What is social media?
Excellent question. Basically, social media is the broad classification of all of the casual communication that exists on the Internet and through other technological means. Twenty years ago, all we could really do was pass around professionally-printed pictures and catch-up weekly via landline conversations. Now, through constantly-evolving social media, you can choose to share any detail of your life with not only your closest friends, but strangers – all with just a few clicks. There are, of course, pros and cons to this new generation of instant information, but one thing’s for sure – catching up with the people you care about has never been easier.
Common social media tools
Everyone and their mother owns a Facebook account, and if status updates aren’t detailed enough for you, there’s always Twitter. While these are some of the most popular tools out there, plenty more are on the rise, from LinkedIn to Google+. Of course, social networking websites aren’t the only means of instantaneous, personalized communication. Think of all of the information freely available on websites, of all of the useful (and, okay, not so useful) apps on your smartphone, tablet, and whatever other electronic devices you own. Now we can call, text, tweet, Facebook, and YouTube about our daily lives and the things that are important to us. The only remaining question is this: when will “to app” become a verb as well?
What's the relevance for our church?
Let’s face it – in this day and age, we are competing against a million and one distractions for the attention of our youth. Social media tools allow organizations such as ours to reach out to young people in a concise and relatable way. The Vatican now has an official website and a YouTube channel. And the utilization of social media has never been easier - even the Pope tweets now!
Still don’t see how social media can play such a big role in our church? Here’re some examples:
|My parishioners travel frequently for work, and often miss Sunday Mass.||Virtual congregation! Whether it’s via LinkedIn or a Facebook fan page, the parishioners can carry the church and its values with them, wherever they carry a device capable of internet browsing!|
|Kids have short attention spans, and getting them to sit through an hour-long service is a major pain in the behind.||Give them a virtual outline with excerpts uploaded to YouTube from a volunteer’s phone.|
|We’re holding an important fundraiser, and want to make more people aware of what they can do to help.||Blog about your event(s) and send out a tweet to all of your followers with a link to your PayPal account! Donating money to a worthy cause has never been easier; all it takes is a few clicks!|
|We have an awesome Pastor, and we want to spread the word. How can we do that?||Record his sermons and put them on YouTube! Now his viewership can jump from a few dozen to thousands.|
|There’s a wedding in our community’s future! How do we share this moment with everyone else?||With a dedicated page on your church's website, you can upload videos of the happy couple and even create a donation button for the church! Webpages are quickly becoming the everyman’s way to share important information.|
|The problem is that we don’t have a problem – our parishioners are already so engaged! So what can we get out of social media, if anything?||Don’t forget that social media can be fun as well as informative. Your parishioners can check in to services on Facebook, thereby displaying their commitment to everyone on their friends list. Social media doesn’t just solve problems; it’s a creative way to put fun new spins on old tricks.|