5 Essential Tips to Help You Become a Social Media Rockstar

Dennis Handley's picture

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There’s one outstanding skill that I believe every great youth minister possesses. One that even distinguishes youth ministers from everyone in the secular world. Do you know what it is?

Youth ministers are excellent at being professional relationship builders.

Building relationships is your profession. Every experienced youth minister knows that if you want to talk to teenagers about Jesus and the Catholic Church, you have to earn the right to be heard. You do that by building a strong, consistent, and valuable relationship with them.

As you know, communication plays a very important role in building relationships with people. After all, the more you communicate with someone, the more aware they are of your role in their life. If the quality and the quantity of your communication is good, your relationship is good.

Communication is what allows us to relate with other people. It’s how you express that you care about them and it’s how you share the Gospel with them. Communication is the medium through which you motivate and inspire people.

Communication plays a very important role in ministry.

But there’s a problem on our hands.

Communication is not only changing, but it’s changing at a rate that’s very difficult to keep up with.

There are so many messages the average teenager encounters in a given day. Because of this, we’re competing with more people for teens’ attention and it’s getting harder to stay in the forefront of their awareness.

Since we have to compete more for their awareness, we have to compete more for their relationship.

Not to mention, the secular world dumps a lot of resources, talent, and money in creating compelling and persuasive content on a regular basis. Their content also resonates well with the youth.

Remember what I mentioned earlier? If you can relate well with someone while engaging in frequent and quality communication with them, it's easier to earn their friendship.

See where I’m going with this?

If you’re struggling to connect with teens online, it may be effecting your ability to build relationships with them.

I know what you may be thinking at this point. You don’t have enough time to get through your entire checklist every day as it is. You’re struggling to find quality core members who can help you put on your Life Nights. You find it hard to earn the support of the leaders in your church. How can you possibly find the time to start reaching out to people online if you’re struggling to reach out to people in real life?

The good news is you can learn the same techniques and strategies as the people who rock at social media, and you don’t have to spend a ton of time on it. You just have to be efficient with your time and you must have a strategy!

In this post, I won’t mention a lot of social media techniques or tricks. You can easily find them on Google or by visiting sites like Quicksprout, Mashable, and Entrepreneur. We are going to discuss 5 things that are essential to building your social media strategy.

If these 5 things are implemented correctly, you will be able to continue focusing the vast majority of your attention on your youth program while the social media machine cranks out results in the background.

Without further ado, here is my list of 5 essential tips to help you become a social media rockstar.

Tip #1: Take What You’re Already Doing and Make It Social

The overall goal with social media is to make your ministry more social, not to make social your ministry.

Do you ever feel like social media takes too much time? Your time is valuable and it should be focused primarily on engaging with the teens in your program, not sitting in front of a computer.

The first thing you can do to become more effective at social media is to find ways to create content out of the things you are already doing. There’s no need to waste time in planning and creating content that doesn’t flow from, or contribute to, your ministry.

Here’s some more good news: if you’re running a youth ministry program, or are involved in one, you’re already producing great content. Every time you deliver a talk, create a fun video for a Life Night, or jot down a few notes while planning a talk, content is being created and you should put it to use.

At every Life Night, try writing down a few quotes or some of the main points that were delivered during that evening’s talk. This alone will give you three to five tweets that you can post during the following week.

Need ideas for Instagram? Next time you have a retreat, ask a camera-savvy core team member (if you have one!) to capture a bunch pictures throughout the weekend. Save them in a folder on your computer and post them throughout the year. Before you do this, though, make sure your release forms give you permission to do so.

Everything you do online should serve as a portal to the amazing things that are already happening in your ministry. This is exactly the kind of content people expect to see when they go looking for you online anyway, so give them what they’re looking for.

Tip #2: Be Able to Explain the Purpose of Your Ministry in 10 Words or Less

Remember earlier how we discussed that people are being bombarded with content all the time? This makes it harder for your message to stand out against everyone else’s. In order to be effective at social media, your message has to be brief, inspiring, and on point every single time.

How do you do this?

You do it by presenting the why to people instead of the what. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this amazing TED talk that discusses why people “don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Obviously we aren’t in the business of selling products, but in a way we have to sell people on the concept of following Jesus.

Sure, you offer a youth program to teens. This is a wonderful thing! However, your program is a what and not a why. Can you explain to people why your program exists in the first place? Can you explain it to them quickly and in a way that piques their interest? Can you then tie your program to this purpose every time you post?

Let me provide you with some guidance on this. Take some time to answer these three questions in one sentence that’s under 10 words:

1. What do you do as a ministry?

2. How is your program different than other youth ministry programs or youth organizations?

3. Why is your program valuable to teens?

I’m going to warn you that it may take a long time to accomplish this. The very first time I did this was on a project I was working on in 2010 and it took me an entire year to come up with the answer! Although it may take time, it’s time very well spent. It’s also time that doesn’t have to eat into your work day. This can be thought about any time, any place.

There’s two things you do with this sentence when you discover it:

Use it everywhere!

This 10-word-or-less statement will be one of the greatest media assets you will ever own. It’s basically your tagline, so use it wherever you can wherever a first impression is made. Make it the bio on your social media profiles. Put it on your retreat t-shirts. Use it in your logo if you have one. Put it in the signature of your email.

In the world of media, you’re going to need an introduction that captures people quickly. This tagline is precisely that.

Make this your underlying topic of conversation on social media

Do you ever struggle to think about what you should post about on a day-to-day basis? You’re going to get lost and will most likely give up if you don’t have something on which to base the content of your posts.

Delivering a consistent message is one of the best ways to gain followers. If you define your purpose and dedicate everything you do on social media to communicating that message, you will have a lot more buy-in and followers.

Tip #3. Know Your Target Audience

Obviously, your target audience is most likely going to be teenagers. But that doesn’t mean you know how to communicate to them. Do you know what’s important to them and where to reach them?

Demographics and Psychographics Are a Good Thing to Know

Demographics tell you who your target audience is. Psychographics explains why they are the way they are.

The more of this information you can gather on your audience, the easier it will be for you to taylor your content towards them.

For example, do you have a general idea of how many teens in your program go to private schools as opposed to public schools? What are some of the major issues they’re facing? What shows do they like to watch on Netflix? Are they primarily male, female, or an even mix of both? Which one of their schools is rocking in football this season?

The more you know your audience, the more you can relate with them.

Know Where to Reach Them Online

There’s a lot of chatter in ministry circles about which social networks we should all be using to reach teens. Although it’s great to keep up on all of this, it’s also important not to overwhelm yourself with managing a large number of social networks.

What I’m about to say may contradict conventional wisdom, but I’ll say it anyway...

It’s better to manage fewer social media accounts and to rock at all of them than it is to manage a lot of them inconsistently.

I know a ton of teens are using Snapchat right now, but that isn’t the only factor to consider before signing up for it. I’m not saying not to use Snapchat. Personally, I love it. I’m just trying to get you to ask the questions, “Is [insert social media site] right for my ministry and do I have the time and ability to utilize it well?” If your answer is no to any of these questions, you may want to consider holding off for now on that particular social site.

With this in mind, it’s good to be strategic about picking the right social media outlets. Personally, I like to see what the data says about this.

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Above is a snapshot of the website Buzzsumo. It gathers analytics data on social media sites based on topics or website domains. In the example above, I searched “steubystl365.com” because it’s our official blog for the Steubenville STL Mid-America youth conference. The results of this search show us which social platforms produce the most engagement based on shares.

Surprisingly, Facebook is by far the best social site for us in this category.

But wait...I thought teens didn’t use Facebook anymore!!!

Maybe they aren’t using it as much today than they did 5 years ago. However, based on the data it would be silly for us to quit using it or to spend less time on it. If the name of the game is visibility and engagement, I would say Facebook is a key performer for us.

Tip #4. Be Consistent

Did you know all the major social media platforms have an algorithm that determines how many people will actually see your posts? If you have 100 followers, it doesn’t mean all 100 of them will see what you’re putting out there. Only a handful of them will.

Every social media site is in the business of presenting interesting and meaningful content to its users. Basically, if you aren’t that interesting or influential, you won’t be seen. Sorry, sounds harsh I know. My goal is to make sure you don’t fall into this category.

So how do you become more influential?

First of all, follow my advice above about defining your ministry’s purpose and be consistent in communicating it from different angles. If social media sites think that you have an interesting topic of conversation going on, they will show your posts to more people. Better yet, your followers may even start viewing you as a thought leader in your area of expertise.

Secondly, make sure you are posting consistently. A lot of people may also disagree with the following statement, but it’s totally true...

It’s better to post fewer times consistently than to post a lot of content inconsistently.

Posting consistently tells all the social media sites that you have the ability to keep your audience engaged. The person who posts 2 times a day every day, and at consistent times throughout the day, will score better with all the algorithms.

My advice is to create a social media calendar and stick with it. It may be tempting to deviate from it at times. However, if you stay the course you’ll see your numbers rise over time and you’ll also gain the ability to track trends.

Tip #5. Measure Your Performance

Speaking of trends, you will never spot them if you aren’t keeping track of data.

Did you know you can get the analytics from your Facebook and Twitter usage? It’s true.

If you have a Facebook page, click on “Insights” in the menu at the top of the screen and a whole new world will be revealed to you!

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There are so many statistics available, I would have to write another post to cover them all. In the meantime, I suggest spending some time exploring this feature. Pay close attention to the number of people reached and also the number of reactions (likes, comments, shares, etc) on your posts.

To get Twitter analytics, visit analytics.twitter.com. Sign in with your account and start exploring. The most important data is at the top of the home page, but click on the other options in the main menu to get more details.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a reliable place to go to grab analytics on Instagram or Snapchat without paying an arm and a leg. Personally, I count the number of posts we publish on Instagram every month along with the number of comments and likes we receive. Snapchat also provides some basic analytics, but nothing to the extent of what Facebook and Twitter provide.

Finally, keep track of all of this data by keeping a spreadsheet that you update monthly. It takes about 5 minutes to record this info, but the insight you’ll receive will be priceless.

Conclusion

As professional relationship builders, it’s important to keep up with communication standards but don’t let it kill you. Your in-person ministry is still more important than your online ministry, so it’s important to find ways to keep up with social media trends in an effective and efficient way. If you can adopt a strategy, you can focus your efforts on places where you will yield more results with less effort.

It would be best to start incorporating social media into your routine as a youth minister. Your Sunday Life Nights, weekly prayer nights, and Core Team meetings are consistent items on your calendar. If you incorporate social media in the same way, without overdoing it, you will be on your way to being a social ministry with a lot of potential.

Finally, don’t feel like you have to compete with the secular world. You don’t have the time, money, and resources to stand a chance against them. I don’t think Christ is calling us to be bigger than the Kardashians. Instead, focus your energy on building an audience of people who are interested in what you are doing and use your media to invite them in.

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