If your parish increased their social media presence in response to the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, you may start to see increased engagement in the comments section of your posts.
A question came up in the Encounter Grow Witness online community about what to do with some of these comments, especially on Mass live-streams, and when to delete them. This is a great question because we do want to protect our social media channels from bots and trolls . But, at the same time, we want our parish to feel as welcoming on social media as it would in real life. How do you find the right balance for this type of engagement?
Here are our best tactics for responding to comments on your parish social media channels.
THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO ENGAGE!
Comments on your social media are a great opportunity to engage — both with your most loyal participants and people you might not otherwise come into contact with.
People go to Mass because they are practicing Catholics. But people belong to a parish because of the community. Receiving the Eucharist wasn’t the only thing we lost with the coronavirus shutdown — we also sacrificed physically gathering with our community.
Especially during the public Mass suspension, tuning into a livestream might be a viewer’s main point of contact with their parish community. That’s why some people comment with where they are watching from or simply saying ‘hello.’ It would be a friendly way to welcome them by commenting, “Hello! Thanks for joining us today!” in response.
If you have hospitality ministers at your parish, you could re-deploy them during the shutdown as your “engagement team” on social media, responsible for sharing your parish’s posts and engaging with commenters on them.
At minimum — both during the Mass suspension and beyond — you should be liking every comment or responding with a simple emoji. But the more intentional you can be about engaging with someone one social media, the better.
This digital outreach could be the first point of contact with a potential new parishioner, a welcoming way to connect with a typically unengaged parishioner, or a way to show your appreciation for your most loyal parishioners who show up for your social media content with as much commitment as they attend Sunday Mass.
SOCIAL MEDIA EXPANDS AWARENESS ABOUT YOUR PARISH BEYOND THE CHURCH WALLS
On Facebook and other social media platforms, we have the chance to bring our beautiful churches who would otherwise not set foot into them because they do not attend Mass. Comments like, “beautiful church” or “lovely stained glass,” could be from people who have not visited your parish but are tuning in for the livestream. This is a wonderful moment to encounter someone on their spiritual journey.
The best way to respond to this kind of content is in the most welcoming way. For example, “Thanks for your comment. The church is even more beautiful in person! We hope you join us at [parish name] when public Mass resumes.”
WHAT ABOUT DURING A LIVE-STREAMED MASS?
Of course, we would love for people to be very prayerfully focused on the Mass livestream, but we are doing this on Facebook/YouTube, after all!
If you don’t have someone online to monitor and respond to comments during the livestream or if you would feel more comfortable waiting until after the liturgy, then you can just wait until Mass is over to respond with the commenters.
HOW TO HANDLE INAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS
Unfortunately, in a public forum (like Facebook or YouTube) there is the possibility of negative comments. Luckily, the admin of your parish social media channels should be able to hide or delete them, if necessary.
You don’t want to be too strict with monitoring comments, however. Just as our churches remain unlocked and anyone is welcome in the pews at Mass, we want our social media engagement to reflect the welcoming environment of our parish community offline.
We recommend only hiding comments that are vulgar or toxic — everything else is an opportunity to evangelize.