There are a lot of misconceptions about the “right way” to run your church Instagram.
You might experience this in your church when every person involved in social media has a different opinion on how to do it well.
I want to share with you 5 things you *didn’t know* about running your church Instagram that might surprise you!
I challenge you to bring these 5 points up with your church's social media team and see what they think!
Table of Contents
- Instagram is Not for Advertising Your Church
- You Don’t Need 1000s of Followers to Make an Impact
- Your Goal Shouldn’t Be to Get People ON the App, but OFF the App
- The Algorithm(s) Actually Help Your Church Reach the Right People
- Graphics Could Hurt Your Reach
#1 Instagram is Not for Advertising Your Church
Using your Instagram only to advertise or promote your church will undermine all of your hard work you are putting into Instagram.
Advertising or promoting is selling people on what you offer. For a church, this looks like inviting your followers to event after event after event. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for the shameless invite, but that place is not every single Instagram post you publish.
Most churches are approaching Instagram with the idea that it’s the best place to advertise their church, and their church Instagram becomes like a bulletin or an announcement board.
But Instagram wasn’t created for that purpose and the algorithms don’t work based on who’s advertising themselves the most.
Instagram was created to build connections between people and the goal of all of the algorithms is to put content in front of people that matters most to them based on how they interact with content.
Social media is social. And when you tap into that, the “advertising” part will fall into place.
Changing your approach will have a high impact on your results. Here’s how I want you to shift your approach:
Instead of ADVERTISING on Instagram, I want you to SERVE on Instagram.
Think about your church Instagram as a place to not only tell people about you, but to find out about them.
We need to share content that serves people and adds value to people versus asking people to come join us in whatever we are doing.
The truth is that when you focus your Instagram on serving people, people will begin to know, like and trust you as a church. They will build a greater connection with you and your church, which will ultimately lead you to the results you are looking for to reach more people.
And then when you do invite people to things, it will be a welcomed invitation instead of a sales pitch.
#2 You Don’t Need 1000s of Followers to Make an Impact
Do you think if you have more followers you will get better results?
Don’t believe the lie that vanity metrics (follows) will move the needle forward and get you the results you want. They won’t.
Better results don’t come with more followers, better results come from serving the people in front of you better, which in turn actually attracts more followers.
This is because when the people in front of you engage with your content, the Instagram algorithms will serve your content to more people just like the people who engaged.
So you really don’t need more followers, you need engaged followers.
It is better to have 1000 engaged followers than 10,000 who don’t engage with you or your content.
And this is because Instagram shows your content to others based on the percent of your following that is engaging with your account.
So you need to focus on connecting well with the people who already follow your church, not more likes or follows.
Connect with them. Serve them content that they find interesting, funny, engaging, educational, inspirational, or aspirational. Focus your efforts more on showing up for the people already there for you rooting you on, and you’ll get so much more use out of your church Instagram.
#3 Your Goal Shouldn’t Be to Get People ON the App but OFF the App
Because Instagram can change any day and you are using their platform for free, make sure the main results you are looking for aren’t only ON the app.
Instagram is a great tool to connect with people you would have never connected with and then bring them into your world.
Make sure people have multiple ways to connect with you outside of Instagram on your other online spaces.
The ultimate goal you are looking for isn’t to get more people ON THE APP, it’s to get people OFF THE APP and into your church or into some local church community.
Let’s look at what engagement on and off of Instagram looks like for your church.
Engagement On Instagram Includes:
- Time Spent
- Profile Visits
- Website Taps
Engagement OFF of Instagram Includes:
- Visiting Your Website Page (Visit page, Events Page, Serve Page, Messages Page)
- Subscribe to another platform (Your podcast or Youtube channel)
- Join Your Email List
- Filled out a contact form
- Registered for an event
Think about what ways your church gets people off of Instagram and into your world. Make sure to utilize the link in your bio, the Link Sticker in your Instagram Stories and your captions to encourage people to come connect with you off the app.
#4 The Algorithm(s) Help Your Church Reach the Right People
Since Instagram moved away from a chronological feed, there is a lot of confusion about it. Is it helping businesses and other organizations like churches or hurting them?
The truth is the algorithm itself is not the problem with our Instagram engagement or effectiveness. But when we understand it and learn to work with it, it makes a huge difference.
The algorithm is designed to help people connect with what they care about most. The algorithm will not only help you to reach people but to reach the RIGHT people. Which is what you want.
Here’s the basics of the algorithm according to Instagram:
- Instagram doesn’t have just one algorithm that oversees what people do and don’t see on the app.
- Each part of the app (Feed, Explore & Reels) uses it’s OWN algorithm tailored 100% to how people use it
- A person’s interactions influence what they see and don’t see on Instagram. So the more someone interacts with your church account, the more they’ll see your content.
Now what do the algorithms look for when determining what posts show up for people? Here’s 4 key factors that influence Instagrams’ algorithms:
- Information about the post: When was it posted? Is it a photo or video? How quickly is it getting engagement?
- Information about the creator: How interesting are they to you? Are they your friend? How often do people normally engage with their content?
- A person's activity: Do they watch a lot of videos? What content do they normally engage with?
- A person’s interaction history: Do they typically like or comment on your church’s posts?
Based on this info, the algorithms calculate how likely it is that someone will interact with your post, which is called the “score of interest” and that will determine what posts are displayed in their feed.
The takeaway? If you create content that your community is likely to engage with, your posts will continue to be prioritized in their feeds no matter what new algorithm updates come your way.
#5 Graphics Could Hurt Your Reach
This may come as a surprise but posting lots of graphics on your church feed is not effective for every church.
Church Instagrams can get very graphic heavy with graphics for big events, small events, announcements, quotes and more. These graphics usually have tons of information and text about the event on them.
And here's the thing: if your feed is full of graphics people won't get to really see what your church is like and they won’t feel a connection to your church.
When I go to a feed full of graphics I have no grid for who you are, what you do and what it’ll be like if I come visit. Don’t hide behind lots of graphics, show your church, the people behind your church and let people into the behind the scenes so they can begin to know, like and trust your church.
Take a look at your last 10 posts, how many were graphics? How did the graphics do in comparison to your other posts?
There is a place for graphics, but they need to be used strategically. The other thing with graphics is they either need to be done by a professional or kept super simple, nothing in the middle. Those graphics in the middle just end up being a waste of time.
Keep graphics to about 1 every 5 posts (or less) and don't put all the information on the graphic, put all the details in the caption. If you don’t have a graphic designer or if you are spending too much time on graphics that aren’t getting you results it may be time to experiment using mostly photos, video, and Reels!
Now you know, 5 things most churches don’t know about Instagram. Here’s a recap of what we covered: