A Guide to Discerning Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and more
We need to meet people where they’re at — not only on their faith journey, but also online. Social media is an important tool for parishes to reach and engage with parishioners. Both older and younger generations are active on social media, visiting daily to receive information and inspiration from friends, family, thought leaders, brands, and communities.
There are many options for organizations to establish a social media presence, but it’s best to focus on the most effective platforms for parish engagement. Each social media network has a unique set of users, features, algorithms, content types, and ad formats that should be evaluated based on your marketing goals and parish community.
It’s tempting to want to be everywhere, but especially if your parish resources are tight, it’s best to focus on managing a few platforms strategically rather than many in a haphazard way. These are the top five social media platforms to consider for your parish based on recent research, audience behavior and profiles, and relevance to parish life.
Why? Year over year, Facebook continues to be the largest global social media platform. It offers diverse content types and ad units. A 2019 Pew Research survey found that 69 percent of adults in the U.S. use Facebook online or on their smartphones — that’s seven in ten adults. When it comes to reaching a broad audience, Facebook is an ideal platform.
Who? Although Facebook is the largest social media platform, it is only seeing growth among older demographics. 68 percent of those ages 50 to 64 and almost 50 percent of those 65 and older say they use Facebook. These demographics tend to make up a significant portion of parish communities, making Facebook a strategic choice.
What? In addition to its large user base, Facebook offers a wide variety of content types to distribute on your parish page, listed below. The platform’s event feature is particularly useful for promoting parish events and programs like fundraisers, festivals, and religious education.
- Live Video
Why? Instagram is the fastest-growing social media platform with 112 million users as of 2020. Instagram is owned by Facebook, so the two platforms integrate well making it easy to post content across both networks simultaneously with minimal friction. It’s particularly popular among younger age groups, a good complement to Facebook’s older users.
Who? According to the 2019 Pew Research survey, 67 percent of 18 to 29 year-olds use Instagram. And within that group, those ages 18 to 24 are significantly more likely than those ages 25 to 29 to use Instagram — 75 percent vs. 57 percent. It’s critical to the future of the Church and your parish community to engage young Catholics on Instagram.
What? Instagram is continually evolving and launching new features and content types , especially related to Instagram Stories, Live Video, and IGTV (Instagram TV). It is an ideal tool for live coverage and in-the-moment sharing to keep followers engaged and informed.
- Live Video
- Stories (Questions, Polls, etc.)
Why? YouTube is the most powerful video platform, a cross between a social media network and search engine. Owned by Google, it is the most popular video platform. As the attention spans of people online become shorter, the value of video becomes greater. Video lets you invite people into your parish community through a visual and audio experience.
Who? YouTube actually surpasses Facebook when it comes to usage among U.S. adults — 73 percent reporting that they use the platform compared to Facebook’s 69 percent. The 2019 Pew Research survey also found that over 90 percent of people in the U.S. ages 18 to 29 use YouTube while only 38 percent of those 65 and older do.
What? Of course, YouTube is ideal for video content. Within that, there are a variety of tactics and features to increase the visibility of your videos in search results and views. You can easily embed YouTube videos on your website to centralize views and increase views.
- Live Video
Why? Twitter is a lower priority social media platform than Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for parishes, but it is still valuable to have a presence. Pew Research reports that its user base has been steady since 2016. The instantaneous nature of tweets and reliance on hashtags makes it highly searchable and easy to curate content.
Who? Just 22 percent of U.S. adults use Twitter, and 44 percent of people ages 18 to 24 use it. Usage only grows less among older generations — only seven percent of those 65 and older use the platform. Globally, Twitter is number 13 based on total monthly active users. Based on this data, it’s clearly not a mandatory platform for parishes.
What? Twitter isn’t as media rich as other social media platforms, but it is a go-to choice when people are looking for immediate updates. This makes it a useful tool for sharing information about events, news, and other relevant parish updates.
- Text Threads
Why? LinkedIn is a business-to-business social media platform, designed to help organizations and professionals stay in the know about their industries and potential job opportunities. Your parish’s presence on LinkedIn should be geared toward recruiting potential staff members or volunteers rather than a parishioner audience.
Who? 27 percent of U.S. adults use LinkedIn. The highest usage is among 25 to 29 year-olds: 44 percent use the platform. LinkedIn is also a helpful tool for your current employees and volunteers, allowing them to add your parish to their own profiles as an employer or volunteer organization to increase visibility among their connections.
What? The content you share on LinkedIn should be focused on highlighting your parish life and community to attract potential employees and volunteers. You can sparingly and selectively share content geared toward parishioners since it showcases your community.
- Job Postings
Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are the three essential social media networks — LinkedIn and Twitter are optional. Snapchat and TikTok are other platforms popular among younger demographics, but are not worth exploring for your parish’s social media presence given the lack of relevance and minimal adult usage.
When it comes to social media management for your parish, start small. Focus on the platforms that give you the most return for your time and investment. Social media platforms are always evolving, so it’s challenging to keep up with the algorithms, features, and content. Yet it’s necessary to have a consistent presence to engage and grow your parish community.