By Dr. James Emery White, Crosswalk.com
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Rodion Kutsaev
More than 3.2 billion people worldwide are active on social media every day. It has become the way we communicate, relate and learn. As such, it is simply indispensable to the mission of the church. This means that keeping abreast of the biggest trends within social media is critical.
Here are eight trends being forecast for 2020, gathered by Deep Patel at entrepreneur.com, that are the most relevant for the church:
1. Video story content is king.
Among all of the trends in the social media world, video dominates in terms of importance. According to Social Media Today, video will make up 82% of all internet traffic by 2022. Beyond prioritizing video content, have “an emphasis on creative, engaging storytelling that captures user attention in seconds.”
2. TikTok is disrupting social video.
“The emphasis on video means that video-driven platforms such as TikTok, Lasso and byte will continue to grow in popularity.” Of these, TikTok is the leader, particularly with Generation Z. As Patel notes, “TikTok is the antithesis of your mother’s Instagram account because it shuns the overly curated and filtered view of life Instagram has become known for.” The point is to think beyond YouTube or simply hosting videos on your website, and keep abreast of all things video.
3. Social media audience segmentation.
The myth is that social media is a shotgun approach instead of a rifle. It is, after all, “social” and available to the masses. In truth, all social media posts should have an audience in mind. Specifically, who we want our audience to be. Get “one size fits all” out of your head. Instead, “strategically divide your audience into meaningful groups based on individual preferences.”
This is more than demographics (age, sex, income). Instead, think about how to “build rapport and a sense of community.” Patel argues, and I would agree, “Segmentation will be a defining line between the savviest social media strategies and those that are just winging it.”
4. Personalized video marketing will become a thing.
If you add up the first three trends, this fourth one should be considered a given: video content that is “customizable and hyper-relevant to specific segments of your market.”
Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are already pushing brands to produce video content through Story Ads. Twitter is also getting in the game with six-second video ads.
5. Less public, more private interactions.
More users are turning to private groups and messaging apps to connect with others. Think messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Messaging. All allow the creation of more intimate groups “where we can feel secure in sharing intimate and detailed information with others.” As Patel notes, this is really a return to more direct communication—and it’s a huge trend.
A new report from Pew Research has found that messaging is the most popular form of digital interaction in emerging markets. So look for the continued rise of messaging apps over social networks as the connective tool of choice.
6. Audiences want meaningful connections.
As people shy away from public postings and tend to connect away from public view, those trying to reach people will have to find ways to “create more private, intimate connections” without becoming overly intrusive. Think building “brand communities, or groups where your brand message is relevant, but where you are also receptive to direct messaging.”
A 2018 Facebook survey found that 69% of all respondents said directly messaging with a company makes them more confident in the brand itself. The goal is to “give audiences more meaningful connections and a feeling of being in an exclusive and intimate environment.”
7. Authentic content is key to social selling.
It’s no secret that social media users are more skeptical than ever. So when it comes to social media and shopping, they want to hear “insights from real people.” User-generated content (e.g., customer reviews) are key.
For a church, think testimonies.
8. Social media is the place to nurture trust.
This may be the most significant trend for churches (or at least the most important for churches to understand). Social media “isn’t just a platform for marketing and advertising; it’s truly the best place to nurture trust and build a relationship with [your] audience.” Social media offers the best opportunity to convey the value of your message or community, and to engage with others on their level. Doing this will require finding ways for people “to have a free flow of dialogue and let their hair down”—not something most churches are experienced doing, much less comfortable doing.
But showing your “human side and increasing transparency,” focusing on “fun, simple engagement,” being responsive to communication, and finding meaningful ways to show “social responsibility and a deeper level of social interaction” will be key to building trust and confidence.
So there are the eight trends for 2020. Most will know they need to get social—the key is getting good at it.
Deep Patel, “12 Social Media Trends to Watch in 2020,” Entrepreneur, December 20, 2019, read online.
Erica Perry, “2020 Video Marketing and Statistics: What Brands Need to Know,” Social Media Week, October 30, 2019, read online.
Andrew Hutchinson, “New Study Shows that Text Messaging Is the Most Popular Form of Digital Interaction in Emerging Markets,” Social Media Today, August 27, 2019, read online.
“Why Messaging Businesses Is the New Normal,” Facebook for Business, June 14, 2018, read online.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.