To some of us we simply do not understand the use of social media. Why do people sit behind their computer screens for hours or constantly look at their handheld devices. Often we think there are better ways for people to use their time. Often we think there are better uses of our time. While these thoughts are true and something we need to consider…social media is not going away anytime soon and in fact, its use is growing and has become the way people share:
- what is going on (what is happening within our communities, details for an upcoming event or to make an announcement),
- what we think, feel and believe (uplifting, inspirational quote or share a blog entry we find meaningful)…
In fact, according to Social Media Advertising advertising spend in social media between 2016-2020 is expected to grow 15.6%. Therefore, to NOT have a social media strategy and plan for using social media to reach and connect with our members would be a mistake.
For those not all that clear of what is meant by the term ‘social media’ here is a definition:
websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.
These websites and applications include: facebook, twitter, google+, linkedin, instagram and the like (believe me there is a boatload).
But how many of us realize the value of social media is not in what we post but in our ability to listen?
Our members, friends and family are online. They share what is happening in their lives and they respond to the cares that concern them. Many times the things shared online are not things we know of them or have talked with them about.
In fact, here are some key stats* you might find interesting:
- Did you know that 75% of those sharing online say they think about what they are sharing more thoughtfully and deeply because they shared it?
- Did you know 85% say reading others’ responses to what they shared helps them process and understand broader perspectives than they held before they shared.
As a pastor I am sure, given these truths above you wonder…
- Are the responses they receive pastoral?
- Do the responses they receive journey alongside them, helping to deepen their spiritual lives?
As pastors might we have something to offer? I think so. In order to be effective though, developing a ‘listening plan’ can be a lifesaver.
What is that? What can I do to make one?
A ‘Listening Plan” is simple to create. Simply gather the information for all the social media connections your members use. Add this information to your membership file (directory). Most people use any or a combination of: Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+.(While you’re at it add: email and text (yes) to your file as these are great channels too).
Begin by setting some intentional time, to connect and engage with your community online. Keep track of what you learn (if need to) and perform a simple, easy, spiritual assessment of what you observe and learn. Are they happy, glad, sad or mad; are they ‘stuck’ in any way spiritually from connecting to their inner wholeness?
By intentionally carving time out of your day/week to listen and engage online, where your members (and prospective members) are, you deepen your relationships.
With today’s use of social media, there is a lot of ministry happening online and interestingly, given today’s world, it can be as “one-on-one” as yesteryear’s “face-to-face” if intentionally thought out and planned.
If we enter into it with a pastoral care intention over only seeing it as a storefront window into what we have: last week’s sermon, latest blog post, this week’s bible study, etc.; we can use social media as a vehicle to engage; meeting our members where they are.
Today’s members are sharing a lot online and we can listen and respond and engage if we carve out the time to listen and thoughtfully plan.
That is all. Just a thought, I thought I’d share. Hope it finds you well. Peace
*(NYTimes Study 2015)