Instagram has become the place to be for social sharing of images and videos for individuals, businesses, and organizations like churches. With nearly a billion users, it also seems to be the place for fun. Instagram users enjoy following their social circles and catching up on the news of the day with this app. The consistent flood of unique, user-created content and new features fuel Instagram communities and keep users coming back for more. Case in point, at the close of 2017 new features were introduced that allow users to follow hashtags on Instagram and archive Stories and create Story Highlights. What will they think of next?

Keep It Simple

In our fast-paced digital world, Instagram’s bite-sized posts keep messages short and simple, which and time-crunched followers happy. Clever and catchy hashtags connect bigger audiences and inspire viral posting too. The 25 million businesses now using Instagram have also been capitalizing on this unique social media market. So what does this have to do with churches? And how can pastors, church communicators, staff, and members join the fun on Instagram with the 500 million users online each day?

Here are 10 practical ways your church can start using Instagram now:


1) Event Announcements and Invites

This image-centric platform is perfect for eye-catching photo and video announcements that get users and followers excited about church events. Instagram makes it easy to create a buzz, connect, and get followers engaged in the fun before it even starts. Because Instagram doesn’t link urls in posts, you’ll want to create a graphic that has the 5 W’s – Who/What/When/Where/Why. Creating specially branded hashtags for events that will be included in all posts before, during, and after the event can also generate a buzz surrounding your event. And include more general hashtags (#church, #fun, etc.) that describe the event for increased exposure. Hashtags still reign supreme on Instagram.

 

2) Service Reminders, Invitations, and Updates

Reminders are appreciated and often needed in our busy lives. Churches can schedule weekly Instagram posts that share service dates and times, special holiday schedules, closures, and information about guest preachers or speakers as gentle reminders. Followers appreciate weekly updates that keep them organized, up to date, and focused on enjoyable weekend activities.

 

3) Share Daily/Weekly Affirmations 

Daily and weekly inspirational messages keep followers engaged and encouraged. People love inspiring quotes, Bible verses, poems, song lyrics, and videos. Choose messages that are expressive of your church community, from pastors or other leaders, or from upcoming services or events. These posts have wide appeal, can easily be shared and go viral, and become great exposure for your church. Followers will often become accustomed to reading these and begin looking for them on a regular basis.  

 

4) Share Stories From Your Church Community

Pictures coupled with short and snappy captions can share important stories and news about your church quickly. A series of posts can be planned to roll out a story incrementally and keep followers engaged over an extended periods time too. The Instagram Stories feature also enables churches to pull together images and videos from previous posts into a featured gallery that tells a bigger story in the life of the church. Stories can now be archived and highlighted as well. This content lives in your Instagram account and gives followers more ways to learn about your church.

 

5) Highlight Ministries, Programs, and Milestones 

How many groups and ministries and does your church have? People want to know. Capture images and videos of special moments in the life and work of your church groups and share them. Posts about church anniversaries, youth groups, choirs, volunteer opportunities, and other church activities keep church members and followers up to date and reflect who your church is through its actions. Use Instagram’s new Highlight feature to pull together previously posted Stories and feature them in your profile to draw even more attention to your work.

 

6) Reflect on the Year, Season, Month, or Week at Your Church

Create a rhythm of reflection within your church community through reflective posts. These help members stay current or catch up on what’s been happening at your church this week, month, and year. Recapping important events or news becomes valuable content that can easily be pre-planned, scheduled, and added to a communications calendar. It’s really about repurposing the content that’s already been created: reshare, repost, reflect. Instagram Stories and Highlights are perfect features to help with this.

 

7) Start a Discussion

Instagram is not just for posting, it’s also for conversation. Posting and asking followers to share their thoughts is a great way to get to know your audience. Take some time to respond to people who are posting. Discussion posts might become something church communicators or pastors build into a weekly or month communication plan. Questions about current events, news, or church happenings can often get the conversation started. Make sure these discussions are monitored and followers can see that churches are responsive and willingly interacting with them.

 

8) Celebrate 

Whatever the occasion, celebrate it on Instagram with photos or videos. Holidays, baptisms, birthdays, anniversaries, completed projects, remodels, or fundraising drives are all exciting happenings at your church and provide great content that can be easily shared on Instagram. Celebrations can be added to the church communications calendar and planned for in advance. Think of celebrating as part of the event follow up as well. Celebrate your church’s accomplishments and share these to raise awareness of what’s happening in and around your church community.

 

9) Go Behind the Scenes 

Bonus images and videos from behind the scenes of church events, fundraisers, services, celebrations, and trips gives viewers a more personal look at the life and people of your church. Everyone loves to feel like they are seeing ‘the real work’ that happens behind the scenes. This could be a once a month or seasonal post that follows a particular event, program, or ministry at your church. These images and videos could also become Stories or Highlights.

 

10) Create a Call-to-Action

Inspire and engage your followers to take action in important church-wide programs, campaigns, events, or to participate in a fun challenge or contest at church. Ask followers to post images and videos of their progress along the way. And remember to include those hashtags.

 

Link Websites and Instagram

Linking followers to your church website from your Instagram account is crucial. To do this, insert your church’s website URL into the ‘Profile’ section of your church’s Instagram account. Instagram only allows one URL to be included in each account profile. Then, when posting images or videos, use your caption to direct followers to your profile to find your website URL. Also, make sure to include a link to your Instagram account on your church’s website to cross-promote your Instagram feed.

If your church is going to start using Instagram, go ‘all in’ and commit to learning and using all of its tricks and tools. With its popularity booming and new features being added regularly, this is one fun app that might survive the test of time.

Here are a few other valuable articles on Instagram to boost your social communication:

The Influence of Instagram [Infographic]

139 Helpful Facts About Instagram [Infographic]

5 Traits That Differentiate Instagram From Other Social Networks