Open Leadership by Charlene Li is about how organizations can harness the power of ‘Giving up Control’ and using social networks to further their mission. Her book is chalked full of stories about how organizations have successfully moved forward with social media. While she does occasionally reference churches, she doesn’t center on them.
About 5 years go my church, Second Baptist, made a push to engage the community via social networks. I’ll outline the process, benefits and challenges we have faced and are facing.
– Trust those that know. When the church decided to engage social media we brought in people who knew both the power and the danger. These leaders happened to be members of the church and were excited to use their professional skills for the church. Over a series of meetings, we laid out our goals and how we would achieve them. Ultimately, we decided that Facebook was our best entry point, though we secured a twitter account in case we wanted to use that in the future.
– We put our Facebook link on all our church media (e-mail, website, etc.). We encouraged church members to ‘like’ our page and then to share our link on their own Facebook pages. As of right know there are 148 church members who like our page.
– Then, we used Facebook’s in-house advertising mechanism using our ‘Different Kind of Baptist Church” theme. Our hope was to draw new folks to our FB page who would see posts that center on issues like justice, women leading the church, ways to engage, surveys etc. and that they would like our page. Even though we had a good plan, we were surprised when the plan actually worked. As of right not we have 385 people who like our page and aren’t members of our church. This has given us the opportunity to communicate with people that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to, for extremely cheap.
– We’ve underestimated the challenge of moving folks from liking our page to engaging us as a church. We hoped by giving people opportunities to serve that that we could connect in-person (via a service project or something). That hasn’t proved true. Unfortunately, we have all these FB friends, and we can’t engage them in a real and meaningful way.
– At first, posting was easy but as the years have dragged on, posting good content consistently has been a challenge. Part of that is because we don’t have one person dedicated to posting. We have a rotation where several persons are responsible for posting once a day.
– We’ve been able to communicate needs to our church members quickly and easily. For example, the city was opening an emergency homeless shelter during a particularly cold night, and they were requesting soups. I posted on the church FB page and got more soups than we needed!
– When we’ve been on mission trips (South Africa, disaster responses, etc.) we’ve been able to appropriately keep our church updated with pictures and information about what’s going on.
There are other benefits and challenges that have resulted from us engaging social media, but these stick out to me the most. What suggestions do you have on how we might help people move from being Facebook friends to actually engaging with our church?