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Social Networking Round Table – Part 2

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social networkingLast week we kicked off our Social Media Round Table with part 1 focusing on personal consumption of social media (reading blogs, tweets, listening to podcasts, watching video). With so much social media available, it can be overwhelming to keep up with it all. So, last week our round table gave us their insights into how to manage social networking and keep it in its proper priority and perspective.

Today in part 2 our round table looks at social media for organizations. There are lots of opportunities for organizations to connect with people using social networking tools like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Many organizations struggle to decide which tools to use and how to use them effectively. Our panel provides some insight to help your organization navigate those options.

Part 2: Social Networking for Organizations

Our panel for this part 2 is once again:

1) Do you think every business, church, and non-profit should blog, be on Facebook, and Twitter (and others)? What advice would you give an organization as to which social networking sites to use?

KM: The number of social media users is up 87% since 2003 (no distinction between churched or unchurched) and now outnumbers email users for the first time. In the past year, the time spent on social networks increased 73 percent, Nielsen says. We have moved past the industrial age through the information age to the interconnected age. In Branding Faith, Phil Cooke says “Yesterday it was about dumping the same message on the mass audience because they didn’t have much choice. Today, it’s about making a connection—the kind of connection that not only makes people hear what you have to say, but also makes them respond.”

This new human behavior is all about developing relational collateral online. It’s one of the most important issues facing organizations today. If we don’t find a way to meet people in their online spaces, or at least learn about them, we end up becoming completely out of touch. So, instead of dumping the same message on the masses, what if we get back in touch with what people are connecting with and develop our approach from there? Worth noting; the smartest organizations are using social media to listen to what customers and competitors are saying. They don’t jump in with the self-centered perspective of “here’s another outlet for us to talk.” They use it as an opportunity to deliver great customer service fielding real-time questions and customer feedback—good and bad.

If an organization isn’t ready to set up a blog, Twitter or Facebook account, I think that’s ok. At a minimum, they should be searching to see what real people in their community are saying about them. Here’s three places to start searching: Technorati, Google, Twitter. They are the most widely used with the broadest coverage.

You choose which audience to respond to and which to absorb, but without looking through that social network window…you risk making decisions about your organization based on incomplete or inaccurate information.

MF: The social media tools aren’t right for everyone and every organization. A small church in a rural area where many of the members don’t use the Internet isn’t going to benefit from the church being on facebook. On the other hand, the church plant made up of 20 somethings could really benefit from a presence on facebook.

I think the key is to know how the tools that exist will help the mission of your local organization and how to use those tools well. This is where many churches fall short. Often times they will take a shot gun approach and try to use as many services as possible. This can lead to not using them effectively. Instead, I would start with one service at a time and learn to use it effectively.

JS: Absolutely not. Not every business, church, and non-profit need necessarily to use social media. I definitely would strongly advise and suggest that one should, but there is wisdom in actually focusing your time and resources on a handful and doing and having the diligence to do the research to make sure that that particular social network can reap or benefit for your organization or church. Not all churches and ministries and organizations are the same and so engagements should reflect the differences between them.

Again, that depends on the organization and their overall strategy, what they want to get in return. Are they using it for marketing or PR or for community development etc.? All this will turn ultimately to tools and services that an organization uses.

2) Do you think organizations use all social networking sites to convey the same information? For example, if a church has a blog or news feed, should they be content to use email, Facebook, Twitter to notify people of what’s on the blog or news feed? Or do you think it’s important that each social network be used differently to convey different information and relate to people differently?

KM: It’s acceptable for some level of redundancy, but typically Twitter is best used to scoop snippets that drive people to the place with more depth information. For example, I frequently Twitter a quip with a link to a blog, an online article or to a photo album on Facebook. In our church, we’ll use Twitter as reminders or to provide that audience inside scoop that you wouldn’t find on the web site or blog. It’s one of the “benefits” to being on Twitter. But, if you’re not on Twitter—you won’t miss important info because it’s included in the other vehicles people depend on (e.g., web site & weekly enews).

MF: How we use social networking tools is a tough question and is often dependent on the ministry you have in front of you. The first and maybe most important part of this is a danger. The mission of the church is explained in the Great Commission. We are to do this by serving others. We need to be careful to not get caught putting to many of our resources into social media or get caught up in them. The goal is to show people Christ, serve others, and resource people to do both of these. Social media needs to support this.

For a typical church I would recommend having a blog and a church twitter feed. The twitter feed can let people with or without a twitter account follow the blog easily. While the twitter feed is great for sharing the blog it should be used for more than that. When events happen they should be tweeted the day before. Pictures of events should be shared in real time.

Sites like facebook should be used but should not be the central hub for a churches information. A few years ago Myspace was the popular tool. Now it’s facebook and twitter. In five more years will anyone be talking about facebook? While it’s a great tool you shouldn’t rely on it too heavily.

JS: That also depends again on your overall strategies for what you are using the services for. If you are going to be using it as a place to market and a place for public relations, and blitzing out information, you can use all source of avenues for that. Just copy and paste the same message into the different social networks. If you are interested in more intimate relationship building and community development then perhaps those kind of the spam information more informational stuff wouldn’t be appropriate. It all depends on your strategy.

3) Are there any tools or processes you recommend to help organizations manage their social networking effectively and consistently?

KM: There are no one-size-fits all approaches. It’s very unique and personalized to each organization and individual. The key to is to identify the primary objective (an extension of a leader’s influence, a customer service mechanism, a networking tool, etc.) for what audience (peers, professionals, prospects, clients, family, etc.) and go from there. Once that’s determined:

  • Get help: I won’t tell you the how, that’s part of the fun of it. Connect with one of your friends who’s doing it & have them walk you through first steps.
  • One thing at a time: Start slow & don’t overload yourself all at once. It’s something you have to experience to understand. Try to make a judgment from someone else’s experience and you’ll miss it. It’s unique and personal to each person.
  • Watch for others for awhile: pick up on their cues of the do’s & don’ts. Find what’s comfortable for you before you start interacting. But, your first step should be to at least GO to the party. If you aren’t ready to participate in the festivities, it’s totally fine to be a wallflower.
  • When you are ready, go ahead & participate, mingle and connect; but don’t fake it. Remember, it’s a party not a show. Avoid too much information: it may be personal…but it’s not private.

MF: I would recommend utilizing volunteers in the church. Many times learning to use these tools is left up to staff members who are already busy and this is one more thing. God made us to serve as the body of the church. Find trusted members of your church help and even take care of the churches presence on the different tools. If you can find volunteers who are already users of the tools, understand them, and let them use their knowledge and gifts with the tools to serve the church.

JS: I would definitely recommend asking hard questions about what is your strategy why you are doing what you are doing if you are just interested in knowing what is out there in informational gathering and not necessarily joining into the conversation then grab your best speed reader and go to town. There are a number of great tools out there in terms of seeing what the response of an organization’s engagement and effectiveness in metrics and analytics and you can see how effectively your message is getting out there but ultimately I wouldn’t get to this point until a strategy is built.

4) Can you cite some examples of organizations that are doing social networking well? What is it about them that stands out to you?

KM: 37 Signals & Zappos. They offer inside scoop, highlight clients, provide discounts and respond with excellent customer service. They link to items of interest that may or may not apply to their company but always apply to something of value for the customer. They’re responsible and not self-centered.

MF: Many churches and ministries are using social networks but few are using them well. Perry Noble and Leonard Sweet are to people that I think use twitter well. They both use it in different ways and are able to use it well.

JS: This is fairly subjective for a number of reasons but in the term “well” can be defined in a number of ways. Are they reaching a large audience? And maybe they are doing a good job of that so that is ok. Are they creating and forming deep relationships, maybe but not reaching a million people? Well maybe that might be a metrics of success. So you can take a number of different metrics for success and then see if there are any great examples out there, but yes, there are definitely some great organizations that do it well.

In terms of the church world and the evangelical space Life Church does an amazing job of leveraging the tools to get the word out. So certainly in terms of engagement and scope and breath of coverage they do an amazing job of leveraging those too as well. But I am sure that there are a number of smaller ministries that are doing some amazing stuff in terms of really developing the intimate relationships that are necessary for community development and the problem. Perhaps the good thing is that we don’t really see them. They aren’t on the radar and they don’t necessarily need to be.


Thanks to our round table panel – Kem, Matt, and John – for sharing your social networking usage and insights with us.

There’s a ton of wisdom in there, but few insights that stand out to me…

  1. Don’t just jump into social networking because everyone else is doing it. Go in with goals. What do you want to accomplish?
  2. Observe others using the tool to learn the do’s and don’t’s before you try to use it yourself. Or better yet, ask a volunteer who is already familiar with the tool to serve in that capacity.
  3. Try one social networking tool at a time. It’s better to do one thing well, than to try 5 things and do them all poorly.
  4. Remember that social networking is a conversation. Like my mother used to say, “God gave you 2 ears and one mouth, use them in proportion.”

What advice do you have for organizations getting into social networking?

What organizations do you think are using social networking tools effectively?

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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.


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