Can we all agree that social media is now just part of life now? There is no going back. Someday Facebook may fade, or Twitter cease to chirp, but it is highly unlikely that online, mobile-friendly, relational networks will ever go away. For better or worse, it is here to stay. And that is the point; for better or worse is not determined by the venue — it is determined by you and me. We can use social media to connect, engage, and give life, or we can use it to flirt, bully, and destroy life.
Social media affords us a unique ability to connect with people who we may never have a chance to see in person. As church leaders, our social persona reflects not only on us, but on all believers, and even more significantly, on Christ. Think of it as a virtual version of the ‘fish symbol’ you see on the backs of so many cars here in Colorado Springs.
Six People You DON’T Want to Be on Social Media
- Political Animal. Social media enables people to say things they wouldn’t dare say at a dinner party. This is never more evident than with the political animal. There is nothing wrong with deeply-held political convictions … but if you are using those convictions to imply that anyone that disagrees with you has the intelligence of a rusty hammer, perhaps it is time to evaluate your motives for posting. People don’t change their political ideology because of the mildly insulting post on someone’s Facebook page, but this doesn’t stop the political animal.
- Ms. Pleasantville. We all want to put our best foot forward, but life is messy. Our social persona should be transparent enough to show the realities of our lives, not just the ideal Martha Stewart moments. Not only does this create a false reality, it can be discouraging to the rest of us who live in the craziness of life. Your social media shouldn’t look like Bing Crosby in White Christmas when in reality it’s Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The key is balance.
- Bullhorn Preacher. Most of us interact with a much more diverse group of people on social media than we do in person. That is why some of the most heated and angry theological debates take place on someone’s blog or Facebook wall. Similar to the political animal, the bullhorn preacher has deeply held convictions. This is a good thing. Just next time you are wanting to engage in theological debate online, ask yourself if this conversation is going to draw people to Christ or simply start a fight.
- Chicken Little. This person keeps Snopes in business. Break out your tin foil hats, people, because everything we know is crashing down around us. The world can be a scary place. It is full of brokenness. Do not add to the fear just because you came across some sensational tidbit of information on the interwebs. Here is a secret — not everything on the internet is true. Don’t undermine your credibility by constantly telling us the sky is falling.
- Drama Queen. Not everyone needs to know everything. If you are having an argument with a particular individual, don’t post publicly about it. When you post something, you are inviting others to engage with the topic. If you don’t want people to ask you about it, then it may not be social media appropriate. Cryptic posts beg for clarification. If you post that you are having the worst day ever, people are not being rude or prying by asking what is going on. It can feel like attention-seeking behavior if you are regularly sharing your drama on social media.
- The Inviter. Candy Crush, Farmville, and the other games you play sound really wonderful. Thanks for inviting me, but getting invitation notifications every other day is annoying. If you are having an event, fundraiser, or party and you live on the other side of the country, inviting me only makes me feel like you don’t actually know me. The constant invites makes me want to hide you. A genuine and personal invite on social media is wonderful, but don’t send non-targeted invites.
Using Social Media to Network for Effective Ministry
So how can you use your social media presence for the Kingdom? While there are few absolute dos and don’ts to effective social media, there are many guidelines that can help make your social presences more effective.
- Audience First. If you want to connect with people, your social media posts should be tailored to them. Post stories your audience would be interested in or that help them.
- Originality Matters. This is pretty self-explanatory, but take a chance to be creative with your posts and don’t just repost what everyone else is saying. Who wants to blend in?
- Be a Friend to Get a Friend. One easy way to build trust on social media is through connecting with others. Follow them, comment, and engage with them. People want to be known, so get to know them.
How are you leveraging social media? What would you add to the lists above?