Using Social Media in Your Congregation
These principles guide congregations in their social media use. The platform with the largest and most active Unitarian Universalist (UU) use is Facebook. If your congregation uses other social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram, then you should have a general social media policy that addresses expectations for all the platforms your congregation uses.
Consider the Big Picture
It can seem strategic to create accounts on every social media platform. But with new ones emerging every year (remember when TikTok didn't exist?), and the meteoric rise/fall of platforms (like Snapchat or Vine), this can very quickly become a social media management nightmare.
Before your congregation's social media manager creates an account on every platform, it is helpful to answer these questions:
- What is the mission of our congregation and how will that mission be furthered by use of this platform?
- What kinds of conversations do we want to have and what kinds of information do we want to share?
- What are the larger goals of our social media use?
If you have answered these questions, congratulations! You have a social media policy in the making.
On the lighter end, your social media presence should aim to:
People like to know what to expect when looking for a potential church home. For that reason, visitors and potential new members will more than likely search for your online presence before they visit.
Other tips to keep in mind:
- You never know what platform will be a person's first point of contact with not just your congregation, but Unitarian Universalism as a whole. Make sure there is cross-platform similarity. (For example, if you have a congregational logo, make sure it is the icon for your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) When you update information on one platform, check the others for uniformity.
- Showcase what makes you special! People want to know is what their congregation is doing in the community and how they are building relationships with community partners.
- The top inquiries to the UUA from folks interested in checking out a congregation are "Where can I find a UU congregation near me?" and "What time do services start?" Across platforms, add your specific location, phone/email address, and service start time.
Provide Consistent Updates
Keep your social media presence updated by posting content on a regular basis. That can be once a day, once a week, or somewhere in between. Whatever you decide on, stick with it for a time and track what works. It can take a long time to gain followers and engagement. Running social media is an iterative process—what worked last year might not this year, and you never know what will make a splash!
Hopefully, people will look forward to reading your blog, listening to your podcast, or otherwise engaging with your congregation online. But if your content dries up without explanation, newcomers may be confused and regular listeners or readers may be disappointed and stop checking for updates. By keeping updates consistent, you create loyalty and reliability.
A great way to stay consistent is to create an editorial calendar. If you plan your content out even on a monthly basis, you will never run dry!
Engage the Congregation
Certainly there are passionate people in your congregation who post on social media on a variety of topics. Encourage attendees to like congregational pages and accounts, and provide positive feedback via a like, an upvote, etc. when they do. (On Twitter, an effective strategy would be following back any members who like your page, and re-tweeting those people when appropriate.)
Other tips to keep in mind:
- Share administrative access to the congregation’s social media tools among relevant leaders and staff within the congregation. More than one person should have full administrative access to the congregation’s social media accounts. You never want to be in the middle of a social media emergency and not have access to an administrative account!
- Announce the establishment of a new Facebook page, Twitter feed, or other congregational social media endeavor. Good venues for such an announcement may include an email to the congregation, a story in the congregation’s newsletter, and a post on your other social media accounts.
Consider Safety and Confidentiality
With the openness and afforded anonymity of the Internet, digital spaces can become hostile very quickly. We strongly encourage congregations to adopt community guidelines and content moderation policies. Both are a good way to clarify what kinds of comments and feedback are allowed on official channels for those who create content, and those who comment.
An easy way to create policies for content creators and people who comment is to look to your specific congregation's covenant, and create a new one centered on digital space engagement.
Keeping with our covenant to one another and ourselves, the UUA’s Facebook page policy is:
UUA Page Community Guidelines
- Amplify, listen to, and center marginalized people.
- Practice active listening when a topic centers an identity you don't hold.
- No gaslighting or tone policing.
- Absolutely no trans antagonism, heterosexism, racism, sexism, misogyny, transmisogyny, ableism, classism, fat-shaming or any other dehumanization of others based on identity.
- If you would like to share a personal narrative in the comments, consider adding a “Content Warning” for items such as abuse, violence, etc.
- Repeat violations of these guidelines will result in a ban from the group at the discretion of the moderation team."
The Safe Congregations program provides additional guidelines on digital safety, which include information on how to honor boundaries and protect your most vulnerable, especially children and young adults.
How do these suggestions fit with your congregation’s experience? Are there other issues that should be considered as part of a congregation’s new media policy? Join the UU Social Media Lab on Facebook to discuss them.