Basic Social Media Strategy for Ministries

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BY ANDREW DAVID COX |

Author’s note: A while back my friend Adriana asked for some advice on coming up with ideas for social media. The BCM needed a blog post to fill the deadline this week, so I asked her if we could use her inquiry for a post. You can see her question and my response below. The original content has been edited minimally where necessary for clarity and further elaboration of certain topics. We hope you find this helpful for your social media endeavors! As always, you can email me Andrew@MoravianBCM.org, message me on social media, or drop in the office Mondays and Wednesdays between 1:30pm and 5:30pm, if you need help with social and digital media. 

“Hey Andrew! I am working on the Unity Women’s Desk’s Facebook page, and I am running out of ideas and thoughts about what to for something new. I also would love to expand the number of likes and followers. Could you give many any information that could help me out from your experience with the BCM Facebook? I appreciate any help! Thanks!” -Adriana Craver, Konnoak Hills Moravian Church

Hi Adriana! So I looked over you page briefly… some tips below. They’re not necessarily reflective of what you are or aren’t doing, but is some of what I’ve learned. Pardon me for it jumping around a bit. There’s so much that could be covered!

Sam Gray checks his iPhone for the BCM Facebook page

1) Pictures, pictures, pictures, and good graphics!

Take or curate new and interesting pictures, whenever possible, of your staff or volunteers at work. If the desk can invest in a nice camera (mid-range pro is around $700), it’s worth it, if you’re willing to learn how to use it. If not, a nice smartphone will suffice. In the photos, explain what the people are doing. Bonus: give a line about why it’s important–but don’t hit people over the head. It shouldn’t be written blatant and dull, “this work is important because…” You can say something is important by sharing who it impacts, or by telling a bit about who is in the photo. Think about why people should be paying attention. People have content bombarding them 24/7, think really hard about if you were in their shoes, why would you give your time to this page over another?

Use services like Canva, Adobe Spark, or GIMP to do decent quality designs. If you can invest in it, get an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (about $60 a month without a nonprofit discount… you can get it cheaper for nonprofits through TechSoup). Use professional quality images from free stock photo sites like Pexels or Unsplash.

Author’s note:
Do not just grab images from Google without checking or verifying the usage rights. If you do, you could get into legal trouble. The image search engine is a helpful tool, but not a invitation to use any photo however you please.

Develop a voice for your brand identity. It needs to feel authentic and consistent, but not robotic or self-serving.

2) Real people. Not stock photos all the time.

I hit a bit on this above. Stock photos are fine for scripture graphics and such. But when it comes to ministry, make a concentrated effort to share the story of the real people and places involved in your ministry. Moravians have a tiny, but global, community–everyone knows everyone. Take advantage of that.

3) Authenticity

Authenticity is important! Audience members can sense pretty easily if a brand is trying too hard. Especially younger folks. Develop a voice for your brand identity. It needs to feel authentic and consistent, but not robotic or self-serving. With a few exceptions, when I post for the BCM, I am not speaking as Andrew for the BCM, but I am speaking in the BCM’s voice. It’s sort of like acting. You become the character of a brand. I like to think the BCM’s voice follows that of the writing in the resource Simply Moravian. Our audience, unless we intend otherwise, should not be able to tell the difference between me posting for the BCM and the rarer instance of Ruth posting for the BCM. Find a voice, and develop and practice it. Think, “does this sound like the Women’s Desk, or does it sound like me?” Find accounts you like with big audiences and look to their written and visual voice for inspiration.

4) Hashtags

Use them. Make sure you’re using them right. And if you need to, help your followers learn how to use them. Develop hashtags unique for your organization, but capitalize on big generic ones everyone follows… #Moravian, #ThrowbackThursday #MotivationMonday, #WSNC (Winston-Salem NC), #FridayIntroductions, #TransformationTuesday, etc. Also, capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag… it’s easier to read. Try to keep Facebook post hashtags seven or less (or five to ten is fine), especially if you put them all at the bottom like I do. Some people intersperse them throughout the post only, or do that and put them at the bottom. Develop a method and stick with it. But use hashtags!

You should ‘listen’ as much or more than you ‘speak.’

5) Listen

What are the people in your organization’s circle (geographically, topically, shared interests, etc.) saying or doing? Look at hashtags that are being used. Look at what people are posting in your geographic area. This can help you plan your content or even events. When people comment on your posts, comment back as the organization. Where possible, interact with other people’s content (you can do this more on Instagram than you can Facebook). You should “listen” as much or more than you “speak” (the whole two ears and one mouth saying).

Share other people’s content when relevant. The BCM recently shared a Colorado author’s post that mentioned the Daily Texts (see here). Even if you can share content without asking permission, it is always best to try and get the original creator’s blessing, particularly if their page is private. They’ll usually be happy to oblige! Exception: if the content was posted by a public page on Facebook or Twitter, you can share by clicking the “share” or “retweet” buttons and you don’t need to ask for permission. Asking permission applies mostly to Instagram and sharing content from private Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

James Jarvis checks the BCM Facebook Page on a laptop

6) Lead with questions and encourage comments

This is part of “listening.” Where possible with posts… lead it (or conclude it) with a relevant question to your audience, followed by a statement encouraging them to comment with their thoughts. I’m a proponent of leading with the question, as people are more apt to see it. And again, when people comment, react and reply to their comments as the organization.

Post more content like that which is getting good engagement, and less of what isn’t getting good engagement.

7) Develop social campaigns or consistent weekly content/look at analytics

Post one quality post once a day if possible. No more than 2 or 3 a day. Use Hootsuite (or a similar service) to help schedule posts. Their autoschedule feature is pretty good at detecting optimal posting times (typically 9am, 3pm, and 6pm for BCM). But make sure it doesn’t autoschedule your announcement before or after you want it announced. Sometimes it’s better to manually schedule time-sensitive content. Do the occasional paid boosted post or paid ad campaign if you can. Look at your analytics (Facebook Insights). Post more content like that which is getting good engagement, and less of what isn’t getting good engagement.

Some specific ideas for the Unity Women’s Desk: Do a weekly #FridayIntroductions post with a female Moravian… take their photo, ask for a photo, and ask them a few questions about their involvement or their community of women, what the church means to them, etc. If you can’t do that each week forever, do it as a month or two long campaign each year. Start or end each week with a Bible verse graphic relevant to women. Find old photos of Moravian women to share each week for #ThrowbackThursday and tell the story behind them. Get to know your audience… look at them on your analytics, how old are they, where are they? When people react to your posts, look at the list. If they have “invite” next to their name, click it! This is you inviting them to commit to following your page, and not just liking its content every now and then.

There’s really a lot I could share with you. The above is a mini-novel, but it barely scratches the surface. And the problem is social media is always always changing. You don’t have to do all of what I’ve suggested, but I hope some of the above helps you out, and if you have questions, just ask! You are also more than welcome to drop in the office anytime I’m in for my regular hours (Monday and Wednesdays, 1:30pm to 5:30pm).

Resources:

Some people/groups who have influenced my thinking on social media for ministries:


Questions? Comments? Or need assistance with your church’s
communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at acox@mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Andrew portrait

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Andrew is a driven creative person with established experience and skill in a variety of fields. Experience includes communications, social media management, event coordination, marketing, graphic design, photography, customer service, hospitality, security, writing, cartooning, illustration, fine art, and more! His main passion though is creating visually and emotionally interesting creative content for the Internet.

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Summer Camp and Faith Formation

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BY BETH HAYES | 

Many of us have had those mountaintop experiences at a camp or retreat. I am no exception. As I reflected on my faith formation journey a couple years ago, it included camps and retreats from my childhood experiences at Camp New Hope (a PCUSA camp outside Chapel Hill), to Montreat (in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains), to Laurel Ridge (the Moravian Camp and Conference Center). It is impossible to replace these experiences; these high moment experiences, where so much growth in one’s faith takes place. A recent article on the Building Faith website, The Lasting Impact of Summer Camp, spoke volumes to me: “campers at these camps are immersed in a faith-forming environment in which the songs, games, and activities become part of a theological playground. They do not just study God or take in information about God, as they might be asked to do in confirmation class or listening to a sermon in church. Instead, they experience a life that is caught up with and dependent on God’s ongoing activity in the world.”

Recently Mandy Petersen, of Friedberg Moravian Church, commented on a photo Laurel Ridge posted on Facebook: Sanctuary is the song I sing to myself to calm down if I’m having a particularly anxious moment or having trouble falling asleep. To me, this picture embodies Sanctuary and the safe warm memories of singing it at camp. 💚💚 I just wanted to take this moment and say thanks for all the beautiful memories I have of camp!”

Laurel Ridge photo

The photo that appeared on Laurel Ridge’s page. Photographer unknown. Photo is likely from Senior High Camp, summer of 2016.

A lot of ministry leaders and professionals have had their lives impacted positively and their life perspective changed for the better by camp experiences like Laurel Ridge. Read the whole article from the Building Faith website and I think it will cause you to ponder on those spiritual formation experiences in your life. The experiences had a major impact on you, and were truly great… but think a little deeper. Why did they have such an impact? These experiences are also about the important relationships built at camp or vacation bible school.

Beth at Laurel Ridge

Beth Hayes at the Laurel Ridge labyrinth.

From the Vibrant Faith website is this wonderful insight on relationships: “many of our leaders are so busy running churches and living up to expectations that they have little time for deep, life-giving relationships of their own–for their own souls. We experienced a profound change in people after they had the opportunity to have conversations that connected them with others… Relationships are the soil for the formation of faith. Leaders need them as much (perhaps more) than the people they serve. They are the music of life. Take time for the relationships of your life. Take time to generate and nurture them.”

Take time, especially this month, as camps begin, to pray for Laurel Ridge. Pray for the campers, staff, volunteers, and ministry that takes place there. Be sure to give the leaders and staff an extra thanks for the positive influence that they have had on your personal faith journey.

Laurel Ridge overlook


If you have questions or need additional information, email bhayes@mcsp.org or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Below, Beth appears with her sister, aunt, and cousin along with the family Bible.  

Looking at a Bible

Intern for Hire

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BY JAMES JARVIS |

Working for the Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) has felt like settling back into a role I’d already been in before. Maybe it’s because of the many years I’ve spent working around and within the Moravian church, or maybe it’s because of the work-study I did while I was finishing out my freshman year at Moravian College, but I immediately felt like I was right at home as the 2017 Summer Intern. I’ve met and have had to remember the names of an intimidating number of people (I’m really bad at remembering names), been given tasks to complete and responsibilities to take care of, and despite this whirlwind of new activity I feel right at home.

One of the projects that I’ve been put in charge of is creating Action Guides to give to congregations around the Southern Province, which has been taking up most of my time. This was the project I was most looking forward to when coming into the job, because it takes something that I’m interested in, social activism, and gives me the opportunity to pursue it. I’m able to apply what I’ve learned over the last couple years as an activist to approaching difficult topics and helping congregations work through hard issues, which is really cool. I hope to have a good number done by this August, once I get into the swing of things with it.

Another smaller project I’ve been working on sporadically is what we’ve started calling the “photo project.” The BCM has a LOT of old photos around the office. Not just prints of photos but film and slides as well. It’s extremely interesting to see some of the adults I knew as a wee Moravian as wee Moravians themselves. Or at least slightly younger. There are a few of John G. Rights and Doug Rights that are especially fun to see, as well as of past BCM employees (and even current ones)! I’ve been working on scanning these photos and identifying the individuals in them. 

All in all, this first month has been an interesting one. I can gladly say I love working with everyone here and getting to know them, and that I enjoy the work I’m doing. 


Questions? Comments?  Contact James Jarvis at james@moravianbcm.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 403

James Jarvis is the Summer Intern for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). He is a sophomore at Moravian College and is studying Studio Art, concentrating in photography. He enjoys hiking, animation, long naps, and junk food. 

Putting the Hashtag (#) in Faith, Love, and Hope

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BY ANDREW DAVID COX |

#MoravianStar2015, #MoravianStar2016, #MoravianLenten, #MoravianMoms, #FaithLoveHope, #ThrowbackThursday. You’ll notice on the Moravian BCM social media sites, we like to put strings of words like these at the end of posts. What do all of these have in common? By the way they’re written, they’re hashtags. What is a hashtag anyways? Well, here it is straight from the horse’s mouth (Google definitions):

“hash·tag
ˈhaSHtaɡ
noun

(on social media sites such as Twitter) a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.

‘spammers often broadcast tweets with popular hashtags even if the tweet has nothing to do with them'”

The hashtag is strongly associated with Twitter and reportedly first originated as a social media tool ten years ago on that site. Prior to that, and still for a lot of people, the “#” symbol is known as the “pound sign.” The first hashtag on Twitter was created by social technology expert Chris Messina. According to Hashtags.org, Messina wrote to his followers, asking them what they thought about using the pound symbol to identify specific groups. Hashtags had been previously used in Internet Relay Chats (IRC). Essentially, what hashtags do is they allow a post on social media to be searchable by topic. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, they become hyperlinks leading to pages for that respective topic.

Girl on smartphone

Hashtags are functional on both desktop and mobile devices

As of writing, #NSHvsPIT is trending on Twitter. The hashtag identifies tweets about the National Hockey League (NHL) Stanley Cup final between the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins. A Twitter user could search “Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins” to find tweets on the topic. But on Twitter, posts are limited to 140 characters, meaning most of the content in a searchable tweet can taken up by the full name of the game. Searching “#NSHvsPIT” should bring up only tweets about the game, and often are more engaging tweets and have more interesting content being shared by people who follow hockey. Their tweets don’t have to spell out the full name of the game, because it is identified by the shorter hashtag. By using the hashtag, hockey commentators don’t have to worry about providing full context for every post, because other fans, by looking at the hashtag, will know what they are tweeting about. The hashtag can save creators from having to sacrifice quality or brevity in content when they feel compelled to give context for content.

This handy functionality of the hashtag was used in the #MoravianStar2015 and #MoravianStar2016 social media campaigns, and every social campaign the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) has done since. On a Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram search, if a user searches “Moravian Star 2015,” it’ll bring up all kinds of posts about Moravians, stars, Moravian stars, and the like, because the search is comprised of terms, when separated, are relatively generic and not specific. By stringing the words together without spaces and with a hashtag in front, information about the social media campaign and posts relevant to it are both immediately discoverable. By adding a year to the hashtag, it makes it even more unique, and limits its timeliness. This allows the BCM to find users who purposefully intended to submit content to these campaigns by using the unique hashtag with their posts. Otherwise, we’d have to sort through every other post with Moravians, stars, or Moravian stars and would wonder if someone intended to share the content with us or not.

The promotional Facebook banner for the #MoravianStar2016 social media campaign

Some general rules about hashtags:

  • A hashtag must be a single word preceded by a pound sign (#) with no spaces
    • #FaithLoveHope works, FaithLoveHope# does not work, # Faith Love Hope does not work
  • Hashtags are primarily functional on social media, and are not intended for texting or email
    • However, you can share in any medium what a designated hashtag is, so people can then use, search, or interact with it on social media
  • There are brand-specific hashtags and hashtags everybody uses
    • Coca-Cola uses #ShareACoke to identify their brand’s specific campaign, but everyone uses hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday or #MotivationMonday each week to share memories or words/pictures of motivation
    • Church or ministry pages should develop their own unique hashtags for their congregants to use, as well as capitalizing on common hashtags to boost engagement
  • Always capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag, as #ShareACoke is much easier to read than #shareacoke
  • There are no hard or fast rules as to where to place hashtags–some accounts sprinkle them throughout a post and others at the very end of a post (or both)
  • Try not to use too many hashtags all the time, especially not on Facebook, as it looks cluttered and tacky… try to stick to around five to ten
  • On Instagram, place a double space between your text and your hashtags (if you list them at the bottom), by using a character such as a colon “:” to hold the place of the double space that Instagram would otherwise delete
  • Hashtags will not automatically become hyperlinks if they have special characters in them, but they can end with special characters (a period at the end of a hashtag will not break its link)
    • Example: #FaithLove&Hope will not link to anything on social media, #FaithLoveHope or #FaithLoveAndHope will
  • Posts marked with hashtags typically can not be found by the general public if the account using it posted it with strict privacy settings… for hashtags to be most effective, posts using them generally need to be posted publicly
    • Example: If Ruth Burcaw, with strict privacy settings, posted #Moravian on Facebook, I, being friends with her, could see it and click the hashtag and be taken to a page with all public posts with the hashtag or posts by other friends who used it… but people who are not Ruth’s friend could not find her post

Hashtags are a powerful social media tool. If you’re looking to grow your church or ministry’s page and connect to relevant topics and interested people, hashtags are a must! To get people in the door and doing ministry with us, we need to have faith, love, and hope. But to help people be aware there is a door even to begin with, we need to have #FaithLoveHope.

Other Resources:

Hashtags on Instagram: How many should you use?

Instagram Hashtags in the First Comment?


Questions? Comments? Or need assistance with your church’s
communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at acox@mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Andrew portrait

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Andrew is a driven creative person with established experience and skill in a variety of fields. Experience includes communications, social media management, event coordination, marketing, graphic design, photography, customer service, hospitality, security, writing, cartooning, illustration, fine art, and more! His main passion though is creating visually and emotionally interesting creative content for the Internet.