Breaking Bread: Moving From Attraction To Engagement

As I look through recent social media news and blogs, the landscape is littered with the wails about barriers to exposure and possibly having to pay to get more.  We are even seeing this at the Church level, and quite honestly it’s a sign that it’s time to “sit down at the table” and “break bread”.  What I mean is that we’ve spent enough time attracting and now it’s time to shift to improving content, truly engaging your audience and the world, and using these profiles for also enhancing community communications.

All of these technologies evolve and we need to be aware of the evolutions that take place.  Take websites as an overall for example.  The initial phase was getting everyone building them.  Then it was getting people to come to them.  Now that almost everyone has one and the attraction awareness is there, there’s a shift on the experience for the visitor on all platforms.

Like Jesus, let’s try to help everyone’s life and living. A Christian’s presence betters the world around them. – Bishop David Ricken (@BpDavidRicken)

If you take a moment and look at your efforts you’ll probably see that a lot of social effort focused on getting more “Likes”, gaining more “followers”, so forth and so on.  Simply put, a lot of time and effort is put into attraction.  I personally think this is partly to blame on the continued use of  the phrase “social media marketing”.  “Marketing” implies “advertising” or simply gaining traffic.  Rather the phrase should be “social communications“.  Because the reality right now is that a lot of people are really wondering now that they have the people in the door – what to do with them?  Well, it’s a social network . . . so get social!  Sit down with them.  Have a conversation with them.  Stop asking them to bring more friends.  And start talking about why you are together in the first place.  Others are welcome and keep the door open, but let’s “get the party started”.

I know, you are thinking “what on earth are you talking about?”  I get that a lot.  And, trust me, you do not want to be in this head.   Here’s what I mean:

  1.  “Sitting down with your audience” – Up until now, your social media efforts have really been about you in all honesty.  You invited your guests and told them where to come.  They’ve showed up.  You’ve greeted them, and had some small talk.  “Sitting down at the table” is about serving your guests.  It’s about shifting your focus to providing to them that which they came for . . . to be fed.  So it’s time to “feed them” as Jesus has taught us.  Plan your content and put real thought into the content.
  2. “Have a conversation” – All conversations begin some where and typically start with topics that are relevant to your audience.  Most hosts are aware of who’s there (“insights sound familiar) and engage their guests.  Maybe they share with them an inspirational thought and ask a question.  Maybe they share a photo and tell the little story what they are seeing.  So forth and so on.  Your guests may nod (a like, a retweet, a favorite, etc.), go tell another, add their thoughts, etc.  All of which are “engagement”.  This is where it’s about better content and a focus on better content.
  3. “Talking about why you are there” – These are channels that can be used to educated, learn together, and communicate.  But we are always in that “bulletin mindset” too often and want to advertise.  The print bulletin is designed for that, and can really only be that.  Social networks allow you to get past those print bulletin barriers, and in all honesty were never designed to be the “tupperware party” or “timeshare pitch” many are trying to use them for.  For us, we are there as a community and you can leverage these channels to truly improve communciations overall.
  4. “Keep the door open” – Don’t stop with the invitations or letting others know they are welcome.  But it’s time to not focus so much on the “Hey! We are here!!!” “brand awareness” stuff so much.  Keep going out and socializing through these channels as your parish.  Mention relevant organizations and people.  Be a voice in your community as a community.
  5. “Be you” – I’m a pretty small guy, and never felt comfortable in social settings especially when I was younger.  So often times I tried to be something other than me.  Long story short . . . it was a miserable failure.  I wasn’t being “me”.  We do this with our social profiles too.  We try to be all these things we aren’t to get more likes, retweets, so forth and so on.  Stop that.  Know who you are and be that online.  That’s tough sometimes too when you are doing this for an organization.  I know, because I do it every day.  It takes conscious and being always aware that you are the organization in every post, reply, like, retweet, favorite, +1, etc.  So get input from others and tweak your “delivery” and content.

This is a lot of what goes into what so many are saying in regards to it being about better content.  I am very confident that when you truly take these things into account, your content will naturally improve.

Are you doing anything different now?  How do keep content fresh?  Do you test and track what’s working well and what’s not?


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Author:Brad West

I live in Palm Coast, FL with my family and have assisted my local parish with our website and communications. Our parishes today can benefit a great deal from technology. Whether it's improving communications, community building, evangelizing, business operations, and much more; we have the tools today. To help provide some direction and advice to parishes and parishioners, I wrote and published an eBook titled "The Connected Church" which is available through Barnes and Noble (Nooks and Nook apps) as well as Amazon (Kindle and Kindle apps).
  • Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF

    Brad, Good points here. One of the areas I’d like to highlight further is that your parish staff team needs to want to carry on conversations. It’s not just about the pastor, or the DRE, or the principal, or about any other person taking on this responsibility. It’s about the parish staff with all who are engaged in ministry in the parish – yes, even the volunteers who are the ones to be engaged in the conversation. Where I see this being modeled is at the Nativity Parish in Brandon, Florida Facebook parish website. I encourage all to watch and listen to the conversations that happen at this parish FB page!

    • Brad West

      Great points and example ( This is actually a big hurdle for every organization when it comes to social media. It’s often left to someone and it’s viewed as “their function”. They struggle to get all of those likes, shares, retweets, so forth and so on. All the while they are surrounded by colleagues that are on these networks and can easily help push that effort along, but it’s often a struggle. It’s something I am focused on. Nativity Parish is a good example to reach out to and ask them what they do to encourage participation.

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