Social Media Content, Audiences and Platforms

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on February 16, 2016

in blog, Facebook, social media, Twitter

Social media from cutout newspaper headlines pinned to a cork bulletin boardOften when parishes, dioceses, and ministries decide to set-up a Facebook Page or Twitter account or start a blog they give very little thought to the time and effort needed to produce quality content that their constituencies will read. The assumption is that whatever we offer will be well received and will achieve OUR communication goals. What many ministry leaders don’t think about is that followers have THEIR OWN goals and expectations. Readers are free to ignore us, click away and/or stop following if our content is boring, repetitive, self-serving, or useless.

Our messages need to fit our audiences. Our communities and ministries often serve a variety of needs and usually our social media audiences are composed of people with shared as well as unique interests. One of our challenges is to choose messages around the shared interests of followers. We can help people broaden their shared interests through our posts and writings—but always rooted in the shared interests that align with our organization’s mission and/or charism.

Social media allows us to reach out to people who may not be in front of us every day, but may be open to a digital connection, a welcoming word and from time to time an explicit invitation. Don’t miss the opportunity to expand your audience on social media. Here we can be present, pro-active and responsive to people 24/7. We want to delight our followers with posts that lift their spirits, give them new insights, and keep them informed about the people and events that interest them. Try thinking about “delighting” your audiences more often and you will find yourself thinking differently about your posts.

Content needs to fit the distribution channel. We use text on blogs to tell a story, explain a truth or value, share expertise, etc. Facebook and Instagram are primarily visual platforms, so we use well-chosen images and videos with brief descriptions. Twitter allows us to text up to 140 characters which can include a link, an image or a video (up to 30 seconds long). Our message needs to fit the platform.

Our writing, whether it is 140 characters for Twitter, a short Facebook description or 500 words for a blog, needs to be well thought out, addressed to the audience, accurate, clear, concise and interesting. It can also be lighthearted, touching, and inspiring when the topic calls for that.

Ministry social media platforms are for expanding our ministry to the digital world—where we can connect with those who know us as well as with those who want to know us better. Let’s write and post accordingly.

Please add your own thoughts below.

Rita February 16, 2016 at 6:12 am

Your posts are always insightful, Sr. Susan, and thank you for the message about streamlining postings based on how audiences will receive them. It is an important emphasis. The other challenge is selecting which part of the “news” to send out, but mostly, how to motivate others to provide feedback on postings, or, participate in the sharing. You probably experience this on a weekly basis. But keep the faith, and keep posting!

Digna Vela February 16, 2016 at 10:55 am

Susan, thank you for your clear, insightful, and helpful information about using social media effectively in our ministry. I have been thinking about having a Facebook page for Disciples on the Journey, a Lenten lectionary resource for sharing in small groups. I have no idea on how to go about it. Your article helped me to see that I need to be committed to putting in the work it takes to make our Facebook page worth people’s time and that it be helpful, inspiring, informative, and meets their interest and needs. Blessings to you in your ministry!

Peter J. Hager Sr February 16, 2016 at 11:31 am

My Ministry has been with Special Students Age (9 mth. to 88 yrs) A myriad of visual, audio, tactile media to attract and hold their short attention spans. Where can I find and get rights to use the media I need.

David Byers February 16, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Your Ash Wednesday video–the original and updated version combined–reached about 600 people, Susan. That’s among the best responses to any of my posts.

marika February 17, 2016 at 8:30 am

One thing I am wondering about with our social media is if we have too many social media accounts and are diluting our message. A lot of different diocesan departments have their own FB page. In a way I can see it as good since those pages target a particular audience, on the other hand, are we duplicating efforts/could we get a larger audience by combining information in a single page?

Sr. Melannie Svoboda February 17, 2016 at 10:01 am

Dear Susan, I always find your posts informative and encouraging. My favorite line from this one is: “think about delighting your audience more often.” That will help me stay focused with my blog! Thanks again!

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND February 17, 2016 at 10:27 am

Thanks for all your comments. I want to respond to Marika’s concern about too many Facebook Pages. Unless there is considerable overlap between the audiences of these Pages-separate pages are best. Each one is addressing the needs of a specific group. A larger combined number does not necessarily improve reach or engagement–in fact, it may decrease these as followers would be receiving content they are not interested in on a regular basis. They will either stop following altogether or just ignore the posts.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND February 18, 2016 at 4:04 pm

Dear Shrinetower,

Facebook Pages (created from you personal account) do not share. They are separate. You can have multiple Pages associated with your personal account and they are all separate.

Glad that you like the Catholic e-News Daily.

Patricia Spicuzza February 20, 2016 at 2:20 pm

I want to take a moment to suggest into looking into your diocese’s social media guide. I believe most have one now, and you would want to connect to your Church, etc. I agree with Sr. about not merging into large sites that could turn off people more quickly, but I would love to see a network grow. The network could consist of pages to get content and a platform to promote sharing ideas in general. Ultimately, I see that as the abyss of Church communication.