Building and marketing a social media presence can be a challenge for any organization. It requires a disciplined and structured approach leveraging the spiritual uniqueness of the organization. As Pope Francis says, “Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world.”
ShrineTower has put together a 8 step guide for creating spiritual social media program. This guide uses a hands on consulting business model in helping others market their religious ideals to maximize benefits.
Step 1: Discovery: Listening to the Heartbeat
Start by listening to the organizations heartbeat and analyze the current social media platforms and websites. The Discovery phase determines the spiritual landscape, the overall mission and the leaderships vision.
Since there are many types of religious organizations, each with a unique culture, program offerings and worship practices, the social media strategy, to be effective needs to build upon tradition. It doesn’t reinvent the spiritual practices, it magnifies what is already present. In some cases this tradition spans hundreds of years or even centuries. For example, a contemplative monastery has different goals than a parish or a religious shrine. Discovering the prominent saints, their lives and how they relate back to the organization is a key strategy. Understanding the significance of events in the liturgical calendar year specific to the organization will also determine content.
A prime influence in the discovery phase is the type of religious rite the organization is affiliated. For example, Eastern rites, Latin rites and Orthodox Christian, each have their own culture and goals for using social media. The specific religious order and academic affiliations will give the necessary background for the social media engagement.
Jesus I Trust in You, from Daylesford Abbey campus, Paoli PA.
If at all possible, meet the representatives of the organization you are planning to help in person. Although Skype, Facetime and phone calls are good follow-up forms of communications, they are not optimal for initiating a project. A professional consulting services approach is a relationship business and requires front time.
Also important is to tour the church, monastery or chapel facilities. Ask for permission to take photos. Participating in the liturgical services is effective way to get indoctrinated in the culture, practices and beliefs.
Next, create a Discovery deliverable, typically a letter or email correspondence where you playback what you heard. This highlights the strategic direction, existing strengths and reasons for using social media. Several reasons to expand into social media are to communicate events, inspire the community and grow a following. In the current age, the entire world is active in social media, both young and seniors alike, so being relevant and communicating where people are congregating is prime reason people want to build a social media presence.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia.
Most client organizations ask about costs during the Discovery period. To benefit all parties, define the scope of effort and deliverables before discussing costs or fees.
By sharing the Discovery document, which is usually a brief synopsis, you will get feedback, gain consensus and show an understanding of the spiritual climate, culture and vision. After the scope is defined during Discovery, a brief one page proposal can be created.
Step 2: Craft a Proposal
St. Teresa of Avila by Francisco Goya 1792
Once the discovery letter is agreed upon, steps to conduct a social media consulting engagement begin; by sharing the deliverables, timetable and addressing any fees or costs. If you classify your effort more as ministry than a business, the fees become inconsequential. Rewards are not always monetary, they can be spiritual.
At this point determine if a social media campaign is in order. A social media campaign is a 90 day takeover of the proposed social media platforms including all content creation, obtaining a following and growing the presence. It’s an effective way to gain traction in this space quickly.
What is in scope and what is out of scope should be highlighted. The proposal builds off the Discovery and provides a deliverable based outline. Once the proposal is issued, the client you are helping needs time to decide on proceeding with the campaign. Stay in touch and be patient, God’s at work here.
With approval to proceed, assuming this is the outcome, share the financial arrangements if agreed, so the transition is smooth and professional.
Step 3: Information Request
St. John of the Cross, Carmelite Monastery, Philadelphia PA
Gathering resource materials quickly will jump start the content creation process. Request core prayers, cultural information; religious rite history, poems (especially by religious), background of the religious order. Also gather media; video, commemorative books, digital photos, yearly calendar of key events; programs, artifacts and saint feast days. All will be instrumental in creating spiritual content.
From this information request, you will understand core beliefs, ideals and saintly influences. As mentioned, attend a liturgical service or a spiritual program to get fully indoctrinated into the culture. Use a quality dSLR camera to document stained glass windows, church icons and sacred spaces. In todays social media, photos and graphics play an important role in spreading the message.
Step 4: Platform Build
The workhorse of spiritual social media is Twitter, an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called “tweets”. Twitter is trending away from personal conversations to more content sharing and links sharing. More than twenty Roman Catholic cardinals have active Twitter accounts and can be easily accessed.
in building the platforms consider the integration with existing or planned media. The chart below can be used to explain the build components.
Social Media Platform Integration Chart by @ShrineTower.
Some of the integrations are built into the platforms, like Facebook to Twitter, and WordPress to Twitter; both requiring a simple checked box to activate. Others require a manual effort. In either case, cross platform integration of a single post is becoming the norm.
The video distribution landscape is changing and now integrates across all platforms; from video snippets on Instagram (10-15 seconds), to embedded code on websites, to uploads on Facebook, to video tweets on Twitter. the landscape is always changing, consider the new periscope video now available.
The handle naming nomenclature of each social media platform is important in branding the organization to the digital world. This requires client buy in, since the handle name is usually short and yet the abbreviation needs to be recognizable.
Step 5: Spiritual Content Creation
St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order, St. Basil the Great, Kimberton, PA
Creating content can be a positive spiritual experience. Many churches, monasteries and spiritual centers abound with icons, statues and stained glass windows that tell a story that can be photographed and used in social media as inspirations for content. A good practice is to relate a post content back to the religious organizations ideals.
In addition to interior photos, some of the surrounding grounds can make good backdrop photos, either as standalone photos used with Twitter text or background photos overlaid with text. Pablo is a god tool for this.
To create a social media campaign of multiple themed posts requires discipline and structure. Here are two planning steps in the process:
A concentrated social media effort .
The research from the information request and photos captured from a tour are combined to create posts. Naturally, photos from google searches can be obtained but for a true spiritual post, the immediate Church property and surrounding grounds are important.
Typically, a post created with Twitter is released real time. A post created in a scheduling tool, like Buffer, Hootesuite or ManageFlitter, can be released real time or have a future release day and time.
Several types of posts are:
- The popular photo with prayer tweet. This is used extensively in spiritual social media.
- The scripture quote tweet
- The religious painting tweet
- Slideshare presentation tweet
- The Pablo (image design tool) tweet with text
- Retweet (suggestion is to used sparingly at first)
- The directed tweet. This uses the @handle to get their attention.And the list goes on as more creative posts using the latest technology are applied.
Several advanced social media techniques are:
Hashtag. A word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic. Searching for that hashtag will then present each message that has been tagged with it. Several popular hashtags are: #Catholic, #Prayer and #PopeFrancis.
List. A list is a curated group of twitter users. As a clients followers grow, lists become the better way to view tweet streams. There are other creative ways to use lists, like “Cardinals on Twitter”.
Themes – Themes provide a guide to creating social media content so that the message is reinforced with regularity and structure. For example, a saint dedication, like John the Baptist, on a specific day of the week, or a group of posts like the Prophets over a period of time. A common theme is Feast days where the posts are matched to the saint on a particular date.
Theme example: Dormition of Mary. August 15 Feast Day, Eastern Catholic Orthodox
Theme: “Mother of God” from Holy Trinity Chapel, Jenkintown, PA
Fortunately, there are safeguards designed to suppress annoying users:
Mute – When you mute a user, their tweets and retweets become invisible to you. The muted user can still interact with your tweets, ie they can favorite, reply, or retweet your content, but those actions won’t appear in your Twitter timeline. A muted user can follow you, it’s just like you’ve turned the volume down on their voice.
Block – Another safety feature is to block an annoying Twitter user. In this case an account will be unable to follow you or add you to their Twitter lists, and you will not receive a notification if they mention you in a Tweet.
Report – This files a report that someone is Tweeting abusive messages.
Posts can include icon photos from the Church/Chapel, prayers, saint photos and quotes, poems, sacred art and scripture. The approach is to grow followers with trust and respect, also called growing a following organically.
One strategy, especially those wishing to share their posts only, is to limit retweets of another users content. Having minimal dialogue with the public respects the religious nature of some organizations. Therefore, the “newsy” type posts are not used, adhering to beliefs in contemplative or monastic religious orders.
Step 6: Mining for Followers
A method to triple or quadruple a “following” on Twitter uses the “copy followers” technique. You locate a user who has followers you would like to engage with and invite these followers, either manually or with an automated tool like ManageFlitter. Adjustments are required to keep followers and following relevant, but this does work.
Gaining approval and staying positively engaged can be done with the Favorite button on Twitter and the Like button on Facebook. Positive sentiments are conducive to meeting people by sharing approval. Many use the favorite button to gain supporters and followers, often called gaining followers organically. This good natured method of mutual admiration resonates well with many people.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
Connecting with an influencer can be rewarding. Influencers such as @BishopBarron, @JamesMartinSJ, @DianavonGlahn and @MatthewFKelly have followers in the thousands and even millions.
Jesus helping Apostle Peter out of water with followers looking on.
Step 7 Growth Analytics
Analytics are available from the social media platform or third party tools. The Twitter analytics shows platform growth, engagement rate by tweet, top tweets and trends. Other analytic tools are Facebook Insights, SumAll and most of the scheduling tools like Buffer, Hootesuite and ManageFlitter.
See 4 Tools for a Spiritual Social Media Campaign.
Step 8: The Hand-Off – A Users Guide
Leaving the Our Father with the disciples. James Tissot, The Lords Prayer, Brooklyn Museum.
A Users Guide to Social Media is intended for a person or group of persons with little or no knowledge of social media. There are opportunities to recruit volunteers to assist in these type of infrastructure endeavors. What better way to get a congregation to act for a common cause than with social media in their own parish or Church. The Users Guide allows anyone, including volunteers, to become proficient at using social media for the greater glory of God.
“The principal mission of the Church is evangelization, bringing the good news to everyone” – Pope Francis.
Social media continues to enlighten and inspire others to get closer to God, and to increase the publics knowledge of activities to reach that end. High quality social media content raise awareness in the Christian community locally, regionally and worldwide.
Approach spiritual social media with a vengeance, all the while sharing the joy, kindness and goodness brought by each post.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” Galatians 5:22