Church of the Highlands’s Social Media :: An Interview

katie_parker_700_307_80I met Katie Vogel last year when I started to hear God calling me to vocational ministry. Since day one of knowing Katie I’ve truly admired her wisdom and heart for ministry, as well as her spiritual walk. 

Today I’m so excited to share her words on my website. I had the opportunity to meet with Katie on a beautiful Thursday afternoon at Church of the Highlands Grants Mill campus. In this interview, I was able to ask about her personal experiences with social media, her audience’s experiences, and her hopes for the church’s social media in the future.

What would people be surprised about what you do?

People don’t think that social media is time intensive. Sometimes people ask me how I fit social media into 40 hours/week. There’s a lot more that goes into it than what meets the eye, so I think people would be surprised to see how much work it is to keep up with engagement and to have a strong presence. It takes a lot of intentionality and the person behind the platform being present in order for the church to have a strong presence on social media.

What surprised you most about your job?

I was worried that I would get disconnected from people because [doing social media] you’re staring at a computer screen instead of doing ministry face-to-face, but I find myself burdened for their prayer requests and praying for them personally. I am grateful for not losing the sensitivity to people.

Also, like I said before, the time intensity and how long this job takes was surprising, as well as what can happen when you neglect it for even a day. Things can spiral out of control really fast, so you want to take really good care of your platforms.

How do you see God working through social media at Highlands?

IMG_4728“Sharing” on social media is a huge part of what God’s doing at Church of the Highlands. We have tens of thousands of users sharing stories every month, so the Gospel message being spread is what’s happening on our social media. Also, on the home front, there’s just people being encouraged and faiths being grown and testimonies being shared that spur on people’s faith. You’ll see somebody have a prayer request and another user jump on and say, “I’m standing with you and believing with you for an answer in this.” I think it builds an atmosphere of unity and encouragement.

How has your job helped you grow in your spiritual walk?

It’s challenged me to not be defensive and to remember that the negative people are people. They’re not just trolls, they’ve most likely been hurt by something. The Lord has challenged me to actively love all people, not just the ones that are friendly and who are ministering on the page as well. He’s working on me in that recently. I’ve realized that the negativity is most likely birthed out of a place of pain unless they truly are just there to be a troll. Often times people will lash out of a place of pain. I’ve learned that if I’m just ignoring them and deleting them and not engaging them, I’m not doing my part.

How do you envision this part of your ministry growing and changing in the next few years?

Right now it’s just one person, and I see it becoming more of a team approach. I see us teaching the voice with which we speak and having people be able to post and like and respond more than just me. Who knows what we can do? We’re just really open to whatever the Lord wants to do.

I only get overwhelmed during big events. The rest of the time, I feel like I have enough time to do what I want to do in terms of keeping the socials afloat. I don’t have that much time to think ahead, so I think having another person on our team and being able to divide and conquer would leave more time to brainstorm and to plan ahead for series and things like that. When it comes to ideas, I’m the one that’s thinking and doing, but if I ran an idea by you, you would be able to add to it and make it that much better. I’m hoping the team will grow because we’ll be able to do more.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Staying fresh and having new ideas is the hardest part of my job. I think it’s easy to get yourself in a rut with social media. You find something that works and you just always do that. Finding ways to break the mold and do something new and different is a challenge, but it’s definitely not impossible. When you have a lot to do and you need to keep things going, it’s easy to choose four kinds of posts that really rock and stick with those. That’s where I found myself even a few weeks ago, so I met with creative people all throughout the church. We sat down and said, “the sky is the limit with ideas, let’s just do this” and we were able to come up with some great behind-the-scenes ideas for Periscope and shake everything up a little bit and have more fun.

What is the most rewarding?

What’s awesome about social media “marketing” in the church is that we have the opportunity to encourage people all day long. That is such a rare job and it’s amazing that someone would pay me for this. I get to pray for people and encourage them and make them laugh and inspire them and that is the coolest thing to me. It’s really rewarding to sit down and encourage people who are reaching out, perhaps because they have no other outlet.

How do you receive feedback from your community?

We use Sprout SIMG_4727ocial to receive it. We can see how our posts did through the reports section. I read everything that ever gets posted on our pages and Sprout helps me do that. I love seeing our people respond, and it definitely motivates me to create posts that draw out more response. The people of Highlands love to rally around a good cause, so it’s really fun to be apart of that and see what inspires and moves them.

What common mistakes have you seen in ministry marketing?

I think people still assume that we are living in a billboard world – a world that is receptive to the kind of messages you see on billboards – but the world is looking for a social aspect to all marketing and otherwise they’re turning their brains off. If you’re not adding a social aspect to your social media and you’re just allowing it to be a billboard – a place where you post a graphic and just leave it there – then no one cares and no one wants to engage with you. I think that’s what most church social media is missing. People connect with people. They want Instagram photos to be windows to a world that they can look into and be apart of and interact with. Too often, things become way heavy on the graphics side and it’s not creating a window into any environment or any person’s life. It keeps everyone at surface level and tells the happenings of the church, which you would know if you drove by the building and saw it on the sign outside.

What are your thoughts about Periscope? (i.e. has it been influential for your ministry and, if so, how?)

We are just getting started with Periscope and are realizing more and more that people love behind-the-scenes stuff. Periscope is something you have to be careful with, especially with church, because everything truly is live and anything can happen. It’s important to know the environment in which you are scoping and being aware that anyone could come by and say anything and it’s live and it’s heard. It’s important that you have a good bearing on what’s going on around you. You have your location services on because that’s how you get the most interaction and people in your area are watching, but they might not know Jesus. You’re totally making yourself vulnerable to people that hate God. In that comes the responsibility of being a very on-top-of-it social media manager and blocking people immediately. You have to have that conversation with your leadership and see if it’s a risk you’re willing to take.

I think Periscope is the ultimate social media because it’s livestream. How much more social can you get? If we can find a way to do it well and we aren’t afraid of having to be careful, we can do something with it.

I think it’s more interesting to people on the inside of the organization than on the outside. That’s one of the reasons that the behind-the-scenes aspect works so well; it’s your home team that’s watching. It’s more taking care of your home community than the outside on Periscope. Highlands loves seeing our team livestream and it makes them feel apart of it, which they are. Including them in those moments is a lot of fun.

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Content Strategy Example 3 :: Twitter

twitter

Today we’re continuing the series of content strategies for individual social networks. You can see the previous tips posted for Facebook and Instagram if you’d like.

The third and final one we’ll look at is Twitter.

Like last time, let’s look at who is on this social network and when.

The Who

Photo from Sprout Social
Photo from Sprout Social

Ages

37% of adults 18–29 use Twitter.
25% of adults 30–49 use Twitter.
12% of adults 50–64 use Twitter.
10% of adults 65+ use Twitter.

Gender

24% of adult men use Twitter.
21% of adult women use Twitter.

Education

30% have graduated college.
24% have some college experience.
16% are high school grads or less.

The When

Buffer did a study based on their analysis over 4.8 million tweets across 10,000 profiles and derived some very helpful information, as shown in the graphics below.

Photo from Buffer
Photos from Buffer
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Photo from Buffer

To be efficient in our communication on Twitter, it’s important that we consider when our audience is online. Twitter is very much a real-time platform and information can easily get lost if not posted at the right time.

The Examples

Here I’m going to give you a preview of three examples of good content, taken from social media accounts of ministries I follow!

This is an example from Seeds Coffee Company, a local coffee shop in Birmingham.

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It’s a good example of the use of hashtags, mentions, photos, and essential information. It combines all of these into one post which is great for their audience and great for their engagement. By mentioning the artist, the artist can then retweet this post if he chooses, allowing the post to be seen by all of his followers. By including the hashtag, anyone that searches “Birmingham” will most likely see this post as well. The picture is great because it is more likely to grab the attention of the follower.

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This is another great example by Redstone Church that includes appropriate hashtag use, mentioning, and information. It also includes a call to action (a request for the follower to perform some kind of task. That can be retweeting, answering a question, etc.) which can increase engagement.

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I like this post by (In)courage because it offers encouragement to followers as well as a connection to a blog post that furthers the conversation shortened in this tweet.

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I hope this post has given you some tidbits on how to better your Twitter account! Feel free to leave any comments or questions below.

Sources: Sprout Social, Buffer

Content Strategy Example 2 :: Facebook

facebook

Today we’re continuing the series of content strategies for individual social networks. You can see the previous one posted for Instagram here.

The second one we’ll look at is Facebook.

Like last time, let’s look at who is on this social network and when.

The Who

Social-Demographics-facebook
Photo from Sprout Social

Ages

87% of adults 18–29 use Facebook.
73% of adults 30–49 use Facebook.
63% of adults 50–64 use Facebook.
56% of adults 65+ use Facebook.

Gender

Facebook attracts a majority of women, with 77% of adult females on the site and 66% adult males.

Education

77% of adults who make less than $30,000 use Facebook.
74% of adults who make between $50,000-$74,999 use Facebook.
72% of adults who make over $75,000 use Facebook.
69% of adults who make between $30,000–$49,000 use Facebook.

The When

Below is a graphic that describes the best times of day to post on Facebook depending on the interaction you’re looking for.

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Photo from Quick Social

Below is another graphic which shows the best days on which to post.

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Photo from Quick Social

The Examples

Here I’m going to give you a preview of three examples of good content, taken from social media accounts of ministries I follow!

Video

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This is an example from Church of the Highlands’s Facebook page. Videos are great for engagement on Facebook. When posted, they automatically play on your followers’ newsfeeds and offer a more personal touch to your page whether it’s an invitation to an event or a thank you to volunteers. What I love about this post is that the speaker is being connected to the church where he will be speaking through the pastor. It offers a relationship view to the follower by Pastor Chris introducing the speaker, mentioning his friendship with him, and inviting followers to the event.

Link

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This is an example from Redstone Church’s Facebook page. This post is a good model because it offers a simple instruction and a direct link to the page mentioned. This allows followers easy access to information they may be looking for or possibly a way to information they didn’t know they needed.

Event

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This is an example from S.A.V.E.’s Facebook page. S.A.V.E. is a nonprofit organization created by one of my peers at Samford University. Events are helpful on Facebook because your followers can RSVP, share the event, and comment and ask questions about the event.

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I hope this post has given you some tidbits on how to better your Facebook account! Feel free to leave any comments or questions below.

Sources: Sprout Social, Quick Social

Content Strategy Example 1 :: Instagram

Today we’re starting a series of posts that will focus on good and timely content posted on various social media platforms. Hopefully this series will give you a better idea or new ideas to aid in your creation of content for your ministry’s social media accounts!

instagram

The first one we’ll look at is Instagram.

First, when creating and scheduling content, it’s important to know who’s on that platform and when.

The Who

Social-Demographics-instagram
Photo from Sprout Social

Ages

53% of 18–29 year olds use Instagram.
25% of 30–49 year olds use Instagram.
11% of 50–64 year olds use Instagram.
6% of people 65+ use Instagram.

Gender

29% of online females use Instagram.
22% of online males use Instagram.

Education

31% of Instagram users have some college experience.
24% of Instagram users are college graduates.
23% of Instagram users are high school grads or less.

The When

A study was done in early 2015 by Latergramme to discover when people are engaging most on Instagram. The two following photos give us a picture of their findings.

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Photo from Huffington Post
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Photo from Huffington Post

The Examples

Here I’m going to give you a preview of three examples of good content, taken from social media accounts of ministries I follow!

Advertising for an Event

Sozo Children is a nonprofit ministry here in Birmingham that I enjoy following and learning more about. Below you’ll see a post they put up not long ago advertising for an upcoming missions opportunity.

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This is example is a good one because it provides efficient information, but also an emotional connection through the photo and the description of the trip.

Storytelling

Church of the Highlands, my home church, posts many of this type of post throughout each month. I always really enjoy reading them and I know my church family does, too.

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This example is great because it allows the viewer an inside look of Shelby’s story. With such a large congregation at Highlands, Instagram provides an opportunity for storytelling and the connection of people that we may not see otherwise! As a church family, we are able to celebrate with Shelby even though we don’t know her personally.

Encouragement

Incourage, a company owned by DaySpring, is a blog site for women. I follow this account on Instagram mostly for the encouraging content.

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This post is a good example in its simplicity, but also in its ability to catch the attention of the scroller with the graphic. The caption is short but meaningful and allows the viewer to meditate on the words because of the lack of length. It uplifts and adds a little love to their newsfeed.

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I hope this post has given you some tidbits on how to better your Instagram account! Feel free to leave any comments or questions below.

Sources: Sprout Social, Huffington Post,