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I saw this on Leadership Network’s Digital blog and thought it was worth re-posting. Good stuff!

The following is an interview with Mark Clement founder and president of Big Picture Media in Birmingham, AL, which provides communication strategies and media content for churches and other faith-based clients across the country.

A lot is going on in “social media” today – how should churches define that space?

Churches should view social media as being equally important as their websites and as any other core communication tools they may already be using. Successful churches meet people where they are, and right now the “where” digitally/web-wise is, without question, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other related social media forums. If you want to be part of the conversation on any level, you have to be around the same table as those you’re trying to converse with.

Why does social media matter?

First, social media is a game changer. Right now the community-wide water cooler is social media, predominantly Facebook.

This is where people talk about their lives, their needs, what’s important to them, their struggles and their victories. The church needs to be “hearing” these things and then responding when appropriate. It’s a window into the lives of your people and the people you are trying to reach. No longer are you dependent on someone calling you to deliver news; there’s a constant stream of it right there in front of you.

A second reason is relevance: a relevant church knows and understands the things that impact its people and its community. If you’re in a farming community you should know all about rainfall, government subsidies and all the other things that affect your community. If you’re in a suburb it’s typically all about the schools and the ball fields. Social media is bigger than all that because wherever you live it encompasses every single part of daily life. Being part of that shows you care, that you get it, and that you’re not out of touch.

What are some statistics about the various types of media that churches shouldconsider?

Facebook has more than 400 million active users globally, with over 100 million in the U.S. alone. Women use Facebook more than men and they are primary communicators for their families, especially for church stuff.

The largest segment is people between 18-54 years old. Half of active users log onto Facebook on any given day. On top of that, more than 100 million active users currently access Facebook through their mobile devices.

Statistics get a little fuzzier for Twitter. The word active is important here because more than 60% of Twitter users abandon their accounts within first month. There were just over 20 million active users by the end of 2009, mostly in the United States. That is expected to rise to about 26 million in 2010.

About 10% of the users generate 90% of the content. In other words, there is more listening than talking. It is more of a conduit to you as opposed to from you. It is more of a professional tool than a personal tool in contrast to Facebook.

Twitter can be a great tool if your crowd uses it, but if not don’t expect to convince them on it just because you are tweeting.

How important is it for churches to match their audience with the right media?

Extremely. When you do anything as a church you have to ask “why” and “who are we doing this for?”

If you’re a small, declining church full of senior citizens, social media is probably a waste of time for you. although that may change in years to come. If you’re an “average” church reaching a good mix of all ages, Facebook is for you as it will touch the most people. Twitter is more of a professional tool used by a professional crowd, and even then it’s still used by a small percentage of those folks.

For example, the church where I am a member is about 1,500 in attendance each week, it is very affluent and it’s in an upper middle class area. There are tons of professionals but realistically less than 20% are probably active on Twitter — and that’s being generous. For most churches, Facebook is the best way to go.

What are the first steps in establishing this type of approach?

First, know your audience, what they are using and how they are using it. So survey your crowd. Second, know who is going to monitor and maintain everything and make it part of their job description. If this isn’t planned out it will fall flat, just like most church websites do. And third, if you need help, hire a coach/consultant to come in for a few hours or a day and walk you through everything.

What are the negatives with social media?

In general it can become a huge time sucker. There is a fine line between using it and letting it use you. You need to be strategic and intentional in how you use it. Also if you’re the type of church that is very image conscious, you need to be careful about who is responsible for speaking on your behalf in these forums. It has to be someone you trust to make wise decisions, but it shouldn’t need to be the pastor, who probably already has enough to do.

Should all pastors Twitter? In a recent gathering of our next generation pastors group they said they all do.

“All” pastors should not. But those who are eager to learn and value input from others can greatly benefit from the flow of information that can come to them via Twitter. For next generation pastors it’s a no-brainer. It’s a great way to hear about new books, conferences, trends, blogs, what’s working and what’s not, etc. — it’s a great listening device. And for those who have something of value to add to the conversation, it is the perfect forum to engage in the exchange of ideas.

That jives with what they said. They find it a small part of their communication with their congregation but a big part of communicating with other pastors.

What does your company do to help churches in this area?

Big Picture Media provides all level of coaching/consulting related to social media, from on-site, to web and phone support, one time or ongoing. We can help a church develop a social media strategy as part of their overall communications plan. We can help them create that entire plan or help to incorporate the social media component into whatever strategy is pre-existing.

We also do anything and everything related to media. Branding, market positioning, overall communication strategy development, copywriting, print design, web design, video production, etc.  Our team has 30 + years of church staff experience and all are heavily involved in their local ministries and churches. We speak the language, we walk the talk, and we love what we do.


You can connect with Mark via Twitter at www.Twitter.com/markclement, at his blog at http://www.markclement.com/, or you through the Big Picture Media web site which is http://www.bigpicturemediagroup.net.


This article originally appeared in Leadership Network Advance.

Greg Atkinson

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