The framework of a Social Media Strategy for Promoting a Christian Event

by Nathan Campbell

I recently put together a social media strategy for a Christian event I’m helping promote. This was to support an existing, broader, communication strategy for the event, so all the work in terms of figuring out what sort of content to post, and when, had already been done. You can’t have a good social media strategy without having a good content/communication strategy, but the stuff below doesn’t really touch on that.

If you’re an expert in these areas and would like to add your two cents as I develop this resource – hit up the comments, or send me an email. I’d love to hear from you. At this stage this is based on my experience, my observation, and my reading of “experts” – but it is by no means complete.

I’ll post pretty much the whole thing here. I can email it to you in a word doc if you like. For context, this is a weekend conference for the yoof of today with multiple talks and a series of electives.


Social Media Strategy for Christian Events

The aim of this strategy is to employ social media platforms to value add to the marketing of a Christian event.

Facebook has more than 750 million active users, the average user has 130 friends and half of these users use the platform daily.[1] Facebook demographic targeting using obvious keywords produces close to 15,600 potential attendees from Queensland.[2]

There are more than 2.5 million Twitter accounts registered in Australia. Twitter receives traffic from more than 1 million unique Australian visitors per month.[3] Popular television shows and major have started harnessing the functionality of Twitter (particularly hashtags) to provide a platform for interaction before, during, and after the fact.[4]

Google+ launched in July 2011 and is growing rapidly. Content focused platforms like YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo and Picasa are further channels worthy of investigation.

A social media strategy is nothing without a content strategy. This social media strategy will look to employ the available platforms with three goals:

  • To support the promotion of the event and associated events.
  • To “value add” the event experience through online channels and interaction.
  • To act as a platform for the target community between events.

Social media is a powerful tool for advertising and marketing, but its real value rests in participation and in the ability to build and foster online relationships.

The fundamental assumption at the heart of this strategy is that social media works best when it is authentic and social. The real strength of social media comes in the form of peer-to-peer recommendations and participation, rather than a one-way channel for information distribution.

Before you get started: Action Items

  1. Get a web domain: As intuitive and appropriate as possible, also as credible as possible, and as short as possible. In that order. Go for a .com, .org, .com.au, .org.au, .net, .net.au – in that order. If you can’t get one of those… change the domain you’re looking for.
  2. Choose a content management system, and set up your homepage with key details. Follow the home page checklist. Make sure contact details are visible. Link to your social networking accounts. Provide answers to who, what, why, when, where questions. And compelling imagery. Aim for no, or minimal, scrolling on your front page and easy/intuitive navigation. Encourage contact/conversation via social media.
  3. Preferably include a blog in your page structure (if your CMS isn’t blog software eg WordPress) – creating new content is important both for search engine optimisation and developing an audience, blogs are perfect for this. They are also shareable.
  4. Integrate your page with social media platforms to make sharing easy. Allow comments via Facebook on posts, have a “like” button, have one-click share options with Twitter, Google +1, and other popular platforms.  This is especially useful in the final page of the booking process, where people can choose to inform their friends that they are attending via Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Check what search terms people use to arrive at the existing page (using Google Analytics or similar).
  6. Do some search engine optimisation – make sure any other accounts you have (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc) point back to your website. Make sure your keywords are good – while search engine ranking is not hugely important for a particular event – it is important that intuitive search terms eg “Christian Convention Queensland” or “speaker name location” or “event name Queensland” land you in the right place.
  7. Get on Facebook: as a page (not a group) – make the page as top level as possible, while still targeting your particular audience for repeat business – ie if you are a college and you are promoting an event – set up an account in the college name) Once you reach fan threshold (25 fans, I think), claim a Facebook “vanity URL” (via http://facebook.com/username)
  8. Get a Twitter account – shorter is better, because the 140 character limit includes usernames.
  9. Appoint “social media ambassadors” – those who have volunteered to help market the event, those involved in organising the event, and long term event attendees with large online networks.

Scope of strategy

This strategy will consider, in detail, the use of social media to promote attending the event, to provide long term benefit through the provision and promotion of resources, and to consider the use of such technology to value add to the experience during the event.

It will particularly focus on the use of the website, email newsletters, Facebook, and Twitter. Other web 2.0 services should be employed in an ancillary fashion, to support and provide content to these main distribution streams.

Content has been developed in the separate marketing strategy document, and this social media strategy is designed to identify the mechanism for distributing this content via these channels. Additional messaging, and special social media offers (discounts, referral schemes etc) may also be considered.

Social Media Ambassadors

Social media is, by definition, social. As such it relies on authentic interpersonal relationships to develop and share content through a broadening network of contacts. Essentially it operates like a pyramid scheme or chain letter, relying on a series of hubs or “connectors” to propagate a message.

Facebook rewards, and ranks, people based on their “connector” status, their “social media capital.” It uses complex algorithms to determine which people (and pages) appear in default news feeds, and rewards those who contribute regularly and generate discussion/likes.

This strategy recommends finding such “connector” individuals and appointing them to authentically promote and recommend the conference to their network of friends, and to actively participate in online discussion of the event.

Referral schemes, or giveaways, where contacts are invited and incentivised to promote the conference to their friends are also an effective mechanism to help a message filter through the network in a “viral” capacity. These essentially create brand ambassadors, though are slightly less authentic (and thus, less preferable) than organic distribution. There’s some sort of fruit and veg/chemical analogy operating here. Natural distribution is better than artificial, but artificial distribution is better than nothing.

Newsletter

The email newsletter should continue in its present form, with content also fed through to the website (in the form of a blog post) and shared in snippets on social media platforms. The newsletter should include links to all conference social media accounts.

Website/Blog

The conference website should function as a primary provider of event information, a repository of content and resources, and the mechanism of registration.  An event blog could be used to complement the email newsletter, and to provide an opportunity for interaction in the lead up to the event (eg a post where attendees can request, or have some input into the choosing of, elective topics). This content should be fed out to social networks as it is developed.

Facebook

Content Strategy

Facebook, by default, uses a magical algorithm to determine what items feature in each user’s “Top News” feed.[5] 95% of Facebook users don’t change from this default view.[6] The default news feed display setting for items added in groups is “sometimes.” Pages act as friends and are subject to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm. This algorithm uses the following categories:

  • affinity: how often an individual interacts with your profile.
  • weight: how many other interactions the post has (comments from other users), the type of update it is (links are better than status updates, photos and videos are good).
  • timeliness: the more recent the post the better it ranks.

A successful social media strategy will take this algorithm into account. It must involve regular updates with heavy interactions from a number of people. Facebook “tagging” allows updates to be linked to the conference page, this should be used by third parties wherever possible to enhance the “affinity” element of the algorithm. Ambassadors and event organisers should engage in conversations wherever possible to add “weight”. Low investment interactions like surveys and requests for quick input, eg “like if you’re coming to X”, should be used to develop affinity with users.

From an event marketing perspective a call to action involving a link to the event booking page should also be used, but in order to keep a mix of post types happening on the Facebook platform this link should occasionally be included in the discussion section rather than the post itself. The primary aim of initial posts should be to foster discussion so traditional marketing goals should take a back seat to promoting interaction.

Before the Event

Page status updates

Page status updates should be regular, but not annoying, and should promote interaction. Ideally these updates should involve a call to action involving a response on Facebook. Ideally, such updates and interactions should continue throughout the year in order to maintain EdgeRank.

Links to external content and reminders of event milestones should, where possible, promote discussion on the thread, eg “check out this link and let us know what you think here,” or “Have you registered for Conference, Registrations are open, let us know what you’re looking forward to and tell your friends.”

Promoting “fan” interaction

Conference organisers should participate in these conversations where possible, but not to the point where it becomes a case of blowing our own trumpet. Organic and authentic interactions are preferable.

Event ambassadors should be appointed to join in discussions on the conference page on a regular basis. These ambassadors should also be encourage to talk about the conference independently, to their own friends, to generate buzz for the event.

Website integration

Facebook “like” buttons and news feeds are relatively easy to incorporate into a website via Facebook’s own code generator (available at http://developers.facebook.com).

It is also possible to provide default text on Facebook’s “share” function on, for example, the booking confirmation page (an example at https://www.qtc.edu.au/event-registration), asking people to “tell their friends” with compelling “social” default text will provide further opportunities for conversations when these news stories appear on Facebook.

The website should encourage visitors to register questions about the event on the Facebook page. These questions should be answered promptly.

Advertising

Facebook advertising, if pursued, should point people to the Facebook page, where they should be encouraged to become fans as a primary call to action on a landing page (see http://www.facebook.com/pepsi for an example). Fans are then part of the network, rather than being directed to the event page for a costly one off interaction.

Multimedia (pictures and videos)

The official event photographer/videographer should seek permission from attendees to post images to Facebook. Attendees and fans should be encouraged to tag themselves, and their friends, in photos when they are uploaded.

Attendees should be encouraged, with discernment and based on consent, to share photos of the event using available third-party platforms (eg Instagram, Flickr), with designated tags etc.

Promotional videos should be uploaded to YouTube, and embedded on the website, with links shared on Facebook. They can also be uploaded directly to Facebook, though this should include a call to action to be shared with friends.

During the event

Printed Collateral

Stir material should encourage attendees to become fans on Facebook and continue conversations online after the weekend.

Check-ins

A Facebook “place” (merged with the conference page) should be set up at the event, where attendees can “check-in,” such check-ins serve the long term strategy of developing “affinity” with Facebook fans.

Conversations

Attendees should be encouraged to share reflections on talks and electives with their friends, and to make comments on the conference page regarding where they’ve been challenged or encouraged.

Multimedia

If possible, pre- and post-talk slides should feature user generated conference content, the iPhone app Instagram offers one such opportunity, as do status updates and tweets using the official hashtag. The aim of these strategies is to produce user-generated content and foster further participation and interaction. The Conference Page (it is possible to operate Facebook in the guise of a page) should comment on, and share, such content to further develop affinity.

Twitter

Twitter is less popular, and more “niche” than Facebook, but it is growing, and increasingly useful in the promotion of, and during, events.

Like Facebook, Twitter can be used for short bursts of interaction with “followers,” but its real strength is that the relational buy in is lower – Twitter does not depend on an existing relationship, or request, in order for conversation to take place.

Promotional Updates

Twitter should be used in parallel with Facebook for providing updates, and directing people to the website with the release of new information (this can be automated so that news updates/blog posts automatically produce a tweet).

Website Integration

See equivalent Facebook paragraph.

Pre Event Support

This strategy recommends employing Twitter as the mechanism by which information requests can be made, in preference to (but not at the exclusion of) email, with an official account to be monitored regularly for such requests.

During the Event

Printed Collateral

The conference brochure should include an official event “hashtag” which should then be monitored to provide highlights pre- and post-session. This tag could also be used during Q&A sessions or panel discussions in electives or during the night program.

Updates

The official Facebook account should provide regular event updates and commentary, and highlights/big ideas from talks and sessions. It can also be used to promote electives. During the event it should retweet highlights from the hashtag stream



[2] Facebook does not allow advertising directly to people based on religious affiliation, but targeting with the parameters: people who live in Queensland between the ages of 18 and 25 inclusive whose profiles mention Jesus, religion, christian, christianity, church or bible produces an audience of 15,600.

[3] Source: http://www.socialmedianews.com.au/social-media-statistics-australia-march-2011/

[4] The hashtag #qanda has been used 108,000 times since its introduction in July 2010, source: http://topsy.com/s?q=qanda&window=a, http://archivist.visitmix.com/81edd69b/1?isNew=False