By Rev. Paul Marzahn
Rev. Paul Marzahn is serving as new church strategist for the Minnesota Conference. Marzahn is senior pastor at CROSSROADS CHURCH, a multi-site ministry.
New churches do a great job being innovative in marketing. They often capitalize on new trends because they are trying to reach a younger target audience. All the new church starts in the Minnesota Annual Conference are using websites, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as forms of communication. Some pastors have also used LinkedIn to connect with the business community and Pinterest to connect with the arts community. Google Plus is also gaining ground in some social circles. In discussions with each of the new church starts, here are some of the best practices I gleaned:
Website: Keep your website simple and friendly to someone who does not know your faith community. Your website should be informational to church members, but focus should be on attracting new people. Make sure your website is easily found by search engines like Google, Bing, Safari, and our denominational Rethink Church website.
Posting:Too many churches simply post on Facebook about church events and activities. People appreciate a personal connection, and they can relate to a personality more than an event. People also want to see short videos and photos more than word posts. Instagram limits posts to 15 seconds, and most really should not be longer than that. I’d suggest using the basic one-third rule for your posts: Make one-third about yourself or activities you are enjoying, use one-third to promote a person or ministry or opportunity, and make one-third interactive. Interactive posts in which you ask a question invite people to do more than “like” your post. They engage people, and as a pastor, answers to questions posed often provide great content I can share during my sermons.
Content: Transparency and honesty is critical. Don't just post “life-is-perfect” quotes and photos. Don't be afraid to post something's that’s funny or interesting. If you have a daily event that is not routine, post it. Graphics that are relevant are a must. And on websites, fonts give off a certain feel; modern, trendy fonts matter. Use Helvetica instead of Times New Roman or Arial. The website Dafont.com is one resource that some churches are referencing. You can also look at Pinterest to see what is trendy. Search "Church Newsletter" and get ideas to see what is popular.
Growing your reach: Take group photos and tag as many people as possible. This spreads out your exposure to a broader audience. Encourage church members to check-in on Facebook when they visit the church and to take photos and post them on their personal Facebook pages. Also, check into scheduling apps such as Buffer, Hoot Suite, and Tweet Deck that will post for you at scheduled intervals. This great for posting weekly activities, weekly devotions and messages online. Unlike HootSuite or TweetDeck, Bufferapp automatically spaces your content out for you. That way, if you post something spontaneously, your scheduled content moves around so you don’t end up spamming your followers’ feeds. Most pastors or churches recommend posting two to five times per day for best exposure.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church