My pastor did something interesting a while back. He created an “experiment” using Facebook where he asked his friends to mail one dollar to help an individual in need. Dozens of people responded, some with much more than one dollar, and the need was quickly met. This little social experiment did two things: it quickly supplied an important need, and it uncovered the raw power of social media, when used correctly.
“Social Media,” the collective term for interactive services like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others, is a recent development on the internet. Early social platforms like Bebo, Xanga, and MySpace sparked a demand for services where individuals could interact with existing friends and create new connections through the internet. In fact, social media has been instrumental in demolishing the once-insurmountable boundaries that forced people to develop networks based on location or social status rather than shared interests.
In fact, instead of being limited to having friendships based on people that you meet in person, now, through the power of social media, you can meet people on the other side of the world that you may never be able to share a meal with or shake their hand, but you can still share in their joy and sorrow, pray for their needs, and maybe even find a missionary that needs support before he makes the trek all the way to your church.
So, what does that mean for your church? Facebook is a quick, easy, and, best of all, free way to develop an internet presence, with the added benefit of allowing your church family to share the page and interest others in your church. Most churches already have an existing Facebook Page that can be claimed and have information added. By sharing information and pictures about your church, you can keep people engaged and perhaps drive interest in your church. The only thing that Facebook charges for is boosting posts (paid advertising), so even if your church doesn’t want to pay for a website, you can use a Facebook page instead.
Many pastors have begun using a Twitter account to “tweet” short messages. Twitter is a “micro-blogging” social media platform, where you can type short (140 characters or fewer) updates for people to read quickly on the go. This can be used to encourage people, exhort your members, and evangelize random followers (yes, I just alliterated that).
LinkedIn is a more professional version of Facebook, where individuals post their occupation, experience, and past jobs, and create network connections with other people who can endorse your experiences. LinkedIn is definitely not for games, silly shares, or chain letters; it’s more professional and designed for real networking between people in the same “field,” which in a pastor’s case is the ministry. Building out a LinkedIn profile will allow you to create a “professional” side to your persona, for people who may be interested in the Th.Ds and past experience
Most importantly, though, from an internet technology perspective, is that using social platforms to provide a more complete vision of your church and ministries will drive more traffic to your website, and while it’s not about the “numbers,” it may help someone learn about your church who otherwise may never have been able to find you. Social media can, of course, be a waste of time, but when utilized correctly, it can be a benefit to your church.