Why is Social Media in Ministry So Important?

Why is Social Media in Ministry So Important?

The social media model of communication is receiver-focused. It's about understanding problems and helping solve them. The medium, at its best, has shifted us from hype to help.

Here are three reasons you need to be not just doing, but crushing social media, this year.

Social media is the first direct, two-way mass communication medium.

1) "Social" and "Media"

There are two ways to think about social media. The name says it all.

The first is like every other mass communication network that has ever existed, from radio to newspapers to a fleet of carrier pigeons. When most people think of "media," they're thinking of "mass media," or the ability to communicate to a lot of people at once. This kind of communication is one-way, from us to them.

The other way is "social." It's an opportunity to have a conversation with people, to discover what they think, and what matters. Asking why social media is important is like asking why relationships are important.  Ministry is about people, and social media is about people, too.

90 percent of online users listen to social recommendations - opinions shared from friends. It will make or break your reputation. But even thinking about this is the wrong approach, because you're keeping the focus on yourself and your needs.

On the contrary, social media allows a church to really listen in to their people's needs.

Why is social media so important? Social media is the first direct, two-way mass communication medium.

2) On Demand

Quick name the two most disruptive innovations of the 21st century!

You, in the back, that said social media and mobile computing, come on down. These two innovations have been extremely disruptive because for the first time ever, they have enabled real-time, nonstop relationships.

Consider: In the last five years, the average age of the first-time mobile device user has dropped five years.

It's now 10.3 years old. Love it or hate it - we can't ignore it.

The decision whether to engage our people through social media is no longer an option. It is the mission field of the digital age. We must participate just to be heard. Your people need to be able to talk to you the way they know how - and they expect to be able to do it practically real time, on demand.

Why is social media so important?  Your people expect to be able to reach you on demand. 

How accessible are you?

3) Hype to Help

To help promote my latest book last January, my publisher asked me to write an article on creativity and the "winter blahs." 

It got one solitary click on my social networks and blog.  (To whomever that was: thank you.) Wow, that's terrible! Was my network that bad?

A few days later, I posted an article link to my social networks with the title, "Nobody Cares How Hard You Work." This article got 129 clicks.

What was the difference? Not the power of the network. It was the content itself. The first was a promotional piece disguised as a list. It turned out to be my worst post of the year. The second had a good title, an honest observation and a valuable tip on personal productivity.

People in ministry - shoot, in life - hate the word "marketing."

They just do. 

I try to rarely use the word, because to many, it conotates being false and manipulative. That's because people confuse communication with advertising. The old model was sender-focused, always hyping info about yourself to sell something.

The social media model of communication is receiver-focused. It's about understanding problems and helping solve them. The medium, at its best, has shifted us from hype to help.

Why is social media so important? Social media is an opportunity to bring value to people.

In the scrum, what works is increasingly simple: Value. Ask yourself this: Is what you are communicating valuable? Does it bring value to people is it worth their time?

Get to Know the Top Networks

Check out the chart of the active user base for the top networks, courtesy of dreamgrow.com. Let's break a few of them down a bit.

a) Facebook.

Started as a personal networking tool for college campuses and went mainstream in 2007.
Has the most active users (2 billion active users a month), the most traffic by a large margin, and the most engagement (meaning, people who like, click, share and comment).
Known by many as a network for family and friends, but it has had success with professional profile use and dedicated pages.
The biggest dog at the show, by far.  You need to be on it.

b) Instagram.

Went mainstream in 2012. Launched in 2010 as a photography network and then embraced as a teen alternative to Facebook
It has now grown to be the (distant) number two most trafficked network, behind Facebook
800 million active users a month, or 40 percent of Facebook's traffic.
More important for under-35 crowd (as of today).
You should be on this, too, but its image-based format may make sharing links and text-based ideas more challenging. 

c) Twitter.

Went "mainstream" in 2008. I put the word "mainstream" in quotes, because for many, it's never gone mainstream.
Twitter's brand distinctive is instant news, information and reaction. Because the news media like it so much, it gets a lot of attention. It fits their field, but not all fields.
For many, if you want to hear on the ground, unfiltered information of a significant event, this is the go-to source.
Its challenging interface and posting limitations, though, alienate a high percentage of users who want to treat it like they do Facebook. Many people say they simply "don't get it."
Over half of new accounts don't take, and in spite of its history and attention, it only has 328 million active users a month less than half of Instagram and 16 percent of Facebook. 
It's the hardest network in which to grow a base and has not grown as a network since 2014.
Most growing users employ a follow-follow back method where they actively follow several people a day, then unfollow those who don't follow them back within 3-5 days. Because of this, followership size is somewhat of a bogus statistic, and engagement is lower than with other networks. It has also been subject to false and purchased followers.
If you're already on it, great - if you're not, it's may be hard to grow at this point.

d) LinkedIn.

Much smaller than the other networks, at 100 million users a month (5 percent of Facebook's traffic).
A rising network.
Its exclusively professional focus is gaining traction, not just as an online resume and recruiting tool, but in daily interaction.
High engagement, relative to its size.
Ideal for professional engagement and platform building.
For professionally minded churches, it may be the second most important network.

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