SOCIAL MEDIA BEST PRACTICES FOR PARISHES
Online communications have significantly shaped the way people interact with each other, and continue to influence how and where people look for information. Among various forms of online communications, social media continues to be a significant tool that could be used for the Church’s mission of evangelization.
As a Church, we have the opportunity to use social media for the twofold purpose of information and formation:
- Information – to update parishioners with Mass and reconciliation schedules, liturgies they could participate in, ministries they could help in, parish events they could join, and other information relevant to them as members of their parish community.
- Formation – to help parishioners in their faith journey through curated Catholic content (videos, blogs, articles, etc.).
Also, the Church has the opportunity to use social media as a platform of influence. In a day and age where hundreds of millions of people are active online, social media can be effectively used to reach not only those in the pews, but also those who are not. Building an active, welcoming and friendly parish social media presence could foster engagement even among those who are not in the Church.
The goal of this Best Practices and Guidelines is to help parishes that are not on social media create and maintain an active and engaging social media presence. Additionally, offer tips and insights from the experiences of the Diocese of Calgary Social Media Committee. Consequently, the aim of establishing a parish social media presence is not only to share your weekly Parish bulletin, nor is it only to post Mass times. Since we share in the life and mission of the Catholic Church, our ultimate aim is to engage our parishioners (information), help them in their faith journey (formation), and to help spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ online (platform of influence/evangelization).
Among all other social media platforms, Facebook is the largest by number of monthly active users (1+ billion). Considering its prominence and the level of detail and information one can put, it is fair to say that you can treat your Facebook page as your secondary source of information online — next only to your official parish website. Click here for Facebook’s official Getting Started with Pages how-to guide.
How to use Facebook
- Populate your Facebook Page’s About section with all the important and relevant details about your parish (e.g. Parish’s street address, website, parish office telephone number, contact email, Mass and Reconciliation times, etc.)
- Take advantage of Facebook’s Events feature. By creating one for each of your parish events, you can share it to your followers, on which there is a feature where they can RSVP. In turn, your followers can share your event with their friends.
- Share opportunities where parishioners can volunteer in the different parish ministries.
- Share links to Catholic news.
- Follow the Facebook Pages of other Catholic organizations, ministries, parishes, and Dioceses – this makes curating Catholic content easier.
- Create a Page: some people make the mistake of creating a Facebook profile for their parish instead of a Facebook Page. The difference? A Facebook profile is for a personal user (i.e. you as an individual), while a Facebook Page is for an organization/business. As a parish, a Facebook Page is what you need. Note that a Facebook Page is different than a Facebook Group. Don't choose Group, choose Page.
- Assign roles: In your Facebook Page’s settings, you can assign other Facebook Users a role in managing your Page (Admin, moderator, editor, etc.), with each role having varied accessibilities and rights. This will make maintaining your Facebook presence easier.2
- Live Video: want to broadcast an event, live? While Facebook Live started out only for personal profiles and only from a mobile device, it is now available for Pages and from a computer. Click here for more.
Twitter is another social media platform where users can post and respond to short messages called Tweets. Tweets are limited to 140 characters and can be about virtually anything. You can post a tweet, reply to one, share a tweet you like (called a re-tweet or RT). You can also attach images, video, or links to every tweet you post. There’s a huge Catholic “population” on Twitter, collectively known by the moniker Catholic Twitter. And who exactly makes up Catholic Twitter? A lot. Priests, nuns, bishops, catholic bloggers, and yes – even Pope Francis. Don’t forget to follow him at @Pontifex! Click here for Twitter’s official getting started guide.
How to use Twitter
- The details we’ve listed above on Facebook generally applies to all of social media, Twitter included. So populate your Twitter profile with the necessary information (a short bio of who you are, your parish website, etc.)
- Twitter pioneered the use of Hashtags. Not sure what a hashtag is? Click here. You can use this to create a unique identity for your parish’s social media presence. For example, the Diocese of Calgary uses #CatholicYYC in its posts online. Our Lady of the Rockies in Canmore, Alberta, uses #OurLadyRocks. Be creative, and share it with your parishioners! Use this handy guide for creating your hashtags.
- You can share on Twitter what you also share on Facebook: links to Catholic news, curated Catholic content, your own parish news, and volunteer opportunities.
- Follow other Catholic users and see what they tweet about! As with Facebook, this also helps make curating Catholic content much easier.
- Keep it active. If Facebook has a Timeline where you can see others’ posts, Twitter has a Feed. This feed is constantly updated; so don’t hesitate to tweet multiple times a day.
Instagram is a popular photo-sharing social media platform where users can post images, video, as well as live-video. Unfortunately, content can only be posted on Instagram from a mobile device — meaning no computers.
Tips: You can link Instagram posts to automatically share in Facebook. Use this feature with discretion.
Other Social Media Platforms
There are several other social media platforms that may be useful for your parish’s needs that are not included in this guideline. Below is a list of other platforms at your disposal that you could use, and a brief description of what they are for.
- Youtube: video hosting and sharing
- Vimeo: video hosting and sharing
- Flickr: hosting and sharing images
- Pinterest: a virtual board on which users can pin and visually share interesting finds on the internet
- Google+: Google’s own social media network, useful to boost your website’s SEO (search engine optimization)
- Snapchat: a mobile-only social media platform where users can send visual (e.g. image and video) messages — hence, snap-chat.
OTHER Important Tips
- Be visual
Social media is largely visual, and having a visual element to your posts will help you get more Impressions (social media term for the number of times your post is displayed) and Engagement (likes, comments, shares, retweets, etc.). Thus instead of posting your Pastor’s Easter message on Facebook in plain text, why not create a short video?
- Keep your Identity Consistent
Keep your social media handle/username consistent on all social media platforms so people can find you easily. For example, the Diocese of Calgary’s handle on all social media accounts is @calgarydiocese.
- Be Active
If you do decide on creating multiple social media accounts on different platforms for your parish, you must commit keep it active and updated constantly. Also do not just post content – be sure to engage with your followers by replying to comments and tweets. This makes your presence personable.
- Respect Intellectual Property
Obey the law. Understand the copyrights accompanying any online content, whether they be images, music, videos, etc. Content posted online are to be treated similarly with content in other publications.
- Account Access & Credentials
Login credentials for the parish’s social media accounts such as usernames, emails, and passwords must be constantly updated. Also, this document must be accessible by the social media administrator and the Pastor, or whomever the social media administrator reports directly to. This file must be treated as highly confidential. Regarding passwords: complexity is good, but length is also important (8-10 characters).
- Privacy and Safe Environments
Do not disclose information that is to be held in confidence. Also, any individual involved in managing social media accounts must not engage in private online conversations with children. A good rule of thumb is to keep all forms of engagement public (through comments, replies to tweets), instead of Direct Messages, commonly called DM’s.
Permission to photograph children cannot be assumed, and neither is posting their pictures on social media. Photographs of children shouldn’t be posted on social media sites without the prior approval of the child’s parents or legal guardian. Also, take great care to avoid including identifying details or information with an image posted online. For a sample photo release form, see Page 6 of the Diocesan Social Media Policy.
Creating a Social Media Team
Creating and curating content for social media, as well as the overall maintenance of the parish’s social media accounts, can be challenging. Having a social media team of about 3-4 people that handles all these tasks is very valuable. There are a few things to consider when selecting the right people for this team.
Members must be carefully selected, screened, and have references and background checks obtained, just as with other parish ministries. Remember that just because someone is social media savvy does not mean that they are perfectly fit for the task. Social media admins represent the Church on every single post and comment that they write — these individuals must have good moral character, well-formed in the Catholic faith, and have the ability to think through the implications of what they are about to write. It is important that the team works closely with their parish priest and office. In addition, it would be significantly beneficial if members of the social media team have a sense of brand consistency when creating content.
Social Media Team Email
It is also worth considering creating a special email account for use by the social media team. This email account will then be the one used when creating social media accounts, instead of having to use someone else’s personal email. For example, the Calgary Diocese Social Media Committee uses a Gmail account that members use when logging in, signing up, and as backup email.
Scheduling and Creating Content
Social media administrators do not always need to be on a computer or mobile device in order to post content. Free resources, such as Facebook’s own Scheduling tool, HootSuite or the Buffer App account give social media administrators the ability to queue posts to be released on a certain date and time.
Each tool may have unique features of their own, but essentially they all allow you to schedule social media posts in advance and monitor your accounts when someone mentions you or leave a comment.
PROMOTING your Social Media Presence
Don't forget to promote your social media presence. Start engaging with your parishioners to ensure effective communication and build a loyal parishioners base.
Tips: Include social media buttons on your bulletin, website and provide accurate links to your parish social media networks. Integrate your social media information with your other Parish communications channels such as the:
- Email (in the signature)
- Bulletin Board
- Stationery - Letterhead, Business Cards
- Website & other social media presence
Compiled by the Diocesan Social Media Committee, November 2017.
WORKSHOP IS FULL - NO REGISTRATION AT THE DOOR.
Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire Church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ. In the area of communications, too, we need a Church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts. (Pope Francis, 48th World Communications Day, 2014)
We invite you to come to the 2017 Parish Communication Workshop exclusively for clergy, parish and religious communities staff or volunteers responsible for both offline and online communication. This year’s focus will be on social media as it has fundamentally changed how people communicate nowadays. As Catholics, we need to bring the Church’s teachings into what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called the “digital continent.”
Our guest speaker this year are Fr. Thomas Rosica, the CEO of Salt & Light TV and Lincoln Ho (Social Media specialist from Archdiocese of Edmonton).
- Date: Monday, November 13, 2017 | From 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
At the Catholic Pastoral Centre (120-17th Ave SW, Calgary)
- Parking: Please park at the FCJ Centre parkade (219-19th Ave SW) or St. Mary's Cathedral Parkade.
- Note that schedule is subject to change without notice.
- 08:00 - 09:00 Registration
09:00 - 09:30 Prayer & Greetings (Bishop William McGrattan)
09:30 - 10:15 Keynote address (Fr. Thomas Rosica)
10:30 - 11:15 The Epic Guide to Social Media 101 (Lincoln Ho)
11:30 - 12:15 Breakout Sessions A, B, C, D (see below)
12:15 - 13:15 Lunch
13:15 - 14:00 Breakout Sessions A, B, C, D (see below)
14:15 - 15:30 Putting into Practice
15:30 - 16:00 Intro to Diocesan Best Practices
- Keynote address: COMMUNICATIONS AND MERCY (Fr. Thomas Rosica)
Be inspired by Pope Francis, who yearns for the church to be an instrument of reconciliation and welcome, a church capable of warming hearts, a church that is not bent over on herself but always seeking those on the periphery and those who are lost, a church capable of leading people home. Pope Francis has indeed rebranded Catholicsm. How do we follow in his footsteps?
- General Session: THE EPIC GUIDE TO SOCIAL MEDIA 101 (Lincoln Ho)
In the beginning, it was just 1s and 0s. Today social media is a sensory overload. How to be salt and light in a world that's overflowing with bursts of flavour.
- Breakout Sessions:
- 1. OVER HERE!! I’M WRITING IN BOLD!!: Writing for Social Media (Lincoln Ho)
The digital revolution has created a sense of fear to text posts, blogs, and traditional journalism. When text is the least popular medium, how do we create content to draw the audience to the ultimate Word?
- 2. MAKE IMPRESSIONS MEMORABLE: Branding and Consistencies (Fr. Wilbert Chin Jon)
What is your parish all about, and why is that a big deal? How are you different from the rest? How will you show this on social media every time, and at a glance? How do you make impressions memorable? It’s all about branding! Know who you are and flaunt it. Learn how.
- 3. SOCIAL MEDIA VIDEO ON A BUDGET: Videography Tools for a Beginner (Ryan Factura)
Video is the king of content on social media. As a parish, how are you able to jump on this trend without having expensive camera equipment? In this workshop, we'll show you how you can get started with social video using the camera you already have in your hand: your smartphone!
- 4. NO PHOTOSHOP, NO PROBLEM: Graphic Tools for Parish Communication (Lia O'Hara)
Not a graphic designer? No access to Photoshop? No problem! The internet comes to the rescue. Learn how to make great looking posters, bulletin and social media graphics in a matter of minutes. Get to know easy-to-use graphical tools online and other resources that will help you deliver quality imagery while saving time and money.
- This workshop is only available for Parish Staff, Communications staff and/or volunteers, and those who are currently managing the bulletin and/or their parish online presence.
- Limit to only 4 participants per parish. Limited seats.
- Please register each person separately. Choose one AM breakout session and one PM breakout session.
- Lunch will be provided. If you have strict dietary restrictions, kindly bring your bagged lunch from home.
- REGISTER ONLINE HERE
Article and advertising deadline is the 1st Thursday of the month preceding publication.
We do not publish in January, July or August.
Late submissions may be accepted and published if space permits or carried to a future issue depending on the time sensitivity.
Writing an Article? Read the Writer's Style Guide writing, layout, and submission standards.
Submitting a Advertisement? Read the Advertising Rate Sheet for copy and size requirements.
This Style Guide ensures uniformity throughout each issue of The Carillon . It may be revised at any time by a decision of the Editorial Committee.
The Carillon Diocesan Newsletter – Background
The Carillon is a diocesan newsletter distributed to 20,000 Catholic families at church on the first Sunday of each month. The content of the newsletter is chosen from local submissions. and strives to reflect the Canadian Roman Catholic Church in the Diocese of Calgary (southern Alberta).
The Diocese of Calgary includes towns south of Hanna to the US border, and all towns and cities between the borders of British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
The Carillon addresses faith issues pertinent to social and family life in our diocese. Content adheres to magisterial and scriptural teaching of the Catholic Church. Non-Catholic material published in the newsletter is to foster ecumenism and to affirm values espoused and taught by the Catholic Church.
The magazine is published nine times per year, December/January, February, March, April, May, June, September, October and November. The deadline for article and advertising submissions is the first Thursday of each month preceding publication. Each issue strives to focus on a theme laid out for that month, as well as articles on a wide range of topics affecting family and church life in the new millennium.
Articles on the following topics are sought:
- Struggles and joys in marriage and family life
- Parenting according to the Gospel
- Reflections on addictions, abuse and prevention of violence
- Growing in faith and prayer
- Parish liturgy
- Ecumenism and interfaith dialogue
- Spirituality and mission
- Catholic schools
- Social justice and analysis in local communities
- Sunday Eucharist
- Role and experience of lay ministry
- Family connections of priesthood and religious life
- Youth and the Church
- Concrete experiences of living out Catholic teachings
Articles must be between 250 - 500 words and include a photo or graphic element. Fiction is not accepted. Writing style is to be experiential, reflective and descriptive. Even opinion-pieces are to be firmly connected to a personal experience shared in the article. We are looking for catechetical articles, i.e. articles that teach or reinforce our Catholic understanding. Personal revelation that is not recognized by the Vatican, or Bishop Henry will not be published.
The faith dimension in the article is essential. Articles showing a connection to a verse or scripture from the Bible, a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an excerpt from the General Directory of Catechesis, or from a CCCB or Vatican document will be verified and given first consideration for publication.
- Dictionary: Canadian Oxford Dictionary
- Resource: Canadian Writers Reference
Poetry with a religious inspirational insight, fillers and cartoons are accepted for use, space permitting.
Visual Format for Submissions to The Carillon
- Use 8.5 x 11 paper
- Typed copy is preferred, e-mail is better.
- Handwritten submissions should be double spaced on lined paper (1/2 inch margin all around)
- Page numbers are required at the top center of each page, except the first page.
- Do not use "enters" or "carriage returns" within paragraphs. The only exception is for poetry where certain words must end on each specific line.
- Single space after a period, before the next sentence.
- Allow one line between paragraphs without indentation. A paragraph should consist of at least two sentences.
- All articles must have a by-line including name (anonymous is acceptable in some cases), and parish or diocesan office.
- Once an article is submitted, the editor reserves the right to edit – all articles are edited to fit available space.
- No articles will be returned for 'proofing' by the author.
- Letters to the Editor will not be published.
- In Memoriam – for priests and religious and exceptional cases (e.g. Carmel Coughlin) from within the diocese, space permitting.
Articles and photographs become property of The Carillon, with the exception of copyright holders. If you wish originals to be returned, please send a stamped, self-addressed envelope with the submission.
- Photographs must include a suggested caption including a date and brief description.
- Photographs with pictures of people who wish to be identified must be dated, and include a signed consent for names to be used and for what purpose.
- Photographs may be submitted by e-mail as a .jpg or .gif file
- Photographs may be edited, or artistically manipulated as deemed appropriate by the editor. In such cases, it will be noted as a "photo illustration," along with credit to the photographer or submitter of the original photograph.
E-mail and Attached Files
E-mail submissions are accepted in the following ways:
- attached as a plain text file
- as a Microsoft Word file, or
- copied and pasted into the e-mail message.
Please name your file with the correct file extension, e.g. Title of Article-Oct-2000.doc or .wpd etc.
We use Corel Draw, MS Word, PageMaker, Photoshop, Excel and Access. We work on the PC platform but can also accept most file types created on a Macintosh.
If an article is titled: "Carillon.doc" it becomes one of many files with the same name in The Carillon attachment directory. It is important to name the file with the title of the document and the date you want it published. This does not guarantee publication, but it will be considered for that date.
Titles: Italicize titles of books, magazines, plays, operas, musical compositions, motion pictures and television programs (or anything that is a published item).
Names: The first time a person is named in the article, the first and last name and initials must be included. Include title as well, e.g. Fr. Gordon Kennedy, CSB
The subsequent references to the person named in the article will be by first name only if the name is not preceded by a title. If the name is preceded by a title, please use last name e.g. Fr. Kennedy, unless you know the person prefers to go by his/her title and first name, e.g. Dr. Laura
When a new name is being introduced, place it in context by explaining who that person is or what the person represents, e.g. Mary Robertson, director of the FCJ Christian Life Centre
- Upper case is used with titles directly preceding a name and when set off from the name with a comma for religious order affiliations, e.g. Dr., Mr., Sr., Fr., Rev. and Rev. Gordon Kennedy, CSB
- Lower case is used almost everywhere else, e.g. church, baptism, the task of a bishop, city hall, school board, priest, religious, parish council and e-mail. NOTE: Web site.
- Capitalize names and titles referring to God, sacred writings and their sections [Bible, Scripture], the word church as a part of the name of a building or denomination, and universities and colleges, but not their departments.
- Use lower case for sacraments, rituals, and personal pronouns referring to God e.g. baptism, mass, holy communion, gospel, he, him, his, liturgy of the word, eucharistic celebration.
Numbers and Time
- Numbers under 10 are written out. e.g. seven
- Numbers 10 and over are written in figures except at the beginning of a sentence. e.g. 15 children; Fifty-seven people were in attendance.
- Decimals are written in figures, as are percentages even if they are under 10. e.g. 5.43; 2½%
- School grades are written in figures. e.g. Grade 2 (note Grade is capitalized)
- Time is written as follows: e.g. 10:00 a.m. Write noon or midnight, not 12:00 noon, or 12:00 midnight
- Ages are hyphenated. e.g. Five-year-old Jason Jones, or use Jason Jones, 5, …
- Numerical amounts are written as $2,348.00, $1 million. Use loonie and toonie for 1 or 2 dollars.
Less of something deals with weight.
Fewer of something deals with number.
- Omit periods in all capital abbreviations unless the abbreviation refers to a person. e.g. CWL, OMI, J. S. Smith
- Exception to #1: BC = British Columbia, B.C. = Before Christ
- Use period in mixed abbreviations except for abbreviations that begin and end with a capital. e.g. Co., Ltd., PhD
- Spell out the names of the months as space permits. Very rarely do we abbreviate the month.
Use quotations around the entire sentence that is being quoted. Leave punctuation pertaining to the quote inside the quotes. He said, "I like going to church." Exception: when a semi-colon follows a quoted piece, the semi-colon goes on the outside of the quotes.
Sources of copied material must be supplied, and/or permission granted for reproducing a published work or photograph. Editor reserves the right to alter photos to give creative texture to the publication. Credit will be given to the photographer, but it will also be noted that this is a photo impression, or some like term.
Quotes from references must be noted with each article. These are cited in square brackets where applicable.
Use the British spelling: i.e. honour, colour, favour, saviour, centre.
The Carillon Editorial Committee is made up of several of the directors of each office at The Catholic Pastoral Centre. We meet once a year to discuss publication themes, mandates, and information that must be shared in a timely manner.