drive and create content for your platforms.
- Do you have a monthly budget to play with? *Tip: if the parish won’t give you a monthly budget, consider allocating your personal tithe or alms specifically to this apostolate
- Do you have access to cameras, video cameras, photographers, or cinematographers? Identify both volunteer and paid
- Does anybody on your team know how to create a podcast?
Step 5: Develop a Posting Plan
Having a plan keeps things easy.
- Identify Content Options
- Status Posts – These are posts that are statuses only, with Bible verses, Catechism teachings, quotes, statements, or questions
- Picture Posts – Posts with pictures from an event or around the parish
- Video Posts – These are posts with video you’ve created of your Pastor speaking or of an event that you’ve created yourself
- Shared Content Posts – This is shared content from NCRegister.com or a Catholic blog or website
- Create Weekly Routine – creating a weekly editorial plan will keep things flowing, fresh, and easy. Example:
- 8am: Status Update with quote from daily Gospel
- 3pm: Picture with info on an upcoming event
- 6:30am: Blog post from NCRegister with a question (provokes interaction)
- 11am: Post the Collect from the day
- 4pm: Piece of archdiocesan news with link to content
- 11am: Post weekly 4 minute video of Father talking about about the readings this Sunday
- 3pm: Saint of the day
- 7pm: Quick apologetic lesson in 3 sentences
This should be enough to get anybody started! What else has worked for you, your parish, or your organization?