Skip Navigation

2012 social media changes expand potential for churches

By Darby Jones

The year 2012 brought several updates to our favorite social networks. They allow for greater personalization and the opportunity to give people a quick sense of who you are as an individual or organization.

Some of them might seem like minor changes, but they have the potential to make a huge impact in your church’s communications and outreach efforts.

The New Year is a great time to bring you up to speed on these changes. If you’re not already using them or did not know they existed, now is the time to get started.

Here, in no particular order, are the biggest social media updates of 2012 and why they’re important to your visibility as a church.

BIGGEST FACEBOOK UPDATES

1) Mobile-only Facebook ads
In June 2012, Facebook launched an important feature for marketers who use sponsored ads. For the first time, they allowed marketers to pay for ads that only appear in the Facebook mobile app (as opposed to the mobile app and desktop app combined). What does this mean for you? It’s a reminder that the audience using mobile versus desktop is growing tremendously and that you can target your mobile audience differently than those who access Facebook on their desktop computers. Related question: Is your church’s website set up to respond to those visiting your site on their mobile phones?

2) Nine more Facebook targeting options
In August, Facebook announced that they were going to allow advertisers to target their audience based on more criteria than before, including age, gender, gender in which the user is interested, relationship status, education, college grad (college name and major), in college (college name, major, years), in high school and workplace. This is all in addition to the options already available, including language and location.

Before this update, everything a Facebook page updated appeared in a user's newsfeed just because of the language and location, even if it didn't really relate to them.

What does this mean for you? You can offer Facebook users (potential visitors) more personalized content that relates to them. Are you planning an event for college students? For young parents? A service opportunity for teens? You now have the option to target and tailor your ads more closely to match Facebook users.

BIGGEST TWITTER UPDATES

3) Twitter cover photos
In September, Twitter announced a change to the layout of its profile pages. Like Facebook, Twitter allows you to upload a cover on your profile page. Why is this important? It provides another opportunity, other than the background, to give followers an idea of who you are. Followers are drawn immediately to the big image that displays behind your user name, location, bio and website. What types of photos will you use to draw your followers and engage?

4) Targeting by interest or username
In September, Twitter expanded paid advertising to have the ability to target by interest or username, whereas before, you could only target with a search term.

When targeting by interest, Twitter looks at who the user is talking about and following and what keywords she or he is using. When targeting by username, Twitter looks at other people who are similar to another username (and not just following them). This update allows you to segment more effectively during your paid advertising to reach a greater number of people whose interests align with those with whom you hope to engage.

BIGGEST FOURSQUARE UPDATE

5) Foursquare ratings system
In November, The year 2012 brought several updates to our favorite social networks. They allow for greater personalization and the opportunity to give people a quick sense of who you are as an individual or organization.

Some of them might seem like minor changes, but they have the potential to make a huge impact in your church’s communications and outreach efforts.

The New Year is a great time to bring you up to speed on these changes. If you’re not already using them or did not know they existed, now is the time to get started.

Here, in no particular order, are the biggest social media updates of 2012 and why they’re important to your visibility as a church.

BIGGEST GOOGLE + UPDATE

6) Hangouts on air
If you haven’t used Google Hangout, this may not make sense, so now’s a good time to test-drive it. In May, Google announced Hangouts on Air to the public to allow people to have hangouts with nine others while broadcasting to an even larger audience. They also allowed you to track how many people are watching at a time, and Google will upload your video to YouTube at the end of the Hangout. What does this mean for you? Maybe you can’t gather people for a conversation at the local coffee shop, but everyone can get together for a conversation online. Maybe it’s a conversation your youth group leader is hosting. Maybe it’s a Q&A with your pastor about a recent message he or she gave. The possibilities abound for others to get a sense of what your church or ministry is about.

Think about the ways you could lead Sunday school or a Membership 101 class online. Maybe you have a big event or conference coming up and you want people who can’t be there in person to be able to follow along. Now you can broadcast to a larger audience. You can even do interviews with guest speakers. Maybe these Google hangouts will end up on your website or content rotation, in place of your pastor’s letter to the congregation. Think outside the proverbial box!

7) Google+ Places becomes Google+ Local
In May, Google+ Places became Google+ Local. When someone searches for a location in Google+ Local, the contact information, reviews and photos of that place appear in the search-engine results page. Google+ Local is also now integrated when someone searches for places on Google Maps. The message here? Be sure to update your Google profiles so the correct information appears when a potential guest tries to visit.

If you're already using Google+, this should make your life easier. If you're not, here's one more reason to do it.

BIGGEST PINTEREST UPDATE

8) Business accounts for brands
In mid-November, Pinterest read our minds and announced business accounts for brands and organizations. Thankfully, the process for setting up a page is simple.

Whether you’re just starting to dabble in Pinterest, are just now hearing about it or have been a longtime user, it may surprise you to know it’s been around for some time. It wasn’t until 2012 that it really started to take off as a marketing and outreach tool. This move to creating business accounts is perhaps a sign of things to come from Pinterest. Perhaps analytics similar to those offered by Facebook will be a feature offered sooner rather than later.

Why is this update so important for churches? It’s yet another way to share the message and culture of your church community with the world. Are you doing something great with your Christian education program? Pin examples of what you’re doing, what your rooms look like and even sample activities to a board. Social media’s not just about showcasing; it’s also about sharing resources.

So there you have it. The biggest social media updates for 2012. What other social media changes from 2012 made your work easier? More fun? What updates would you like to see in 2013?

, a new system they created to recommend places. Using a combination of factors including tips, likes, dislikes, popularity, loyalty, local expertise and check-ins from all over the world, Foursquare doesn’t just ask a user if he or she likes a particular location (your church, for example). When you go to the 'Explore' tab, you can see nearby popular places with scores from 1 to 10