Of course not, for it doesn’t exist. Maybe it existed once, and is now lost to history, but chances are it never existed. This highlights one of our significant challenges with Social Media. Driving adoption of Social Media within the church isn’t really that much about the technology. Its more about change, and Social Media is indeed changing the way we’re used to communicating. The church’s communication is typically one-way communication. A priest preaches from the pulpit, the homily is delivered, and the bulletin is disseminated. These traditional forms of communication do not invite group interaction. Two-way communication is typically done in one-on-one meetings or small group discussions.
This is a new concept and a new way of communicating, but as Bishop Herzog pointed out in a 2010 presentation, “Social Media… is causing as fundamental a shift in communication patterns and behavior as the printing press did 500 years ago. And I don’t think I have to remind you of what happened when the Catholic Church was slow to adapt to that new technology.”
There’s two concerns that always surface about trying to use Social Media within the Church: time commitment and negative commentary.
Making the Time
Will leveraging Social Media take more time from your staff and volunteers? The answer is, unfortunately, yes, initially, but in the long I don’t believe so. The transition takes energy. You have to be willing to learn, to try, and yes, even make a mistake or two. Getting into a rhythm of posting online, responding to inquiries, and updating your website, event calendar, and Facebook page, all takes time. However, it also brings in more engaged volunteers. Those volunteers are very used to email communication, getting E-vites for parties, and using Facebook to communicate, so why not for their church functions that they lead? For them, Social Media is a time saver.
There is a concern that someone may something negative online, but if they do, chances are they’re already saying negative things in the hallways, parking lots or over phone. We can’t ignore this, but rather try and engage them. Here we can take a lesson from Corporate America. The typical corporation is well ahead of the church in its adoption of Social Media. When corporations first started to use Social Media they put the responsibility in someone’s job description and some even created new positions within their organization. They posted jobs for people with titles such as ‘Social Media Manager’ and ‘Social Media Moderator’. Today, every church has at least one person in charge of communications, their church bulletin editor, and larger churches may have more. In the future, this role needs to change to be more of a ‘communications’ editor. There work on Social Media needs to start small and hour or two a week to start.
Corporations are continuing to learn as they go and we can benefit from this. At first, it was all about controlling the message. They had ‘managers’, ‘moderators’ and ‘editors’ trying to control the message of their company and products online. Now, their function and even their job titles are changing. I recently saw a Social Media job title for a large healthcare company titled as their “Social Media Evangelist“! Yes, they’re learning from us and starting to evangelize their products and services online. The idea here is to engage their consumers and unless extreme don’t block or delete negativity, but respond to it positively.
For the typical church, there’s one other important move you can make that virtually eliminates negative comments.. Anonymity should not be permitted. If a parishioner has something to say, they need to use their real name when saying it. Facebook makes this very easy to do, blogging software can do this to a limited degree and there’s a growing number of social media solutions specific to your parish that make this really easy to do.
Today Facebook launched its IPO. It has 800 million uses and now literally billions of more investment dollars. Social Media is not a fad, but rather here to stay. We need to embrace this new communication. I’m excited to see more churches trying and few diving right in and doing really well. What about you?