Friday, July 17, 2015

Churches Should 'Like' the #

by Brian Kaylor

Technological shifts often spark new industries, trends and lifestyles. But they can also put other people out of business. The ‘Industrial Revolution’ transformed modern society with cheap, mass-produced goods, but drove many “old-fashioned” weavers and artisans to close their shops. The digital revolution and the explosion of social media similarly changes expectations for businesses, organizations and even churches.

Nathan Evans, a member of the Churchnet Board of Directors since 2011, believes churches need a social media presence today as much as they needed to be in the phone book in years past. Evans serves as managing director of Blue Duck Marketing, a consulting firm he founded with his wife, Amanda. Together they have helped several Baptist groups with marketing, management, and communication tasks.

Evans notes that a church website often serves as someone’s “first ‘visit’ to your congregation,” thus churches need to “take the time to concisely communicate the spirit (and ‘services’) of your church.”

Evans also sees the potential of social media to attract people, especially since churches need to communicate where people are.

“Every community is different, but Facebook (and others) can be an excellent tool for the church family,” he explained. “It’s also another potential source for ‘visits.’ Even the simplest Facebook page can be helpful.”

Zach Dawes, Jr., managing editor for EthicsDaily.com (the news arm of the Baptist Center for Ethics), agrees that churches need to find ways to engage on social media. His job at EthicsDaily.com, a ministry Churchnet partners with and supports, includes leading the organization’s social media efforts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and elsewhere.

“Church websites are now seen as essential to a congregation’s outreach,” Dawes said. “An active social media presence should be viewed in the same manner. An ever-increasing number of people engage organizations via social media platforms, learning of upcoming events, viewing event photos, and interacting with people connected to the organization in virtual space. Churches must embrace this shift to remain visible and effective in their mission and ministry initiatives.”

Dawes offers tips for how to effectively use specific social media platforms, since each platform comes with unique aspects, expectations and audiences.

“Each social media platform offers advantages and disadvantages,” he explained. “Facebook has the largest number of users, but not everyone who ‘likes’ your Facebook page will see the content you post. Twitter allows everyone who follows you to see your posts, but most people follow so many people that content is often ‘lost in the shuffle.’ Pinterest has lower total users, but it offers a visual approach, enabling aesthetically-pleasing presentations primarily of pictures and videos.”

“Each platform allows you to connect with different folks in different ways, so an ‘either-or’ mindset should be avoided when seeking to engage constituents on social media,” he added. “Churches, organizations should use every social media platform that meets a need for their constituents and helps them communicate what their organization is about and what it is doing.”

Like EthicsDaily.com, Churchnet utilizes multiple social media platforms. Churchnet has a page on Facebook (facebook.com/theChurchnet), an account on Twitter (twitter.com/ChurchnetBGCM), and a page on Vimeo (vimeo.com/Churchnet).

As a Churchnet board member, Evans serves on the new Generational Engagement Team. The team met for the first time in June as part of the new Vision 2020 strategic plan that will guide Churchnet’s ministries in 2015-2020. One goal of the team will be to assist congregations with strategies for effective digital communications. To reach new generations and cultures, churches need to develop a strong, engaged online presence through social media.

This even means learning a new digital language, such as hitting “like” on Facebook, “retweeting” and using “hashtags” (which look like #) on Twitter, “pinning” on Pinterest and more.

Note: If you would like to learn more about digital communications for your church, contact Brian Kaylor, Churchnet’s Generational Engagement Leader, at bkaylor@churchnet.org or 888-420-2426, ext. 704.

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