Thursday, July 14, 2011

See all the people

A couple of days ago, I was on a TweetChat with folks talking about the church and social media. The moderator asked, "Which social media tools are you using with your church or organization? Successfully or unsuccessfully?"

Now, maybe I was just imagining this because I'm looking at the TweetChat transcript and I'm not seeing it, but what I remember was a number of people saying, "We use Facebook. Members of our congregation aren't on Twitter." To which I thought, that seems like it makes Twitter a PRIME target for churches. After all, isn't one of the major goals for churches reaching out to people who don't come in the doors?

Legend has it that famous bank robber Willie Sutton answered a reporter who asked him why he robbed banks with the pithy phrase, "Because that's where the money is." It seems to me that churches who only use the social media their congregations use are like a bank robber who is constantly checking the balance of his own savings account!

Here are three suggestions for how churches can use Twitter as a strategy to reach out into the community and the world.

The first is listening. Find the people in your community who are tweeting and follow them. See what they're saying about your city. The easiest way to do this is to enter the name of your locality in the Twitter search box, but Mashable offers 8 other ways to find who's tweeting near you.

Don't worry about whether they follow you or whether they have any interest in the church. This is an excellent opportunity for you to hear what's going on in your community without people clamming up because you are religious. Just listen.

The second is respond. This may seem obvious, but churches are amazingly bad about responding to someone who tweets to them or about them. Church Marketing Sucks, which noted this problem, also has an excellent follow up on why this happens and what to do about it. Something to bear in mind if you set up a Twitter account is that, even if you never post anything, you still need to know if others are trying to reach you and respond appropriately.

And finally, of course, is share. And don't limit yourself to announcements about what the church will be doing and invitations that people should come on by. What about having someone live tweet your services on Sundays? Why not let people lurk beyond your doors and hear what you have to say? It doesn't always having to be about "come to us." Through Twitter you can convey "we will come to you where you are." And isn't that what our faith is all about?

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