Archive for Social Media

Facebook for Churches, A Rethink

This post has been in the back of my mind for a while now. I keep reading more and more about how Facebook is reducing the number of people that see your page posts, unless your paying of course. If you’re paying, your church Facebook Page posts can reach all kinds of people, and you can even specify the demographics of the people you’d like to reach. This can be really cool, and in the grand scheme of things it’s not a lot of money we’re talking about. The principal however is isn’t something I like. And I’m not the only one. I was reading a post on Christian Media Magazine about The Problem With Facebook, that really hit on a lot of my points, but also included this great video that goes more in depth about what’s going on and some of the problems with Facebook for Churches.

The Problem with Facebook for Churches

Many churches have started using Facebook as a main communications vehicle for reaching people in the congregation. This makes sense, with over 14 million Canadians checking into Facebook every day, that’s like half the population. Facebook is where people are. The problem is that you’re lucky if you reach 5% of them. Facebook wants to make money, which I understand, and they want to reward good content, which I also understand, but for churches, especially small ones, there’s no money to give and it’s hard to make the kind of quality content Facebook requires these days. Plus, unlike when people like a brand, they’re generally liking a church Facebook page because they want to stay up to date with what’s going on. The question then becomes, how to do we fix this?

Should Churches Stop Using Facebook?

Part of my feels that Facebook isn’t worth the effort for churches any more, especially smaller ones, but it’s still where you’re going to find half of Canadians.

 Daily Facebook usage in Canada is higher than both the global and U.S. averages
                                                                                                            – The Financial Post

This to me says churches need to continue to be on Facebook. It’s also important to have a presence there so that people looking for you find you there and know you’re working in this century. I would say though, it might not be worth putting lots of effort into it. For sure you shouldn’t COUNT on people getting the message if you post it to your church Facebook Page.

Now, I don’t know that this is the best answer. Part of me feels that this isn’t the right answer, but I also know that spending lots of time, effort, and money trying to get your Facebook reach up may not be the best option for churches either.

So what do we do? Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, some other social network I haven’t heard of yet?

Oddly perhaps, if your main goal is to reach current people involved in your ministry the best way to reach people is still good old fashioned email. I know, some of you are thinking “email, really, that’s so not cool”. Cool or not, it’s effective. If it wasn’t, why would Twitter, Facebook, and the other social networks send you emails when there are new posts you might be interested in?

If however you’re looking to get the word out to your local community. Take a look at where the people you’re trying to reach spend their time online. Maybe it’s Facebook, in which case it’s time to put together a good strategy, and start thinking about paying. If it’s somewhere else though, put your focus there and spend less time on Facebook.

Don’t Give Up

I know more complication is not what you’re after, but there’s no point wasting time on things that aren’t going to work as well as you hope either. And don’t give up hope for Facebook. The world of social media is changing all the time, maybe Facebook will realize the damage they are doing churches and non-profits and treat them differently then companies. I’m not expecting it, but we can always hope.

What do you think, should churches stop focusing on Facebook?

Learning Opportunity:
If you’d like to learn more about Church Social Media use, join me and other church social media professionals at one of the upcoming Going Digital for His Kingdom conferences. You’ll get to learn from some of the best minds out there on how to improve your ministry using Social Media.Going Digital for God's Kingdom

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Giving Up Social Media for Lent: Why You Shouldn’t Do It

Giving Up Social Media for Lent imageLent begins today. Unsurprisingly my Twitter stream and Facebook news feed are reasonably full of people talking about things they’ll be giving up for 40 days. While fasting is a spiritual practice I have great appreciation for, it’s not one I’ve done recently, mainly because I’m not sure I’m strong/committed enough at the moment. My personal failings aside, I have great respect for those that are fasting this Lent, if not from food, from something else. However, I need to get off my chest how annoying I find it they way many people talk about giving up Social Media for Lent.

For example:


or

Why People Give Up Social Media for Lent

Part my dislike for this trend is that I don’t like how people give up things for Lent that they wish they had more control over the rest of the time. For me this isn’t really what it’s all about. I get it that that is a lot of what Lent has become, in North America at least, but that doesn’t mean I like it. The other reason I think the trend towards giving up social media for Lent is a bad thing is that it feeds into the notion that social media is a vice. Seeing as we tend to give up thing for Lent that we think we’d be better off without, helps give social media an undeserved bad rep. Treating social media and technology in general as a vice is way to common with people I know, and I gotta say, I hate it.

I don’t see people giving up winter boots, or driving, or talking to people on the phone. How many people do you know who are giving up reading? Not just for pleasure, but all kinds of reading, even street signs. I can’t say I know any. These may seem like extreme examples, and kind of stupid, which they are, but hear me out. All my examples are things that are external to our physical bodies and are enhancements in some way. This is the same for technology. We are all genuinely better off thanks to technology, but still it gets treated like it’s a vice that we should be able to live without, and that if we do we’re a better person. This I find really troubling.

Why Social Media Should Be Treated Better

Just because innovations use electricity, doesn’t mean they come from the devil. Not that many people actually think that, but it’s the impression I’m often given. For most of us, this is not actually something we believe, although we sometimes act like it. I recognize that people are weary of new things, but I feel this gets taken overboard when it comes to technology. Social media is as plainly a part of my life, and many other peoples lives, as are winter boots, cars, and telephones (of the talking variety). Sure I may use social media for fun sometimes, or end up wasting time, but I also drive places for fun, and waste time talking on the phone with friends. Even though social media is new, we should give it the same respect we give other things, not treat it purely as a vice that our lives would be better without. Our lives would be different with out social media, but I wouldn’t jump to say better.

Lenten Fasting Should Be A Sacrifice, Not A Chance to Live Without A Vice

Now all that said, I must add that there is a time that I think it would be fine to give up social media for Lent. If you intentionally want to cut yourself off from the world to explore the spiritual nature of sacrifice. If you’re thinking if it like a 40 day long silent retreat rather then trying to learn if you can abstain from alcohol for 40 days. If it’s a spiritual retreat giving up social media for Lent might be acceptable to me. Although, just giving up social media doesn’t really accomplish that, but it might if you added in email. And for sure if you added in talking on the telephone.

I guess what it comes down to for me is that Lenten fasting shouldn’t just be a way to see how hard it is to live without something you consider a vice. Giving something up for Lent should be about removing a vital, life giving part of your life, and filling that whole with God.

How do you view the Lenten practice of giving something up? Do you see social media as a necessary part of life, like winter boots, or as a vice like loving chocolate?

Announcement:
If you’d like to learn more about Church Social Media use, join me and other church social media professionals at one of the upcoming Going Digital for His Kingdom conferences. You’ll get to learn from some of the best minds out there on how to improve your ministry using Social Media.Going Digital for God's Kingdom

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Double Your Church Twitter Followers! (Or at least get a few more.)

This isn’t a 5 step program, or a guaranteed successful way to increase your church twitter followers or your ensure your church folk join Twitter. What it is is a way to try and explain to people in your congregation and community why they should give Twitter a try. It goes like this:

“You don’t have to Tweet”Twitter Followers
This was crystallized for me in a recent post I read about Twitter’s future, but I think it is incredibly applicable to churches.

Here’s how I see things.

How to Explain Why to Join Twitter

For people who have never used Twitter it can be hard to get their head around it. “No one cares about what I had for breakfast” & “How do you say anything in 140 characters” being common complaints. This is where you introduce the “you don’t have to tweet” line. When people look confused, or ask what’s the point then, you have the perfect opening to explain how great it is to be able to follow interesting people and get the information straight from them.

The Game Plan

They don’t have to follow everyone and look at pictures of their supper, they can choose to follow whoever they want. I’d actually suggest that to start they follow 5 or 6 people at most. Their siblings or kids, if they get on well; An organization they may be interested in like @Y2Y_Initiative or @ReformedComunio; A famous person or politician like @jianghomeshi or @BanffMayor; A reporter like @snolen; And of course you and your congregation. That’s probably enough to start*. Have them promise to check it once or twice a day for a week, and see what they think.

Make Sure Not to Follow People Who Tweet Poorly

Provided they pick appropriate people who aren’t horrible tweeters, there shouldn’t be too much they find annoying, but a reasonable amount of stuff they find interesting. It’s like a newspaper filled with items from people they’re into. Ignoring all the problems with being able to create your own news bubble by excluding things that can challenge your thinking, and the problems with that, I think this is something that lots of people will find useful. It’s also not intrusive They can check it whenever they feel like it, or not, and the news is straight from the source. I only suggest asking them to check regularly to start so they get a in a bit of the habit and get an understanding of what Twitter is about.

There you have it a reasonably good way to try and increase your church twitter following, if not double it. Plus you help enlighten people as to the wonders of Twitter. They also get to see everything you and others post without a filter like on Facebook. Which is a good reason you want them there.

*I also won’t complain if you suggest they follow me @AllanBuckingham : )

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How Would Jesus Use Social Media?

Jesus on Twitter as seen by Church And Technology.caThe question of how Jesus would use social media is not a new one. I’ve read more than a couple of posts referencing this topic, but I still feel like it’s worth giving my two cents on the matter. This might be because I read a couple of posts last week that brought this to my attention once again.

One post I read questioned whether or not un-friending was un-Christian . It’s an interesting proposition. And while I sort of understand why people might un-friend someone, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. It’s true I do have more Facebook friends that are really mainly acquaintances or people I’ve met once, then I have actual friends, but this doesn’t really bother me much. I know many people complain that their news feed is too full with updates from people they don’t really have a relationship with, but if you use Facebook’s lists feature then you can prioritize who you see updates from and who you don’t. There are also different methods you can use to prioritize how often posts from people show up in your news feed.

All that said, the question remains unanswered, just avoided. Reading the comments to the un-friending post got me thinking about whether using lists, or choosing not to have updates from people showing up in your news feed etc. is un-Christian, and thus unlike how Jesus would use social media. After reflecting on it for a while, I’ve decided that using various sorts of lists is no different than calling the people you care about most. I see it like only calling your friends to catch up and not calling acquaintances as well. You’re still open to hearing from others you just aren’t going out of your way all the time to do so. Un-friending however I see like intentionally avoiding people, something Jesus would definitely not do.

Jesus on Facebook as seen by Church And Technology.caWhich brings me back to my original question, how would Jesus use social media? I say how and not would because Jesus was pretty apt at using the media of his time to get his message across. This included speaking in the temples where some people hung out  and speaking in the streets where others did. So while I’m sure Jesus would use social media, I’m less confident with the how.
One of Jesus’ main goals as I see it was to give hope and justice to the outcasts, and the people on the edge of society. In my view, today, at least in Canada, many of those on the edges of society are not those using social media.

So what does that mean for us? How does that answer my original question? Of course there’s no way to know for sure how Jesus would use social media, but here are a couple of my thoughts.

I’m pretty sure Jesus would have used social media to raise the profile of the marginalized somehow. I also think he would have tried to increase access to technology so that there are fewer people marginalized by technology.

I also think Jesus would have accepted every friend request, even from that annoying kid from high school, and been happy to do so. I also don’t think Jesus would have been into un-friending. He was all about loving you neighbour no matter who that is, or how often they play Farmville. I also don’t think he’d be huge on Facebook lists that let you pay less attention to those you don’t like as much. It seems to me he would also dislike the competition that can go on for the most friends/followers and the desire for klout, that is all about influence and power.

That’s a few of my thoughts anyway, but what do I know.

 

Do you agree that Jesus would use social media? If not, how come? If yes, how do you think he’d use it?

 

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Is Social Media Replacing The Church?

Church Social Media or Church Building, is social media replacing the church

Is social media replacing the church?

Recently I’ve started thinking that there may be a good argument that social media is replacing the church, at least in a number of ways. Now, when I say church, I’m mainly talking about individual congregations, but in some ways one could argue that social media is also replacing national and international denominations as well. I don’t know if I buy it completely, but it’s definitely worth contemplating as many of us in the church examine where the institutional church fits in society today.

I first started thinking about this topic after reading an article in the New Zealand Harold a few weeks ago talking about the fact that social media filled some of the rolls of churches while people couldn’t enter buildings after recent earthquakes. Reading the article started me wondering whether social media is replacing the church in the larger society as well. I’ve been thinking about it for a bit now and I’d have to say there are at least a few areas where I’d say social media is indeed replacing the church.

A  Community Gathering Place

Churches used to be a place where the community gathered to share news about their lives, the lives of others, what was going on in the community as well as national and global events. We all know that how we communicate has changed dramatically due to the internet, but sometimes I think we forget just how that changes our behaviour. As in the Christchurch example, many people now share updates via Facebook and other social media in online gatherings rather than physically assembling in one place, like a church to do so.

At one time churches were also considered a great place to meet people and make connections for work etc. This is still the case, but as fewer and fewer people attend church, especially mainline churches, church is less and less the best place to network. Today people are much more likely to start up conversations with people on social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter in order to foster working connections, then go to a church.

A Clearing House for Community News

As I mentioned above, the church, like the local coffee shop, used to be where you got your news. While that has been gradually changing due to the introduction of various types of media, until recently with the introduction of social media and the mass penetration of the internet (including into many people’s pockets) there was no media that could replace current neighbourhood news. This left the church as one of the places community news was shared. Now that we can communicate with friends using Facebook, Twitter and other networks, plus being able to learn things from complete strangers even (for example using Google+’s Nearby feature which lets you see public posts that were made close to your location) the need to gather in one place to share news is dramatically reduced.

Digital Prayer

I’ve read a couple of posts recently that reference digital prayer. One post talked about how digital prayer can be useful, but also referenced social media as a way to bring people into church buildings. The other, made more of the fact that digital prayer can really help people feel loved and cared for, making no mention of using social media to ‘put bums in pews’. Now I recognize that the points of the posts were different, but it struck me as I thought about whether or not social media is replacing the church (building) that these different ways of seeing things are important.

So Is Social Media Replacing the Church?

I still haven’t decided whether or not I feel that there is a full replacement taking place, but I definitely see signs that this could be happening. I also think that it may be worthwhile for church leaders to consider how to minister online without looking for corresponding ‘bums in pews’.

 

What do you think? Am I way off base? Or is it possible that social media is replacing the church?

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Give Life To Your Church Facebook Page

Simple Ways Churches Can Use Facebook

Facebook Logo, Give Life to Your Church Facebook PageFacebook can be a great tool for building community or for marketing. It can also be a huge time hog. Many churches and church organizations I’m involved with are looking for simple ways to use Facebook to help them stay better connected with their members. Here are a few easy things you can do.

Share interesting news

“Like” related organizations pages and share some of their news with your members. Facebook Pages, which you should be using for your church, lets you pre-schedule updates. This means you can check for news once a week if that’s all the time you have, and pre-schedule a few updates on your church Facebook page. Some pages you may wish to consider following are: World Communion of Reformed Churches, World Council of Churches, The Huffington Post (Religion), Council for World Mission

Use pictures

If you’re on Facebook it’s hard not to notice how popular pictures are these days. Pictures are also great content and easy to get.

Consider thanking volunteers by posting a picture of them on your church Facebook page (while working if you have one) and tagging them in it. That way their friends can learn about the great work they do as well.

Use pictures from study groups or worship to remind people of questions they may have had. This can encourage them, or others to continue the conversation. You can also just use a related picture for this if you want.

You can also share some of the bazillions of inspirational pictures on Facebook right now. If you do though I encourage you to share it with a comment, don’t just “like” it. It becomes way more personal that way. Now that said, it does take more time and a “like” is better than nothing.

Put Your Announcements On Your Church Facebook Page

Likely you’re already posting your church announcements on your church website, but it doesn’t hurt to put them on your church Facebook Page as well. I’d recommend not just posting a big list but scheduling individual announcements to show up throughout the week. This can help remind people of events they were interested in closer to the actual dates.

There is of course lots more that could be done, but these are a few places you can start.

How does your church use Facebook? What do you do that really engages people?

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Church Social Media: Broadcast vs Conversation

You might have heard people talking about the importance conversations in social media and how it’s not just about self-promotion. I’ve read a few blog posts recently on the topic including one at #chsocm (Church Social Media). They got me thinking about the different ways we can and do use social media, and whether any way is better than another.

Church Social Media, Broadcast or Conversation?Overall I think the social part of social media is what makes it fun, and I would say is a very worthwhile way for church social media use, but I stand by the fact that social media is also a great way for churches to share information with their followers. This can include upcoming events, service themes, and news from the community and other church partners. While this is theoretically broadcast style use, it can also be easily considered useful information for your community.

I also recognize that many church staff and volunteers are super busy and adding an involved, interactive social media component to their work load isn’t really manageable a lot of the time. By only committing to the much easier broadcast style of social media use churches are less likely to overload their staff and volunteers. You will also still have a presence in places where at least some, and likely more and more, of your church community spend time.

Think of broadcast style church social media use as a good place to start. I encourage you to not end there though if you can help it. As you’re reading through feeds for items to re-share for example, take the time to reply to a question if you have one, or add a comment as you re-share it. Not only does this make your social network more alive and interesting, it gives you an idea of the larger possibilities available through social media. But don’t worry about having to comment on a regular basis. Doing the broadcast thing and getting your churches events and news out to your followers and community is step one, and by far the most important step. It’s also not that hard.

Easy Church Social Media ideas from Church And Technology.ca

For ideas on how churches can do social media simply, take a look at my post Easy Church Social Media

 

How does your church use social media? Does it work for you? Are their right and wrong ways for churches to use social media?

Red bird chirping photo Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

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