Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Best Practices for Social Media In Young Life

We recently received the following email from an Area Director:

"I wanted to reach out and see if you had a good list/plan of social media best practices to engage people well, without it being overbearing. My committee really values seeing stuff on Facebook (primarily) and Instagram, but I will admit that when I was younger social media was easy and now it's stressful and hard."

We asked Young Life's social media expert, Alex Lewis, to help answer the Area Director's question. Below is his response.

Storytelling vs. Selling on Social Media by Alex Lewis

I graduated from Elon University in North Carolina. Like most colleges, Elon had a student center, the Moseley Center, where students could hang out, grab food, and even pick up their mail. The Moseley Center also had several hallways always filled with tables hosted by fraternities, sororities, and various student organizations selling things and trying to raise money.

Whenever I’d walk through Moseley to go to the dining hall or mailroom, I’d get bombarded by students at these tables.

“Hey, can we talk to you real quick?”
“Would you like to buy a ticket?”
“Hey, we’re selling… (you name it).”

I’m not mad at these students. I get it. Student organizations require funds to operate. That’s the same reason I don’t get upset at people or businesses who sell online. Small businesses need business. Unsigned artists need people to listen to their music. It’s part of the game.

However, I did find ways to start avoiding the barrage of tables in Moseley. I found doors that would lead directly to the dining hall and mailroom. If I had to walk through the tables in Moseley, I’d make sure I was wearing headphones or walking with a big group. I was tired of being sold to.

There are also lots of people online who are tired of being sold to, too. Based on a 2016 report from Streaming Observer, over the course of an average life in the United States, people spend roughly four years watching TV commercials. Add all the other ads we’re seeing on top of that — social media, billboards, magazines, etc. — and it’s no wonder we’re tired.

Ultimately, I believe we go to the places where we gain the most value. That’s why I was trying to find a direct path to the dining hall and mailroom. I needed to eat. I needed my mail. It’s also why most of us go to the bank or grocery store — we find necessary services at these places.

I have three things I want to share with you that will help you make your Young Life social media accounts into valuable destinations for kids, parents and potential donors:

You’re not selling. You’re storytelling.

In a world where people spend over four hours a day on their phones, we’re all vying for each other’s attention. That’s why it’s important to ensure you’re looking to add value with your social media content. Value gains attention. Selling doesn’t add value; it acquires value. But you still have specific calls to action you need to make, so what do you do? My answer: tell a good story.

You’re not telling your story. You’re telling kids’ stories.

While our primary audiences in Young Life may change, the meeting point for all of us is kids and a desire for them to experience full life. The Young Life story isn’t worth telling if you’re not sharing how God is working in and through kids’ lives. Telling kids’ stories on social media will not only help you meet your desired result, but it will help your primary audience see that you care about the things they want to hear about. That’ll catch their attention. And once you have your audience’s attention, you’re able to capture their hearts and commitment.

Telling a good story is not only what you say; it’s how you tell it.

There are different ways to tell kids’ stories on each social media platform, and it’s important to use these features to the best of their abilities so that you can get your messages to the right people in the most effective ways.

Below is a list of various ways you can tell your story on social media’s most popular platforms:

Facebook: Video, Photos, Text Updates, Stories, Notes, Ads, Messenger, Events and Fundraisers.

Instagram: Video, Photos, Stories, Ads, Direct Messages and Boomerangs.

Twitter: Video, Photos, Ads, Direct Messages and GIFs.

Snapchat: Stories, Discover Ads, Messaging and Geofilters.

LinkedIn: Articles, Photos, Updates and Messaging.


I also want to provide you with a breakdown of different types of content you can share on these platforms:

Informative: Club flyers, announcements, updates, ministry statistics, and answers to questions.

Entertaining: Memes, funny videos, and pop culture references.

Inspiring: #humansofYL stories, #MondayMotivation messages, and human interest videos.

Engagement: Replying to comments, liking posts, tagging users, responding to direct messages, and commenting on others’ posts.


While our mission in Young Life is to introduce kids to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith, we create these opportunities for deeper offline relationships through valuable online interactions that catch the attention of kids, parents, and potential donors.

If you're looking for a practical example of how to do this well, Hamilton Southeastern Young Life (FacebookInstagram & Twitter) communicates very effectively on their social media channels. They have a great mix of informative, entertaining, inspiring, and engaging content. For example, I’ve seen them use Twitter polls asking students to learn what their students are dealing with. They share encouraging messages with their students and also use their Facebook Page to speak directly to parents.

Much love! 
Alex Lewis

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout-out to Hamilton Southeastern YL, friends!

    ReplyDelete