Social Networking to further Ministry

Running late with today’s post, as I was seriously busy today. Slept in after watching the announcement of Linda Bond as the Salvation Army’s next General, and then busy busy busy at work. Spent the morning preparing a social networking forum that was presented at work at lunch time, and then the afternoon was spent catching up with work. I’ve still got a bit more to catch up with, but we’ll see how we go. But for now, here are the notes that I started with when I got to work. I added in a bit – and I’ll add them in tomorrow, but for today, here’s what I was talking on. But for now, here’s my notes from the forum that I presented at work.

Using Social networking for Ministry

So What is Social Networking? Wikipedia – that great fountain of knowledge – states “A social network service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities.” It is essentially a way for people with a common interest or link to share in that interest. For example, Facebook started out as a way for College graduates to stay in contact with one another. It’s since grown so that it’s main activity is people all over the world staying in touch, but has since added many more features such as Pages, Events, Games, applications, and more – many of which we can use to help further our ministry.

To get an idea of how Social Networking can be used to help further our ministries, let’s take a look at the recent “Cupcakes of Love” event organised by Andy Corkill. Andy had the idea of a cake stand with a difference to help raise money for the Floods on Wednesday January 12, and decided to hold the event January 20. With such a short lead up time, the opportunities for promotion were limited. Andy relied on word of mouth and informal channels to get the word out. These included the Multicultural Ministry Network, Internal Uniting Church Centre Emails, Power points on Sunday and personal notices at two UCA congregations and a Facebook event.

Andy also jumped onto twitter and the #bakedrelief hash tag on twitter, which was being used at the time by people who were taking backed goods to volunteers on the ground in Queensland. This generated a fair amount of twitter traffic. He also directly tweeted Catholic Priest Father Bob, who has over 16,000 followers. He told people about the event, which greatly increased the knowledge of the event. The Facebook event had 180 responses and although most of them were declining the invitation to the event, it still increased knowledge of what was happening.

It must be noted that Social Networking does not work on its own. Facebook has slightly more over twitter because you have things such as events, pages and notes which can remind people long after the original post. Twitter is very much like broadcast radio – you’re out there shouting, but you don’t know who’s actually listening to you. You need to have some sort of action to convert people.

So now that I’ve made that note – that it doesn’t work on its own – let’s take a look at the different services available.

Services available

Twitter

Twitter is the SMS of the internet. It is what is known as a Microblogging service, where you have control of your own page, and Tweet content. Your tweets are limited to 140 characters. Twitter currently has over 106 million total users, 60% of which are located outside of the united states. It’s an interesting demographic spread.

The vast majority of twitter users are in college or university with 48% of users. 28% of twitter users are college graduates, with 7% in high school and 17% listed as other.

However, the age demographics paint a slightly different picture. 30% of users are between the age of 26-34, and 27% between the ages of 35-44.

It’s also interesting to note that while only 25% of twitter users follow a brand, 67% of brand followers will purchase that specific brand.

Twitter is like a minimalistic Facebook – it only has the status updates, and is limited to 140 characters. This means it can be difficult to shape a status – especially if you’re using a link to a webpage in there.

Twitter is great for real-time news and events coverage. You’ll often get trending topics during sporting events, coverage of major news stories, and first-run TV series.

YouTube

YouTube is a video sharing website. It’s great to find video clips of favourite shows, music videos, and more. But there’s also a large number of users who use YouTube to post vlogs – like a blog, but instead of writing they video themselves. There are also comments available on the video, and people can video their own responses to the video.

Users in Australia are large and diverse. 32% are within the ages of 18-29, 20% within the ages of 30-39, 18% between 40-49, 23% above 50. 47% of users will share a video that they love. This makes it great for being able to spread the word quickly.

Facebook

Facebook is probably the most well known at the moment. The Social Network just came out, with its focus on Facebook creator Mark Zukerburg, and it has a large usage rate. It’s interesting to note that the demographics of Facebook are incredibly across the board, but the largest users of Facebook are High School and Uni Students. While there are large numbers of professionals, stay-at-home mums, and those nearing retirement, the High School and Uni demographics remain the top. Remember this when preparing your campaign.

It’s interesting to note that more Facebook users will follow a brand than twitter users, but only 51% will purchase from that brand, compared with 67% on twitter.

Facebook is – in some ways – trying to be the most complete social networking tool available. You have your own profile, which you can post status updates (like twitter, but with no limit on characters). You can post videos (like YouTube), you can post pictures (like flickr) and tag people in them. You can create a page where your company can post updates, and people can “like” your company and post comments on your company page.

Many More

There are many more options available, such as Flickr, LinkedIn, Foursquare, MySpace and more. There’s even a tool called BuddyPress, based on the WordPress system that we use for our website, that allows anyone to create their own social network site if they so desire.

Cost – time, money

Cost per service

Now all of the most popular social networking solutions are free. (And as an aside – if you ever get an e-mail from someone telling you to forward it on to avoid having to pay to use Facebook/MySpace/Hotmail etc delete it.) However, in terms of the cost of using them, you need to be aware of the time that you’ll need to devote to it.

Twitter and Facebook really need about 1 hour a week at the very minimum. More likely it can be a half hour a day. The reason for this is that you need to partake in the social aspect of it. Not only do you need to create interesting content, but you need to respond to other people on the service. Responding to comments on your Facebook Page, responding to mentions on twitter. Delays in this can seriously harm your brand.

For example, I use an app on my phone to help track my golfing statistics. It worked great  for a while, but a recent update stopped sending the statistics from my phone to the website. I emailed the company responsible, I posted on their forums, and I tweeted them. I got no response regarding this issue, despite them posting new tweets on their twitter account. They did eventually post an update which fixed the issue, but the lack of communication seriously hurt their brand in my eyes.

For a service such as YouTube or Flickr, you have to take into account the cost of the equipment needed to take the videos or photos, and also the time spent editing video or photo (and the cost of programs associated with editing), as well as the time for moderating and responding to comments on the respective videos and pictures.

Total Cost

When choosing what services to use, you need to take into account not only what techniques will be the most effective, but also what will be the most efficient in terms of time. If you don’t have the time available to create and edit video, then YouTube probably isn’t the best option. Depending on your target market, you might decide to promote solely through Facebook or Twitter, or maybe both – depending on the time available.

Marketing techniques

When using Social Networking, there are two types of promotion that you will use – techniques to be used during a campaign, and techniques used during downtime.

Campaign Promotion

When running a campaign, your Social Media presence needs to be at its highest at the time of the event. While not sticking strictly to a formula, it should follow a roughly lopsided bell curve. In the lead up, your postings slowly increase – it may start at one a day, and then slowly pick up towards a peak on the day of the event of one every half hour. After the event, you can’t just abandon the game – your posting reduces, but keep reporting on the event until a couple of days after the event.

Downtime Promotion

Downtime promotion is sort of like maintenance. During the down times, you need to keep your followers interested so that they don’t run away and all your hard work is for naught. I’ll highlight two techniques in order to do this.

5-5-5+ technique

The 5-5-5+ technique was developed specifically in mind of twitter, but can be transferred across the different networks. The first 5 refers to original content, The second to responses. The third to retweets, and the plus sign for others.

Original content is key. You need to be creating original content otherwise other people won’t be interested in you, in what you do. But you also need to respond to people who mention you. Even if it’s a simple “Thanks for the mention” it will mean people are more likely to promote you. Retweets are just a kind thing to do – if you see something that you like, share it with others. The person who originally tweeted it will be notified, and they might check out your posts. They may find one they like and retweet yours – promoting you to their followers.

The other section is in terms of the memes and other games that get played on Twitter. For example: Follow Friday, which is where you highlight people you follow to your followers, and tag it with the hashtag #FF. People watching this search will find interesting people to follow, and people who follow you will find interesting people to follow. They might also choose to feature you in a Follow Friday post, promoting you to other people.

SOCIAL Networking

The SOCIAL networking technique focuses on the Social side of social networking. Basically, in the down time, you be yourself. Post interesting things about what’s happening at work. Take a look at the iiNet tweets. There are people who work at iiNet who tweet regularly. The official iiNet Facebook page has things such as “It’s cake day in the office” or whatever. They also respond to requests for help, but this social side adds personality to the brand, makes you feel that it’s not just a faceless organization.

The more you use Facebook or twitter, you’ll get an idea of what other people post, what other people use it for and that will give you an idea of what you can use it for.

Social Networking for personal use

I thought I’d just conclude with some advice on using social networking for personal use. There are some things that you need to be aware of, particularly in terms of security.

Facebook

Facebook is probably the service that most people will use. It has a very high usage rate, but there are some very serious concerns over security of data that you should be aware of.

Now I know that none of you are the types of people to post wild party photos, or to bad mouth your workplace, but there are people who do that. And whether it’s moral or not, people do Facebook stalk – and quite often it’s potential employers. In order to control who can see what you put on Facebook – from photos to statuses, you need to lock down your security settings. I have my Facebook profile set so that everything is Friends only. So if you’re not my friend, this is what you see.

And if you are my friend, this is what you see.

This way, I can control who sees what I post. You also have limited control of what others post of you. You can remove tags in photos and statuses that you are tagged in, so that people visiting your profile won’t see those photos but it doesn’t mean that no-one can see the photo. You can also disable friends tagging you at places using Facebook Places. I’d highly recommend this, as you don’t know when someone is going to tag you as being somewhere where you might not want all your friends knowing where it is.

Twitter

While twitter can be locked down so that only those people who you approve can follow you, it does bring down the available services that you can have. You can’t take part in live-tweets because any posts that you post won’t be visible in searches. My advice for twitter is to keep it open, but post knowing that it is open for anyone to read. For example, I would post about interesting news articles, or fun happenings at work, but I wouldn’t post about any job ads that I may have been looking at.

Other services

As you know there are a multitude of services available and it would take me far too long to go through and mention all of the settings to take note of. So a general warning of sorts – before using any social networking service, ensure you take a serious look at what forms of control you can have about the data that you publish and who will be able to view it.

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Author: Ben Clapton

I'm an Officer in The Salvation Army, currently appointed with my wife as Corps Officers at the Rochester Corps in country Victoria (20 minutes out of Echuca). I play violin and guitar, amongst many others, and love golf and running.

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