Facebook is only 12 years old, and Twitter recently turned 10. Just a moment in time compared to the millennia that the church has been in existence, an institution, yet no one can deny the power and influence of the many forms of social media in such a short time. And, lest you think this is just an American or Western phenomena, there are numerous platforms and accounts beyond Western borders. All of these things are important considerations as the church thinks about how to engage and evangelize using social media. For the question is no longer, “Should we use social media,” but rather, “How are we going to use social media?”
At Worship Times, social media is deeply linked to our main work of building websites. In fact, we often are called upon to help answer wider communication and evangelism questions and concerns as a website is but one piece of that puzzle. As we look toward Pentecost, we are kicking off a blog series about the ins and outs of social media. We don’t know everything about every new platform or technology, but we hope we can offer some good starting points and questions to ask as you think about how your ministry can and should be engaged in a wider social arena.
First, some resources. Whether you are dipping your toe in, or an early adopter who remembers back when MySpace and Friendster were the hot new kids on the block (pre-Facebook! What?!), a great place to learn and share questions and experience is the weekly Church Social Media (#chsocm) on Twitter. A Tuesday evening (or Wednesday lunch for those in Australia and New Zealand) chat – 9pm ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT, for US time zones – you can find out more here: Twitter, Facebook, ChSocM Blog.
You will also find more information on their Facebook page about a closed Church Communicators group that has spun off from ChSocM, and has wonderful links, resources and conversations from a wide variety of church communicators – professional, volunteer, representing tiny and large churches and many denominations and styles. Ask to join, and you will find a very supportive community that really believes no question is too small – they’ve probably asked it themselves when they were getting started.
Next, as you get ready to get out there on social media, don’t go gonzo. You don’t need to create accounts on every platform you’ve ever heard of, and those ones that you’ve only heard your kids talking about. Start simply, and get comfortable with one or two formats before you expand (and you may find your comfort zone with just a few accounts, and never add any more – that’s ok).
As with any communications strategy, you need to ask yourself who you are trying to reach and what your goals are in reaching them. Where are the people you hope to reach? How do they use different platforms (almost everyone uses Facebook, but different ages and cultures use it in very different ways)? Do you have easy ways to post content that you are already creating – sermon text, audio or video? Pictures of events, memes or thought-provoking quotes? What platforms would be the best for sharing those? Does your ministry have talent in creating worship music, art or other liturgy? Do you have an creative curriculum team? And how might you put pieces of those together that make the most sense on Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Instagram vs. Pinterest?
We cannot answer those questions for you, but conversations with other communicators, or communication consultants you may be working with, can be helpful in clarifying and pinpointing your area of expertise to share with the world, and the best way of sharing that expertise.
Most of all, remember that what we do is to tell a grand story. An ancient story. And the best stories are ones that draw in their audience, make them think and then act. How do you tell our story in your words/pictures/dance/prayers/video? Take that unique story-telling style, and think about how it can be shared beyond your walls, and you will be on your way to creating your social media foothold and style.
Next Week: A deeper look at some of the different social media platforms.