This is a Guest Post by Tim Schoffelman.
Or, should I say stream.
I’m not necessarily referring to the Twitter stream out there (although it would probably fit just fine). No no, I’m referring more to a stream of information pouring out from your online identity.
As the ways of communication changes, so must the church adapt to those changes. With methods of communication increasing in variety as fast as Moore’s Law in technology, it can be a bit daunting to know where to begin.
Well here are a few tips to get you started.
- Find out what others are already saying about you. You can do this by setting up Google Alerts, Twitter Alerts or BackType Alerts.
- After a few months you should get a fairly good idea of what’s being said about you. Save and analyze the data with other “trusted” leaders in your church.
- Also, check out places like whitepages.com, merchantcircle.com, yellowpages.com, yp.yahoo.com, superpages.com, and other directory sites that list your business without your permission. These services usually give you the ability to “Claim” your business or church. Please pay attention though, as some of them don’t do a very good job at making sure you are who you say you are, which makes it easy for others to claim your business too. No need to panic, but it is worth checking into.
- Start to develop a strategy. Consider the following questions (in no particular order):
- What do you want the world to know about you and your church? What message do you want to get across, and I’m not just talking about reaching the lost. What do you want to communicate to the lost in order to reach them. What do you have that the world wants or needs?
- Do you already have a website or online identity? If so stick with it, especially if it’s established such as First Baptist in Kalamazoo and your website is www.fbkalamazoo.org (that seems weird just looking at that domain name).
- What’s your logo? If you don’t have one & don’t have the creative power to make one, that’s ok, but then maybe use your initials like fbk (using the previous example in 2.b.) and place it in a nice avatar box.
- How much time can you (or someone you trust) give to managing your online identity? No matter how much time or resources you have, you will always need to prioritize. It will be easier if you get into the habit prioritizing early on, so that as your online identity grows, you’ll be able to manage it without unnecessary growing pains.
- Do you have a short, unique, easy to remember name? For example, on twitter my churches name is too long to be used as a user name, so we needed to use our churches website name, but then we stuck with that name for everything we do online. Now this doesn’t mean those who wished to speak of my churches ministry will use this tag, but it helped us group what’s being said into a more focused entity.
- Are you relationship oriented? Now this may seem a bit strange considering you’re not physically talking with a human (although this too is changing), but we need to remember, people are still the ones reading. We’re not trying to minister to computers, or cellphones or any other number of devices, but people. Having said that, talk to people in your written word. Speak to them as though you were having a conversation with them, which leads me into the next point.
- Walk the daily walk, let the river flow and don’t be afraid to be different. Now it’s time to put your plan into action. Make sure you start out (if you haven’t already started) at a manageable pace. Some ways (or places) to start your identity are:
- A website – even if it’s just a brochure type website with your ministry contact and ministry info on there. It doesn’t have to be fancy – in fact, I’ve seen it where brochure sites or simple blogs have just focused on type – such as http://hillsong.com/blogs/creative/training/
- As talked about before, Twitter is a great, easy to use source for two way communication.
- Set up your identity on Facebook.com or Linkedin.com. You can set up facebook groups and / or pages to gather others to your identity. Even if you don’t have a website, you can start out with a facebook page of your church and go from there.
- Comment useful & helpful thoughts on other blogs. Most of the time blogs will ask for your website address and then link through your name it when your comment is approved.
Also, be careful not to allow any of your online communication speak down to anyone.
Everything written, either in print, email or online can and very often does get taken the wrong way, mainly because our communication relies heavily on tone of voice and facial expressions. Being up beat, positive, focused on what you want to say will help you accomplish your objectives faster.
I don’t know how many times I’ve had to delete whole blog posts just because it wasn’t “accomplishing” what we set out to do. It’s never fun to do that, but it’s better than wasting time on fielding questions and more importantly suffer lack of questions, communication and / or traffic.
There are many many other tips and tricks out there, but this should help you get your bearings straight and get off on the right foot.
Of course any questions and / or comments you have are encouraged and more than welcomed.