Saturday, May 4, 2013

P's and Q's of Social Media Engagement

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am no longer doing the social media for our church and so read this article with caution, keeping that in mind. It was written when I was temporarily handling Irvine Pres social media, late spring, early summer of 2013. Interaction can become time-consuming and not all people using social media are into it. Thanks

Mind your p's and q's is an old axiom from a couple of different places. In printing it meant pay attention to details. It was also a phrase I heard growing up meaning "mind your behavior," and more specifically, "don't forget to say please and thank you." In The Ps & Qs of Social Media Engagement, I provide an introduction to social networks along with critical tips and resources for visioning and designing your own strategy.

Soon after I offered to help our church with social media, until the Communications Director we are going to be hiring is on board, I realized that I maintain a lot of my own networks. I don't really have much time for social media but for awhile now God's been calling me to use my skills with networked digital information and digital libraries. Obedient to his command, I've stepped back into the arena. I want to be a good steward of my time and resources. Hence, I've been tweaking and testing my social media behavior, trying to understand which networks are valuable for me and which are not. Since social media is so new to many in our faith communities, I'm doing a series of posts, of which this is the third. Connecting With Irvine Pres using Twitter (includes an excellent definition of social media for followers of Jesus Christ) and Twitter Etiquette (includes how to post photos on Twitter) preceded this one.

Social media are technologies that facilitate the sharing of digital information through social networks. They may be web-based or as is increasingly happening, available as apps for smart phones; usually, they are both but the functionality tends to vary depending on the device you're using to access the network. Today, the landscape of social media is dominated by a handful of giants: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Blogger and Wordpress. There is also a seemingly endless list of tiny innovative upstarts, many of whom are already titans or emerging mammoths in niche areas. These include: Flickr (sharing digital photos), YouTube, Vimeo, Vine (sharing videos), Instagram (sharing retro touched up digital photos), Pinterest (sharing favorite things, interests using photographs), Tumblr (visual blogging), Soundcloud (sharing music and videos), Slideshare (sharing powerpoint presentations), Scribd (sharing "publications" - aside: I find it hilarious that they bill themselves as the world's digital library), MySpace, Orkut, Yelp, Foursquare, LibraryThing, GoodReads, and more.

Here are some of the p's and q's to keep in mind on your social media adventure.

1) Purpose: Which of these networks you should be on and how you spend your time across the different networks depends on your goals. Remember, Tweet Vision? This was your vision that determined the purpose, nature and level of your activity on Twitter. Similarly, articulate for yourself what you want from each of the social networks you would like to join. Do you want discussion? Do you want to keep up with family and friends? Inspire and/or be inspired? Share content - music - photography - writings - videos - that you create? Each social network is different and can help serve a different purpose. Facebook, for example, in general is not known for its in-depth discussion or sharing creative content but it is a great tool for keeping up with family and friends whom you don't see as often as you'd like.

Here are my personal goals with social media: LinkedIn for professional, Facebook for personal, Twitter for fun, Google+ for in-depth discussion, LibraryThing and GoodReads for books, Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr for blogs (each one with a different focus or subject).

Here's why our church is engaging with social media, Twitter, Facebook (Blogger, WordPress): To be a voice of hope and healing. To share the life of our faith community, to deepen connections, strengthen discipleship and relationships. For outreach.

2) People: It's all about people. This is a key thing to remember. No matter which networks we join and however much it fulfills our needs to share information or be informed, we're cultivating people relationships. So share as much from the heart about yourself and the people in your professional and social life, with pictures, poems, prayers, and other forms of creative play and literature. To some, these relationships may never have the depth of real relationships but whatever the relationship - once in a way or continuous - its people we're interacting with, never the technology or the information. There are human beings at the other end of our communication and information sharing via tweets, blog posts and status updates - see An Instant Generation video, less than 3 mins. and you will never forget this notion of its all about people and play! This also helps us identify which social networks we may be most comfortable in joining. For example, if you find it hard to share with or listen to people you haven't met, Twitter probably will not be a social network for you. But, let's say you're a musician and a fan of John Mayer, you could follow him and listen to his music on Soundcloud. Soundcloud is a good place to discover new music and sounds too which you may repost and share with your group of friends, when allowed. A lot of musicians upload albums here. You can share the music and sounds you create.

3) Privacy: This follows from above. Clarify your understanding of your own nature and the nature of the different social networks you want to join. For example, Facebook is a closed network while Google+ and Twitter are open, all posts are public; Twitter may be closed if you set your profile to do so and Google+ too but they sort of lose their point then. Look through the privacy settings of the social network which you are joining to fully understand who will see your profile, posts, updates, and activity.

4) Period: Set a definite amount of time daily or weekly for social media. This is very important as social media can become a huge time sink! Develop some guidelines for how often you will post or share and how much time you will spend on interactions (responding to your own sharing as well as responding to interesting information shared by other in your network).

5) Questions: Don't be afraid to ask questions of your social network. Questions are one of the best ways to get interaction and engagement going. 

6) Quiet: Its absolutely ok to be quiet and just listen to others on your social network. We used to call it "lurking" in the online forums and did not really approve the behavior. The amount of noise nowadays, however, makes me appreciate those who are quiet. Responding with a short comment rather than hourly updates shows discipline and restraint. Also, its better to remain silent on some subjects - e.g. what one had for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Finally, turn off the majority of your notifications (in Settings of Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and keep in mind, that while a lot of the social networks have now become big marketing forums, where *YOU* are both the product being sold and the customer being sold to, don't let it quell (i.e. suppress) your social networking activities or the joy and fun of it all :).

7) Quips and Quotes: Two easy ways to start sharing information are to quote and to quip. Did a verse from your daily devotion or an inspiring book you're reading touch you? Share it. What made you laugh today? Do share. The world can always do with more humor and inspirational reminders.

My final comment is to end with the cautionary story of Posterous, a creative, innovative blogging platform. Founded in 2008, it made blogging as simple as sending an email to well over 15 million users who jumped on that bandwagon. Posterous was acquired by Twitter last year. It shut down April 30, 2013. A couple of the co-founders have now launched Posthaven, determined to save Posterous urls (story here from TechCrunch).

Do you have stories, tips, or resources you'd like to share? You can leave a comment or join the conversation by subscribing to the blog.

Recommended Resources:

Alton, Mike. (2013) How I use Social Networks (What value are you getting from your Social Media). From The Social Media Hat. Although written for those who've been using social media for awhile, this is a short and very helpful blog post for newbies to about pitfalls to avoid (e.g. don't be in such a hurry to gain lots of followers), 05/04/13. URL:

Austell, Robert. (2010-2013) Online Ministry Review. Some of it is a bit old but still useful), Pr. Austell's Online Ministry Tech Review includes Facebook, Google+, YouTube and more.

Chapman, D. Social Media for Your Church, Business and Non-Profit. Blog. Many short but useful posts here by somebody who served as a Media Pastor for 1 day a week in an Australian church. such as Why Social Media for Your Church.

McKee, Matt with Joni Tapp.  2012. Be Social:The Handbook of Social Media for Churches. Free download. Highly recommend you download and read. URL:

Vora, Ravi. (2013). An Instagram Generation - less than 3 minutes, this video is a must see if you're wondering about Instagram or want to understand the draw and power of social media in general in our world today. URL:

Wise, Justin. The Ultimate List of Social Media Policies For Churches and Ministries. URL: - pretty comprehensive list that contains links to actual policies from churches, denominations, along with Social Media tools and resources.