In case you haven’t noticed, 2020 has been a rather, well, freaking insane year. Between political upheaval, riots in the streets, something called COVID-19, increased racial and religious tension, Australian bush fires, earthquakes in Turkey, locust swarms in India, the sudden death of Kobe & Gigi Bryant, the postponement of the Olympics, pepperoni shortages, and those pesky murder hornet rumors, I’m thinking Christ’s return is probably happening any day now. (Read your Bible. It might be tomorrow.) Oh and, by the way, we’re only in August.
But, don’t worry. I’m not going to launch into a sermon. That’s my dad’s domain. I only point these cultural things out to say that church leaders — including communicators — have been faced with a whole new set of challenges, many of which we’ve never encountered. And frankly, it’s left a lot of us wondering: Is what I do even important anymore? Does social media and all the marketing and branding that goes with it really matter right now in the midst of a national pandemic? Do people even care?
The answer to each of these questions, as far as I’m concerned, is unequivocally and overwhelmingly yes.
COVID-19 Proved Social Media Managers To Be Indispensable.
I get it. We’re not nurses, doctors, EMTs, policemen, firemen, or even elementary teachers (unless you’re bi-vocational, in which case I tip my hat to you, Superman.) But, generally speaking, we are not on the frontlines battling against killer viruses or falling into life-threatening situations. In fact, most of our friends and family members enjoy joking about how nice it must be to get paid to play around on Facebook and Instagram all day. Am I right?
I’ll be the first to agree that working full-time in the social media world can have its perks and even occasionally be fun. But it can also be, and often is, incredibly time-consuming, stressful, annoying, tedious, exhausting, and utterly maddening. Social media managers are much more than people who sit at their laptops sharing photos, commenting on threads, and laughing hysterically at stupid memes. We are copywriters, graphic designers, marketing strategists, digital strategists, brand developers, content creators, data analysts, demographic researchers, community gatekeepers and audience peacemakers. And, within the sphere of Church Communications, everything we do is meant to support the overall mission of the church, which hopefully includes reaching and ministering to the lost — even the lost on the Internet.
Now think back to March (I know, it was a nightmare): When your church had to shut down temporarily for COVID, where did the majority of your congregants flock for the sermon every week? Probably the church Facebook Page. Maybe you were even live-streaming a Sunday morning and evening service, a midweek service, and a Bible study or two in between. And if you’re the social media manager, you know that one of your major responsibilities is not only to ensure that the Livestream is up and functioning — working in tandem with your video production team — but to also respond to comments in the chat and engage with virtual viewers and visitors as often as possible. Why? Because they matter just as much as a person who walks into your church’s physical building. Moreover, good online engagement can result in an in-person visit.
Social Media Managers Are Responsible For First Impressions And Digital Ambiance.
About 1.73 billion people check Facebook every day and are considered to be daily active users. So the odds of a seeker running across your Page are pretty high, particularly at a time when many folks are itching to get plugged back into a local church. (Remember: people use Facebook as a search engine like Google.) Page managers know firsthand that they alone bear the burden of handling how the church will be perceived by the public via high-quality posts, photos, videos, graphics, etc. All of this digital content must reflect the real ambience of the church so that the correlation feels right when a visitor makes that transition from connecting with you online to showing up in person. Side note: Great church social media managers are keeping things positive, joyful, and hopeful on their platforms during these uncertain times.
Social Media Managers Are The “Digital Gatekeepers” of The Church.
This is one that I personally take very seriously. If you’re married to or live with a social media manager, then you probably know just how much time we spend on our devices. (Somewhere a wife is jabbing a husband in his ribcage.) But this is because — unlike other various forms of digital management — social media managers interact with their audience on a regular, usually daily, basis. It’s how we increase our audience size and our Page’s general public visibility. And it’s also just good ministry and communication methodology.
However, good church social media managers know that — beyond the marketing aspect — they also must faithfully protect the church’s digital territory. So when that disgruntled ex-member who despises the pastor fires off a profanity-laced comment on your latest live-stream video (not that this would ever happen, right?), you must immediately be on the receiving end of that notification, check it, delete it, and ban said user from the Page or at least hide the comment from public view and send the person a private message.
Obviously that’s an extreme example, but believe me, I could enthrall you with hours of stories from my own personal experience and those of fellow Church Comms leaders about the bizarre, silly, gross, and altogether ridiculous things that people post to church Facebook Pages. For some additional info on types of trolls and how to deal with them, check out this excellent blog post by my buddy and renowned Troll Slaying Extraordinaire Seth Muse: Types of Trolls and the Spells that Kill Them.
Culture Is Shaped And Influenced By Social Media.
This has definitely been the year for things to go viral, many of which have inspired some of the greatest memes ever to grace the Internet. Whether it was news stories, politics, tech humor, or silly commercials, people have paid attention as social media amplified these issues and topics to insane levels.
The same power of influence rests with church social media managers and their audience, which includes the church’s digital followers, the physical church family, and the surrounding local community as well. We’re called to influence those inside and outside of the Church for the sake of the Gospel and to encourage those in need of hope and help. That's ministry. That's being the hands and feet of Jesus in the digital sphere. And the need for this has never been greater as 2020 rolls on, leaving so much turmoil, chaos, anxiety, and unpredictability in its wake.
Church social media manager: You are indeed essential. What you do is important. Hang in there. And know that I’m rooting for you.