Why Churches Can’t Afford to Ignore Social Media With 255 million people using Twitter, and over a billion people using Facebook, if your church is serious about reaching out to people you can’t ignore social media. This fast-paced overview will introduce you to the why, what, where, who and when of social media, pinpointing the main social media platforms, and demonstrate how using social media can support your mission.
5 mins – what kind of things do people find in common in 60 seconds?
Social Media – all about RELATIONSHIPS, so we are going to start by getting to know each other as if we are on Twitter … in some ways we are looking at the kind of issues that will arise, including some exercises that you could do with youth groups..
What do many people think digital is about?
Is this your experience? Right, so we’re going to see what else we can do with this… (remember that was built in an era of ‘give it all away’, freeness, etc. and in recent years has been taken over more commercially)
(as a child = hidden behind a book) …
What do we think about this as a quote … and also how much do we value written communication? discuss
DISCUSS: What comes to mind when you think of ‘social media’? (1 good/1 bad each?)
Often people focus on ‘media’, but we want to focus on ‘social’… this is where it’s different from traditional marketing, etc.
Commonality – finding a starting point & getting to know each other, etc… with a strong focus on LISTENING to the people engaging with you, and looking for material that they might find shareable. A lot of it is based on relationship building, so that people will ‘look out for you’ and look for material to actively share on your behalf.
You’re looking to provide information, engage in dialogue, listen to your audience … build a community who will be interested in the other things that you do ..
Now, these may surprise you, as you may expect that I come in, tools first, and say “let’s do it all digitally”, but as it has been for many years, and will be for many more – we should start with the PROBLEM(S) that need solving, and then look at how the digital fits into the mix.
Qualman – 4 mins (business focused, but worth thinking about…)
(from early 2014) … GO LIVE and watch the numbers go up…
So, we want to think about how to choose the best platforms for a given subject / brand / group of books – we’re going to look at what you already have…
An article, I wrote - the church is just not on many people’s radar .. On a Sunday the Cathedrals of the shopping mall and the football pitch draw people in and provide the social spaces that people used to get from the church… so is there something else that Christians are seeking to offer… (But also need care that not using that space just to promote what you doing … if the church community gets onboard can see true community).
As the church has previously sought to understand overseas cultures, for the purposes of both discipleship and mission, so now it seeks to engage with digital culture – a space where many spend a considerable amount of time daily. (previous) Pope Benedict XVI put it this way (2013): [quote]
The Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 9:22-23) was mission-centric, respecting and adapting to the culture in which he found himself, rather than imposing himself upon it.
Think about notions of presence … is it about quality or quantity of presence? Have you got good relationships with people, so that they will be ‘quality’ ambassadors, actively looking out for material from your sites… looking for ways to use it and incorporate in what you’re doing…
If I share something on my own page – far more likely to pick up comments than if it’s on a page, so in some ways calls for a different relationship between work/personal life (e.g. I know most about CPO because I know Russ – trust/authority built up).
Building relationships takes time, but church has never been about “bums on seats”, so much as about encouraging those who attend to live full lives of discipleship. Many of those who enjoy the digital spaces are skeptical about being ‘preached to’. We live in a world of “pull” rather than “push” media (show me why I will be interested, rather than tell me I should be interested), but as Elizabeth Drescher says:
We are not selling something to the world that will make more people like us, believe in our story, join our churches. We are trying to be something in the world that invites connection and compassion, encourages comfort and healing for those in need, and challenges those in power to use that power in the service of justice and love (Drescher, 127).
We are created by a God who rejoices in our 2-way communication with him… we are called also to be extravagant communicators…
Image taken from Durham University website.
Thinking through how things have changed – we don’t PUSH the message at people – we seek to be intriguing and draw them in… with good stories (you know how to do that, right?)
Needs to be built into everything that you do, not a last minute afterthought… but sending a tweet once you’ve done everything else you’ve needed, rather than thinking about how it works as part of the WHOLE picture and thinking you’ve “done” social media = a problem.
How to choose the best platforms for a given subject / brand / group of books
… want to find the right tool for the right job?.. If you want to know more – download this 6-7 page document I try to keep updated.. , and you’ll see different tools are use for different things!
FB = core for friends = busy, still growing (maybe not of as much interest to some younger users as others are on there, but still a functional platform)
1.3bn people using this Personal profile, page, group…
(Find friends; Post status updates; Comment on others photos; Post & Tag people in photos; Leave public messages on the ‘wall’; Send private ‘messages’; Join Groups, Like Pages; Link to other social media; Set up events)
Let’s look at one of the fastest growing tools out there… Got:
New connections via shared interests Building your “brand” Pre/During/Post Event Conversations Breaking news Asking questions Sharing good resources Sharing pithy statements/quotes Being “polemical”
Importance of ‘how to’ – factual/helpful, or BE CREATIVE … people have little patience in this medium, although research has shown that
Think of the STORIES you have to tell, and how you might tell them – Events: Before/After Sermons: Quick Overviews/Responses People & Their Lives What can you “How To”?
Personal tone often
Who are you blogging for? How often can you blog? What style of blog will you use? What content can you produce? What do you want Google to find? Who else can you bring on board?
Important to understand that each kind of platform = different stuff…
Online/offline = REAL – not the same, but real! Looking for consistent values (e.g. what do fruits of the spirit look like online?)
Think before you post … does this truly represent what you want the business to say, and if you are doing this personally, how might this reflect (well/negatively) on the business // HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired).
Importance of online/offline
Always remember that there is a human being at the other end of the keyboard - each uniquely created by God… and as is noted by many communicators is not what you’ve said, but what others have ‘heard’ … not everyone receives the message that you send in the same way .. And one message definitely doesn’t fit all… we’re in the world of what is described as “the long tail”, where rather than being able to send out a mass message, we have to have more concern with individuals (which I always hope we as Christians do anyway, but…. ) – Google searches for ‘niches’ (small keywords/multiple entry points, etc.)
This is designed to deal with a crisis – but is useful in all situations – you need time to agree your ‘voice’ – what kind of stories to share, when, and who has responsibility for it .. An get stuff out in a timely manner - and think how you’re going to deal if someone gets run over/on hols/off sick, etc… nothing worse than ‘the enthusiast’ leaving and having a big blank space…
… and don’t forget the cat.
The person with the passion for it, the good communicator – the driving instructor, rather than the mechanic – the communicator rather than the computer geek….
This is where need to think about the ‘voice/tone’ of the different brands/sub-brands. How do you cross-promote with each other but remain distinct (so not everything can be cross-shared, but identifying the particular uniqueness of each brand … this is something you’ll need another meeting to plan about …
What are your values? What do you stand for? What is your ‘tone of voice’? What can you contribute to the conversation? Locally? Nationally? Globally?
*Remember also – mobile access to these sites – are these responsive/accessible?
One to think about over dinner before we start looking at how some things are used…
TAKE SOME TIME to think about What keywords are people going to be searching for you for … make a list…doesn’t have to be definitive – keep working on it… note ‘the long tail’…
Take this with a pinch of salt – find out what works for your particular audience!!
Solid rules, been referencing them for years, as they are about behaviour, not about the technology (as we’ll find most things are)
Timesaver… but don’t forget to check back in …
What does an efficient and market-responsible social media strategy look like for our different business areas for 6 months; 12 months; 3 years?
BACK to the content, as the platforms may change … and more and more social media interactions cost ££ - decide if prepared to pay for e.g. Facebook advertising, Twitter promoted tweets, etc. or is it all relationships for “free”?
Final word – remember – there is always a human being at the other end of the keyboard… think before you type…
Why churches can't afford to ignore social media (for New Wine)
WHY CHURCHES CAN’T
AFFORD TO IGNORE
Dr Bex Lewis
Director, Digital Fingerprint
Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning,
CODEC Centre for Digital Theology, Durham University
March 2015 for http://www.new-wine.org
Even though in practice, face-to-face
communication can, of course, be
angry, negligent, resistant, deceitful and
inflexible, somehow it remains the ideal
against which mediated communication
is judged as flawed.
Prof Sonia Livingstone, Children and the
Internet: Great Expectations and Challenging
Realities. 2009, p26
The Church Front Door?
For many churchgoing is no longer the
‘cultural norm’. People don’t actively ignore
the church: they don’t even think about it.
Matthew 5:13-16 calls us to be salt and
light in the world, and for thousands in the
‘digital age’, that world includes social
networks such Twitter, Facebook, YouTube
and Pinterest. With literally billions in the
digital spaces, the online social spaces
presented by churches need to be
appealing, welcoming, and not look like
they are just an afterthought: they are now
effectively the ‘front door’ to your
church for digital users, and you ignore
those spaces at your peril.
http://www.churchgrowthrd.org.uk/blog/churchgrowth/growing_churches_in_the_digital_age Image Credit: Sxc.hu
The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual
world, but is part of the daily experience of many people,
especially the young. Social networks are the result of
human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the
dynamics of communication, which builds relationships: a
considered understanding of this environment is
therefore a prerequisite for a significant presence
Pope Benedict XVI (2013)
"If you want to build a presence in the social
media platform, then you need to be
We are not selling something to the world that will
make more people like us, believe in our story, join
our churches. We are trying to be something in the
world that invites connection and compassion,
encourages comfort and healing for those in need,
and challenges those in power to use that power in
the service of justice and love
(Drescher, 2011, 127)
Rev Prof David Wilkinson
God is a communicating
God: “In the beginning
was the word, and the
word was God…”.
God is extravagant in
communication – he is not
a silent God who has to be
Image Credit: Durham University
Who sees this?
at machines, not
Image Source: Stockfresh
Don’t overthink. Running through
committees, endless drafts and approval
processes to get a response out there
can cause far more damage than good.
As long as you have taken the time to
assess the situation and can take a
rational, respectful tone in your
response, even an awkward response is
OK to start with, and buys you time to
continue to respond to the problem.
Principles of Good Engagement
Saint Teresa of Avila (adapted by Meredith
Christ Has No Online Presence but Yours
Christ has no online presence but yours,
No blog, no Facebook page but yours,
Yours are the tweets through which love touches this
Yours are the posts through which the Gospel is shared,
Yours are the updates through which hope is revealed.
Christ has no online presence but yours,
No blog, no Facebook page but yours.
• Educational Level?
• What are they searching for?
• How can you make it easier for them to find?
• How can you make it easy for them to want to
• The principles applied to this are:
• Be credible. Be accurate, fair, thorough and transparent.
• Be consistent. Encourage constructive criticism and
• Be cordial, honest and professional at all times. Be responsive.
When you gain insight, share it where appropriate.
• Be integrated. Wherever possible, align online participation
with other communications.
• Be a good representative of the Methodist Church. Remember
that you are an ambassador for Christ, the Church and your
part of it. Disclose your position as a member or officer of the
Church, making it clear when speaking personally. Let
Galatians 5:22-26 guide your behaviour.
• Be respectful: respect confidentiality. Respect the views of
others even where you disagree.