Diocesan survey shows room for improvement in social media

CNS (Catholic News Service) published some of the findings of a diocesan survey regarding use of Social Media – Survey says dioceses getting the hang of new media, but slowly.

While the article puts a moderately positive spin on the results, citizens of the new ‘Digital Continent’ might see things a bit differently.

Right off the top, here is a significant cause for concern…emphasis mine.

The increase in media awareness is at least evident in those dioceses who responded to the survey. Of 189 U.S. diocesan communications offices surveyed, 89 returned the questionnaire.

Greater than 50% of the dioceses didn’t even respond. Then, are we to assume…

  1. Those diocesan communications offices do not actually exist or have staff?
  2. If they do, they do not have any interest in social media?

Or, are they too busy? Personally, I think #2 is the most likely answer.

The rest of the survey findings indicate limited – but seemingly growing – use of social media.

EVERY diocese should have a Twitter account and a Facebook page.

That should be the goal. To be sure, it’s not a lofty one, but it’s the bare minimum to be able to say that the Church is interested in engaging the culture through one of it’s most important (and fastest growing) mediums of communication. For those concerned about needing necessary resources and training, only 15 minutes is needed per day to use and monitor them, and it will take less time to train someone than it would a phone switchboard.

The USCCB has published guidelines on the implementation of social media. It’s time to step up to the plate and put these into practice.

To even casual observers, the Church is significantly behind the times in this arena, but this should not dissuade us from the work at hand. Rather, it should motivate us. With Faith and Hope in Jesus Christ, He will provide us the tools necessary for this great work of evangelization, just as He has raised prophets and saints in every generation and throughout history.

Let the work begin.

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Author:Craig Berry

Craig Berry is a Catholic web developer and musician.
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  • Joyce D

    I think you may be right. But add to the possibilities, number 3: diocesan administrations may be extremely afraid of social networking. I am pretty sure my diocese did not respond. We are currently forbidden to use YouTube because a number of years back a video an office posted generated nasty comments, and from the tenor of the preliminary discussions about social networking policy, it is clear that none of us are free to put up an “official” Facebook page for any diocesan ministry. I pray for their enlightenment.

    • http://Www.catholicservant.com Craig

      You are right. There is fear among many organizations.

      To continue on that point…

      Should fear dictate our initiatives? For example, occasionally our Archbishop has written articles that have appeared on in the local secular press. Some of the responses in print and their online editions have been appalling…quite often disgusting. Should that dissuade him from doing it again? Is it different for online projects.

      To the point…

      We are going to be mocked and ridiculed. This is a given, especially in our hedonistic culture…and even more so in the digital age with it’s anonymity.

      If we truly believe in what we are saying, in what we are attempting to accomplish…namely the evangelization of our society…we can rest in trust that Our Lord will join the fray.

      Does this guarantee success? Unfortunately, no. But I do believe it’s worth fighting for.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • Sr. Angela Ann

    This is very interesting! First, I beleive that diocese need to have a comprehensive pastoral communications (digital) plan in place! If not, we keep doing all these techy things trying to keep up with the nano-shift of one app to another! Second, I think we need to require that all those in ministry formation, including clergy (even the Holy Father said this) that pastoral communications planning needs to be in place. If not, we keep running after the latest trend with no comprehensive direction! Just a simple thought from the ‘new ancient one’!

    • http://Www.catholicservant.com Craig

      Thanks for your comment Sister!

      I absolutely agree that our initiatives and work should be entered into with prudence. I’ve seen too many failures in chasing the ‘latest and greatest’. What’s worse, is those missteps gives more ammo to the critics.

      That’s why I suggested the simple baby steps of Twitter and Facebook. Anyone can quickly and easily get those going, and they don’t require much ‘training’. For those getting started, just using it for simple one-way communications is probably best. Upcoming events and announcements would be good to start with.

      Also, it should be sustainable. Trying too many things at once can backfire. If a diocese can establish even a simple and reliable presence that brings value, the online community will latch on. Once there is momentum, new ideas will likely come up on how to leverage these tools…but keeping in mind sustainability. It is amazing how quickly people will lose interest if something isn’t kept up to date and relevant.

  • http://marccardaronella.com Marc Cardaronella

    I think Joyce is right. There is a definite fear of what kind of comments will come back if a parish or diocese opens themselves up in the social media environment. Whenever I mention social media to other Church workers, that’s the first thing out of their mouths. But really, that’s the kind of open leadership that is required of the Church right now and what will increasingly be required of the Church in the future to remain relavant with her younger members.

    I’m reminded of a remark by Fr. Robert Barron on the subject. He spoke about how many negative comments came back on his videos when he first began posting on You Tube. He said it didn’t bother him because he recognized that he was operating on the margin and really engaging the culture where Catholicism didn’t normally have a voice. He said You Tube was like the New Areopagus where a convergence of ideas meet. Sometimes there will be negative reactions to these new ideas. Sometimes they will meet with resistance. But sometimes they will be accepted.

    I think this is where the Church needs to be…engaging culture in the places where the Church doesn’t normally have a voice and having discussions with people that don’t necessarily agree with us. That is the realm of evangelization. Truthfully, the internet is like the “dark continent” and it’s scary in there when you look in from the outside. However, the only way to reach the people in there is to become one of them and engage them on their own turf. I think our fear comes from comfort and we can’t afford to be too comfortable in this or we’ll fail to reach our younger members and those people that most need to hear us.