Guest Post: The Top 4 Social Media Myths

Social media doesn’t have to be so scary.
As a 22-year-old working in a mostly 40-and-over world, I am quite familiar with the fear that many middle-aged adults exhibit about social media. My attempts to demystify social media are often met with questions like, “Won’t that compromise our privacy?” “How can we possibly make time for that?” “Isn’t that only for younger target markets?” and “How do we know it will work?”. Though I understand these concerns, I often sense the underlying problem is the belief that social media is not for everyone.

But if we are truly evangelistically minded, then we will be willing to use the tools God has given us to reach people currently beyond our scope of influence. Today, I want to help demystify the use of social media by addressing the four most common concerns and offering some practical tools to help along the way:

1. Won’t that compromise our privacy?

The beauty of social media is that you choose what you post. Social media does not necessarily compromise privacy, but it magnifies influence by sending your information directly to the people instead of requiring them to find it. Even so, platforms like Facebook and Twitter have basic privacy controls in place to help control spam and modify which audiences see your posts. Though it’s important to establish a policy that informs your staff on what types of content are appropriate for social media, it’s also a great space to exercise your creativity and capture the attention of people you probably wouldn’t otherwise reach.

2. How can we possibly make time for that?

In this rapidly changing culture, you don’t have time not to use social media. Though it is a time commitment, tools like Buffer and HootSuite help simplify and integrate social media into your daily life. Once you get started and gain momentum, using social media becomes a habit and a skill that takes progressively less time to practice. Even though I manage several personal and business social media accounts, social media use takes 20 minutes or less of my time each day.

3. Isn’t that only for younger target markets?

I digress that younger generations are typically quicker to adopt social media due to our upbringing. However, the demographics are changing as quickly as social media is growing. People of all ages are using social media so it is becoming increasingly important that churches engage them there.

The wisdom of older generations must unite with the enthusiasm of younger generations to make social media a truly well-rounded medium that can reach more people than ever before. Please don’t let your fear of social media rob its users of your much-needed voice.

4. How do we know it will work?

Unlike most marketing tools, social media results are generally measurable. Tools like Google Analytics and Klout are easy to use and they provide real-time, comprehensive data about which posts are reaching furthest, who is seeing and engaging with your information, and how your content is spreading across the web. This helps you learn to repeat what works and scrap what doesn’t work. Consequently, social media becomes a science and an art.

Just as Jesus met the people where they already were — at the well, in the synagogue, by the seashore — we as the church must meet them there, too. Social media is simply the bridge we use to reach the masses, and consequently, the individual. Ultimately, social media is for everyone, especially the church.

Amy Lamb is a writer, speaker, co-author, and non-profit manager at the University of Mobile Center for Leadership. An avid traveler, she has conducted evangelistic humanitarian efforts in more than 25 countries across the globe. Amy’s hobbies include playing classical piano, tweeting, and writing about herself in the third person. For more from Amy, visit amyrlamb.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @amyrlamb.

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopincc

Guest Post: Starting Up A Church Website 101

There is no denying that in today’s world, having a ministry that lacks a digital presence may seriously be limiting the impact that they can have on a community. Now, no one is suggesting that a church website and social media accounts are the foundation to a church’s ministry, but look at it from the perspective of someone that just moves into your town because of a job or going to school. The family or individual probably knows very few people and so if they decide that they want to go to church, how are they going to figure out their options? If it were me, I would jump onto Google, type “churches in Colorado Springs” and start going through a list of the websites that come up.

Michael Hyatt, a renown author and speaker on what it means to have a digital platform, says that the most important digital presence that an organization can have is their website. You control the medium, you can share your ministry’s information with service times, staff, and ministries available to families, and you can share the vision and mission of your church all before that family ever steps foot into your building.

Where Do I Start?

The idea of creating a church website for someone who is inexperienced may be a very daunting adventure. We want to give you a couple of practical steps to help you along the way and we will leave it to you to make it as easy and simple or as large and complex as you care to take on.

Web Content

It may seem strange for some, but you actually should figure out what you want on your website before you actually go out and create a website. Not only will you be knowledgeable about what you want, create a budget for what you believe that you should have to pay for it, and a basic design that you need to incorporate, but having a layout of the pages and content that goes on every page will make the construction of the website a breeze. This means that you need to come with every photo, write out every word and heading, and figure out how what pages are most important to you.

Web Hosting

Now that you have the basics of the website figured out, we need to decide who will be hosting our website. We have a couple of options for you to do that require a various set of skills and money to do.

WordPress For those that would like to have flexibility in what they do, feel comfortable with doing some of the legwork of installing and creating pages, WordPress is the best option out there as it is the most cost effective but requires the most skill. Some great hosting options for those that use this option would be WPEngine, MediaTemple, or BlueHost which varies between $60 and $300/month. For great web designs, we recommend looking at ChurchThemes.com or WPforChurches.com for some great web designs that also offer support licenses if any issues come up.

CloverCloverSites.com is a great option for those with little skill but great design. We recommend them because of the great quality service they give you as well as the easy to use administrative user experience. Do know that this will cost more, but for someone that does not have the experience, this is a good option.

Your Church Software If you are using some church software like Elexio, you may want to check your license and see if you actually should be getting a church website along with the software. This is a great solution that integrates with your databases created from first-time visitors, volunteers, and ministries and auto-populates your whole website for you.

Keeping It Fresh

Creating a website is fine, but what happens if you get a new pastor, change service times, or decide to have a blog? Who will be updating all of this information? Would you like to host videos of your sermons on the website? Who is coming up with the content and who is going to keep it up-to-date? These are all questions that should be answered before everything goes live.

While this process may look like a lot, if you have the right people on board with you to help you along the way to make it easy. If this is a priority for you, your church can actually start with the idea of a website and have something amazing up and running in a week or two. So what do you want to do? Share your church’s website in the comments below.

About the Author

Jeremy Smith is a Christian first, husband and father next, and then a blogger at 78p.tv, writer, and social media realist. He is currently working at Youth for Christ/USA as the Social Media Specialist and attending Denver Seminary for his Master’s of Counseling in Mental Health. His bachelor’s degree is in Computer Engineering and Master’s in Family Ministry. For those that are looking to create a successful Social Media and Blogging Strategy for their church, ministry, or blog, he would love help you make the most of your work through the Social Media and Blogging Consultation.

What Senior Adults Can Teach You About Social Media

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of spending some time with my church’s senior adults and talk about social media. Though my time with them was short, I was reminded of how passionate they are about ministry and our church.

In a world where “youth is king” it’s easy to forget about senior adults and what they bring to the table. More importantly, we can forget that senior adults can teach us a lot about social media. Here are a few examples:

What Senior Adults Can Teach You About Social Media

Age Is Not a Factor

I’ve written before about the growth of older Americans usage of social media. In August, more data was released showing that senior adults using social media is still growing at a rapid rate. If you think that social media is a young person’s game then you’re ignoring an audience that can be leveraged to help get out your church’s message. (more…)

27 Topics Your Church Should Be Blogging About

Every church I know wants to communicate better with its members. Until recently the only way to communicate to members was through a bulletin, a newsletter and announcements from stage. However, with online tools that has all changed.

Of course, you can tweet, post to Facebook and Instagram, but still one of the easiest and effective ways to communicate with your church is through blogging.

But what do you write about? What do your people want to know? Well, I may not know what your specific church members want, but I do have an idea of what you can write about. In fact, here’s a list of 27 blog topics for you to use to get you started on blogging with your church.

  • How Can I Volunteer?
  • What Do We Believe About the Bible?
  • Where Does My Tithe Go?
  • Your Church’s History
  • What’s Communion and Can I Participate?
  • Why We Believe What We Believe
  • How Your Worship Services Are Created
  • Significant Historical Events for Your Church
  • Future Church Plans
  • Your Church Traditions
  • Your Church Liturgical Calendar
  • How to Become a Member
  • Why Church Membership Matters
  • How to Pray for Your Pastor
  • How to Share Your Faith
  • The Attributes of God
  • How Families Can Get the Most Out of Worship
  • How to Become a Christian
  • How to Determine God’s Will for Your Life
  • Recent Baptism Stories
  • What’s an Offering?
  • What’s a Quiet Time?
  • What are the Church’s Goals?
  • Does God Always Answer Prayers?
  • What do You Offer for Children?
  • How Do I know That God is Talking to Me?
  • What’s a Small Group and Why Should I Join?

An Interview With John Saddington

I’ve written a lot about Instagram and how you can use it for your church. However, I’ve never been a big fan of giving away digital property to a company with no guarantee that will I get it back. So when I heard that John Saddington had started a new photo sharing service called Pressgram, I was intrigued.
After doing some research, I’m quite impressed with what John has created. I then decided it would be a good idea to grab John for a quick interview and let him talk about Pressgram. John agreed and was kind enough to answer a few questions.

What inspired you to start Pressgram?

The inspiration was simple. I wanted to publish filtered photos on my WordPress blog without the issue of being a commercial product of Facebook or Instagram (being exploited for their commercial goals). I wanted complete control over my work and content. There wasn’t a simple way to do this so I began to explore the option of building it myself. We typically call this “scratching your own itch.” I had a big one to scratch!

What do you tell people who fear that they may lose the time and effort that they’ve already invested in Instagram or Facebook?

That’s easy. I tell them that it’s a legitimate fear and it’s a possibility with or without Pressgram (or any other option for that matter). Facebook and Instagram can shut down their doors tomorrow for all anyone knows (and for whatever reason). In the end, if history proves to be true, all technology companies end their reign of absolute dominance. I doubt Facebook and Instagram are impervious to history’s trend data!

Which brings up an important question: Do you really care about the “continuity” of your data? Do you really care about the preservation of your work without fear or anxiety of being swallowed whole or disappearing? If so, then you should endeavor to use solutions that will allow you to ultimately keep your work and have peace of mind about it. If you publish your image and your content to a system that you control, then you have true continuity and preservation of data. Even if Pressgram were to disappear, you’d still have those images on your blog.

Can Pressgram help with SEO? If so, how?

Yes. Images are a huge part of direct and organic traffic on the web. In our Alpha / Beta group we’ve seen increases of over 20% in terms of pageviews and site visits alone! Also this is only in a short-term trial! The long-term benefits of housing all that increased data, content, and images for search engines to index and return as results for users is going to be a boon for all bloggers and online publishers.

The simple fact is that if you publish more, you become a more attractive source of information for search engines. I’m already enjoying a 23% increase of traffic week over week… and I was already getting some good figures!

Editor’s Note: Thanks John for taking the time for an interview. If you (the reader) have not checked out Pressgram, I suggest you head over to their site and sign up for the news updates so you can be notified when it will launch.

Photo Credit: Chiceaux via Compfightcc

What I’ve Learned In the Last Four Months of Blogging

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not a great writer. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to start blogging. I figured that if I consistently wrote on a daily basis, that eventually my writing and communications skills would improve over time.

What I didn’t expect to occur was the realization of how poor my writing skills had become. Years of exchanging text messages and tweeting had brought my communication skills down to short bursts of communication that rarely contained context or deep meaning.

It’s not all been bad, in fact I think blogging has solidified what I believe about social media and its impact on the church. I’m even more convinced that social media is no longer an option for churches, but rather a requirement.

I’m very grateful for these last four months of blogging. Blogging is a skill that worth pursuing and I’m thankful for the encouragement I’ve received along the way. The church social media community (#chsocm) is full of wonderful people who are giving of their time and skills.

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not you should begin blogging, I want to encourage you and share with you three key things that I’ve the learned along the way that you can learn from.

Blogging Is Hard

For those of you thinking of starting a blog, you need to know something. Blogging is hard. From content generation to editing, blogging is one of the most time consuming experiences that I’ve had. If you want to blog, you need to be ready to give up something else. That may sound harsh, but great bloggers will tell you that they don’t watch much TV or do other wasteful activities.

Edit, Sit, Edit

I hate editing. I would rather write a post once, publish it and then walk away. However, writing for me doesn’t work that way. I need to write a really bad rough draft, let it sit for about a day, then can come back and see what needs to be polished. Sometimes I’m surprised at what I’ve written, other times I wonder what I was thinking when I wrote it.

Do I let things fall through the cracks in the editing process? Sure. If you read through my past blog posts, you will find all kinds of errors.  However, unlike print I can always go back and edit.

It’s Time to Reboot

I spent the last week think about what this blog is and what it should be. I’ve come to a few conclusions. First, this design does not really reflect me and my aesthetic. Don’t missunderstand me, I think it’s a good design. It’s called Focus and it comes from the awesome people at StudioPress. However, I’m going to simplify things and go closer to what Brian Gardner is currently using.

I’ll also only post once a week. I know that breaks all sorts of blogging rules, but it’s what works best for me and I think will best serve my audience in the long run. For those of who blog at least once a day, my respect goes out you.  If you’ve just started blogging, pace yourself.  Blogging is more like a marathon than a sprint.

I’m excited about the future of the church and social media. The task is great, but I have a firm belief that church is up to the challenge.   I also think you are too.  I think we need more voices in the conversation and the voice we’re missing is yours.

How To Create a Church Social Media Policy and Not Hamper Your Staff

Creating a church staff policy is not a lot of fun. No one wants to be the “sheriff” and create rules that they’ll have to police. At the same time, if policies aren’t in place things can quickly run amok.

This is especially true when it comes to social media. A church social media policy can help make sure that your staff stays on message and keeps your church out of some potential hazards. While it may not popular with your staff, the pros far outweigh the cons.

The question is, how do you create a policy for you church staff, but not hamper them at the same time? Can you create a policy that will help your church staff make sure they know what not do and why? Consider the following ideas when crafting your church social media policy. (more…)

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