A discussion topic recently arose from within our parish’s Radical Hospitality group during a Wednesday Night Live session:  “What small, interactive., things can the average church member (who’s not a ministry leader or staff member) do to help raise our church’s visibility on the internet and in our community?”  One thing is to  engage in social media.  This post is intended to be a starting point for those who are not yet engaged. Please share it with your friends who are novices or who need encouragement! 

Stepping Out with Social Media At Church

Because churches are natural places of interaction, it’s important to consider social media as an inclusive communication activity. “Social media” is  quite a buzz phrase, but I do want to make sure you  get the real meaning of it. Social media is an inclusive term that refers to internet-based applications that turn communication into interactive dialogue. The “media” part is that there is information given, and the “social” part is that the consumer can have a conversation about the media.    At church, we’ve long done the media part, and the social part used to just happen when we were at church, or when we met each other in our local community.  Now we add computers into that mix.
It’s hard to understand the enormous impact of social media in such a short time – less than a decade. So many people, so many ways to connect, with so much impact on person-to-person relationships, all facilitated through growth in technology and rapid digital communication.  It’s important to grasp the impact of the sweeping changes that have happened in such a short amount of time, so please click on the blue link and watch this video : Social Media Revolution 2011 by Socialnomics.
It’s empowering to understand that The Episcopal Church also acknowledges the reach of social media in  the work of the church, for engagement and evangelism. Please click ont he blue link and watch the video  Social Media and The Episcopal Church.  This video narrows our focus toward our common work as the church.
Through social media, we connect to people where they already are.  To connect well, in an apostolic way, we have to engage people, as individuals, and as a church, not just camp out in digital real estate nearby.  There is work to be done and there is a place for everyone as we engage in social media as evangelism.
One way of looking at the “building up”  of our personal expertise when we engage in social media is in this Engagement Pyramid .  If you look at that pyramid, you’ll realize that you are probably somewhere there; if not, you are the fertile, earthy foundation that’s not yet shown in green.    If we each start NOW to  personally communicate with social media, then interaction on behalf of our church can very naturally build up, right along with individual expertise and familiarity. We need every level in that engagement pyramid, and we each need to make sure we spend some time on every level. It’s important for us all to understand that  patience is required to build an online community in any social media channel.
Ok, let’s get ready to go by taking a quick look at the general process for starting to be engaged in social media. It all works like this:

  • Create a personal login (aka profile) for yourself
  • Connect with people or things – “like,” “follow,” “friend,” “link,” “+1”
  • Listen! Increase your Social IQ
  • Listen! Learn the etiquette & give-and-take
  • Don’t get stuck and give up! Every service has help; they want you to succeed! If searching their “help” doesn’t answer a question, then Google it or search on YouTube. You won’t be the first person to learn how to do it.  Also, ask a friend!
  • Learn so you can help others learn
  • Participate well and be a role model
  • Roll with the platform changes – all social platforms tweak stuff.  See “Help” or Google it!

Ready? Good! Now it’s time to get started, and Facebook is the place. It’s the largest social media network in the world.   Here’s a list of things to do on Facebook and a recommended order to do them in. If you are already on Facebook, skip to #6.

  1. Sign up for Facebook if you are over age 13 (help!).
  2. Add a profile picture that at least sort of looks like you do now. This is important so that people don’t struggle to connect your name and face!  If this church article got you to this point, realize that a photo that looks like you is a “hospitality thing.”
  3. Share something about yourself and post it.
  4. Add friends (help!)
  5. Accept friend requests from people you know.
  6. Go to our church  Facebook Page St Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church & Like it.
  7. Search Facebook for the group “St. Martin In The Fields Episcopal Church” &  Join it.
  8. Write on a friend’s wall.
  9. If you have a mobile device, consider installing or using the Facebook app on it.
  10. Make visiting Facebook a regular thing you do to learn the etiquette and give & take.

Coming later:

  • different kinds of interaction on Facebook, plus how we can use them to build community within our church & to evangelize
  • other social media interaction to benefit our church

Author: Susan Kleinwechter