The following is a true story.
I always knew what needed to be done to grow our Instagram account - I just never wanted to do it. It felt uncomfortable but I knew it would yield the best results. We had a youth group of about 30. That was great for us. Of course that meant that we had around 70+ students that we contacted regularly and sought to be in relationship with.
Our instagram struggled. We probably had 50-60 following us.
So, I put students in charge of our instagram account. A strategy I had learned from a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Director. We literally gave a select few our username and password. Of course, our instagram grew but only by about 10 or so.
It wasn't what I knew needed to be done. But it was helpful.
Next, we hosted an instagram competition. Tag us and use our hashtag and be entered to win our photo of the week - a weekly instagram contest where the winner wins a $5 gift card to Five Below.
Again, we grew, but not like I knew we needed.
BOTH of those strategies were great but they weren't the one I knew had to be done.
Finally, I accepted my fate. I searched instagram by tags and places using our local schools as keywords and then I followed random teenagers in our area's high schools and middle schools. Instagram will also show you "top posts" according to those tags and "most recent" posts. I followed the people who commented and liked those posts too. I did this for a couple of weeks. The end result was an increase in our instagram account of about 200 local students. We weren't the biggest youth ministry in our area but we had one of the biggest instagram accounts.
The fruit? Students would see pictures of their friends on our instagram account and would actually ask their friends to bring them to our youth group. We had multiple students come to our youth group because they found out about us on instagram and these same students stayed. They were hungry for a youth ministry and this was how they found one. It was a simple way to increase our reach, increase our exposure, make it easier for students to invite their friends to youth, and increase our youth attendance by 20-30%.
- Download and use apps that help manage your followers.
- Be social. Social media is for social engagement. Be personal and be social. Engage, comment, write back. Like student photos.
- Don't just use your social media account to advertise future events. Use them to show off past events. No one wants to see their instagram feed turned into ads but they do want to see what people have actually done.
- Use photos more than you use graphics. People and faces draw are social and interesting. They draw our attention. People want to know what happens at your youth group - so show them.
- Post devotions. Instagram is a great way to share the Word of God and many students take the time to read and be encouraged.
- Use giveaways and photo contests to increase engagement
A word of caution:
Don't use social media as a band-aid for your youth ministry. If your weekly numbers are down or decreasing and your students are becoming less and less committed, there might be deeper issues at play. No matter what you do to get students to come - it won't be as valuable as getting students to keep coming back.