Social Media Leaders: Conference Success Can Enhance Congregational Success

Date Posted: 12/8/2016

Within the South Central Jurisdiction, the Texas Annual Conference has the strongest social media presence of any other conference. The TAC Communications Committee adopted a goal for 2016 of increased social media presence and the initiative worked!
 
It’s always fun to be a leader, especially when the news comes as a surprise. The ‘big reveal’ came as a result of the Arkansas Conference deciding to benchmark its social media presence against other conferences in the South Central Jurisdiction. Jacob Turner, who guided that process for Arkansas, developed a Social Media Presence spreadsheet that showed the Texas Annual Conference leading in several statistical areas. “The research idea first came out of a discussion at our Arkansas Annual Conference as to how our social media statistics compared to others,” he explains. “At first, we focused solely on Facebook , which is our primary means of communicating via social media. We were very interested to find that we had the second largest following on Facebook, behind the Texas Annual Conference.” After the spreadsheet was filled with all of the data from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for every annual conference, it was distributed as a tool for conferences to gauge followers as compared to other conferences in the jurisdiction.
 
Secrets to Success
“The reason these findings show the Texas Conference leads other conferences in some of the key social media categories,” notes Communication Director Paula Arnold, “is that we put a heavy emphasis on social media in 2016. We knew we had a lot of catching up to do. We also finally realized that this is where people are and our Church needs to be there too.”
 
How did TAC approach this opportunity? The conference initially hired consultants specializing in social media effectiveness to evaluate the TAC communication forums and train new staff to bring new focus to these increasingly popular media outlets.
 
“The Texas Conference has transitioned this initiative into the hands of new part-time employees Luke Brawner and Sydnie Mares,” adds Paula, “who will help us
keep connecting with new audiences and engaging others inside and outside the church.”
 
Sydnie loves providing this focus. “During the transition, something Luke and I have been excited about is being able to make content that is reflective of our churches, content that’s more personal and more interactive,” she says. One of the first things we did was create a huge spreadsheet documenting the social media accounts for all of our churches. We wanted to get to know our congregations in order to showcase the unique voices of TAC and create an online community for them.”
 
By documenting TAC churches’ social media reach, the team found that while only 37% have a church website, 50% have a Facebook Page. Furthermore, 10% have a Twitter account, and only 3% have an Instagram account. Large churches even had Facebook pages for each of their ministries to spread news for children’s, youth, and men’s and women’s events. Several churches have video based platforms via YouTube and Vimeo.
 
“One of the things I noted across our research was that some churches were using Facebook Live, podcasting, or other means to broadcast their sermons online. This can be a valuable resource for those members who may not be able to physically go to church and for visitors who may be able to get a taste of a new church before actually attending,” says Sydnie.
 
Social Media Resources for the Local Church

  1. The TAC now has specialists on staff as a resource to churches using social media.
  2. TAC has developed a toolbox with a support page where anyone can send in questions. 
  3. There is also a link for the collection of ministry stories that can be shared to encourage others. For a real blessing, watch a few of the stories.
  4. Anyone responsible for --or interested in—communication can join the TAC Communicators private group on Facebook to exchange ideas, exchange articles, display sample projects and solicit insight via instant question/answer exchanges.
  5. Experts recommend the content that attracts responses, comments, shares and other ways of engagement. “Video is highly effective,” notes Luke, “as is anything visual or thought provoking.”
  6. The Communication Advisory Committee is planning a survey to gage interest in topics for future webinars designed to educate and equip the local church to communicate more effectively.
 
According to Sydnie, submissions to the toolbox are emailed to the communication office. If needed, the office will respond to any related questions, or just add it to the toolbox, often sharing across TAC social media platforms. Adds Luke, “It is awesome that our conference has performed so well in comparison to others, however, we are not as proud of the numbers as we are of the interactions that we have had with some of our member churches through Facebook Live, Twitter, and Instagram.”
 
Call to Action
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