Should your church be LinkedIn?
You've heard the name and probably received an invitation or two to connect on LinkedIn, but does your church need to be there? Do you need to establish an outpost on yet another social media platform? Here's what you need to know to make that decision.
1. Who is there?
The number one reason to consider LinkedIn is because of the stats on their audience. Just a few years ago, this was a fledgling niche social network that could be ignored. Today, however, they are reaching exactly the audience that most churches hope to engage. Take a look at these statistics:
With 93 million users in the United States, LinkedIn has almost 1/3 penetration into the U.S. market.
42% of the users are aged 25-44. That percentage climbs to 62% if you expand that range to 25-54.
Though the precise percentages vary, there are more men than women on the site. 47% use the site two hours or less per week.
2. What is it?
LinkedIn is a business-oriented social media service that helps people build professional connections, share details of their professional lives and even find jobs.
If Facebook is the virtual expression of conversations shared in a living room, LinkedIn is the digital version of information that might be shared in board rooms and on trade show floors. You won't find pictures of cats wearing pajamas or the details of a recent trip to the grocery store, but you will find the sorts of projects users work on, a listing of their skills, and even some examples of their work.
Your church is a melting pot of spiritual gifts. Consider capturing information from LinkedIn to create a business and faith database that matches skills with the needs of your congregation.
3. Other factors in making the decision
Should you take the plunge? There are a couple of other factors you might want to consider. If you already have employees on the service, there is a high possibility that they have listed you as their employer. If there is another church with a similar name already on LinkedIn (there are several Christ UMCs, for example) it is likely that your employees are already, unintentionally listed as being employed by that organization. If nothing else, owning your presence on the service is worthwhile.
If you have a membership that is in the typical LinkedIn spectrum, you have an opportunity to serve them and "endorse" the qualifications they have exhibited in your church as well as gaining exposure to their contacts when they follow your page.
4. What are your options?
You have three basic options for using this service: personal pages, company pages, and groups.
At the most basic level, someone in your leadership having a personal presence on LinkedIn is required to go any further with the service. You will use this personal account to create the other pages. If you are ready to take the plunge, make sure to schedule about an hour. Unlike other social media services, LinkedIn requires you to have much more information about yourself completed before you are ranked high enough ("Intermediate" or "All-Star") to create company pages or groups.
Much like a Facebook page, this will be the basic digital outpost for your church on LinkedIn. You can post status updates and job openings here that will be seen by people who follow your page or are listed as employees. Many churches, like Bethlehem United Methodist, use this as a place to list their service times and other offerings. People browsing through pages in their area will have quick access to the most vital information about how they can connect to the wonderful things happening there. Other churches, like Trinity United Methodist, also use this business-oriented site to post job openings. Many people use LinkedIn to find openings in their area.
Like Facebook, people can make comments on statuses and like your content. In order to create it, you will need to have about an hour available, logos in several sizes and orientations ready to upload or a photo editing program ready to crop and resize your existing graphics. You will also need to have registered and confirmed an email address associated with your church's domain name (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is the highest-level of engagement and operates much like a discussion board. If you have a lot of people active on LinkedIn, you might consider adding groups for your worship services, around Bible study curriculum or other broad, discussion-centered themes. This won't take you long to set up initially, but it will demand you regularly check in and engage with those who are part of the group. Groups can be private like Roswell United Methodist's Job Networking Ministry group, or public like Church of the Resurrection's Christians @ Work.
Now that you have the information, it's time to make a decision and get to work.
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