If doing intentional social media outreach is new to you it is helpful to have a plan. Quicker than you imagine it will become second nature, and just that thing you do whenever you do an event. To build that healthy habit it is pretty much required you work on it intentionally at first. You can download a worksheet to help you out with this, but first let’s walk through the basics.
First, get your facts straight
It may feel like it goes without saying, but start with a clear when and where of the event. What time will it start and stop and where will it happen. Is the location easy to find? Thanks to Google Maps you no longer need to be on a busy road for people to find you. However, search both the address and the name of the location and make sure it comes up correctly. If you need to give people any special instructions about parking, bathrooms, or more than typical walking required note that.
Second, keep it short
Having a very short attention grabbing description for your event is helpful for both your social media and print advertising. People generally skip paragraphs of text when presented with them in newsletters and bulletins. So, coming up with a 90-140 character or less description is critical to getting noticed. That may feel very short, because it is, but it is also possible. Start by getting right to the point and preferably with something provocative. Questions work good for this. If you are offering a study on personal finance you may start with a question about if folks argue about money. For example:
Ever argue about $? Join us for 4 weeks and learn to see money and happiness differently. (89 characters)
You can have a longer description with additional details for sure. But even there think sentences not paragraphs. The short description will be important for any ads you may run and for your Facebook/Instagram posts.
Third, make it contagious
Building curiosity and excitement is the name of the game. There are some standard ways to do it that are laid out well in Jonah Berger’s book Contagious. Here is very quick overview:
Social Currency. We attend/share things that help build up our personal identities. We like to associate with things that demonstrate our values to others.
Triggers. Tying things to ideas, products, or events that people are likely to encounter in their daily life will help them recall what you are doing. For example, from the personal finance study, something like this:
In the era of Amazon.com may of us add to cart daily.
Emotion. If you can make them feel something in response to what you are doing they are much more likely to get curious and excited. People often use anger or pity for this purpose, especially for mission and justice related things. Happier emotions are also effective and should be explored. Warning: it is easy to take this too far, so be careful.
Public. Make it clear this is a public thing and you want it shared. Even if it isn’t used by many people, attaching a hashtag to something signals it is intended to be public.
Practical Value. Tell people something they don’t know and/or help them understand why participating will enhance their life.
Stories. Real stories about people who have participated in the past, people who will be blessed by what you are doing, or behind the scenes looks at the preparations for the event all make great stories to share.
You won’t hit each of these categories for each event so don’t try. But you should be able to craft a strategy that touches on three or four of them.
Fourth, build a schedule and supporting materials
A month or more before you event sit down and build the schedule for your social media and start working on your posts. It is adventitious to leverage Facebook’s scheduled post feature and just do as many as you can long before the event happens so they happen automatically. As the event gets closer your time will likely be taking up in preparing for the actual thing you are doing and you’ll be so grateful you did. A basic schedule should have the following parts:
Create a Facebook event. Not just a post, but an actual Facebook event that way you will show up in the various community calendars that pull from this list and Facebooks new “Local” app. Do this 1-3 months ahead.
You’ll want a weekly post about the event for 4-6 weeks prior. Keep them “contagious”. It is best to spend an hour or two to Canva.com and just bang them out and schedule them to post when you want.
The week of give some behind the scenes of what is happening to prepare. These should be more candid and less produced.
The day of post what is happening as it happens. It won’t do anything for bringing new people to that event but creates excitement for the next one and reinforces for those who are there that they are somewhere special.
Critically, after it is all over post something celebrating the event happened and thanking people who attended. This is often overlooked but so very important. People want to feel appreciated and noticed. These are also typically more candid posts intended to make people feel good about what they did.
You likely won’t do all these things every time you have an event. Some events are too small to warrant this much work or you simply don’t have the bandwidth to do it. I would invite you to once a quarter though to pull out all the stops for a public event and see what happens. People still need the good news the church offers and the caring community we all strive to be. It is up to us to go where they are and invite them to be part of what God is doing through us.
What next? Download the worksheet and get started!