What’s up, Get Social readers? It’s Marchaé again.
You want to know how to reach teens on social media? I’ve got a treat for you. Some teens who want to answer your question.
Take it away, Isabella, and Mariah! (And thanks for hanging with me for your senior project this week at the UCC office!)
Churches spend a lot of time wondering how to reach out to younger people, but they never really just ask us. We’re Mariah and Isabella, and we’re seniors in high school. It’s true; we spend a lot of time on social media, and as a result, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and ugly when it comes to companies trying to attract our generation. We’d like to offer some tips and tricks to churches—the do’s and don’ts for grabbing and keeping our attention.
1. Be something you’re not.
It’s often extremely transparent when adults attempt to be cool and trendy. Do not try to be something you’re not. You don’t have to try too hard to impress us; a more genuine approach will yield the best results. Be natural and clearly communicate your church’s message instead of trying to fit in. We are not looking for the church to be our friend on social media—we’re looking for the church to be the church.
2. Make assumptions about young people.
There are a plethora of misconceptions about teenagers. Adults often assume that we are ignorant, self-centered, and narrow-minded. In reality, many of us are eager to expand our worldviews. It is important to keep an open mind when you’re attempting to attract a younger audience. Maintaining misconceptions prevents you from understanding your audience, and it prevents your audience from receiving your message.
3. Beat around the bush.
It is okay to come right out and say what you mean. Teenagers will appreciate a direct approach instead of something sugarcoated. Although we’re not adults, we’re young adults. Many times, churches try to talk to us as if we’re still children. But we’re old enough to have our own understanding of the world and have intelligent conversations. If you’re direct, we can take it. And will respect it.
It is imperative to not force your beliefs on teenagers, even if you’re talking about religion. We appreciate when things are open for discussion and information isn’t given to us as a lecture. Be open to questions and concerns we have about faith. This is a time for us to form what our faith is.
1. Be relevant.
Because of the Internet and social media, teenagers are usually aware of a broad range of topics such as the latest viral video and world politics. Don’t be afraid to reference these events! Sharing your opinion and relating these topics to your own church’s beliefs are great ways to show people what you’re all about. Talking about hot button issues is an almost guaranteed way to grab people’s attention.
2. Know your audience.
What type of person is your church trying to attract? It is important to cater your online posts to the audience you wish to appeal to. Try to avoid overused cultural references just to relate to us. If we got a dollar every time an adult said the name “Justin Bieber” we would have enough money to entirely pay our college tuition. You need to understand how teenagers think and what they want from a church.
3. Give incentives.
People like free stuff and everyone responds to incentives. For example, at our high school, fundraiser participants were automatically entered into a raffle. This principle can extend to church as well. Setting up rewards for the 50th, 100th, or even 1,000th follower on your Twitter page is a surefire way to get us excited and interested in your content.
4. Reach out.
Once you’ve attracted a teen audience, it is important to engage us. Create avenues for open discussion between you and youth. Using a feature such as Twitter polls is an easy and quick way to get teens thinking and give us a voice. People, especially teenagers, like knowing that their opinion matters and that their voice is being heard.
All teenagers are different; however, these general rules will most definitely help appeal to the vast majority of them. Being aware of what we want and appealing to that will satisfy both the church and its desire to get more young people involved.