When it comes to using social media for your church, Facebook is probably the first thought. However, what about Instagram for your church?
The highly visual and engaging social network has become one of the fastest-growing social networks ever. This makes it one you should definitely consider.
While Instagram won’t be perfect for all churches, you should take a look at the numbers and type of audience. If Instagram’s audience is who you’re trying to reach, it’s worth giving the network a try, even for just a short while.
Looking At The Numbers
If you don’t use Instagram yourself, you might not realize quite how popular it is. You might not know much of anything outside of the viral pictures celebrities post. However, Instagram goes far beyond celebrities showing off beach-ready bodies and their cute kids.
All types of brands and nonprofits use it, including churches. The reason – it’s a large audience that’s hard to pass up on. If you’re on the fence, take a look at these eye-opening numbers:
- One billion people use Instagram monthly
- 500 million users use Instagram stories every day
- 63% of all Instagram users log in one or more times a day
- 33% of the top viewed stories come from businesses
- Instagram was Apple’s second most popular app in 2018 (YouTube was first)
- 67% of Americans between 18 and 29 use Instagram
- 47% of Americans between 30 and 49 use Instagram
- 31% of Americans over 49 use Instagram
While America has the largest audience share with 120 million users, 89% of users come from outside the United States. This means using Instagram for church allows you to reach both a local and global audience.
Know Your Audience
Before you start using Instagram for church, you need to know your audience. If you’re trying to reach people over 50, Instagram probably isn’t going to give you the results you want.
Despite have users of all ages, the core age group ranges from teens to people in their mid-30s. In fact, 35% of US teens prefer Instagram, which is only second to Snapchat, which 41% of teens prefer. If you’re trying to reach teens, Instagram is a good option, especially since only 6% of teens prefer Facebook.
The decision to use Instagram usually comes down to two things – audience and time commitment. Since Instagram is a more visual network, images aren’t optional. You’ll have to do more work taking pictures or creating images.
What Makes Instagram Different
Millennials have spent most of the adult lives with a smartphone in hand. Teens and kids have always had access to smartphones and tablets. This means this massive demographic has no real limitations on how many pictures they can take.
Older generations and even older millennials remember the hassle of paying for film, taking pictures (without filters) and paying for the film to be developed. They didn’t grow up with selfies and unlimited pictures. While they enjoy pictures and the convenience of smartphone cameras, they don’t always have the same desire to have everything documented in a picture or placed online.
Kids, teens and millennials (especially younger millennials) love taking pictures with their phones. Plus, these people are the social media generations, meaning sharing is everything.
Instagram gives them the social aspect of Facebook, but makes it all about pictures. It’s like a social camera roll. The more image-hungry teens and millennials love it and feel more at home than they do on Facebook, which is kind of a free for all.
Take It For A Trial Run
You might still wonder if it’s even worth it. The best thing to do is to take Instagram for a trial run. If you don’t feel it’s working for your church after several months, delete your account.
Instagram is free to use, though you can pay for advertising just like with Facebook. The only thing you’ll be spending is time.
Talk with the teens and younger millennials in your church family. Ask them for advice before you create an account. Most importantly, ask if they’d ever interact with your account.
If you do try out Instagram for church, set a reasonable time frame. You won’t see results in a week. Give it at least three months to learn the features, interact with other users and see if it’s benefiting your church.
Know The Main Features (videos, stories, TV, images, hashtags)
When you first start out on Instagram, it might seem confusing. There are far more than just posts. The most basic feature is image-based posts. These are pretty straightforward.
Next, you have videos. These are only one minute each. They’re great for a quick update or announcement.
Much like Facebook, Instagram also has stories. These are temporary posts that are up to 15 seconds long. These can be short clips or several images. Stories go away after one day.
Finally, there’s Instagram TV. Think of this as YouTube within Instagram. You can post videos up to 10 minutes long. Instagram TV is for higher quality videos.
Of course, Instagram also features emojis, filters, fun fonts, gifs and more. It’s just important to know the forms your content can take before you start posting.
Check Out Christian Instagram Accounts
You don’t need an Instagram account to view any public accounts. However, you’ll need to create one if you want to start following other Christian Instagram accounts.
It’s a good idea to check out what other churches and Christian leaders are doing. Not only will it inspire your own church, but give you accounts to interact with and share content from as you’re getting started.
Some great accounts to start with include:
While you shouldn’t copy any of these accounts, check out their strategies and types of posts. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when you’re new to Instagram. Just learn from people and churches who are already there.
Optimize Your Profile
Now that you’re getting started on Instagram, you need to optimize your profile. Take a look at some of the accounts mentioned previously to see their profiles.
Your church profile on Instagram needs to be concise, descriptive and provide a good overview of your church. The first step is a username. Make sure your church name or at least part of it is there.
Your bio is extremely important. You only have 150 characters, so keep it brief. Add a short mission statement and provide a call to action, such as follow you or list service times and your city.
While adding a website is optional, add your church website. If you don’t have one, now’s a great time to expand your church’s online reach by creating a website.
Make Your Profile Image Count
Your profile image is another major part of your Instagram profile. This is the main image for your entire account. A simple picture of your church is great, but go a step further. Add more personality to it. Take a picture during an outdoor event or a particularly exciting sermon inside.
Your profile image sets the tone for your church on Instagram. Make it personable and engaging. Think of it as a book cover. Will your image make people want to follow your church?
Master The Art Of Hashtags
Hashtags are how users find things on Instagram. If you’re using Instagram for church, you’ll need to embrace hashtags fully. First, there a few rules to remember:
- You can only use up to 30 hashtags. No, you don’t have to use that many, but use more than one.
- You can’t add spaces or special characters to hashtags. Numbers are acceptable, though.
- You can’t tag any posts except your own.
- Only publicly tagged posts will show up when someone views a hashtag.
The rules are simple. It’s choosing the right hashtags that gets a little more confusing. The most important things to remember for choosing hashtags include:
- Go beyond generic hashtags, such as #church or #Christian. You can use these, but add something more specific, such as #churchvolunteers.
- Use relevant hashtags or your posts may get flagged.
- Create custom hashtags for special types of posts, such as #OurChurchFunnyFriday or #OurChurchSermonRecap.
- See what other churches are using.
- Check out trending hashtags to see if any are relevant to your posts.
For a more in-depth look at Instagram hashtags, Hootsuite has a detailed guide.
Know What To Share
As with any social network, figuring out what to share is often the biggest obstacle. Using Instagram for church successfully requires you to share a variety of content. Some great ideas include:
- Behind the scenes photos
- Worship service pictures
- Promoting an upcoming event, sermon or series
- Scripture or quote images
- Celebrate a volunteer
- Service invitations
- Testimonies (member image with testimony)
- Recent blog posts (use featured blog image)
It’s important to remember that you can create graphics for Instagram. Everything doesn’t have to be an actual photo. Of course, you can take general pictures around your church or local community to use as backgrounds for quotes, scripture, invitations and more.
Post Before You Follow
While it’s okay to follow a few accounts just to get some insight into Instagram, you should start posting content before you start following too many accounts.
The idea is if you’re following other accounts, they might follow you too. But please, don’t follow accounts just to get followed in return. Only follow accounts you actually want to engage with.
Post regularly for at least a week to build content on your page. Then, it’s on to following.
Start Following Others
Start following other accounts on Instagram. These are accounts that inspire you, have valuable content and/or users you want to interact with. For instance, you can follow area churches or churches worldwide that inspire you.
This will fill your Instagram feed with great content to interact with. After all, it is a social network and you’ll need to be social in order to build your account.
Engage With Other Christian Accounts
Take the time to actually engage with other Christian accounts. Build relationships through comments, likes and shares. You’re not trying to compete here. Not only are you building a relationship with those accounts, but that account’s followers will notice you too. This leads to more followers of your own.
Engage With Your Local Community
Just because you’re interacting online doesn’t mean you should leave out your local community. Using Instagram for church gives you an opportunity to grow closer as a community both online and off.
Follow local businesses. Interact with their pages and share content your followers and members might find useful. You can even partner with area businesses, such as hosting a fundraiser at a local restaurant or thanking a hardware store for donating supplies to help build a house.
Work With Any Instagrammers In Your Church
If you have anyone under 30 in your church, you probably have some active Instagrammers in your church. Work with them to help build your account.
Ask for advice. Ask them to please share your content and interact with it. You might even be lucky enough to have a micro-influencer in your midst. They can definitely help your church’s Instagram account get noticed.
Any help you can get will benefit your church. Plus, it’ll make those members feel like this is finally something they can do to help that’s in their wheelhouse.
Finally, just stay active. The same advice holds true no matter what social network you’re using. You have to post regularly on Instagram to build a following. The good thing is it’s more about quality than quantity. Posting several images a week is actually enough to stay active.
Just remember to also focus on interacting with others. Respond to comments. Follow new accounts. Interact with posts on other accounts. Spending just an hour a week doing this makes a major difference.
If you’re thinking of using Instagram for church, make sure you have a great church website to link to. Check out our church website services to see how we can help you build your digital presence.