Can Instagram Really Build Community?

Bryan Haley

Another popular social media platform (and communication tool): Instagram! Can Instagram really build community among your church?

Show Notes

Episode Summary

Instagram is a highly-visual platform, focusing primarily in on video and images. Is it possible to use a tool like Instagram to build community among your church? We talk with Danielle from Churchfluence about Instagram and church community.

Today's Guest

Danielle Davis
Founder of Churchfluence
Website | Instagram

Items mentioned in this episode

Transcript

Jeanette:

We've been talking a lot in recent episodes about building community online. There's one tool we mentioned early on that we haven't talked about much yet, and that's Instagram. Chances are your church is on Instagram. And you're probably thinking Instagram is mostly just for pictures and video. How can we use it to build community? Great question. And today we're talking about what your church can do to build genuine community through a highly visual platform like Instagram.

Bryan:

Hey, church communicator. Welcome to the Church Juice podcast. I'm Bryan Haley, the producer, and I'm joined as always by my co-host Jeannette Yates. And we are here energizing church communications.

Jeanette:

Church Juice it gives you energy. Today we're wrapping up our series around building community online, and we're talking today about Instagram and I am so excited that we have a special guest joining us. My Instagram buddy, Danielle Davis is with us today. She leads the incredible churchfluence or church.fluence. If you're looking for her on Instagram per providing resources and tips for churches to thrive on Instagram.

Bryan:

That's right. Welcome to the show, Danielle, how are you?

Danielle:

I'm good. Thanks so much for having me you guys, so pumped.

Bryan:

Absolutely. Why don't you, because you're kind of new to Jeanette and I too, right? Why don't you introduce yourself?

Danielle:

Yes, of course. Okay. So I'm Danielle. I gave my life to Jesus 12 years ago and I just became totally immersed in everything Jesus, everything church. And I've been married for seven years. I have two dogs. I have our first baby on the way in February, pretty crazy. You know it. But a little bit of my background. I studied graphic communication in college and I started running our church communications team for years. And then after that, I worked for a couple of church marketing companies, kind of all over the US and just really helping churches with their social media one on one and with their websites. Design kind of all of the communications creative stuff. And yeah, so I'm just super passionate about the business side of church stuff, because I think that it's an area that sometimes we don't want to focus on, but it has to get done and it has to get done efficiently for the church to fulfill its mission. So that's why I kind of like got into all of that kind of stuff and that whole world and communications world. Yeah. So that's a little about me.

Jeanette:

So tell us a little bit about churchfluence. And do you say it, is it churchfluence or church.fluence? I want to make sure I'm saying it right.

Danielle:

Yeah. I just say churchfluence. It's kind of like being fluent and or also influence, right. Like being an influence as the church and especially online. So I started it because after working with lots of churches one on one on their social media and I was a social media manager for some, and then I also helped like manage other social media managers. I just noticed there was a lot of challenges with making that system work for each church and really like capturing what the church was trying to say. And the biggest problem was this one thing it was, how do we make our social media authentic when we have, maybe we hired someone to run it, maybe we have a volunteer running it, maybe we hired a company to run it. How do we make it authentic and genuine and actually connect with people?

Danielle:

And then also like, how do we make our systems work internally? And how do we keep things going smooth with all of this stuff, when there's like this lack of knowledge in the church sometimes of like how to use these tools. So there was lots of bumps. So that's why I decided I would partner with churches to really train their teams with them, because I really believe that you don't need a ton of experts to run a church Instagram that gets really good results. And so yeah, I started creating an online course to help churches make their own Instagram experts right inside their church. So that they can have like an internal team that knows how to create content that really ended up having their church's DNA bleeding through and being authentic and being able to actually connect with people. So that's why I started.

Bryan:

So you focus a lot in your ministry on Instagram. So what is something that churches should be doing, but they're not on Instagram?

Danielle:

Yeah. This is a great question. Yes. I'm super focused on Instagram at the moment and okay. No one's going to like me for saying this one. Okay. 100% there's one thing that churches aren't doing, but they should, and it is making reels. I know that's not what anybody wants to hear right now.

Jeanette:

Except for Jeanette. Jeanette really excited for reels.

Danielle:

Except for Jeanette. No one wants to hear this right now, but it's not because they are cool, not because they're trendy, not because they're funny, not because video is like the future, which we already know that. We all know that, it already is. It is the future, but it's because there's some serious power behind them when you commit. And it's because that reels are the only feature that Instagram actually says is for reaching new people. Like Instagram says that. So most churches say they want to reach new people or they want to reach non-believers on Instagram, which is awesome because we want to further the mission of Jesus.

Danielle:

And so I was thinking maybe reels are the answer to prayer because this is the way in the online space to reach new people. And I just want to give one example. I posted a reel, this was all my business account, could have been on a church account, whatever, but it was just a trend where you post yourself like 10 years ago and a picture and then you post yourself like now, and you say something about it. And I wrote my testimony in the caption and it has 25,000 views right now. And I have an account, my business account of a couple thousand followers. And so what are the chances that all 25,000 of those people are believers, there's not very hard chances and also all those people are new. I don't know those people.

Danielle:

So that's just a great example of the power of that. And I think that churches, it's hard for churches to do because it's new, maybe it takes more time when you're not used to, don't feel like doing the funny ones, but there's lots of other ways too. Like that aren't necessarily the funny stuff, like you can do educational reels, you can do ones with quotes and music and scenery in the background, how to, church chores. There's lots of other ways than the funny ones that we love scrolling through over and over.

Bryan:

And I've seen too, I've seen a ton of new Instagram accounts from reels. Right. But we really haven't spent a lot of time talking or maybe not even any time talking about what a reel is. Can you explain that or define a reel real quick?

Danielle:

Yeah, sure. So a reel is a new-ish feature on Instagram, like a little over a year where you can create short videos. You can either do them 30 seconds or now up to 60 seconds. And people... It's basically a play on TikTok. It's like Instagram's version of TikTok. So basically there's lots of trends that people make up and then people just start copying each other and making these little short videos. People just love swiping through them.

Jeanette:

Yeah. And they're really easy to create once you figure it out, like there's a little bit of like, what does this button do and what does that, but once you learn it, it's pretty easy. When you started talking about your post of your testimony. I saw that. I remember seeing that there was the towers, so it was a great post. So I love that. So in our last few episodes here on Church Juice, we've been talking about different ways to capitalize on the tools available to us, Instagram being one of them to build community in the online space. So when you mentioned reels, you talked about like reaching new people and connecting with them, but reaching is just the first part. There's that building community piece. And so let's talk about how churches can use Instagram to actually build community.

Danielle:

Yeah, absolutely. First, I definitely agree. Like we should capitalize on the tools that we have not to mention free tools. Instagram is free and there's so many great, like organic free ways to build community and meet people. And I totally believe in other businesses and industries are utilizing Instagram to further their mission and goals. It's like, why not? Why shouldn't the church? Like let's do it. And it doesn't replace all the in person stuff and the in person community, but it's this extra tool that we can use. And so how can we build community? So first I want everyone to see Instagram as a handshake. I want people to see it and churches to see it like a hello, a nice to see you. I ran into a coffee shop and saw you, let's connect more kind of place.

Danielle:

And so I want to touch on how building community on Instagram works for two different groups of people, new people, and also your current community. And so this is going to be super practical. Okay. So here we go. So building community with your current community, I think a person's interactions influence what they see and don't see on Instagram. So the more that someone interacts with your church account, the more they'll see your account. So the more Instagram sees your church account as friends with people in your current community, the more your posts will show up for them. So Instagram sees your church as friends with other accounts based on who likes, saves, shares, comments, spends time or taps on your profile. These things don't really sound, like we're used to community being like face to face. So I know it sounds kind of like, oh, but people are just like staring at their phones all day looking at garbage.

Danielle:

Yeah. So it's like, let's give them some good things to look at. And actually make real connections while they're there anyways. So I think for churches to make friends on Instagram, their current people who are following them, already current community, it's really important that we're interacting with people first. So we're not waiting for them to interact with our church account. Because I think a lot of times we can be like, and it's great to of course like extend the offer for prayer or some kind of connection, but most likely in just regular marketing and other business accounts, you have to go out first. And I think that's a really good principle in life and in church anyways is taking that first step, being the one to kind of extend your hand first.

Danielle:

And the way you can do this on Instagram is by commenting on people's posts or giving away valuable resources or through DMs. You can make it not awkward by like if you post a story sticker, then you can reply to everyone who responded to your story sticker and start more conversations. So it's all about trying to make conversation actually happen kind of just like your text messages. So that is the first one with your current community building community and then second building community with new people. I think that in order to build community with new people on Instagram, you have to first really focus on serving your current community. It's kind of counterintuitive, but it's because the Instagram algorithm will serve up your content to more people like the people who engage with you already.

Danielle:

So by creating really valuable content to serve people on Instagram for your current community, that will actually help your posts to reach new people.

Bryan:

That's really good thought.

Danielle:

And I know that sometimes it can feel like maybe you're just throwing stuff out there, but I really have noticed lately, people are really looking for resources on Instagram. And so I feel like churches need to become this like resource for people that gives valuable content that helps people, that serves people with every post. And I think when we focus on that value that we add, that's actually when you'll attract more new people. So, that's my answer.

Bryan:

I think you've talked a little bit about this, but I'd love to dig in just a bit further. How do you think a church should approach community when it comes to Instagram?

Danielle:

Yeah. Good question. I think our approach is really important because our approach should actually be, and this is again, it's funny, we're talking about Instagram, but I think our approach should be to build community on Instagram in order to get them off Instagram and inside whatever the next step is. Maybe that's into your local church, maybe that's into your online community. If they don't live locally or into a local church somewhere, that we would have that bigger picture mission mindset in mind because that's the ultimate goal. And I also, again, I'm not even just saying this just because this is churches. If I was going to be doing marketing for just a regular company or business or something, it's like, they have a bigger goal of mine, right? Their goal might be a purchase. Their goal might be that they become of their group, their Facebook group, or I don't know, some other kind of thing or maybe onto their email list.

Danielle:

So we need to have like this bigger goal. And so the approach should be to get people off of Instagram and kind of like what this looks like. I can kind of just give general kind of what it would look like from start to finish would be someone sees your church Instagram, they like what they see within maybe 10 seconds. They follow you maybe based on your bio, your last 12 posts, your profile picture, whatever. Then you serve and add value to them, through your content, which then gets them to know, like, and trust your church, maybe through education, inspiration, through encouragement, they start to build this relationship with you online. Then you invite them off of Instagram, maybe to your own digital space, maybe that's texts, maybe that's text in church, maybe that's emails, maybe that's your website or digital small group or messages online.

Danielle:

And then that relationship eventually could lead to you or someone else meeting them in person or continuing to be a part of your online community. So I just think it's really important to have that approach because Instagram can change any day. It was off that one day for like six hours. What did we all do with ourselves? That's what I would say for the approach.

Jeanette:

I love that whole idea of it's a journey, right? You're not going straight from, I don't know who you are to let's be best friends. It's let's chit chat, let's get to know each other, let's connect for deeper, meaningful relationships. We talk about that in my day job, we talk a lot about building relationships that way. So I love that. As we wrap up today, though, if someone's like, they're sold, they're ready. They're like, "Okay, you got me, I'm ready to do Instagram now. Let's do this." Let's just give them two or three things that they need to know as they decide to add Instagram to their social media strategy.

Danielle:

Yeah, absolutely. I think the number one most important thing to know, maybe if you're just starting out or don't have that much experience on Instagram. There's one thing that you can do that I think will change how you use Instagram, change how you see Instagram and that number one thing to building community is acting as a person on Instagram versus acting as a business on Instagram. I think it's so easy for us to, if you read any business account, like some random business account, whether it's a church or another business, it's easy to just sound like a business, to sound like an organization, to use really professional language and people don't connect with that as much. So when you shift your messaging to acting like a person, acting like yourself, so if you are listening to this and you actually are the social media manager and you're writing the captions and stuff, when you just talk like you, that will be so much more impactful than just trying to sound professional or sound like a business or something like that.

Danielle:

I think that's a big shift for some churches because it's just so easy to try to want to make everything look perfect and look like this perfect business account or whatever, but it's not supposed to be that way. And that actually takes a lot of the pressure off too, to making it perfect. And so I think also when we do that, people will actually respond to your posts better because they will make a connection with your church as a personality, as a person and not just a business page, or put another way you'll be acting as like a brand, these people can get to know versus creating a bulletin board, where people can just find out about what you're doing. So your messaging will then end up, if you just even have that in mind, as you're just preparing whatever you're preparing for your Instagram, your messaging will then be focused more on the why, instead of the what all of the time.

Danielle:

And you'll actually be giving people a reason to engage with you as well and engage with your community, when you take this approach. A couple quick practical things, like I love to give practical things of how you can do this is making sure you serve in every post instead of just invite, instead of just sharing announcements, ask yourself every time you post, how does this post serve somebody? How does this post educate or inspire or add value to somebody? Or sharing stories of how people are impacted because people really respond well and connect to stories. Or lastly, another quick tip is, I kind of said this earlier, but really writing like you talk in options instead of a professional organization. So reading it out loud and being like, "Would I say this? Would I actually say this to people?" So that would be just the one thing and a couple quick tips that I would do if you're just getting started or need a little direction.

Bryan:

That's really great. Thank you for joining us today. And you mentioned earlier, you're giving a free guide. Why don't you just talk real briefly about that and we'll link to it in the show notes.

Danielle:

Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, for more practical tips on how to increase engagement to really build real genuine community, I made for you guys a free guide. So you can download it in the show notes, it's called 13 Easy Ways to Increase Instagram Engagement and Build Real Community. So that free guide will be in the show notes for you.

Bryan:

Thank you so much. Thanks for joining us today. Really appreciate it.

Danielle:

Absolutely.

Jeanette:

Thank you, Danielle. We really appreciate you hopping on here, especially so early in the morning way out in LA.

Danielle:

Yes, of course. So glad. Thanks so much for having me.

Bryan:

Absolutely. And thank you for listening today. As we wrap up this series, we have one more episode that we're going to talk about. We're going to talk about church online and how you can build community from your live stream. So join us for next week's episode, but today we're going to continue this discussion in our Facebook group, you can get a link to that along with our show notes, including the free guide that Danielle just mentioned, when you go to churchjuice.com/podcast

Jeanette:

Church Juice's podcast is a listener-supported production of Reframe Ministries, a family of programs designed to help you see your whole life reframed by God's gospel story. Church Juice is produced by Brian Haley with post-production by audio engineer, Nate Morris in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information about Church Juice, visit churchjuice.com and for more information on ReFrame Ministries and our family of programs, visit reframeministries.org.