Does Faith Belong In Branded Social Media?

angel-cloudsI used to do social media for doctors around the country, and there was one particular doctor I thought of recently when I was looking up at the sky on my recent trek from NYC to Wisconsin to my new home in South Florida (yay!). He was an older man, and didn't "get" social media, if you know what I mean. The owner of the business I worked for insisted that I not spend much time explaining it to him because I was burning hours, but I insisted on taking calls from him in private to ensure he had someone to ask what a "like" meant, and why people shared things, etc. After all, he was paying us the big bucks so he could not only have stellar social media, but so he could UNDERSTAND social media. One particular thing that really pissed off the owner of this company was that this particular doctor insisted on posting an image of an angel in the clouds that someone saw on their road trip, as a sign of hope for his patients. At first, I almost joined the bandwagon in my office that thought he was somewhat delusional. “Marji, he doesn’t even get that he’s sending that for you to post every week. He doesn’t get he posted it already.”

While I did my best to explain to him why it was better to vary content on social media, he absolutely insisted that I keep posting the angel. So, I did. The best part? That angel was constantly the best performing content on his social networks. Not because it was a pretty picture, and not because it was a recognized staple on his page, but because it provided his patients with unbelievable hope.

Here’s the thing- sometimes people need hope on social media. It’s a necessity of life, right? I don’t care if you’re religious or not, my guess is, you still need some sort of hope to keep you going in life. The biggest question is- where does this hope, that is often times tied to faith, fit in with brands on social media?

I faced that question myself with my personal brand. Granted, I’m not out there selling products or services in the way most brands are, but I do have a brand to uphold. I was looking at my bio one day, and realized that out of everything I was addicted to, I forgot to mention the #1 priority in my life—God. I wrestled with whether or not to add it, thinking of all of the pros and cons. Did my faith belong in my professional realm? Would I receive tons of negative conversations I didn’t want to referee on my Twitter feed?   Then, I thought about me. It is MY personal brand, after all, isn’t it? And God is the #1 priority in my life, isn’t he? All of a sudden, I couldn’t imagine anything out there representing Marji J. Sherman without acknowledging my strong faith. My faith is the very core of my being, so how could I ever keep that from my social brand?

So, how do you decide, as a brand, whether or not to mix in faith with your social content strategy? Here are five things to ask yourself:  

What are my brand’s core beliefs and mission statement?

You have to ask yourself if faith aligns with the beliefs and mission statement of your brand. You should always produce content that parallels exactly with who you are as a brand. If you are thinking of adding faith at all to your content strategy, then my guess is your brand’s beliefs/mission somehow tie to faith.

Who is my target audience?

The reason the doctor could get away with constantly posting the image of an angel in the clouds is because he KNEW his patients. He knew that they needed the hope and positive messaging that image conveyed. Before he even put the photo out there, he knew how his audience would respond. This is an important question to answer for ALL SOCIAL MEDIA. In a perfect world, you should know your target audience so well that you can educationally guess how they are going to respond to specific types of content.

What are the cons of adding faith to my content strategy?

Is there something that could dramatically backfire if you add faith to your content strategy? Is there a core demographic that would stop buying your products/services if you mixed faith with business? Now, if you answered ‘yes’ to this question, that does not mean that you have to leave faith out altogether. It just means entering the realm of faith on social a little softer than you would have otherwise, and test out different levels of messaging. It also means maybe steering clear of specific dominations or religions, and providing more of a blanket message of hope to your consumers.

What is the perfect ratio?

If you’ve gotten through the past three steps and think it’s a good idea to add faith to your messaging strategy, then you should think hard about what the perfect ratio would be for adding faith content. I’d start slow, and add on as you see how it performs. If people are responding well, start adding more. If people aren’t responding well, play around with different levels of faith content and make sure you aren’t completely bombarding them with it. Whatever you do, make sure you always stick to your brand’s mission statement and beliefs.

Am I prepared to enter the faith conversation on social?

If you decide faith is something you want to add to your strategy, be prepared for any and all types of conversations that could come from it. I’m incredibly fortunate—I’ve seen hundreds of positive conversations sparked from my mention of faith in my Twitter bio. However, I’m also prepared for those who want to pick debates with me. I have my own strategy for trolls that works well, and recommend that you come up with one for yourself that is reflective of your brand identity for if/when that happens.

Overall, I think brands should absolutely integrate faith when it’s appropriate. I recognize I am totally biased about this, as a Christian, but I am not just referring to Christianity when I say ‘faith’. If believing in something is part of your culture as a brand, and it provides hope to your target audience, then go for it. The world needs a little more hope in it, don’t you think?

- Marji J. Sherman

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