9 Great Ways for Leaders To Use Social Media (+ 3 Mistakes)

Social media has changed the leadership landscape radically in the last few years.

The question is how do you use it optimally as a leader?

leaders and social media

In my experience, social media is both about what you do on social media as well as how you do it. The what is your content. The how is your tone.

Both are critical.

I don’t think I’ve nailed social media at all, but I love learning. (I’m actually going to completely reboot how we do all our social media at Connexus over the next few months [and rethink how I use it personally]). So my notebook’s open.

9 Great Ways to Use Social Media

That said, there are some emerging best practices that can help leaders immediately. Here are 9 great ways for leaders to use social media:

1. Have conversations. One of the greatest aspects of social media is the ability to have conversations with people you’re not in the same room with. You can engage people you’ve never met and many you have met. In addition, I find people often share things in writing they’re afraid to share in person. I have some great conversation on social media with leaders and people who attend our church  that might not otherwise happen.

2. Ask questions. I often use questions not just to start conversations, but also to crowdsource message series ideas. I recently asked people to share which aspect of Christian hypocrisy bothers them most. I learned a lot and am using that to shape a message for our current series.  Not only does this help you as a leader, but it really helps others to dig into a key subject before you raise it. Engagement fuels interest and helps people personally process key truths.

3. Discover what other people are doing. Ever wish you could know more about what’s happening in the lives of people you care about or want to get to know? Social media can help you do that. You just need to listen and read more than you tweet or post. Plus when you track with others, that gives you something to talk about in the next personal conversation you have. And it helps you pray for them.

4. Celebrate a moment in someone else’s life. One of the best ways to connect with people is to celebrate something that’s going on in their lives. Leaving comments, retweeting key moments or insights, liking photos and generally just being a kind person is a great way to build relationships. You can’t attend every wedding or birthday party, but a ten second like or comment can make someones’ day.

5. Point people to great resources. There are so many free resources and articles out there. Share some that you think will help your followers and friends. They’ll be grateful you did.  As I shared in this post, if you really want to connect with people, helpful wins.

6. Let people see who you really are.If you’re a leader, people naturally wonder what you’re “really like”. Some leaders share none of that, and that’s a mistake. Some leaders “overshare”, and that’s definitely a mistake. But giving people a glimpse into your life can be a great thing and create an affinity.  In particular, unchurched people (in a ministry context) or non-customers (in a business context) want to connect with a person, not just an idea or a corporate image.

7. Inspire people. For a few years now, I’ve tweeted and facebooked scripture verses that inspired me in my personal Bible Study. Sometimes I worry it’s coming across as preachy, but I’ve received some great feedback on them. In fact, one person told me it’s her Bible reading every day. While that’s not optimal, at least it’s a start. Lately I’m using the Word Swag App (affiliate link) to place scripture over images on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (by the way, here are 25 other smartphone apps that are helping me get better as a leader). I get thank you’s every week from people who appreciate the scripture verses. Whatever you do…inspire people. I’ve never met anyone who was over-inspired or over-encouraged.

8. Reply to people with less ‘influence’ than you. Yep. Just like in kindergarten, there’s a pecking order. Just because you might have a few thousand followers doesn’t mean you should ignore the person with 12. Don’t just suck up to social media stars. Be kind to everyone. That’s all.

9. Remind people why what they do matter. People need to be reminded why what they do matters. I see Sundays as a chance to thank people who served, invited friends and gave to the mission. Reminding them of why this matters helps so much. When you tie your updates back to the mission “Hey Connexus volunteers thanks for getting up early today! Did you see the baptism today? Thank you for creating a place where this happens.” Is better than “Another awesome Sunday”.

And 3 Mistakes

You can misuse social media too. If you want to lose influence and respect on social media, here are three ways to do it quickly:


1. Only promote events or yourself. Some leaders see social media as a billboard or trumpet. I think it’s okay to send leaders to content that helps them (even if it is your own), but if you just use it to promote your next event (Join us! Don’t miss X!), people will tune you out. It’s amazing to me how many people think social media is a free billboard. It’s not. It’s a conversation and it’s about information that helps people.

2. Vent your frustration. If you’re mad, keep it to yourself. People who post about how hard they’ve worked, how mad they are, how tired they are (again!), or how frustrated X made them simply lose influence. You don’t need to be fake, but please realize that those conversations are best reserved for the people you confide in, not all your friends or followers.

3. Criticize othersIf you have a problem with someone, talk to them, not about them. Negativity never makes the world a better place.

3 Free Resources For More

Want more on social media? I don’t know many people who deal with social media more practically than Rich Birch. Here are three free resources:

Still unconvinced social media’s a good idea? Rich shares 5 reasons pastors in particular need to be on social media.

Rich has an insightful podcast interview with Corrin Bauer, who directs social media for Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church.

He also has a free on-demand webinar about using social media you can access here.

What Are You Learning?

What are some great practices (and bad ones) you see? Leave a comment!


  1. Bryn Snow on May 22, 2018 at 7:41 am

    I’m wondering what percentage of newcomers are attracted by social media, by personal invitation, etc, and where one can find Canadian statistics on this. I’ve heard that the newcomers attracted by social media is still small, perhaps 5 to 10 percent, but I’m not sure where I read this. Could you offer any suggestions?

  2. Chris Lautsbaugh on January 5, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Thanks for such a helpful post. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and this post laid it out in a very usable way. Appreciate it

  3. […] Carey Neiuwhof: 9 Great Ways for Leaders to use Social Media (+ 3 Mistakes)  […]

  4. 9 Great Ways for Leaders To Use Social Media (+... on November 15, 2013 at 10:22 am

    […] Social media has changed the leadership landscape radically in the last few years. The question is how do you use it optimally as a leader? In my experience, social media is both about what you do …  […]

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  6. John Belder on November 14, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Good suggestions. Just shared with my network. Thanks Carey.

  7. Lawrence W. Wilson on November 14, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Great tips here. Regarding the errors, many of us are unaware of how selfish (and childish) our social media presence is. Might be interesting to re-read our FB posts from a year ago.

  8. Kristen Morris on November 13, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    How are you rethinking social media Carey?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 18, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      I’ll let you know as time goes on Kristen. Basically…we just want to challenge all the assumptions and think about it’s potential.

  9. Links I Like | JoshuaReich.org on November 13, 2013 at 6:38 pm

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  10. Riverside Church on November 13, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Awesome post – thanks for the tips! Something that we started to do a couple of weeks ago is a “Friday’s Fun Fact” post. Something that people normally wouldn’t know about Riverside. Our first was about our secretary and how she’s been here for over 38 years (the post got over 100+ likes and tons of comments!) The next was about our pastors running a half marathon with other Riversiders (giving them a different glimpse of the pastors rather than just on Sunday mornings). And the latest was about where we used to be in a city across the bridge (an FYI that many new comers might not know about!) It’s been fun to see the response with something “new” for posts; I’ll be taking some of your other ideas and trying to implement them this week! Thanks!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 18, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      Great ideas. People want to see what’s personal. 🙂

  11. ChildrensMinistry on November 13, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    These are great Carey! I like the “let people see who you really are”… often times we are so afraid of being transparent. Great advice.

  12. Chuck on November 13, 2013 at 11:35 am

    I don’t know if this qualifies as a “tenth” way or as an application of a few of the existing nine (or a fourth mistake?!?) but our small group actively uses social media (specifically FB) to keep in touch, encourage, make announcements, arrange meals, etc. etc. While this is indeed a mundane/unoriginal application, it encourages me that it’s so effective that it’s a cheap/free alternative to a number of commercial church-based software out there that seeks to do similar things at high cost to the church itself. (We looked into several of these at our church and decided to stay with using FB for free to do most of the same things… We are small enough to be able to pull it off, I guess).

    We use a ‘secret’ FB group to conduct this kind of small group business and even share things that mostly stay within the group (prayer requests, etc.). While ‘secret’ (i.e. you need to be invited in, it’s not ‘exclusive’ in the social sense. Anyone who’s in the group is automatically invited into the group. The ‘secret’ aspect just keeps the stuff from being plastered all over FB, thus protecting members’ privacy, and not burdening the rest of Facebook (LOL).

    This has worked well for us for years.

    just my $0.02. Awesome post, Carey!


    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 18, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      Facebook groups are great from what I hear. Haven’t used them but thank you for suggesting it Chuck!

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