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Social media has significantly altered how we communicate. It?s no longer weekend handouts and mass emails that need our greatest attention. At the moment, interacting through social media is one of the church?s greatest communication tools.[quote]Interacting through social media is one of the church?s greatest communication tools.[/quote]

Many churches now embrace communicating online, and they are learning the art of honing their social skills. These churches have come to realize the power of communicating with people where they frequently gather every day of the week?on social media.

Whether your church was an early adopter or recently created an online presence, there is a question we all need to answer: How do we effectively handle online communication? At Oak Hills Church, we didn?t know the answer to that question when we jumped into the social media boat in 2010. We didn?t even think to ask the question.

We started off drifting aimlessly, bobbing up and down on the waves. Sporadic posts were the norm. Eventually, we came to realize we weren?t heading anywhere. We had to make an adjustment. We decided social media was best used to broadcast our events. We began using social media like our weekend handout. We would point people to what we wanted them to do. Wow! What a great idea! Hmmm… In all honesty, that wasn?t such a great idea.

We soon recognized we had become really good at doing all the talking and really poor at listening. We began to understand that social media is about being social. It is about having more than a one-way conversation. We needed to start listening and then respond. And so once again, we adjusted our rudder and tried to get the boat heading in the right direction.

If you have ever been on a boat, you know the work it takes to stay on course. I learned this firsthand when I was a helmsman in the US Navy. You may be wondering what a helmsman does. They are responsible for steering the boat. It was my responsibility to listen to the captain and keep the ship heading in the right direction. I continually monitored our progress and made little adjustments to stay on course.

At this point you might also be wondering what a helmsman has to do with social media. Well, if you are managing the online communication for your church, you are like a helmsman steering the ship. You are the one who is keeping your church?s social media heading in the right direction. You are the one responsible for monitoring the progress and making adjustments when needed to stay on course.

Communicating effectively with social media is a continual learning process. There is no autopilot. It takes significant effort. And learning how to do it well requires us to be like a helmsman?continually monitoring and making adjustments.[quote]Communicating effectively with social media is a continual learning process. There is no autopilot.[/quote]

If you are looking for ways to improve your online communication start by continually monitoring.

Turn on Notifications

Turning notifications on will allow you to proactively monitor when someone engages. When a question is asked, a complaint shared, or gratitude expressed, you will be notified and then able to respond more quickly.

How quickly you respond is up to you. We try to respond within 15 minutes. Call us nuts, but we want to keep communication flowing seven days a week.[quote]Call us nuts, but we want to keep communication flowing seven days a week.[/quote]

If you are considering making some adjustments, these ideas may be useful:

Start Asking Questions

Questions create opportunities for conversations. When you ask a question, you?re more likely to get people to engage. You are saying, ?I am curious about what you think.? The right questions serve to get people thinking about where your leaders are guiding them. Sure, you may have a rare person or two who will hijack the conversation by posting a link to their YouTube channel pitching their great business opportunity (that has happened and we choose to delete any post not on topic). But don?t let that keep you from getting people talking.

Say It With a Picture

The right question can be memorable. But make it visual and it will capture more attention. Research has shown that images are 87% more engaging than any other types of post.[quote]Images are 87% more engaging than any other types of post.[/quote]

Bring the Weekend Experience into the Weekday

The weekend gathering can live far beyond the one hour on Sunday. Why not remind people of what they shared in common during the weekend music or message? People may wish to replay the worship music from the weekend or ponder a powerful quote from the message. Sharing a song list or quote from the weekend creates a snapshot moment for people to relive.

Social media shouldn?t be left to drift aimlessly. To do so will take you places you don?t want to go. Social media is an influential tool that requires continual monitoring and adjustments. When we are fully engaged and listening, people will engage and start speaking. When they know we are listening, they will come to respect our voice when we do share. This is the moment when we have the greatest opportunity to encourage people to walk with Christ.



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