Twitter

Twitter is the third most popular social media platform and it is often the first place news stories appear online. People also use Twitter to hold global conversations, make friends and build support for campaigns. Yet Twitter is one of the most difficult social platforms for churches to maintain.

Tweets fly so fast and furiously that on average they have a lifespan of around 10 minutes. So how do churches use Twitter effectively?

If you want to keep up a Twitter profile, you will need to sustain a steady flow of tweets. This may seem overwhelming, but your congregation is potentially already producing enough content to be used.

Choosing a username

When choosing your Twitter username (also known as your handle), you are limited to 15 characters. It should be something relevant, unique and easy to remember. Usernames are preceded by the @ symbol (@ChurchScotland). If you are planning on setting up an Instagram account as well, you will want to check that the username is available on both platforms.

Your display name (note: different from username) can be up to 50 characters and therefore you should be able to include your church's full name.

Following people

Twitter will invite you to follow people by asking which topics you are interested in. Choose suitable topics such as religion and faith. We also recommend you follow the Church of Scotland's account @churchscotland and the Moderator's account @churchmoderator. Twitter has more information about finding and following people.

Choosing a profile picture

Your Twitter profile picture is your main identity marker and it will be visible to everyone. Since it represents your church, the image must be of the highest quality, and should measure 400 by 400 pixels.

Choosing a header photo

Set a warm and welcoming header picture. Try uploading a photo of a group of people from your church. If you have a small church, the photo could be a posed picture of the entire community or, if your church is larger, you could post a picture of one of your weekly worship services. Your header photo should be 1500 x 500 pixels.

Writing a biography

Your Twitter bio is your best opportunity to tell people why they should follow you. It's what people are looking at when they decide if they want to follow you or not. You have 160 characters to let everyone know a little bit about your church, so make them count.

Twitter also provides spaces for your location and website – don't forget to fill those out as well. Find out more about customising your Twitter profile.

Posting content

A tweet can include up to 280 characters and a maximum of four pictures or a video of up to 2 minutes 20 seconds. You can send as many as you want, as often as you want, and anyone else on Twitter who chooses to follow may see these tweets appear in their timeline.

Key features of Twitter

Retweeting (RT)

A retweet (RT) is a way to share another Twitter user's tweet with your followers. By sharing other people's content it encourages them to share yours. It will essentially look the same as a normal tweet with the author's name and username next to it, but it will also contain the retweet icon and the name of the user who reposted it.

Select the retweet option under a tweet and you will be given the option whether to add a 280 character message above it. The latter option is referred to as a quote retweet and will have your message above the tweet you are retweeting in a box.

If you feel a tweet of yours did not get the proper attention it deserved, you can also retweet your own tweet via the same option.

Liking content

Liking a tweet is a way to let the original poster know that you agree or approve of their message. However, liking a tweet also saves it to your profile so you can refer to it later. Simply select the heart icon in order to like a tweet.

Mentions (@)

A mention is a way to reference another user in a tweet (e.g. @churchscotland). Users are notified when they are mentioned. This is a way to conduct discussions with other users in a public realm.

Direct messaging (DM)

You can send a direct message to people who follow you by selecting the envelope icon at the top of your screen. Unlike tweets, direct messages are private and can only be seen by the recipient of the messages. However, it is worth noting people who have private accounts (shown by the padlock symbol beside their username) can only see messages from accounts they follow.

Read this guide for more information on direct messaging on Twitter.

Trends

You can keep up with Twitter trends by viewing the right side of your Twitter profile. Here, Twitter presents you with the nine most popular topics based on your location. You can adjust the location Twitter uses to find trends for you by selecting the blue change button next to Trends For You. From there you can either type any location in the world or choose from a number of nearby locations.

Understanding the # symbol

Twitter (like Instagram) organises conversation topics with the hashtag (#) symbol.

The hashtag is an important addition to the realm of social media because it allows us to categorise and easily search for subjects across certain platforms. Hashtags can be used to start Twitter campaigns, show support or opposition to an issue and make your tweets more visible to the general public.

Use a hashtag (eg #prayer) to start or join a conversation, but avoid overloading your posts with hashtags or using them simply for the sake of it. Keep your hashtags simple, short and clear. People look to hashtags for trends, not instructions. Don't use symbols, punctuation or any other special characters in your hashtags as this stops them from working.

Creating a Moment

Moments are a way to tell stories on Twitter through a collection of tweets.

You can create a Twitter Moment by developing collections of notable tweet conversations or weaving together tweets that tell a powerful or interesting message. Once you have learned how to create a moment, it is an easy way to curate content on a topic, conversation, or event relevant to your congregations.

Keep your titles short but descriptive. Use the description to give people a taste of what they will find in your moment. Your cover photo is like the cover of a book – pick an image that people will feel drawn to. Your moment can include anyone's tweets – yours, your friends or the Church of Scotland's. Keep your moments to around 10 tweets. You may use photos and videos to bring your moment to life.

Be sure to check out Twitter's glossary for Twitter etiquette and specifics.

Ways to engage your followers

Here are few ways to engage your audience on Twitter:

  • Aim for one or two tweets every day
  • Thought-provoking or inspirational quotes from your daily reading, from current ministry leaders, or from great figures in the history of the Church (with a picture of whoever said the quote)
  • Teasers for Sunday's sermon, Bible passages that will be covered in Sunday's service
  • New content from your church website or blog can be signposted in a tweet
  • Event announcements (charity fundraising, toddler groups, Messy Church, etc.)
  • Include worship service times, information about visiting ministers and special services
  • Photos from recent events or from the daily activities at the church
  • Prayers, prayer requests, and answered prayers
  • Links to useful resources or interesting content from around the web
  • Encouraging lyrics from popular Christian artists
  • News from the church and surrounding community (complete with pictures). This is also an opportunity to share Church of Scotland tweets.
  • Funny, personal posts from the minister or staff members (especially pictures, but please remember to get permission from those featured for images you want to post online)
  • Mission updates (with pictures)
  • Short videos
  • Jobs and volunteering opportunities
  • Pictures or other visual content are always a good idea
  • It's generally good practice to follow back anyone who engages with your tweets, but before you do so make sure to check their content to ensure there's nothing that might reflect poorly on your church

Unwanted Tweets

Unfortunately, social media, like any other setting, includes people who may criticise or berate others online. Twitter has been criticised for not doing enough to stop abusive behaviour on the platform, but there are certain tools in place to help you on these occasions.

If you do not wish to see tweets from a certain account, you can unfollow, mute or block them. If you wish to quietly turn down the volume, you can mute the account and those tweets will then disappear from your feed. The account owner will not be notified and they will still be able to direct message you.

If you unfollow an account they will no longer be able to direct message you but they will still be able to tweet about you. If you block an account they will no longer be able to follow you or direct message you and you will not see their tweets.

Get inspired

Check out other churches on Twitter for inspiration and to make connections – if you follow a church on Twitter, they may follow you back! Here are a few church Twitter accounts to get you started: