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. And although everyone’s needs are different, here is what I consider to be the best social media tip I can give you.
Ask yourself why you want to be on social media. 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 in the organization received an email from a marketing firm promising the possibility of achieving a, b, and c.
What are you to do? Ask the why question.
To illustrate my point, I’m going to describe three churches. Each has answered the why question differently and therefore has approached the how question 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 their members carry their smart phones everywhere while leaving their bulletins in the pew, they wanted an easy way to inform and remind them of the weekly rhythms of church life. This church tweets when prayer meetings and Bible studies begin, and they share the Scripture text leading up to the Sunday sermon so the members can better 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 all of these updates. The two 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 in addition to the existing members of their church. They want to build up and encourage Christians in the digital realm by sharing edifying sermons, challenging quotes, and links to resources that my be 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 all the updates 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 essential at this level, a social media consultant may need to be brought in 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 part of the body of Christ. Knowing that much of the community around their four walls are engaged every day in 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 they existed.
The how of this why is the most complicated of the three. It will take the greatest daily investment of time to be a genuine voice in their community’s conversations. Consider a real dinner party on a Friday night. No one enjoys the obnoxious individual who, although having a seat at the table, doesn’t actually listen and engage in dialogue. Instead, they blast their opinions at whoever is across the table from them (without even knowing their name). The same can happen on social media. Tracking the trending topics and following the key Twitter accounts in their local area will be vital. Clear guidelines as to what public engagement looks like might need to be established. Are there subjects that are off limit? 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 certainly requires bringing a social media consultant in for some advice. If this is your vision, then hopefully some of the members of your church are social media consultants.
I have seen too many organizations / non-profits / churches who have answered the why question on a similar scale to church one or two, yet they 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 also ineffective and will lead to disappointment.
From the beginning, be clear why you’re on social media. Then the fog will clear and reveal the how. This is the best tip I can give you.