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Series: 7 Practical Steps to Getting Started in Social Media

Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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social media, social networksPeriodically, I get messages from people that sound something like this…

“Paul, I know social media is big.  Our business/non-profit/church needs to start using it, but we’re not sure how.  Can you point me towards some resources and give me some practical steps to getting started?”

It’s a great question.  A lot of the blog posts, webinars, and training sessions talk about the benefits of social media but lack practical steps.  Many others are written assuming the reader is already using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc and are over the head of the person just getting started.

So, today we’re going to kick off an 7 part series called Practical Steps to Getting Started in Social Media.

Before we jump into the practical steps, though, there are 3 important prefaces I want to touch on first.

1) Learn how to learn.

No two organizations are exactly the same, therefore no two organizations should have the same approach to social media.  There are a million social networks out there and a million different ways to use each one.  If you are looking for step-by-step instructions so you can function like a social media robot, I think that’s the wrong approach.

A better approach is for us discuss a general philosophy of how to learn about and engage in social media in a way that’s applicable to all social networks.  This will empower you develop your own unique voice, figure out how to use social media in your own unique way, and prepare you for future social networks which are bound to come along.

2) Understand that social media is a conversation.

If you are just getting started in social media, all of your marketing up to this point has been broadcasting in one direction – from you to your customers/supporters/members.  If you view social media as another medium to “get your message out” you will fail.  Not only will you not produce results, but you will actually damage your organization’s reputation.

Imagine yourself at a party.  If all you do is stand in one place and talk about yourself to anyone who comes within shouting distance, you will look like a self-centered fool, and everyone will ignore you.  It does not matter how great your product, organization or cause is.

You absolutely must understand that social media is a conversation.  Yes, there is a time when you get to talk, but listening, responding, and asking questions are even more important.

3) Be a person first.

The best business owners are the ones that understand their customers.  The same is true in social media.  The businesses, non-profits, and churches who are using social media best today are the ones who are led by people who know what it’s like to be on the other side.  They engage with other people, businesses, non-profits, and churches themselves, they know how they want to be treated, and they know what they want from the organizations they engage with.  They bring that experience to their organizations and engage with people the way they want to be engaged with.  So, if you want your organization to use social media well, the place for you to start is to engage in social media yourself as an individual.

I’ll close this post with a preview of the 7 practical steps to getting started in social media:

  1. Learn
  2. Listen
  3. Mingle
  4. Develop Your Voice
  5. Set Goals
  6. Implement & Adjust
  7. Incorporate

Tune in tomorrow for Step 1: Learn

Until then, let’s talk about the 3 prefaces above.  Which jumps out at you and why?

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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.

20 Comments

  • As always good stuff Paul!!! I think too many people just see the ROI or $$ when it comes to Facebook. Sure that can be your ultimate goal but if you're just puking on people all the time they'll eventually hit the Hide button..

  • #2 was my biggest hurdle – I didn't "get it" – for instance, I really thought twitter was just a "status" reporter… I'm pretty embarrassed about my early tweets.

    Good stuff.

    • Hey Herb, I appreciate the comment because I think a lot of people have a tough time with that one.

  • The other day, my great niece was over. She is 14 and has lost her Facebook account twice. She has given up on them and just does Twitter now. She says she likes it better. I just don't see it. I have a Twitter account and one for my business… and I follow a handful of people and they follow me… including you. But where do I go from there? She helped me with my account and showed me how to do a few things. I guess that helped. I'm really used to FB and most of my friends are there and it's easy to use. I have over 450 friends on FB and only a dozen on Twitter, even fewer on MySpace. I have fun on it. I read up on my friends, especially the ones I don't get to see very often. I have reconnected with kids I want to first grade with 45 years ago. There are 8 of us now from that class as friends on FB. But with my business…. I don't know how to get any kind of momentum going. I admit, my bottom line is that I would like more people to come to my site and increase my sales… but I really don't see FB and Twitter helping me with that at this point.

    • Hey Warren, I can understand where you're coming from. I think if you continue through the series you'll get some good ideas for what to do next.

  • Great article! I have seen several pastors start Twitter and Facebook accounts and in doing so, forget that it is truly a conversation. They will announce topics for Sunday sermons and send reminders for church events. Yet, any responses from followers or those who post on fan pages are dismissed. It needs to be more than a bullhorn.

    Keep up the insightful postings.

  • I get that a lot of people think that social media is strictly social, but if you look at some survey data, you will find that a lot of people are on social media for a lot of different reasons. Look at Exact Target's latest batch of research reports and you will find many different levels of engagement–this is pretty much a mirror of Groundswell's sociographic/psychographic research about people online as well. Twitter and Facebook are both being used as "bullhorns" by some that just wish to use it as a broadcast tool.That fits the needs of those who are only on there to get info. Twitter, especially, is evolving into this. What they won't succeed at is building community–it will only be another channel of information. Believe it or not, there is a large group of people on social media just watching and getting info–they are not there to be part of a community. Yes, it is social, but don't discount it totally as a tool for information dissemination. What you'll get there are people that only follow you for info and nothing else. Granted, it doesn't fit the "spirit" of social media, but it is part of the marketing mix.

    • Chris, I think that's a great point and one I've been meaning to write about for a while. But I do think if a person goes into social media with the mindset that it's just another broadcast channel, first they're missing out on a huge opportunity, and second they run the risk of looking like that person at the party that just talks about themselves all the time.

      • I agree with you totally. However, I do believe that building that community with social media is a lot more time consuming than just broadcasting. I also believe that there is an engaging way to broadcast, and that there may be "seasons" when you broadcast because of time constaints or urgency of events and then try your hand at the engaging stuff as you have time. Twitter is evolving into a broadcast and curating tool–interesting to watch its evolution over the past couple years. If you look at the Twitter trending topics, you see it's still a "what are you doing now?" channel with most, but has developed a much more legit side for curating niche news. So I guess I am saying that social media tools don't just have one function–it depends on what value you need them to add to what you're doing. Interesting discussion.

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