Social media can be difficult to navigate, but Catholics can reach out with a content-savvy approach that can truly engage people, young social media professionals told Catholic media leaders on Thursday.
“The internet and particular our social media environment have created new genres," Brantly C. Millegan, founder and editor-in-chief of ChurchPop, said June 22. “ChurchPop was dedicated to zeroing in on these genres."
Millegan was among several panelists speaking at the Catholic Media Conference held in Quebec City this week. He said ChurchPop aims to respond to the dynamism of the social media age.
“What works in one media form does not necessarily work in another," he explained.
ChurchPop’s content ranges from substantive articles to collections of pictures and memes.
“Catholic culture is very wide and our faith touches all aspects of life," Millegan told CNA, voicing confidence that the truth of the Catholic faith can be expressed in a multi-faceted internet culture.
“The mission of ChurchPop is to spread Catholic culture to as many people as possible," he said.
On the internet, success is hard to predict. Millegan said he was surprised by the success of a ChurchPop post about how all the apostles died and where one can find their remains today. That was by far ChurchPop’s most successful content across all languages.
Another unexpected success? A collection of pictures of beautiful churches.
The article was a very simple list that could be replicated using a different series of churches.
Just one picture in the series, a beautiful Lithuanian church, drew some unusual fans.
“Somehow the Lithuanian government started sharing it," Millegan said. “It went huge in Lithuania."
The panel on which Millegan spoke was organized by the Association of Roman Catholic Communicators of Canada.
Another panelist, Jasmin Lemieux-Lefebvre, communications director of the Archdiocese of Quebec, stressed the power of videos on social media.
“The conversion stories are the one stories that bring us the most attention," he said.
Lemieux-Lefebvre suggested professional Catholic communicators should regularly ask one simple question to judge the quality of their content: “Are you willing to share it on your personal social networks?"
Samantha Wallace, a social media specialist with the Knights of Columbus, stressed the importance of listening to everyone who engages with one’s organization: every Facebook comment and Twitter reply. Monitoring what kind of content is successful helps an organization modify and improve its strategy.
She found that Knights of Columbus social media followers and their friends started responding well to faith formation and spiritual content once the organization began to create and share it. Experimentation with Facebook Live, despite initial setbacks, also proved fruitful.
Vicki McEachern of Catholic Christian Outreach, a Canadian campus missionary ministry, stressed the importance of authenticity in speaking to people on social media.
“Truly trust your audience," she said.
Success on social media shows that when content is appealing, the number of people sharing it can grow exponentially.
“What this means is that if you have a piece of content that reaches many people, the content doesn’t do 10 percent better or 40 percent better," Millegan said. It can do 40,000 times better.
“One really good piece of content can be worth more than a huge number of okay pieces of content," he said, adding that the changing nature of social media platforms requires some flexibility.
“It’s easy to have success in one medium and get complacent. Then the world changes around us and we’re left behind. Always have humility and try new things," said Millegan.