"Feed My Sheep..." Not Count Them - Growing a Following as a Catholic Ministry
It’s the most frequent question I get as a Catholic marketer: “How can I get more followers?”
Spoiler alert: I think that's the wrong question to be asking, but we'll get there. For now, let's address the question at hand - how do you grow a following on social media?
Growing a Following Takes Work
Let me start off with this: Unless you are a public figure or have a built-in following already from some other platform, there is no easy way to grow a following. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
Growing a large following takes a lot of work. It’s going to be a slow and steady process, and that’s a good thing.
In fact, a giant jump in followers (without an obvious explanation, such a post that went viral) can actually be bad. Because here’s the thing: Not all followers are of equal value. Having followers who aren’t in your target audience only make it harder for your posts to be seen by those who are.
Why is that? Well, the more followers you have, the more you have to work for a successful engagement rate. While a successful engagement rate will vary from industry to industry, you generally want at least 1-3%.
(Not sure how to calculate your engagement rate? Click here. Suffice it to say though, if you're disappointed by the number of likes, comments, and shares you have, you probably have a low engagement rate. )
So what we want to strive for is a growth in followers in your target audience. And in some cases, that may be a really small number, like literally one new follower a week, and that’s okay.
Plus, the number of followers that are a lot for your ministry may be smaller than others if your niche is specialized. For example, a regular marketer will have way more followers than I am as a Catholic marketer. But those who are interested in just traditional marketing probably aren’t going to care about or be edified by my specialization, and so frankly, I don’t want them as followers.
So we want to focus on meaningful increase, not a particular number.
Okay, so how do we create meaningful increase?
Ways to Grow Your Following
You don't just have to sit around and wait for people to find you on social media! Growing a following takes proactive, continuous work.
Here's a few practical suggestions:
Use all of the real estate you have to share your social media links. It should be everywhere that people may find you online and in print.
Utilize hashtags on Instagram, but make sure you aren't wasting your time with hashtags that no one will search on, like #CatholicPotteryMadeWithLove. Keep them specific, but short, and be sure to do hashtag research.
Know where your target audience hangs out on social media, and spend time there! Comment on influencers who they would engage with, and if you are targeting other organizations, be sure to follow them and become a cheerleader on their social accounts. (But for the most part, don't follow individuals unless you know them, especially if their accounts are private.)
I have more tips in this Instagram reel! ⬇️
The #1 Way to Grow Followers for Your Catholic Ministry
If you only do one thing to grow a following on social media for your Catholic ministry, this is it: have really good content.
Social media is redundant. 95% of it is just noise. It's meant to be viewed and discarded almost immediately.
So you want to stand out? Create incredible content.
That requires being
If you don’t want to be those things, you will not grow a large following, and it may be time to reconsider social media as a part of your marketing plan.
You don't want to create content that people "like" with their thumbs, but don't actually like with their souls. Our goal should be to create content that sets hearts ablaze and gets them thinking long after they've scrolled past. If you can do that, the followers will come.
You don't want to create content that people "like" with their thumbs, but don't actually like with their souls.
So how can you create good content? Here's a few do's and don'ts:
Use the same stock photo that everyone else is. (Cough, cough, that picture of the praying hands over the Bible that literally EVERYONE uses...)
Settle for what’s “easy” to say or what you think people want to hear. Challenge your audience to think deeply.
Aspire to create viral content for the sake of going viral. Share what God has put on your heart and He will make sure that those who need to see it, do.
Try to be perfect. The more polished your post is, the less authentic it probably is. This doesn’t mean don’t put effort into your posts, rather that your effort should be more on the message you want to share and less on creating a Pinterest-worthy feed.
Share the messy, relatable parts of your life. Creating beauty doesn’t have to be beautiful, it just has to spark beauty in another.
Offer advice that goes beyond the basics. People can tell when you’re just trying to sell something versus when you are actually offering something of value.
Speak from the heart. Share what sets your soul ablaze. Tell people about Christ through your posts.
If You "Like" It, Put a Ring On It
Let’s talk engagement. No, not the kind that Beyonce is referring to, but rather the social media kind.
Your followers mean nothing if they aren’t actually engaging with you.
Scenario: Would you rather have 10,000 followers, three of whom actually buy your product or service, or 100 followers, fifty of whom actually buy from you?
I’m going to guess you’d rather the 100.
Think of unengaged followers like Catholics in name only. They “say” they follow you, but they don’t actually know anything about you. They certainly won’t be your brand advocates. And chances are, they probably don’t even see your posts.
Unengaged followers are like Catholics in name only.
So let’s talk engagement:
What is engagement? Engagement is any way in which someone interacts with your comment besides simply seeing it (which is usually referred to as reach). So we’re talking likes, comments, shares, saves, etc.
Why is engagement important? Engagement is important because it a) shows if your content was effective and b) the more engagement your post gets, the more people it gets shown to. More engagement = more reach, which hopefully = more engagement.
How do you calculate your engagement rate? Your engagement rate is calculated by the total number of interactions on your content (either a single post or over a period of time) divided the number of followers you have, multiplied by 100.
And why is all of this important? Because an engaged follower is waymore likely to buy your product or service or support your ministry. They switch from passive to active, and you have an “in” to sell to them or get them to take whatever action you are hoping they will.
So at the end of the day, the question really shouldn’t be, how do I grow my following, but rather, how can I grow my engagement?
What This Means for Catholic Marketers
As Catholic marketers, we can fall into the trap of believing they are “our” followers. But they’re not. They’re God’s, who He is just lending to us.
But what if our following is small? Doesn't matter. That is the flock God gave you, and you are called to serve them eagerly.
My youth ministers in high school used to tell the story that at one time, they only had 1 teen who would attend weekly. Each week, the 6 youth ministers would show up just to minister to that 1 teen. They knew that they were called to minister to whomever God gave them, even if it was just 1 person.
Jesus didn’t start out as an influencer, He quite literally had only 12 followers. And if he only had a few followers, why are we so obsessed with how many we have?
I get it - the more followers we have, the more people we can evangelize to, and yes, even get as clients to fund our ministries and feed our families. There’s nothing at all wrong with that - that’s a laudable and noble goal. And I firmly believe that God has given us digital marketing as a way to evangelize, and we should absolutely use it to the fullest!
It’s when we want more followers to make ourselves feel worthy that we cross into dangerous territory.
I challenge you to take some time and check your motivation behind wanting more followers. Is it for God’s glory? Or is it for your own? Then, put to use the techniques we discussed this week, but make sure you also pray for your future followers, that God will lead to your ministry those He has intended for your flock.
So are you feeding the sheep that God has given you? Or are you too busy counting them?
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