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Church ‘noise’ is the ‘spam’ of social media

SUMMARY: Are you using social media to strengthen relationships within the church or are you just creating more noise? A recent national study of church members reports that most churches are using social media to supplement e-mail. In other words, social media is just another tool to push out messages – or more noise. As a result, many churches do not realize the full potential of social media to engage their congregations.

The study, published in July 2010 by Buzzplant, a Tennessee-based social-media marketing company, involved more than 400 church members across the country. The study reports that although 61 percent of those surveyed said their church uses some form of social media, typically Facebook, only 18 percent of respondents indicated their church seeks or solicits their feedback through social media. Their churches employ these emerging tools, not as a method to engage, but as another way to push out notices about events, 47 percent; youth activities, 34 percent; and volunteer needs, 20 percent. Only about one-third of respondents were involved in small groups where they used social media to discuss their studies. 

For such a “hot” technology, normal church practices have rendered Facebook, Twitter and similar services as relatively ineffective.   This performance did not reflect a lack of interest in social media among church members. Two out of three indicated they would follow church leaders on social media if they knew how to connect with them. Instead, churches must establish communications strategies that acknowledge and embrace the “connectional” nature of these technologies.   

It is not enough to get someone to “follow” the church or church leaders. The focus must become to create conversations. The true power of social media comes from exchanging ideas and opinions. Churches must be intentional in encouraging members to engage in this exchange. 

To make your social media efforts more effective, you may want to review past MyCom articles. In the past few months, the newsletter has recommended that churches:

  1. Set up a group page where you can post news, a church calendar and event invitations.
  2. Create polls to gather information and opinions.
  3. Set up discussion pages and post questions.
  4. Encourage groups to create pages for their resource discussions.
  5. Tie Facebook to your podcasts, photos and blogs.
  6. Engage in reciprocal links with members.
  7. Promote your Facebook group page in bulletins, newsletters and other communications materials.

Your congregation may want to designate someone outside your church staff to manage its Facebook presence and to be responsible for efforts to engage the congregation. Managing a Facebook presence is not hard, but it takes time. Your church staff may not have the time or the Facebook orientation to make your group page a success. In particular, this might be a way to inspire one of your younger-adult members to be more involved in your church. Taking an intentional approach to social media can create dividends that lead to more participation and engagement.