Summer Social Series: Instagram

 Imagine you are a church planter.
You have an amazing vision to plant a new, thriving church. It will have everything — dynamic worship, amazing kid programs, captivating messages, a spinning drum cage, and even a new coffee shop in your lobby.
(When did people decide this was necessary? Sure, people drink coffee before church. But, people often eat lunch after church — I don’t see too many churches trying to franchise a cracker barrel in their lobby though.)

Now, it’s time to pick the location. You have two options:
Option 1: A stunning building in the middle of a thriving urban (or suburban) area. People shop, work, and live all around your potential location. There are nearly 80 thousand people in a 30 mile radius.
Option 2: A large lot of land in the middle of nowhere. The closest town is about 20 minutes away by car and 2 hours by tractor.
In that town, there are about 5700 cows and 120 people from only 4 families

Obviously, you’d pick the first location. As a church, it’s our job to be where people are. Because it should be our heartbeat to reach, help, and serve people. It’s impossible to do this with no people.

Social networking is the same way. We now have the ability to be right where people are — 24/7.
This is why we are talking about social media. People are on these networks ALL. DAY. LONG.

Let’s talk about the platform that is slowly becoming the biggest player: Instagram.

Instagram is Facebook’s cool younger brother who listens to bands you’ve never heard of and works part-time in a coffee shop. It is considered the “cool social network.” This is where teens, twenty-somethings, and most young professionals like to hang out.
This is changing though. People in other demographics are moving to Instagram in record numbers.
We must pay attention.

While most churches are just getting onto the Facebook bandwagon (about 4 years too late), it is now time to point your attention to instagram. If you chose to really invest your time into this network now, it will really be beneficial a couple years from now. I can assure you.
It’s easier to be slightly ahead than to desperately try and catch up.

Ignoring Instagram is not an option for your ministry. Your responsibility is to bring your presence to where the people are.
People are on Instagram, it’s vital that you’re there too.

Simply put: Instagram is a simplified photo sharing app with an active community.

It’s unlike it’s older brother Facebook in a few ways:

– There is no sharing (yet), which means a “share” is not the most valuable engagement on a post.
– There is a completely different user-culture set up around Instagram — and engaging with the culture is crucial for success on this platform.
– Instagram is all about sharing single, HQ images that convey story.

I. Tell a story with your posts.

Jesus was the greatest story-teller to ever live. We have a responsibility to do the same.
People make social networking far too complicated. It’s simple. You invite people into the story your ministry is telling within the community. What does this look like? Post what people are doing — not what people need to come and do.

Let’s say you’re having Vacation Bible School at your church.
Option 1: Post the graphic provided by life way to promote your VBS.
Option 2: Post photos & videos of people getting ready for the event — making the set, practicing songs, praying, and even some sample crafts.

Option two tells a story. Option one is spam.
People want to see people. Highlight photos and videos of people that reinforce the story (mission and vision) of your ministry.
Say no to spam.

II. Always be consistent.
Consistency is key. I mean this a couple of ways. Be sure your posting is consistent in timing.
If you chose to post once a day – stick to it. Once a week — stick to it. Once a month — don’t do that. That’s foolish.

Secondly, be sure your photos look consistent.
Even if it sounds strange. Decide exactly what design elements you add to your photos when you post. I recommend a simple filter and maybe a slight enhancement. Do the same for each post (assuming their lighting is similar).
Also, I recommend a watermark on your photo — make it subtle. While this takes an extra few minutes, It can bring better brand-recognition to your ministry.

III. Leverage and utilize #hashtag #culture.
Chose a hashtag for your church. I recommend #ChurchLocation (e.g: #FaithChapelNY). Encourage people to use it. Be sure the hashtag is visible. Search this hashtag and interact with the audience that posted it.
Don’t just use your own #hashtag. Interact with other popular hashtags! They’re already popular, so people are clicking them.

It’s simple, but a game changer.

Pro Tip: Use the hashtag culture (and location tags) within your city to interact with potential visitors within twenty miles of your location. You can reach new people using social network as the catalyst.
While many may criticize this tactic. It’s a modern take on outreach. It works.

IV. It’s a social network — be social.
When someone comments, comment back.
Shoot, I even encourage you to interact with your followers on their posts. Don’t be obnoxious and don’t be spammy.
On instagram, we aim for comments. That is where people engage and when the social network actually seems…well…social.

A like is ‘spare’ and a comment is a ‘strike.’
Write the copy in your posts to trigger this kind of interaction.

V. Find out what works for you and repeat it over and over.
I do not understand why so many organizations refuse to evaluate the numbers and metrics on their social media accounts.
You are investing time and energy on creating this content — be sure to do what works.

There is value in evaluating what has worked for you in the past and what seems to fall flat.

See what times get the most traction. See what posts get the most engagement. See what styles seem to get the most likes.
Discover what works and do it more.

Pro Tip: Use Iconosquare! It analyzes your Instagram account — telling you what’s working, what’s not, when to post, and will report on your performance for you. You can grow your account quickly and easily using this tool to identify what works.

About the Author

Jackson Garrell

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Jackson is a pastor, designer, and cheese enthusiast. He lives in New York with his wife and several dozen plants. When he is not building websites, consulting churches, or pastoring, you will probably find him trying to create the perfect omelette.