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The 10 commandments of social media

SUMMARYA relatively new term in today’s lexicon is “social media.” You may wonder, “How can I engage my church, our programs and our people in social media?"

The answer is easy: participate. Get out there and get involved. If you aren't in the game, you can't win. Here are your Ten Commandments or things you need to do to get involved and win with social media.

Commandment I: Thou shalt blog (like crazy). That is the first priority. Set up a personal blog, a group blog or a churchwide blog. It's easier than you think. Use an existing blogging site such as Blogger.com or GOingOn.com or install your own branded blogging site right on your own server by using WordPress. WordPress is free.

Commandment II: Thou shalt create profiles (everywhere). Create your profiles; do it now before someone else takes them. Once they are gone, they are gone forever. That's called “cyber squatting.” So get out there. Use Open Social to complete your profiles easily—with a click of a button.

Commandment III: Thou shalt upload photos (lots of 'em). Make sure they are quality photographs that convey joy, peace, healing and community. Now showcase your congregation in action. Here is a simple video tutorial that shows you how to use Windows Movie Maker to make a slideshow of your photographs with music playing in the background. If you have Windows XP or Vista then you already have Windows Movie Maker installed.   

Commandment IV: Thou shalt upload videos (silly ones). Everyone has videos. Grab your video camera and interview people in your congregation. What's better than seeing their smiley faces on your Web site? Read all about the Flip Cam video recorder here. It's easy to use and a great tool for ministry.

Commandment V: Thou shalt podcast (often).  A podcast is an audio or video program made available as a downloadable digital file. It is usually spoken word such as a rebroadcast of a radio program or sermon, usually released periodically as part of a series and usually offered via syndication. If you cannot afford a camera, use the free audio software in your computer. You can do that. It's free. It just takes time. For more details on how to use this new technology, read the informative MyCom article entitled, "Attract young adults via podcast."

Commandment VI: Thou shalt set alerts (immediately). Sign up for a free service such as Google Alerts or Social Mention. An alert is an e-mail update of the latest relevant results (Web, news) based on your choice of query or topic. Use alerts to monitor a developing news story, keep current on a particular subject, or get the latest on a celebrity or an event. People are talking about you and your church. Use alerts to find out what they’re saying? The next question is, how can you participate?

Commandment VII: Thou shalt leave comments (on multiple blogs). Commenting is like going to a party. You would not go into a church event, walk up to a group of people talking, and interrupt them to share your name and other personal information. That would be rude and unacceptable. Listen first. Read the blogs and add comments. You can be controversial. It attracts attention.  Participate. Get involved.

Commandment VIII: Thou shalt get connected (with everyone). Get LinkedIn. Put it in your e-mail that you have LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Make it a part of your heading on your church letterhead because that is how you propagate. That is how you “sell” your church and its ministries.

Commandment IX: Thou shalt explore social media (30 minutes per week) Grab your coffee, lock yourself in your office and Google something. If you really want to go nuts, look up "Google" on Wikipedia. Talk about a great ROI (return on investment).

Commandment X: Thou shalt be creative (create creatively). This is the most important commandment. That is what people want—whether they are longtime church members or Web visitors. They want to see transparency. They want to see authenticity. They want to see your congregation reaching out—and having fun. They want to be able to relate and communicate.

--Adapted from an article by Lon Safko, co-author, The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools and Strategies for Business Success