So many social media choices! You may find that, like going to your favorite coffee shop, you’ll try a lot (or a latte?) and then settle in to one or just a few favorites. I’ve tried more than a dozen different platforms over the years. I’m using just a handful of these now. Maybe my explorations can help you choose which “flavors” will work best for you. Pull up a chair and let’s order up your favorites.
Why Be on Social Media
Why be on social media anyway? Some relax in the “coffee shop” atmosphere, others consider social media frivolous and a waste of time.
An obvious reason to choose your social media sites is, that’s where the people are (Facebook has over a billion active users). Many of your friends, acquaintances, and associates are active on different platforms. If you aren’t already, you’ll want to walk into these places to make new friends, to minister to others, and to help your financial partners get to know you (and your family and ministry) better. Consider choosing your social media preferences not necessarily based on your tastes, but on where your “target audience” is hanging out. (I’ll write more about your audience and the “flavors” of the different platforms in the next post.)
Michael Hyatt has a great idea for how to be strategic in your use of social media which I’ll adapt to Cru staff. Choose:
Generally, this is your main digital address, probably your blog or website. I’ll elaborate more in the next section.
To continue my theme, these are the “coffeeshops” you visit regularly to engage with people. Besides Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others, these could include other blogs you follow and comment on.
In the old days, you’d pull out a newspaper or a report from the office. This third area includes your digital tools to know what people are talking about or reports on how they’re responding to your different posts.
Scenarios for Cru Staff
Before I elaborate, Cru staff probably fit into one or more of these scenarios.
- I believe you should have a blog to be in touch with your ministry partners. I like WordPress, but you have many options. I recommend writing some supplemental content besides posting your prayer letter. Of course, you can go beyond this by posting more regularly or by focusing on particular content or on a larger audience.
- You may have a calling to social media ministry. Do you blog about leadership, overseas assignments, ministry tips, or other topics? Do you have a social media ministry through email lists, Twitter feeds, or other social media platforms?
- Perhaps you run a website for your national or regional field ministry. This takes a lot more into consideration, such as security issues, how to encourage team connections, and more.
- No social media presence at all… well maybe I can encourage you. Read my post, Pursuing What Is in Our Hearts.
Your time is limited. You don’t want to spend lots of time maintaining many sites. I write one blog post which automatically delivers my content to the “coffeeshops” (I do need to visit these, too). Let’s examine what you could be doing.
Setting up Your Home
Everyone needs an online home. Choose the one place that you “own” and control for your main message and ministry. I used settings in MailChimp and in my blogs so when I post, my latest news publishes automatically to several platforms. For instance, my three blogs post automatically to Facebook (in several locations), to Twitter, and to LinkedIn as well as to an eMail letter sent through MailChimp.
I recommend a blog as the best place for your central location, but the following are other possible options, which have comparative limitations, but I realize may fit your ministry or lifestyle better.
If you don’t want to learn the ins and outs of blogging, you could simply learn MailChimp and send regular posts from there. An advantage to this is, you’ll know exactly what people are reading and who they are, too. Two disadvantages: you won’t have a central “archive” like a blog would provide which also means your content is short-lived instead of drawing in readers over time.
Social Media Ministry
If you have a Facebook or Twitter ministry, one of these could be your home. (Experts and well-known personalities may often have a Twitter account with a large following.) If you’re a videographer or photographer, you might use YouTube or Flickr or a similar site. Additionally, other sites are available if you’re an artist, hobbyist, or have some sort of specialty. Set up shop in one of these.
Again, your content would be short-lived, with no archival content, on Facebook or Twitter. Also, these platforms have algorithms that selectively send out your news. Your followers may or may not see what you took so long to write. At least with MailChimp, you would know your article went to inboxes.
Your giving site and landing pages, like Spark and others, are basically like digital brochures. Classy brochures, mind you, but the information is static. Do update them from time-to-time. If you choose one of the above options, MailChimp or a Social Media Ministry, I recommend you have a landing page to send your followers to.
(Whatever your choice is for your online home, you MUST keep your giving site updated. Take some time today to update your give.cru.org site.)
In summary, choose a place for your online home and as the main address you direct others to.
Frequent the Coffeeshops
You have many choices for “coffeeshops” to hang out at. Facebook is my main one. Personally, I have most interactions there and through eMails. I’ll discuss other platforms in the next section and in the follow-up post I’ll be writing on your audience and the different “flavors” to choose from in social media.
Check Your News Reports
I have other social media accounts, like Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, but I use them more for information than for engagement. Recently, while on LinkedIn to find eMail addresses and get up-to-date photos of our financial partners, I discovered a lapsed donor was unemployed. I was able to write a sensitive letter to him and, later, to pray for his family a few times through an eMail conversation.
These additional coffeeshops take into consideration that not all of my audience are on Facebook. For example, business professionals are on LinkedIn, women of all ages are on Pinterest, and movers-and-shakers are on Twitter. I drop in occasionally to these sites, usually, just to gather information and listen into conversations. Check the feeds for these sites occasionally.
Use HootSuite to check all of these feeds in one dashboard.
Set up Google Alerts that monitor mentions of your ministry or topics you’re interested in (I have one alert from a search for “women” + “technology”.)
Has your social media presence been scattered? Can you re-shape your online ministry by aligning your social media activity with these concepts? What are you going to add or change?
- I’m adapting the “homebase,” “embassies,” and “outposts” concept from Michael Hyatt’s article, A Social Media Framework, using Home, Coffeeshops, and News Reports instead.
- The coffee cup icons are available free at Land-of-Web. If you’d like to make an eye-catching website, you could consider these free social media icons, from leather-look to books to iPhones and more at Find Your Perfect Match: Collection of Free Thematic Social Icons Sets.