Buzz. Chirp. Tweet. Ding.
Should your organization exist in the social media world?
It’s easy to jump to a quick “yes,” but let’s back up a second and hash out a few definitions. The term “social media” encompasses much more than just Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Instead, social media include websites or applications that allow us to share images, messages, content, videos, etc., with other people. Social media (surprise, it’s plural!) are the avenues by which we connect with other people and participate in the online community.
The next important term, and the one we really want to focus on today, are social networks. Social networks are what you’re probably more used to seeing or using – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Google+, and many more. Social networks are a part of social media. Networks are where we actually make contact with other people and share our ideas and content.
So, back to the original question.
Consider these numbers from a year ago provided by Sprout Social:
• 2 billion monthly active users on Facebook.
• 1 billion daily active users on Facebook.
• 700 million monthly active users on Instagram.
• Twitter has 328 million monthly active users
• Snapchat has an estimated 255 million monthly active users.
Yes, these numbers are from a year ago, but the numbers have only grown. Facebook, of course, is the predominately used social network, even among the next generation.
Just from these numbers, it’s an easy conclusion that social networks would at least help spread your message and connect with people you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to. Before jumping right to creating social network accounts for your organization, there are several things to consider.
Consider these three aspects of good social media.
1) What is your goal? The goal should not be “to have a social network account.” The goal should be much more intentional and broader than just the network. For example, a church’s goal might be to connect with people in its local community and encourage them to come to events. Well, can social networks help you advertise and encourage people to come to events? Absolutely they can! Start with your goal, and then see how social networks can help.
2) Time: Do you have the time to maintain your social networks? If you don’t have the time to commit to making sure your network is updated consistently (with good content!) then you may want to reconsider adding social networking into your promotional plans. However, there are several tools that make time almost a non-issue. Facebook allows you to schedule posts out ahead of time. There are tools such as Buffer, HootSuite, and Tweetdeck that also allow you to schedule to multiple networks at one time as well.
3) Team: Are the people you work with on board? Social networks often are a team effort. You can’t be at every single event to take pictures, sometimes you need a break, and often it helps to have someone who can help post when you’re out. If your team doesn’t see the value in social networks, then I would encourage you to speak with them about the possibilities – advertising, reaching new people, and connecting with new communities.
Choose social media accounts wisely.
Now, once you make the decision that your organization should have a social network account, you have to consider which one. There are several networks, each with its own nuances, benefits, and detriments. When making this decision, remember that you don’t need all social networks. Just because it’s available doesn’t mean it will be beneficial to you. This is a common misconception. The “build it and they will come” mentality doesn’t always work with social networking.
You will want to evaluate your audience.
Are you targeting an older population? Younger? College students? Knowing your audience is the best way to know exactly which networks you should start for your organization. My top recommendation is Facebook, especially since you’ll find the widest range of ages, generations, demographics, etc. Consider starting just one network, then expanding if you feel you’re missing opportunities on other networks.
For churches and Christian ministries, the goals are to share the Gospel, connect people with a church, and meet needs in the community. Social networks are just one way to accomplish these goals. Why not use every tool in your arsenal to fulfill the Great Commission?