When your church decides to go social, your first stop is probably Facebook, but what about Facebook’s other social network – Instagram. That’s right, Facebook actually owns both, so why not promote your church on both?
Using Instagram for your church is fairly easy once you get the hang of how to use the platform. It’s a much more visual network, which is why many churches shy away.
However, don’t let change hold you back from taking full advantage of Instagram. It’s a goldmine for churches and a great way to continue expanding your online reach.
Why Instagram Matters
If you’re already using another network, why bother with Instagram? When it comes to social media, the sheer amount of users is what makes all the major platforms attractive. You also have to look at the user demographics.
Take a look at these current numbers (at the time of writing) to see just how popular Instagram currently is:
- Over 1 billions active accounts monthly
- More than 500 million active users daily
- Over 500 million accounts use Instagram Stories daily
- 80% of all accounts follow at least one business
Some other numbers that make Instagram worth considering include:
- More popular than Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat
- Used by 72% of teens
- 35% of adults online use Instagram
- Used by 71% of adults between 18-24
- 80% of users come from outside the US (ideal if you want to reach a global audience)
The question isn’t so much whether you should use Instagram for your church, but why not at least give it a try?
Obviously, the first step is to set up an Instagram account for your church. This can be done from a desktop or the mobile app. Much of this process is straightforward, such as choosing a username and password. One thing to remember – you can set up an account on your desktop, but you will need the app to post content.
When it comes to naming your church’s Instagram account, don’t try to be too cute or creative. Make the name as close to your church’s name as possible. Yes, it’s possible another church may already have the same name, so you’ll have to add something or phrase it differently. You can add your city to make it more search friendly.
Keywords are always ideal when creating your username and handle. This is how users find your church. Using the name of your church, city and denomination are all great ways to land in more relevant searches.
You can even link your Instagram and Facebook church pages to share content between them. You’ll need a Facebook business page before you can share between them and to setup ads.
Or, you can do each separately to provide a unique experience on each platform. This is best if many of your followers will be using both platforms.
The next steps are adding a picture and bio. The picture is the easiest of the three. Just make sure you use an actual picture of your church. After all, it’s hard to build a relationship with new followers if you’re using a stock photo.
During the setup, you don’t have to start following other accounts. You can skip this until you’re all set up and ready to go.
Make sure you fill out all the contact details, including your church website.
Focus On Your Bio
One of the most important aspects of your church’s Instagram profile is the bio. Think of it as the quick introduction you’d give a new visitor to your church. It’s your chance to make a great first impression and give users a reason to follow your account.
Let your church’s personality shine through. The bio itself isn’t searchable, but it is vital to winning over potential followers. Take the time to craft a great one.
One last thing to add to your bio is an invite to your church. Welcome people to follow your account and to visit your church in person. You can even add service times so it’s easy for anyone to stop by if they’re in the area.
This field is limited, so keep things short and sweet.
The best and worst thing about using Instagram for your church is learning how to master hashtags. Of course, the same goes for Twitter. While videos and photos are the heart and soul of Instagram, hashtags are how people actually find those posts.
With each post you create, you can add up to 30 hashtags. Granted, you don’t have to, but at least add two or three to maximize visibility.
Later and Riotly Social Media have both created in-depth guides to using hashtags. Don’t worry if it seems like a lot at first. It’s easier than you might think. Basically, they’re just keywords preceded by #.
For instance, if we posted something about this guide to Instagram, we might use hashtags like #instagramforchurches, #socialchurch and #instagramchurch.
Master hashtags and you’re halfway to becoming an Instagram expert.
Develop A Posting Strategy
If you’re not posting regularly, it’ll be difficult, if not impossible, to build any followers. Using Instagram for your church means taking the time to develop a clear posting strategy.
Many brands, including churches, post multiple times per day. This doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Obviously, posting something useful 2-4 times each day will help you build a following faster. But, If you only want to post once a day or even every other day, that’s fine too.
The key is to stick to a consistent schedule. This makes followers eager to check out what you’re going to post next.
One thing you might notice if you follow any major influencers or brands on Instagram is they often do certain themes on certain days. For instance, throwback Thursdays are a popular theme for both Instagram and Facebook.
This also allows you to take advantage of popular trending hashtags on theme days. Or, start your own. That’s the beauty of hashtags – you don’t have to just stick with what already exists.
Above all else, don’t just post for the sake of posting. Only post content that’s relevant and useful to your audience. For example, just because a beauty hashtag is trending, doesn’t mean your church has to post something about it. That’s not what your audience is really into.
You should also consider what hashtags you’ll want to use regularly. For instance, you’d tag all sermon-related posts with #sermon. You don’t have to just come up with these. Best-Hashtags lists the top hashtags related to any term you search for, including #church. Having a list in place allows you to copy and paste many of your hashtags, saving you time and maximizing visibility.
Don’t worry if your first strategy doesn’t yield the results you want. It’s not set in stone and you can adjust it as you get more used to using the platform.
Types Of Content To Share
A large part of your posting strategy is figuring out what type of content to post. As you browse through posts, you’ll notice Instagram is a much different animal than Facebook. You can just get by with a quick text post.
Instead, you really have to focus on images and videos. Believe it or not, this opens up a world of engaging possibilities. Of course, this is one of the reasons Instagram has grown so rapidly – it’s a highly engaging platform that caters to visuals.
While it’s completely up to your church to decide what type of content to share, some of the most common types includes:
- Service reminders and invitations
- Event announcements
- Talk about ministries
- Share special accomplishments and milestones
- Share highlights from the week or month
- Ask a question
- Share online giving campaigns and encourage sharing
- Videos of sermon summaries
- Daily or weekly affirmations
- Upcoming and/or current sermon series
- Showcase services in videos or images
- Honor volunteers
- Remind about live streams or new videos on your site
- Offer daily prayers
- Encouragement during difficult times
- Stories from members and followers
- Useful content from other churches and Christian leaders
As you can see, there’s always something great to post. This is why it’s a good idea to create daily or weekly themes to make it a little easier to decide what to post and when.
Creative Content Ideas
Want to get more creative with your content ideas? Not a problem. Use Instagram for your church to showcase your unique personality and dive more in-depth into what your church and your members are all about.
Some creative ideas to consider include:
- Daily quizzes, such as about Bible stories and scripture
- Family-friendly brain teasers and riddles (bonus points if they’re Christian-based)
- A look behind the scenes of your church
- In-depth stories about your staff and members
- An insider look into mission trips and volunteer work
- Original Christian artwork from members and followers (hold contests or ask for a weekly image to share)
Have fun, but don’t lose the original purpose – to inspire and educate others. As long as it’s relevant and gets the message across, be creative. Sometimes, these posts get shared more often than others.
Interact With Others
Instagram is a social network, which means you can’t just share a bunch of posts and expect numerous followers. Instead, you have to interact with others.
During the account setup process, you were asked to find people you knew and follow suggested accounts. A large part of the reason is so you have accounts to interact with. Even though you may have skipped this part, now is the time to start being more social.
If you’ve created a list of hashtags you want to use, search for those hashtags to see who else is using them. You’ll find other churches, Christian leaders and Christian influencers.
If you need some inspiration on who to follow, check out Church.org’s list of top Christian leaders to follow. Bible Reasons also has a list of fun, yet inspirational accounts to follow with plenty of shareworthy content.
Don’t forget to follow your members and share content from them as well. Follow other churches in your area or organizations that share your vision.
Promoting With Ads
Using Instagram for your church takes time to master. This means you might not grow your following as quickly as you’d like. Just like with Facebook, Instagram allows you to use ads to reach your target demographic faster.
You create ads in the same way you do on Facebook. In fact, you use the same ad management platform. You’re able to create ads on desktop and mobile devices, including within the Instagram app.
Run ad campaigns to promote upcoming events, especially charity and online events that may attract more people. Try different types of ads to see which work best for your audience.
Check Out Instagram Churches
While there had to be that one first church to brave Instagram all alone, you’re definitely not alone on there. Churches of all sizes and denominations are using Instagram to grow and reach people worldwide.
Why try to do everything from scratch when you can learn from those who came before you? Just remember, learn, don’t copy!
Pro Church Tools talks about seven innovative churches on Instagram that go beyond the basics. Just checking out these seven will inspire you.
Of course, don’t forget to check out churches you admire, other local churches and megachurches. You’ll uncover different strategies, different audiences and much more. Plus, you’ll even find shareworthy content.
You don’t have to just learn from churches, though. Ministry Tech lists 15 top Instagram accounts to show you how to better interact with your followers.
Measure Results And Revise
Finally, don’t just setup an account and post away without measuring the results. After all, how do you know what is and isn’t working? What types of posts perform the best? What are your most interactive days? Are you gaining, maintaining or losing followers?
Set goals and develop a strategy to reach those goals. If you’re not reaching them, see what’s going wrong and revise your plan. Consistently measuring and adjusting will help you become an Instagram expert.
Don’t forget to get your church website in place before joining social media. See how we can help you develop the perfect church site for your followers to learn more about you.