Nathan W. Bingham
Connecting in a Hyper-Connected World

Social Media Best Practices

As an Aussie, I’m confident I’d probably break all the cultural rules and cause a bit of unintended trouble if you dropped me into the heart of the Middle East. Two different cultures clashing. In a similar way, give a business, organisation, church, or an individual access to social media, and mayhem easily ensues.

A forthcoming series

If you want to use social media well and avoid the chaos then you’ll need help. It’s a strange online world out there and it has a face that is changing daily. When I addressed the social media loudmouth two weeks ago, I offered six tips that you could begin implementing today to help you use social media better. Fuelled by one of the comments, over the coming weeks I plan on starting a series of posts expanding each of those 6 tips more fully into my own list of “social media best practices”.

A white paper

While you’re waiting for that series, I recently read a white paper on social media best practices published by the Office of Communication of the Episcopal Church Center. It’s a paper written specifically for Episcopalian churches, to help guide them as they enter the world of the internet and social media.

Although you’ll likely not agree with everything in it, much of this white paper is general enough that it is applicable across denominational lines and their best practices aren’t limited to those in churches.

Here are some excerpts from their 6 social media best practices:

Best Practice No. 1: Know thyself

“Too many churches jump headfirst into designing their websites and Facebook pages without first identifying who they are. What is your unique personality? In what particular way do you hope to serve God? What are your specific social or spiritual goals? The beauty of social media is that you can precisely target certain groups of people and strategize to fulfill very specific objectives.”

Best Practice No. 2: Make your website the crown jewel of your communications strategy — and keep it fresh with constant updates

“Everything leads back to your website—not just your Tweets, Facebook posts, and YouTube videos, but all of your traditional outreach efforts, like your parish newsletter, direct mailings, and advertisements. Post everything on your website; make it self-contained. If you do your job right, most information about your parish should be easily discoverable online by first-time visitors to the site as well as to regular ones.”

Best Practice No. 3: Make it a two-way conversation

“One of the most attractive things about social media is that it allows you to have lively, interactive conversations with a large number of people. Make the most of that. When you post a sermon, encourage people to tell you what they think of it. When you put up a new video on YouTube, keep going back to see what people say about it—and respond to their comments.”

Best Practice No. 4: Put someone in charge of your online strategy

“…ongoing management of the website frequently defaults to staff members who have been there the longest: the office administrator or the parish secretary. Sometimes they have Web skills, but most often they do not, and as a result, after the initial push, the website is neglected.”

Best Practice No. 5: Don’t be too controlling

“Establish guidelines, but don’t be overly strict. Provide people with the opportunity to express their opinions. Insist on good manners and polite discourse by all means, but don’t censor messages that simply express disagreement with prevailing congregational attitudes.”

Best Practice No. 6: Don’t reinvent the wheel

“Always research what products and services already exist in the market before attempting to build anything yourself. It is very likely that someone has already created what you need.”

The above excerpts are from the following white paper: “Social Media and the Episcopal Church”

Your questions / insights

As I prepare the series on what I consider best practices of social media, I want to throw the microphone over to you.

  • Do you have questions you’re asking as you consider entering the world of social media?
  • Is your church, ministry, or organisation facing present challenges with social media that you’d like some advice with?
  • Are there ways you’re using social media that you think would benefit others to know?

I won’t be able to answer all your questions or share all your insights, but if I can work them into this upcoming series then I will.