I have heard some say social media is ‘anti-social’. They claim it creates superfluous relationships and interactions. They say it lacks real engagement. Often times I agree yet, given its ever-increasing use I think there is more to embrace of social media than there is to reject.
From my experience many of those who resist it also seem to be among those who hold steadfast to a traditional church model, relying on its programming as the only way to build relationships and foster discipleship-making. While there certainly is good happening in today’s programming there is also evidence of social media being very effective in building relationships, creating social actions and communicating events where discipleship-making flourishes.
Just for fun….
Social Media started in 1997
Certainly in its early phase social media lacked real connection. It was more transient but now it has become a cornerstone to any organization’s success. This makes since as more and more are now active users and since its inception a lot of new technological solutions have been created to create, support and deepen the online relationships created. Simply put, social media is a more powerful platform today than it was just 5 years ago.
Also, it often seems those talking about using social media see it as an ‘either or’ discussion over realizing it is a ‘both’ strategy that makes sense for today’s communities. For all the ways churches currently communicate, social media is another. One does not replace the other, they work together.
Just as traditional church and its programming is important to engage, so is social media. Its not one in lieu of the other but an integrated approach to both that wins the day.
Social media has moved from being perceived as an added ‘online messaging system’ to being fundamental to and integrated with an organization’s overall communication strategy and service delivery.
But should churches engage in social media like other organizations or should they stick solely to the traditional?
Perhaps breaking this down further can help us answer the question. Yes some say social media connections are not real and think their church community relationships are real despite the fact that most people who attend only come for the 1 hour a week (if that anymore) and when they come they are provided a linear worship experience where their ability to engage, interact and question is largely non-existent.
Where some, perhaps even some reading this, include ways for worshipers to engage and interact most don’t and rather than get into the statistics of who is attending, who is not attending, how often they’re attending and so on and so forth, here are some recent links that discuss that:
Given the changes in people’s attendance and their desire for interaction and engagement, Social media can be used to foster engagement and enrich their current experience. There are a lot of ways to do this and here’s just one:
- When posting (if you do this great! if you don’t, start,) this week’s coming sermon on Facebook (blog and/or weekly email) include a question or two for your attendees or listeners to think about as they listen. Ask for their participation. Include a link to your website for additional resources they can use to gain deeper perspectives in this area, if they’re so inclined.^^
- Include the questions posed online in the bulletin for worshipers to participate as well and include the link to where they can find the resources.
- Cover the questions; provide insight and ask worshipers for their participation. Invite them to join the conversation offline and online. Instigate dialogue among your members and visitors.
- Remind everyone present and those online of each other. Create interaction across channels (Facebook, twitter, website, blog…). Also include what is occurring and where people can join the conversation online and offline in your newsletter.
Think: Social Media and its interconnected capabilities if leveraged well, can be used to move us from being the harbor of answers to instigator and facilitator of meaningful conversations.
Yet among us and even within our own experiences we see church as a place to unplug. We’ve heard or said things like:
There is so much social distraction there is less social interaction….
Given the number of people connected to their devices, walking into traffic and not able to engage face-to-face with their phones in their hands, I think there is truth to this but interestingly enough, did you know that people would sooner leave their home without their wallet than their smartphone …
Needless to say, social media and people’s constant connection to it is not going to change and is very significant to their lives. So perhaps the question we have to ask ourselves, in our attempts to join them, is…
Did Jesus create a social network of his own?
Pondering... I believe the answer is yes. Rather than splatter and spray his message, Jesus ‘targeted’ his message to those (often on the fringe of society) who needed it. He didn’t look for a large stage but a targeted one where he built relationship upon active sharing or – engagement!
Even when thousands gathered they held in-common certain wants and needs that drew them near…and Jesus engaged them.
In Jesus’ days, the equivalent to “likes” and “sharing” were word of mouth and neighbor to neighbor. Engagement happened when people gathered to listen and interact with him.
Today there are additional modes where we can actively and purposefully share content and engage our members and those who are seeking where they are.
Here is an idea….
Suppose you read a very inspirational article and you know others within your community would like what it has to say. Write a blog, newsletter article or posting about it.
By leveraging today’s social media technologies you have the ability to not only post and share the article but to “engage” others by sharing what spoke to you, what you liked (and disliked) and why it is an important read given life’s situations along with (and a very important thing to remember) responding to the responses you receive on the post/sharing.
On social media friends beget friends and so on and so forth.
5 Simple Suggestions
To make use of all that social media has to offer there exist tools to help a church in their efforts to be liked, shared and followed. Here are 5 simple suggestions to get more people connected with what is shared:
- Use Google Adwords. For a low-cost buy you can push your message to reach a defined and targeted area. Yes, it can be narrowed to your geographic footprint &/or tailored to the community profile closely matching your members.^
- Check out your messages ‘keywords’. How much search activity are they generating? Look to include them in the article, title and tag them in blogs,
- When pushing out an asset* post and send: Facebook, twitter, email, newsletter, bulletin, website. Think ‘integration’ and strategically.
- Re-purpose your asset by creating more messages from the message; there is evidence showing that people read content often not the first time it is posted but more likely the subsequent times it is posted. Don’t worry about “re-purposing” or “re-sharing.”
- Use multiple formats for the content – blog, video, audio, images. Content is moving fast to video., people prefer it. There are a number of cheap, easy solutions available. Some are even free (like this blog, although it then has limits, capabilities I might enjoy but at least gets you started).^
Would Jesus be a Spark?
Social media is now an integrated part of any organization’s communication strategy. If Jesus were here dwelling among us today in the flesh, he would leverage social media to help deliver his message.
If he were here, walking around the neighborhood, might he be a Spark?
A “Spark” is among the most active and deeply engaged users of social media; they serve as an enthusiastic online ambassador for their favorite brands. They represent approximately 15% of online users today.
I wonder if you have any “sparks” in your membership base? How might they be your ambassador? There are tips to making them one.^ Some of our church communities do use some social media capabilities. Some more than others keep them current. As rich a platform and developed the technologies have become it is now important to think through and plan an integrated social media strategy.
^ When you see this symbol it means I will write a blog about that topic specifically. I also welcome your input into what you would like me to write about? Which of the things I earmarked (^) would you like me to work on first? Let me know… Simply message me or comment here.
*Asset includes: blogs, video, audio (podcast), newsletter, whitepaper, presentation, etc.
^^Have the link launch another page not replace the one they’re on. Ultimately have the landing page for the linked resources be the page where your messages are posted (ideally have these in video but heck, even audio is better than having them read the sermon)…