Churches can join social revolution

Originally published by The Commercial Appeal September 19, 2011 by Alys Drake

We live in an amazing time. Information is spread at lightning speed via social networks like Facebook and Twitter in a way I could not have imagined even two years ago.

Even corporate marketing has joined in the social networking revolution, using blogs, Facebook fan pages, Twitter feeds, Google+ accounts, Foursquare check-ins and other platforms to connect with customers to tell their companies’ stories.

We have come a long way from the static web page of the 1990s!

How can churches and other houses of worship join the social networking revolution and reach younger generations who use their smart phones for everything?

Here’s a social media primer:

Blogs: Blogs are simply online personal journals with reflections. It’s a great way for ministers to share their thoughts. Pastor Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale and the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham, has an excellent example of a blog at http://thegospelcoalition.org.

Visit blogger.com, wordpress.org, tumblr.com or any of several other free blogging platforms to start your own.

Twitter: A Twitter account is also known as a microblog; updates (tweets) are limited to 140 characters.

Congregations can use the account to keep followers updated on upcoming events. Trusted members can even “live-tweet” the sermon and share the service with those who cannot be there. Christ United Methodist Church (@cumcmemphis) does an excellent job of utilizing this tool.
Go to twitter.com and start your own account.

Flickr and Tumbler: Along with Twitter, there are a variety of photo and video sharing services like Flickr and Tumblr. You can post and share photos of worship services, children’s ministry, youth programs, outreach services and other ways your congregation is working in the community.

Go to flickr.com or tumblr.com and start sharing photos or videos.

Facebook: This is another great way to make a real connection with people. I have had the opportunity to watch my friend Rev. Steve Stone use this tool in a fabulous way over the past year. He has consistently used his personal Facebook page to reinforce the message of love and acceptance he preaches at Heartsong Church. The interaction there is powerful and meaningful.

Go to facebook.com and start your own personal page or your congregation’s own fan page.

Geolocation: Foursquare and other digital tools that allow you to track by geography are being used by many retailers to attract new customers. Why not a church? People are using these tools to find locations they want to visit, and congregations should be ready to welcome these users.

Check out foursquare.com.
These are just a few of the growing number of digital tools available. Others include YouTube, Ustream, Vimeo, podcasting, QR codes, Google+. Who knows what’s next!

The point is that these are free tools that churches can take advantage of now to cast a wider net in this day of the viral Internet.

Alys Drake is communications manager for Howell Marketing Strategies. Follow her on Twitter @alysdrake.

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