Grow your church by finding influencers who share your mission and passion

Social media isn’t a mystery. It’s something that requires some thought and can produce great church growth. | by Brian Boyd

What is an “influencer” for your church? Your church has stories to share. Every church does. And these stories provide a vital link with influencers. Yours may be stories about your church or its outreach. No matter what you’re trying to share, your stories will resonate far better with people who are aligned with your thoughts, beliefs, and interests. And if these people have large, engaged followings, they are considered “influencers.”

Not long ago, I flew to California to meet with a major international organization in the fitness industry. I spoke with one of the executives who told me they had no problem reaching their own followers, but they needed more people to hear about them. The key challenge was reaching new eyeballs by connecting with influencers.

This organization is not alone. The number one challenge most people want to talk about when they’re building their social media is how to connect with influencers and reach new eyeballs. It is likely your church faces this challenge as well.

The good news is, there are a number of ways to engage with influencers.

Search.twitter.com is a great simple tool for finding Twitter users that are aligned and have interests similar to yours and those of your church.  Some are better than others, but every platform offers a pathway to find influencers.

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AI strategist and online expert Michael Wu wrote, “This topic is so deep and important that people start companies (e.g., Klout) just to find the influencers.” Wu makes a good point though I believe there are two relatively easy steps churches can take to find and engage with influencers: Look inside your own community and engage with bloggers.

Look Inside Your Community

Many churches forget that their members, the people who attend and also the staff that works for them, are the first place to look for influencers. These are people who already believe in you, believe in the church and the mission, and have a vested interest in its success.

Undoubtedly, they are already talking about where they worship or work and the things they are involved in. This makes them the perfect first place to look for influencers.

Look at the corporate sector for an example. We had the opportunity to set up a retail company’s initial public-facing social media sites for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. The company had hundreds of employees, fertile ground for finding influencers—or so we thought. After launching the pages, we were surprised to find that only a handful of employees had even “liked” the pages. It was amazing to us that the vast majority did not engage on the company’s social media sites. All possible conclusions we drew from this were troubling:

  • They didn’t like their company,
  • They didn’t understand how their engagement could help their company succeed (or how this was good for them), or
  • Their management and supervisory team had failed to sell them on engaging with the company on its social media pages.
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Imagine you were a for-profit company with 500 employees and each of them liked your pages and shared one article each week. Noodle on the math of this and think of how many people your pages could reach. If each of your employees has 200 friends on Facebook and each shares one article a week on Facebook, that article would reach 100,000 potential eyeballs. This is very exciting.

If an organization is a nonprofit in the business of disaster relief, imagine the incredible potential for reaching new and existing donors if each employee shared a success story of how the organization fed an entire village, helped a family build a home, or provided medical care to children. The potential is limitless.

One of the richest sources for influencers is your very own staff and leadership. Without exception, every person I have engaged with was simply not doing this. They had overlooked the mass of potential for influencers within their own organization.

Make sure your employees and leadership know the power of what they do on social media, the potential benefits to the company (and themselves) for engaging with the company social media sites, and encourage them to be influencers for you. In our company and in every church or organization we help, we insist that they include “engagement with the company social media pages” in every job description. It is an expectation for every staff or leadership position. You would be wise to do this as well.

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Engage with Bloggers

Hopefully, you are doing a great job talking to your existing audience through social media, your e-mail lists, your Facebook friends, and your Twitter followers, but undoubtedly you want to reach new eyeballs. This whole exercise—engaging with bloggers—is about finding new eyeballs, people who are aligned with your beliefs and business but do not know about you. To engage with even one blogger with thousands of followers is a huge deal.

Step 1—Find Them

Use blogger directories and the major search engines to find bloggers who write on topics that are aligned with those of your organization. Pull a list of the top twenty or fifty such bloggers. If your church has a ministry to the homeless and you find an influential blogger who writes about the homeless in your community, what do you do first?

Step 2—Interact with Them

Start following them. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Retweet them. Repost their content. Share their Facebook posts. Show that you are interested in their content. Over time, they will take notice of you or your church.

Step 3—Reach Out to Them

Reach out to the influencers to let them know about your church and that you share in the same concerns. Keep in mind that influential bloggers get tons of requests, even hundreds a day, from those who wish to leverage their influence to build their brands. Simply e-mailing them a hello is not going to do the job. You must approach them with something to offer. One of the best things you can offer is quality content. Let them know you would love to guest blog for them or have them guest blog for you. Such a guest blog tradeoff is huge, and can present a major opportunity for your brand to reach a new audience.

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