Five ways to use social media when you're not in promotions

Too often, institutions behave as if communications is synonymous with promotions. Promotions is one, singular layer of a communications strategy, but it is not an interchangeable word for communication.

As part of that bad definition, many churches and businesses treat their social media as a one-dimensional, broadcast tool. "Give it to the communications or marketing guy. They run our social media."

Take a look at your social media, do all links point back to you? If so, you're doing it wrong.   

It might help you find your center by revisiting the definition of social:

adjective so·cial \′sō-shəl\
: relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other
: liking to be with and talk to people : happy to be with people
: of or relating to people or society in general

Aja Frost, a staff writer for HubSpot, recently broke down some social media inspiration for EVERY team in an organization. It's not a tool just for the "marketing" department - it belongs to everyone. Some examples she shared:

  • Engineering. Share product updates and behind the scenes "how it's made" content. Get "techie" about stuff other "techies" can geek out over.
  • Design. Share design-centric articles, use as a social recruiting tool for other designers and join a larger conversation about design. 
  • PR and customer support. Build relationships with influencers, monitor social conversations around your brand, invite product recommendations and respond to complaints or suggestions promptly. Demonstrate care and honesty with no strings attached. 
  • Sales. Browse social media accounts of your customers and prospects to see what "a day in the life" might look like for them, share testimonials, give special access to events get in touch with what your customers are in touch with. 
  • CEOS. Share random thoughts, cool articles, company updates to build trust and loyalty by showing human side of leadership.

It's worth asking: what does it look like to increase the quality of your "social" by decreasing the volume of your "promotions?"  

  1. Switzerland gives their Twitter account to a different resident every week.
    If you really want to know what matters to a specific audience, give them the mic and see what they talk about.
  2. A third grade teacher asked her students to complete this sentence anonymously: “I wish my teacher knew...”
    Create a feedback mechanism to get honest, vulnerable input about real-life dreams, hurts, desires.
  3. IKEA gave away the chance to win furniture any time someone tagged one of their showroom photos. If they were the 1st to tag it, they won the entire showroom.
    Incentivize participation; make it worth their while.
  4. Online clothing retailer Threadless lets customers vote on the next shirt to be printed.
    Let people be part of a process. Trust me, they want to participate.
  5. Guy Kawasaki let his audience compete to design his next book cover.
    Co-creation activates different talents in your audience you may not even know are there.

If you put your mind to it, what value could you provide beyond your next event promotion, photo of stage lighting or series graphic? Think of different departments and give them permission to find new ways to nurture their niche. Here are just a couple of starter ideas. 

  1. Children's and family ministry. Share articles with parenting tips for sticky situations, dinner table conversation life hacks and funny "things kids say" quotes from the weekend. 

  2. Care & counseling. Recommend books, authors and experts you trust for general advice. Link to support groups for complicated life circumstances; even if those groups are not in your church. 

Take it from here, social butterfly.