social networking

The Future of Social Networking – Round Table Discussion Part 4

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social networkingOver the last 3 weeks our Social Networking Round Table has taken a look a social networking from various angles:

Part 1: Personal consumption of social media – how to manage the reading/viewing/listening to the flood of blogs, tweets, podcasts, videos produced every day.

Part 2: Social networking for organizations – how organizations should choose social networking tools and use them effectively.

Part 3: Social networking for individuals – how to manage multiple relational circles (personal, business, ministry) with various social networking tools

Today in part 4, our round table looks ahead at the future of social networking and wraps things up with some parting thoughts and advice.

Part 4: The Future of Social Networking

Our panel for this part includes

1) Pull out your crystal ball for a moment and tell our readers what social networking will look like 5 years from now?  And how will it tie in with an organization’s website?

John: I’ve read an article for Collide Magazine about what the church would look like in twenty five years and that’s a good place to start. In fact I have actually blogged my answer on churchcrunch at one point.

Social networking, I really don’t actually like that term, because what kind of networking isn’t someone social in the first place, right?  Really, in the future we are really going to be working a lot more into semantic technology or the applications themselves to determine our more nuanced human responses.

For example as one’s personal identity becomes more ubiquitous in online space applications and services will be able to better determine your preferences and the things that you want to do and how you want to engage with an application before you actually click a button. So contextualization of the user with the application is going to be huge.  That’s just because we are taking a bigger chunk of data and the systems and the applications being able to filter through that. A great example of this is Wolfram Alpha and their application service which takes a number of different inputs of data all throughout the web and is able to cohesively create on the fly formulas and answers. So, in the next five years it is going to look, I think, from a visual perspective it is going to look fairly the same but the underbelly of the actual application, the logic behind them is going to be fairly dramatic in terms of how we see those things play out.

I think also social networking is going to get more mobile, and people are going to be spending a lot more time on mobile applications.   All this time with the organization’s website it won’t necessarily unless we make a very very very explicit move to do so.  I think especially in the evangelical space in five years we will probably be just around the marketplace level of today, so not necessarily, but I think there is an opportunity for improvement.

Kem: Facebook and didn’t even exist 3 years ago. I’m not even going to try to answer this one. I have no idea and am awful at attempting future predictions. There are people who are better at this than me.

I imagine social networking in 5 years will be much more tied to the physical world. You’ll be able to see where your friends are at right now through your cell phone and know who’s hanging out. Pictures, videos, and messages will be tied to locations and you’ll be able to see them. More people will be using mobile applications to use social tools.

These predictions are already coming true. Everything I described exists. It’s at the cutting edge of social media and is headed for the main stream.

2) Any other advice or thoughts you’d like to share with our readers on social networking?

John: Social networking is important only as much as its effectiveness at what ultimately we want to do and what our goal is.  For example, in terms of disciple making and helping people to lead into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ if social networking and social web and social technology isn’t doing that effectively, then it is just a waste.  And so remember to ask yourself the hard question in terms of the tools and of course why you are doing what you’re doing.

Kem: New media is one way to make a connection. But, it can appear threatening at first, especially to any organization steeped in tradition like the church. One of my friends (who is a pastor) was initially outspoken against some of these new media outlets. He was skeptical and dismissive. But, he changed his opinion. After he went and checked it out first-hand for himself he said, “Technology is a neutral medium.  It only amplifies what is already inside of me, for good or for bad. Sometimes, I forgot the obvious. It’s easier to blame something outside of me versus face up to the internal realities.” Even I have moved from a skeptic to an advocate on this topic in the past three years. Contrary to the popular fear we hear about social media, it does not replace face-to-face communication; it enhances it. It is a tool that can help organizations and individuals create relational collateral. Here are some of my most excellent stories:

  • Personal/family: I originally started texting and watching MySpace to stay in relationship with my teenager. Now, my 70 year old mother-in-law is on Facebook in an effort to stay connected to her grandkids (and me). We share photos, stories and fun updates. It compresses time; automatically find out most recent news about everyone you care about without having to come back and check for it. Keeps your inbox clean. Instead of hours on the phone with one or two people. Minutes to keep up with everyone. For example, I have 13 neices and nephews. There is no way I can keep up with them all without some robot technology. Thanks to my digital Facebook assistant, I found out today that Luke’s cell phone was run over by a truck. I have something to talk about when I see him at graduation this weekend.
  • Team/staff: Adds value to others. Develop sense of community in spite of pace, location and different schedules. Bonding. Way to get news out when network or email outage. Helps give a voice to introverts.
  • Church/Professional: Info posted once, used over and over. Records what’s happening. Puts a face & personality on the ministry. Forced to organize my thoughts and follow-through. People are watching. I’m accountable. Facilitates connectedness and expressiveness. Provides direct access leaders & ministry experts.
  • Other: I get access to training, tutorials, experts, best practices. Micro-leads to macro information. Instant focus groups. I contribute to community development with peers. It’s a way for me to give back & share insights.

Matt: When it comes to social networking learn to use each tool you choose to use and learn to use it well. Trying to use a lot of them and not using any of them well isn’t going to help the mission or your mission. Learn to be effective and put yourself out there. Be honest, personal, and real. Don’t strive for perfection.

Wrap Up

Thanks again John, Kem, and Matt for sharing your insight in our round table discussion.

What do you think the social networking will look like in the future?

Will social networking tools replace your website?  Will they integrate with your website?  Or is social networking just a fad that we’ll have moved beyond in 5 years?

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About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.


  • a panel discussion on social networking…

    A great panel discussion on social networking was recently moderated at the Christian Web Trends Blog by Paul Steinbrueck. Three leading bloggers, Kem Meyer, John Saddington, Matt Farina and Drew Goodmanson, shared their perspectives on how they use so…

  • I think some great comments were made in the discussion.

    I do think churches have come a long way (at least the big ones) in their “marketing” sensibilities in recent years. They still seem to be behind the curve in terms of understanding how to apply social networking to anything beyond simply promoting events through Facebook.

    Hopefully with what the advocates for social media for churches here in the discussion and with what I’m doing with my social media marketing workshops for churches, things will turn around.

  • This has been a great, well balanced series. I’m the founder of, which was a very active forum for churches using media and at one time was in the top 10,000 sites in the world. I know how to make a “community” work, but social networking (a term that wasn’t even around when I started the site in 1997) has changed so much in the last 10 years. This discussion is very helpful to me because I’m trying to grasp what social networking is TODAY, as opposed to the run-of-the-mill forums of early online interaction.

    I sold my site last year and am now putting together a new version of it. I want it to go way beyond what I originally created and be relevant to current trends. This round-table has given me a lot of insight. As an old dog in the social networking world, I hope I can learn some new tricks. Thank you!