It’s Social Media Q&A Time

Social-Media-Workshop-2015-Small-10Our College of Congregational Development had their annual evangelism workshop on the weekend. This year’s topic was social media.

The attendees had too many questions for a 27-hour workshop,  so we’re gradually answering them here. Some answers will be written by us (or you?), and some will be from existing great sources that we’ve found to share. As with all social media tips and tricks, it’s different for each person, purpose and audience so pick and choose which bits help you.

If you have written a post or want to tackle a topic, please email Bianca at We’d love to post your answer on this blog, or link to your own.

Discounted Products for Nonprofits

A list of marketing tools

Design Tools

Canva – also has free and cheap good stock images

Corporate relationships – can we telegraph who we work with?
How lame do you look if you either:
– don’t have an account
– don’t update it
– insert yourself where you don’t belong
Twitter and Instagram – relate to Facebook
Facebook Administrator – How to

Organize Twitter – social listening

Filtering by Keyword with Hootsuite

Tutorial: facebook navigation

Image permissions/copyright

Blogger Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Photos You Don’t Own on Your Blog – replace blog with social media, website, all platforms.

Copyright Cleared Images

Be careful using creative commons images via Google or Flickr. The person uploading them may have lied.

Wikimedia – great for current affairs

Blogs – still relevant?
Who can post?
What to put where? Multiple platforms
Best practice recommendations
Resources for absolute beginners
Broadcast versus communication – techniques that encourage communication
How to partner with other congregations
Cross-over opportunities – links, cross-posting
Best Practices Policies for Church Page
How to balance communication with older folks
Ultra-conservative political folks who are parishioners – how to handle?
– they speak for church… gatekeeping
Complexity of recording and posting sermons – audio of choir: copyright issues
How to encourage comments, not likes?
Platforms: primary functions/strengths
Particular platforms for particular purposes – or demographics
How can churches use instagram and pinterest?
Who’s in charge of oversight?
Who’s responsible for maintaining?
– with multiple cooks in the kitchen, how do you communicate group identity?
How to ID and reach group that would join if we communicate with them?

Movies in Church

copyrightwarningHow many times has this happened to you (sounds like the opening of a bad infomercial?) You have a youth group meeting and you are going to show a DVD movie to the group. You purchased the movie yourself, or someone else has loaned you their copy. No admission or entrance fee is being charged. No problem, everything is above board.

Actually there is a problem.  According to the law, this is considered a public showing of a copyrighted film. As such, it is subject to the Federal Copyright of 1976 which stipulates that violations can result in substantial fines.  How much? Even inadvertent infringement is subject to substantial civil damages, ranging from $750 to $30,000 for each work. In our current litigious society, do you really want to take that chance?

Fortunately, there are resources and options that can alleviate this concern.  Just like the licenses for music and print, which I have talked about earlier, there are licenses you can obtain for video.  CCLI offers church video licensing which will allow you to legally show movies for such things as sermons, Sunday school, classes and special events.  Other resources are:

Copyright Guidelines for Churches from Episcopal Church Foundation
Motion Picture Licensing Association
Church Publishing – Showing Movies in Church

Let’s see you at the movies, not see you in court!

Photo: Wikimedia

Communicating your mission to a younger audience

A few people asked  for my slides from the Stewardship conference. My slides tend to be a little too minimalist to make sense in isolation, so a blog post is a better format.

The Millennial Mindset

Instead of a page of links, here’s the first part of the presentation in a post over on my other site, Tap Dancing Spiders. It’s a little more coherent than my verbal presentation, and incorporates some of the feedback from you.

Communications Tools

My top three as most effective are:
Your congregation or ministry’s website
A personal invitation – phone or  in-person
Email – make sure it’s personalized.

Then we hit social media.

The Pew Research Center has some good research for a generalized view of who uses each platform. Just remember that they are an academic center so their research has limitations. They can’t survey anyone under 18, so Tumblr is under-represented. They also use phone surveys, which limits and distorts the results. Do you answer calls from unknown numbers? I know I don’t.

As an extra, I love this post on how to manage the platforms.

Learning Resources

We have a diocesan facebook group and invite you to join and/or share the link. It’s a closed group, so you can ask those niggling questions. No one person knows everything about communications and social media, but together we can come close.

Thanks again to everyone who came along and for the comments and feedback after. It was great meeting everyone. If you have any questions, please email me or if you’re more Twitter-inclined my handle is @BiancaJSmith.


Apologies for not getting this out on Saturday evening, as promised. A couple of gremlins decided I shouldn’t have access to the blog. All fixed now, as you can see.

New Event Promotion Submission Tool

There are many event promotion opportunities for the multitude of events run throughout the diocese.

How to Submit Event Promotion Requests

Here, in the Communications office, things can get a little messy. We don’t mean for it to happen. Like you, we’re busy. To make things easier for you (and us), we’ve started streamlining a few processes.

The first of these is the events listing on We’re moving to a self-service platform, but until then we have a form. Event promotion requests will only be accepted via the form. This is so it’s all formatted and sized correctly ready for the website and any applicable emails. We have limited space to fit everyone’s events in.

You’ll notice a few fields on the form have strict word limits. Yes, they are strict. These are enforced as the number of characters, so you may be able to squeeze an extra word in – if they’re all short. This change is really just applying the previous 1-2 sentences short rule. We discovered that some people define this a little creatively. Our “favorite” submission had four sentences, each with about 25 words. The event listings are just a teaser to get people to click through to your website. They don’t need all the details; just enough to entice people to click.

Following on from that, we have asked for a few details that aren’t for publication. It’s because there may be other promotion campaigns going on. If we have all the details, then it saves you having to send it later.

High-quality photos work well in event promotions. Smartphone photos can be great. You don’t need a complex, expensive DSLR. Make sure it’s a clear, in-focus photo with lots of light. The bigger, the better. We can crop it to size, but we can’t make a small photo big, and have it still look good. Chances are the photo will be a big file so put it on a Flickr page or in a Dropbox account and send us the share link to that specific photo.

When to Submit Event Promotion Requests?

It should be on your website as early as possible, but we don’t need to see it any more than a month before the event. That’s the same time you can push it more on your congregation emails and bulletins.

The Summary Check List

There is a lot of information in this post, so here’s the summary.

1. Add your event to your website
2. Four weeks before the event, complete the event submission form.
3. Use a short, enticing event summary description.
4. Complete all details – we can do anything with partial information.
5. Photos are optional, but they’re effective.

If you have any questions, please email

It’s Nice to be Validated

Since I first started here, I have talked to hundreds of people representing numerous churches.  Invariably, one of their questions is “how do we attract new people?”  There is obviously no magic bullet that will make it happen, but I tell them to keep their website current, be real and authentic about who you are, don’t talk in “church-ese” and make a safe place for people to experience worship.

Lo and behold, here is a blog post which pretty much echos what I have been saying.  Thank you Rachel Held Evans for the validation!

Holy Week Debrief – A Rant and a Rave

Holy Week, one of the busiest and most emotionally draining times of the church year has just completed and we have entered into the Easter season.  Before it gets too far out of our thoughts, I would like to offer a critique of how this week was offered online.

If you have been reading any of my blog postings or attended any of my workshops, you will know that I am a firm believer that digital media (websites, social media, email ) is the way that society is moving toward communicating, especially with the under 45 demographic.   Therefore, important events should be easy to find and prominent on your website and/or social media sites.  While a number of churches in the diocese did have their Holy Week schedule on their website, for many of them it was not prominent or easy to find.

People who are looking for service times or information on events expect it to be a simple and easy task.  Having to navigate a menu to find this, or open a document once the information is found may not seem like a big deal to existing members of a church, but these are extra steps that newcomers and visitors find distracting, frustrating and unfriendly.  Since you only have a few seconds once someone comes to your site to get their attention and give them the information they are seeking, it’s imperative to make it as smooth and painless as possible.

There are some churches in the diocese that did a great job of showing their Holy Week information in an easy and inviting way.  Here are some samples that can be used as ideas for next year’s Holy Week.

Good Shepherd, Vancouver has a carousel on their site which makes displaying this information easy to do.


Redeemer, Kenmore used video to help promote their Holy Week services


St. Hugh in Allyn simply put the information on the homepage. Nothing fancy, but it served the purpose of getting the information out there to visitors and seekers


Finally St. Paul in Bellingham put in a separate block underneath their welcome message for their Holy Week offerings.


These are just a few of the ideas that can be used to promote the important events in the life of your faith community.  Remember it doesn’t have to be fancy or artistic, but it makes a huge difference in being a welcoming place for visitors and newcomers.

Using Photos of Children

One of the most common questions that I am asked when I do workshops on website design and social media is “What about photos of children, what are the guidelines?”  I will talk about needing permissions, how to (or not) identify them and then go on to the broader topic of photos of people in general.  I was about to write something on this, but one of my Episcopal Communicator compadres at the Diocese of Newark, Nina Nicholson, has written a very good piece on this subject on her blog “Geeks for God“.  It has good, practical tips and even includes verbiage for crafting a release form!  Do check it out.  Thanks, Nina!