As a social media strategist for Catholic Churches and Dioceses, one of the biggest challenges for my clients is creating posts that get likes, comments and shares. You have to start with a plan first. So the first thing that we do about a week or two before the beginning of the month is map out what’s going on for the next month in alignment with the Church and parish calendar to develop one. Then we look at what types of things have garnered engagement in the past and design post in alignment with past success. We have learned that there are five types of posts that always spark engagement and I’m sharing them with you here:
Pastor – Many of my client’s most popular posts always come from the pastor. Most parish priests and deacons are very beloved and anything shared with a picture of them always gets likes, comments and shares. American Martyrs pastor, Monsignor John Barry does pre-recorded one-minute You Tube reflections on the Gospel readings that hits their Facebook newsfeed at 6:30 am and is averaging about 30 likes every day. Another post that garnered over 225 comments and 350 likes was a post of the pastor celebrating his birthday.
2. Daily Inspirational messages – This can be accomplished easily, by simply sharing messages from popular Catholic luminaries, a daily devotional or weekly/monthly series. In this Year of Mercy a number of my clients did a #SummerofMercy post once a week using the spiritual and corporal works as the framework. My posts on Church Social Tips were designed using my favorite graphic tool Canva and branded the #SummerofMercy with suggestions for executing the work of mercy within a parish ministry or contemporary idea. The post were also pre-scheduled using a tool called Hootsuite so it's done weeks or days ahead of time. It's not to late for you to do a series called the #CalltoMercy before the "Year of Mercy" ends in November.
Where do you find something like that? My go to for finding Church approved ways for explaining or doing things is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website or Facebook page. In fact, my daily inspirational posts from the Pope, come from a book that they shared on their Facebook page titled “365 Daily Meditations With Pope Francis” to provide attribution I attach a picture of the cover of the book with each post. Sometimes the message lends itself to creating a unique visual element and then the attribution goes in the post. Matthew Kelly’s groundbreaking book “Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” says that answering the questions of our members is key, so one of the series I did came from a USCCB on answering questions about the Eucharist. Lastly, responses to news of the day is also a great way to show that your church cares and can provide spiritual inspiration around secular topics. In light of so many tragic events in the news I wrote a blog on how local parishes responded to the "Orlando Shooting" using social media.
3. Behind the scenes – Showing pictures or video of getting ready for an event or even mass can really spark engagement with parishioners. I love the new “Live” feature on Facebook and would love to see more parishes do a message 5 -10 minutes before mass showing the priests putting on the vestments, saying a prayer or sharing something to ponder during mass. The life sized nativity scene put up at American Martyrs Catholic Church in Manhattan Beach, CA is well known in the community and people from all over come to take pictures. So this past Advent I suggested that when the crates arrive and they start assembling the display to take pictures and post them – take a look at the response.
4. Saints – Okay some saints are more popular than others when it comes to getting engagement, but the post always garner at least a few likes. If you have statues of some of the saints in your church or on the campus take pictures of them and create unique graphics to celebrate them on their feast day. In the Month of May and August we celebrate our earthly mothers and the Blessed Virgin Mother and every church has a statue of Mary. So take those pictures now so you are ready. For most feast days I simply go to Bishop Robert Barron’s Facebook page and share his graphics. In fact, he catches some feast days that aren’t on my Catholic calendar so I’m in the habit of checking his page every morning to share his post on the feast days of the litany of saints.
5. Community and Parish Life – The original purpose of social media was to share what’s happening in your life. That original purpose is one of the most engaging elements of a social media page. Our Holy Catholic Church is rich in ritual and tradition. Each parish has its own culture that binds the members to the parish. Capturing unique events, like the parish fair or Pastor’s retreat are very evocative for those who see these posts in their newsfeed. In fact, it reminds them of the connection they have to God, community and the history of the parish. The traditional services of baptism, first communion, confirmation, Ash Wednesday and the list goes on being captured and shared on social posts creates real connection. These posts will always generate engagement. An under utilized feature of Facebook is the "events" tab that allows parishes to post "Save the Dates" for upcoming parish events.
So many families have their calendars booked out months in advance, so the sooner they are aware of events the more likely they are to plan for being there.
The other really cool thing to post to spark major shares are old pictures from the parish historical society archives of the church and school.
Lastly, let your parishioners do the work! It is so common for people to check-in on Facebook or Instagram even when they are at church. Sometimes they add cool pictures that you can move into the newsfeed of your page so everyone sees it like this one.
I hope these tips will help you to engage the members of your parish more effectively!
If you would like to learn more tips or need a pool of content to share on your pages follow my Church Social Tips Facebook Page.