Nathan W. Bingham
Connecting in a Hyper-Connected World

The Best Social Media Tip I Can Give You

I’m frequently asked for social media advice. Non-profits, churches, ministries, bloggers, all wanting to know how they can get started in social media or how they can use it better.

Although everyone’s needs are different, here is what I consider to be the best social media tip I can give you.

Why?

Ask yourself why you want to be on Twitter. What’s the point of your Twitter account? If you can answer the why question, the how question becomes a lot easier.

Your organization may have one enthusiastic volunteer who wants to do x, y, and z on Twitter, while the leadership has visions of q, r and s. At the same time someone else received an email promising your organization the possibility of achieving a, b, and c.

What are you to do? Ask the why question.

Case Study

To illustrate my point I’m going to describe three churches who each have answered the why question differently and hence the how question has been approached differently.

Church One — Information

The first church I’m calling the “Information” church. Their goal for Twitter is to target existing members of their church and supplement, if not replace, the bulk of their weekly bulletin. Knowing that all of their congregation carry their smart phones everywhere but leave their bulletins in the pew, they want to easily inform and remind them of the weekly rhythms of church life. Church “Information” tweets when prayer meetings and Bible studies begin, and share the Scripture text for the following Sunday to help the congregation prepare.

The how of this why is easily achieved. Depending on the number of church activities, a volunteer could spend an hour or two a week scheduling these updates and the biggest hurdles are ensuring the accuracy of the information shared and encouraging the congregation to actually follow the Twitter account.

Church Two — Edification

The second church I’m calling the “Edification” church. Their goal for Twitter is to target the wider body of Christ as well as existing members of their church. They want to build up and encourage Christians in the digital realm—sharing edifying sermons, challenging quotes, and links to resources that are helpful to the wider body.

The how of this why is a bit more complicated. It will take a greater investment of time to source the content to be shared. Further questions will need to be asked. Will it all be scheduled or will some be real-time? Who will send the tweets? Is this a job for a busy pastor? If not, who will oversee the volunteer or staff member to ensure the level of faithfulness the church requires? Although not essental at this level, a social media consultant may need to be contracted for some advice (or at least taken out for a coffee) to ensure all of this is being done with the most efficiency.

Church Three — Connection

The third church I’m calling the “Connection” church. Their goal for Twitter is to reach out to those who live locally and are not a part of the body of Christ. Knowing that much of the community around their four walls is engaging daily in many conversations on social media, they want to join the fray and provide a voice for the Christian worldview. In addition to providing a gospel saturated response to today’s issues and asking the difficult questions when appropriate, they’ll be introducing themselves to a community who may not of otherwise known of their existence.

The how of this why is the most complicated of the three. It will take the greatest daily investment of time to be a real voice in their community’s conversations. You’re not really at a party if you’re only sending telegrams every 30 minutes and not listening. Tracking the trending topics and following the key tweeps (accounts) in their local area will be vital. Clear guidelines as to what public engagement looks like might need to be established. Like church two, questions will have to be answered as to who is permitted to speak on behalf of the church in the public arena. It may be decided that a personal account, as opposed to a “church” account is preferred. Answering the why question like this almost requires contracting a social media consultant for some advice. If this is your vision then hopefully some of the members of the church are social media consultants.

Why “Why” Is So Important To Ask

I see too many organizations / non-profits / churches who have answered the why question on a similar scale to church one or two, yet are throwing resources at it like they’re church three. It’s chaos, ineffective, and over-kill. On the flip side, others have answered the why question on a similar scale to church three, yet are approaching the how question as if they’re only church one. It’s ineffective and will lead to disappointment.

Be clear from the beginning why you’re on Twitter and the fog will clear to reveal the how. This is the best social media tip I can give you (until the next post on the subject!)

Why are you or your organization / ministry / non-profit / church using social media?

Once you’ve answered that you may want to read:

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