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5 Ways to connect online to create real relationships

By Natalie Bannon

In an earlier video, we provided tips for growing your Facebook congregation. Let's dive a little deeper. Here are five specific examples from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that you can use to create meaningful online conversations to cultivate real relationships with church members and visitors.

1. It's not me, it's you
Imagine yourself on the other side of the computer screen. What types of posts would make you stop scrolling and compel you to click or comment? Aim to use YOU language to connect on a personal level. Here's a quick example. Instead of posting 'We are hosting a service event for the annual Change the World weekend' re-phrase it to ask your friends, 'How will you Change the World?'

2. Give and take
Online conversations are much like face-to-face ones. They're made up of a give and take of questions, answers and related responses. Truly listen and show your friends you value their interaction. The United Methodist Church's Facebook page recently asked, 'What's your favorite line from a hymn or Christian song?' A couple of days later, they shared this photo and post, 'We've been singing all of your favorite hymns and song lines. All of them provide great joy and comfort. Some of your answers inspired this creation.'

3. Rome wasn't built in a day
And neither was a fabulous Facebook page, a terrific Twitter account&ellipsis; you get the idea. It takes patience. Dedicate some time each day to retweet a few articles, comment on other pages and respond to comments. Timeliness is key. Respond as soon as possible to let your friends know you are listening. Be genuine. Take a peek @umrethinkchurch on Twitter for a great example that uses an authentic approach to connecting.

4. Make it worthwhile
Social networks are full of valuable articles, tips and research. Become known as a helpful source. Re-purpose existing, useful content from your own church blog, newsletter, website or information from umc.org or umcom.org. The United Methodist Communications Facebook page often posts articles, tips and videos like this one that are originally produced for our e-newsletter, MyCom.

5. Be creative
Don't be afraid to try something new. A fun example is the Lenten photo-a-day challenge in which Rethink Church created a word or phrase for each day of Lent, and asked friends to post a reflective photo via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Tumblr. This is just one example. Whatever you try, remember to keep an eye on insights and analytics to gauge response. What works for one network, might not work for another. It's important to listen and create a space your friends desire.

We look forward to chatting with you online. Let us know if you have questions or just stop by to say hi. Connect at Facebook.com/umcom or on Twitter and Instagram @umcommunication.