Best Practices Guide to Snapchat for Churches

First of all, what is Snapchat and how popular is it now? Snapchat is a social messaging app used to send videos and photos to a controlled list of friends and followers. In addition, users can now add content to their ‘Story,’ which shows a visual narrative of a person’s day.

Snapchat has an estimated 200 million monthly active users and 100 million daily active users, amounting to approximately 400 million snaps per day. This makes Snapchat the fastest growing social network in its first four years.

Is your church paying attention to this digital phenomenon yet? If not, we don’t blame you. It’s hard enough to keep up with the other technology demands of today:

  • a mobile formatted website
  • a Facebook page w/ daily updates
  • Twitter profiles for your senior pastor and key leadership staff
  • Digital bulletins
  • Podcasts and service live streaming

And then add Snapchat to that list? It can get overwhelming pretty quickly, which is why we decided to put together our…

Best Practices Guide to Snapchat for Churches: 6 pro-tips to help get you started

Tip #1: Gain Consensus from your Leadership Team that Technology is not Evil

While this tip is not specific to Snapchat, your decision to pursue Snapchat for your church may unearth some of these feelings.  Best to address them from the beginning.  Here’s a great interview, recently conducted with Jefferson Bethke, by Religious News Service.  Jonathan Merritt asks Jefferson, “Let’s talk Snapchat, a social media platform you’ve started utilizing. How can short video clips drive spiritual conversations or even ministry.”

Jefferson’s response: Snapchat is one of my favorite mediums right now because of the built-in feature that allows you to tell a story in 24-hour increments. Again, story is what’s connecting and resonating and Snapchat enables that better than the rest. I like to see it as little kindling. Little bursts of clips, tweets, and snaps can’t really hold a fire big enough to give warmth–community, joy, fullness–but they are the best tool to get a fire started these days.

His final line can be your go-to as you wrestle with any internal conflicts over the relationship between technology and faith, “Technology is neutral. Churches should use it, but not abuse it.” 

Tip #2: Get a High-Level Understanding of the Features Before you Start

For those of you who are not currently active Snapchat users, I highly recommend this five-minute video tutorial by Chip Dizard. It’s the best 101-style video I’ve been able to find, covering the basics of Snapchat, including:

  • How to take a picture or capture video
  • How to set your viewing durations
  • How to add text onto your media
  • How to add filters
  • How to selectively send to certain users
  • How to add media to your, “My Story” (you’ll see this feature mentioned multiple times. It’s the one you should be paying the most attention to.)

As you’ll learn, Snapchat isn’t the most intuitive tool, so do yourself a favor and spend 5-minutes with Chip.

Tip #3: Before you Post, Observe and Learn

During our research, three churches consistently came up as leaders in the Snapchat for Churches space. When you set-up your account, search for these three usernames and then follow them.  This will allow you to watch their stories and just generally get a feel for how they do things:

  1. BrentwoodBC
  2. crosspoint_tv
  3. centralonline

Tip #4: Don’t Follow Anyone Besides Your Staff

As you begin setting-up your account and crafting your strategy, follow this pro-tip from Katie Allred, the Web Content Manager for Brentwood Baptist Church, “We don’t follow anyone besides our staff – we have no friends.” This may sound a bit strange at first, we’ve always been taught that friends are a good thing, but following this principle solves two problems:

  1. Removes the potential for hurt feelings
  2. Eliminates the receiving of any questionable snaps

Read more of Katie’s expert advice in her Ultimate Church Snapchat Guide on ChurchMag

Tip #5: Document your learnings

Your first few weeks with any new program or platform will offer incredible learnings. Don’t throw these observations away, instead document them to refer back to later as you craft and perfect your strategy. Darrel Girardier, Digital Strategy Director for Brentwood Baptist, has a great post on his blog, documenting his own learnings during their first week on Snapchat. Here were three key takeaways:

  • You can’t have multiple people logged in at once
  • Success metrics are not intuitive
  • Since Snapchat is so in-the-moment, you need to plan ahead

But your church will have your own learnings.  Make sure the person managing your account is keeping a record of these.

Tip #6: When in Doubt – Listen to Emily

Emily Cummins, a national strategic advisor to churches and nonprofit leaders, was kind enough to allow us to ask her a few questions regarding her experience with Snapchat for churches. As a previous Communications and Branding Director for Central Christian Church, she’s got some serious, real-world wisdom.

Q: What are the best practices when using Snapchat for Churches?

A: Consistency, frequency & a game plan. I discovered with my team that having a consistent plan on snapchat was a HUGE win. If we went into a weekend not knowing what we were planning to do with snapchat, it would quickly become an oversight and not as creative or fun as it could be. When we went into a weekend and/or event(s) knowing how we wanted to utilize snapchat on those particular dates, we could leave that weekend/event with a win! We also discovered that utilizing snapchat consistently and with a regular frequency in the beginning was important to gain a follower base as well as communicate to our followers what they could expect. Once we set an established tone, it was easier to have fun and be creative! Thinking outside-the-box on snapchat is key!

Q: Is it worth the time for churches?  Or is it only churches who meet a certain demographic?

A: I’ve grown up as a pastor’s daughter, and something my Dad instilled in me as a little girl was to,“take Jesus as He is to people as they are.” If the demographic in your church’s area IS on snapchat, not being on snapchat is a huge miss in introducing people in your area to Jesus. If people in your geographic area are NOT on snapchat, find social media channels they ARE on and be the best you can be on those channels.

Q: What results are realistic to expect?

A: I think the best results to start with are results you can track and manage for yourself and your team. What do I mean by that?

  1. Do we have a game plan?
  2. Are we utilizing snapchat consistently & frequently?
  3. Are we thinking outside-the-box?
  4. Are we communicating to our church that we have a snapchat?

Once you can track and manage those items, watching your followers increase will be icing on the cake!

What tips did we miss?  Share your learnings below and we’ll keep this post updated with additional best practices. 

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