Class ProjectMedia & Religion Course at Samford University11 undergraduate students enrolled in courseGroup project as part of course requirements.I designed study to accommodate undergraduate studentswho were unfamiliar with doing original research of thisnature and to maximize student engagement with datacollection and content.
3 Basic Research Questions1. Are megachurches using Twitter?2. Of those using Twitter, what types of tweets are they sending out? Original tweets Retweets @Replies3. What categories of content are reflected in the megachurch tweets?
MethodologyOutreach/Lifeway (2011) list of largest churchesPI Identified the primary Twitter account for 14 of the 15 largest churches ● One church in the top 15 had no Twitter account ● Another church in the top 15 had no tweeted for many weeks prior to the sample period13 of these 15 Twitter accounts were reasonably active.Data Collection: 12:01 a.m. Feb. 1, 2012 through midnight, Feb. 29, 2012.Each student coded all tweets for his/her designated Twitter account.PI (instructor) coded 3PI also reviewed & verified coding by all students (and reclassified a fewtweets)Intercoder Reliability (see previous point)
Operational DefinitionsTweet Type: Original, Retweet, @Reply● RT: Those designated by RT, MT, via, or "...."● @Reply: Presence of @symbol● Original: Everything elseTweet Category● Spiritual Tweets● Praise Tweets● Tweets About Church Events/Activities● Non-Church Promotional Tweets● Family/Personal Tweets● Politics/Current Events
Results: R113 of 15 churches were using Twitter, although the frequency/volume of tweetsvaried widely.4 of the 13 churches in the sample sent nearly 2/3s of all tweets during thesample period. ● 876 of 1,332 tweets ● Saddleback, Phoenix First Assembly of God, Christ Fellowship, Gateway Church10 of the 13 averaged 1 tweet per day during the month, but several of thesechurches tweeted in spurts, so the "average" doesnt reflect daily tweeting.
Results: R2Original Tweets ● 54.5% of total tweets were original tweetsRetweets ● Collectively, 534 of 1332 (40%) were RTs. ● But Gateway alone was responsible for 1/2 of all RTs. ● Gateway RTd 269 times during February, which is more than all the other 12 combined.@Reply● 73 of 1,332 tweets were @reply tweets.● Saddleback dominates here. 24 of 73 @reply were from Saddleback@Reply & RT are commonly accepted indicators of engagement on Twitter.● These data indicate Saddleback and Gateway are the churches that "engage" with followers while the rest "broadcast" info.● This broadcasting conclusion is backed up by R3 results.
Limitations & Future StudiesSeveral churches had multiple Twitter accounts so cant draw good conclusionsabout how those churches are using Twitter without looking at all Twitteractivity. ● Subsidiary accounts might be more engaging.We also collected data on how senior pastor using Twitter. Its important toconsider how church staff use personal Twitter for job-related tweets.Did not consider content sharing within the tweets. Thats an important elementthat needs to be included in coding. ● Photos, Links to Blogs, Links to VideosCould have had a larger sample of churches and/or longer sample period. Butthen the experience becomes less rich for students, many of whom want towork in church media.