I love having our church on Instagram. Which in some ways is kind of surprising since I considered it to be fad when I first saw it. I failed to see how it’s ease of use and photo filters would catch on and turn it into a social media juggernaut. It’s become hard to see why any church would not have Instagram as a part of their social media strategy.
For our church, Instagram has had the most rapid growth of all of our social networks. Despite’s it’s limitations in third party apps (i.e. you can’t post from Hootesuite) or the inability to have images link to your website, week after week it’s growing faster than our Facebook and Twitter.
While we’re not perfect on Instagram, we have had some successes that I want to share with you and your church. Below you’ll what works for us, what doesn’t work for us and we what we need to do more of. Hopefully you can learn from our successes and failures and apply them to your church’s Instagram account.
What’s Working for Our Church on Instagram
- Post Early – We’ve learned to post our content between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.. When we post early in the morning, we find that it gives the content the best chance to catch on and be discovered throughout the day. For most of our congregation checking social media is one of the first things they do in the morning. Putting our content on Instagram early in the day helps us become part of that morning routine.
- Keep the “Insta” in Instagram – Our posts perform best when they happen in the moment of Sunday morning. Whether it’s a shot of the choir or a quote from our pastor, if the content happened on Sunday morning and it’s posted on Sunday morning then it will do well. Yes, we still post content that happened after the event, but it can’t compare to the “instant” content that we post on Sunday morning.
- Quotes During the Sermon – I’ve written before on how my pastor is naturally good at social media and for us he makes Instagram quite easy. Mike Glenn (our pastor) is easily one of the most quotable people I know. In a typical sermon we can usually get around 4-5 quotes for Instagram. We’ll pick one quote for that morning and post it, saving others for the rest of the week.
How do we create our quotes on Instagram? There are a lot of different tools, but we rely on either Photoshop CS or Over depending if we’re at our computers or on our phones. For our background photos, we use photos from Unsplash since they’re royalty free and high quality.
- The 48 Hour Window – One thing we’ve found with our Instagram content is that it has about a 48 hour window from the time the worship service ends on Sunday before it loses its punch. This isn’t an exact 48 hours, but we typically know that by the time Tuesday afternoon rolls around most people have forgotten about Sunday’s sermon and are now thinking about what’s next on their social calendar. So in order to play off this 48 hour window we try to load our most powerful content in those first two days. This of course applies to all of our social media and but especially Instagram since it’s meant to be in the moment.
What Our Church Needs to Do More of on Instagram
- Focus on People – We need to connect our Instagram users to our people. For example, our best content on Facebook is always vacation bible school pictures. Why? Well, parents love to see images of their kids. The same goes for Instagram. People want to see their friends online. We need to do more of that.
- Be More in the Moment – As I stated before the key to Instagram is keeping “insta” part of it. This of course includes Sunday morning, but also extends beyond that. It’s about staff meetings, small groups and any other events that are a part of your church’s life. We’re not as good as could be, part of that is we can’t be everywhere at once and the other part is we need to train ourselves to think more in the moment.
What Our Church is Doing Less of on Instagram
- Using the Video Feature – When Instagram first released the ability to upload video I thought it was going to be a game changer. At first the feature got a lot buzz, but that the buzz soon subsided. Why? Well Instagram is designed to “look, like and move on”. Video requires stopping and listening. Even at 15 seconds that is too long for most users. Also most people don’t want everyone around them to hear the video that they’re watching. This has played out for us as well on Instagram. While our image content has performed well, our video content on Instagram never took off. It’s sad because I really wanted it to work, but it’s time to move on.
- Outside Links – While we would love to have people click on links below our content, we understand that most people want to stay in Instagram and not go somewhere else. This doesn’t mean that we don’t provide a clear call to actions for the user, but it does mean that we try to not fill our descriptions with links.
- Pre-produced Ads – Our graphic design team does a solid job of producing content for our bulletin and website, however we’ve learned that this doesn’t translate well on Instagram. If something feels too pre-produced then all the spotenatey that makes Instagram great is lost.
Think about this way. If you’re scrolling through images of gatherings, friends, scenic views and other “in the moment” content then a pre-produced ad promoting a church small group is going to seem a bit out of place. It doesn’t feel natural and the user knows it. Instead of pre-produced ads we’ve focused on creating designs like sermon quotes or just capturing our staff in action.
As I said before, we’re not perfect when it comes to using Instagram, but it has quickly become a favorite for us. If you looking for more info check out this article on Using Instagram for Your Church from ChurchMag or check out these examples of churches on Instagram.
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