Does Faith Belong In Branded Social Media?


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I 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

4 thoughts on “Does Faith Belong In Branded Social Media?

  1. Yes, yes, yes! I believe that as persons of faith, we need to at least acknowledge the fact that true faith is the neural network of your being. Therefore, we must conclude that whether it be work, family or social, our faith should be always running. Sometimes it will be in the background and sometimes front and center. Either way for me my faith in my actions should be as obvious as the fact that I am a 50+ year old bald, white guy :)Faith draws like-minded folks, seekers and those who just want an extra reason to trust. It will draw some detractors but if we keep the core of our conversation focused on the Big Three- Faith, Hope and Love we will have a more positive impact than a negative one.
    Good subject Marji~~

  2. As an attorney, minister, business owner and artist I boldly integrate my faith in my social media presence. Routinely people even ask me to pray for them that connect on social media. My faith requires me to represent it in the market place.

  3. I’ve been extremely blessed to have worked with clients spanning so many faiths, and at times their projects have focused on that. It was a bit scary at first to risk disqualifying people by being more open with my personal beliefs, but it really did win more clients in the long run when they learned they could be themselves with me, too, no matter what they believed. Did wonders for our ability to communicate and gain respect for each other! The ones I may have lost were probably not on the right page to match my company’s core values and goals. Makes more room for the right ones.

  4. Appropriate of the subject matter, I’d like to play Devil’s Advocate. 😉
    I describe myself as a secular humanist. Some of the other terms to describe the non-religious have a lot of connotative baggage associated with them and I prefer to not to describe myself in terms of what I “don’t” believe and instead describe myself in what I “do” believe. Yet, as a marketing type professional, I think this is a fascinating discussion and the term “brand” can be separated into different types.
    Personal Brand: Faith as a part of a personal brand, as described by Marji above is additive. It’ adds context to the conversation, it adds to the personality and it adds to the relative qualitites of the individual. We may (and probably do) differ on some faith-related things, but that’s just fine with the foundation of respect. One’s faith can inspire a business owner to treat people with kindness and respect. The other side of this is that faith can also become detractive when faith alone is used to justify behavior that isn’t (let’s just say, fitting with the golden rule).
    Corporate Brands: I don’t think faith really has a good fit for organizations. I think we’d agree that a brand isn’t what the company defines, a brand is what their customers think and how they feel about that company. A company is comprised of various and diverse individuals with varying beliefs, practices and cultures. If a restaraunt states that “our faith is X” then people who work for them who may not have “faith X” may not feel empowered to speak out, disagree, do their best because they know that they don’t fit in to the company’s faith-brand nor would they fit in with the corporate culture. A corporate “faith-brand” may energize some users, but it will simultaneously put off people who again, may not fit into the company’s faith-brand.
    Being a non-believer, and having worked for companies who have a strong faith-brand when I was just starting out in my first job, I always felt uncomfortable. I never felt accepted and there was always something in the back of my mind that even if I did the best job, since my beliefs didn’t align, I would be seen as less important. I was always looking for another job, one that was neutral on faith. I ended up changing jobs (for less money) because I didn’t feel comfortable.
    I look at situations and try to reverse them. Would a person of faith truly feel comfortable working for a company that publicly says in their social media that “there is no god, there is no supernatural?”
    TL;DR: Faith can be inspiring. For personal brands, faith can be amazing and additive. For corporate brands, having a stated faith-brand can lead to sections of the workforce and customer base feeling left out.

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