The Social Media Gospel - Author Interview (& Free Book)

Do you like free things? Then have I got a treat for you! My first order of copies of Meredith Gould's new book, The Social Media Gospel, are arriving today, and I have two copies to give away. More about that in a bit.

First, a little about the author. Meredith Gould founded a weekly conversation on twitter about using social media for ministry, called Church Social Media (or #chsocm). Over the last two years, this conversation has continued and developed into a community of individuals who are passionate about the Gospel and about technology. She has also consulted with congregations, organizations, and synods/dioceses about their communications strategies.

It is my privilege to count Meredith as a friend and collaborator (co-conspirator?) and to have been able to have a hand in this project. I asked Meredith to share some of her insight about the book and about using social media in ministry on this blog. Here is my interview with Meredith:

With an ever-growing number of resources for using social media, what sets The Social Media Gospel apart?

Yes, resources for using social media are ever-growing, but because most focus on “how to” use social media, they’re quickly obsolete. Digital platform design (i.e., what the social media looks like) and functionality (i.e., how the social media works) change quickly. I wanted to write something more durable, but that wasn’t my primary motivation.

I saw a more pressing need – a book explaining why these tools are valuable and when to use them. In The Social Media Gospel, I invite readers to think strategically and tactically before choosing tools. I invite them to think about the impact of context (e.g., demographics, learning styles, personality types) on social media adoption (or rejection). I also include questions for reflection, cleverly called, “Thought Bytes.” And more!

I was determined to write a book for newcomers as well as those already using social media. Comments from early reviewers and those who have already received pre-ordered copies assure me that I achieved my goals. I’m also happy to know that readers are having LOL moments. My favorite public tweet from today: “…what I’ve enjoyed most in your new book are the little cmts (sic) that highlight your personality; creates a sense of familiarity.”

What is the biggest blind spot congregations have when it comes to communications?

Great question. At first, I was going to respond with, “failure to see that communications tools must be integrated across digital platforms.” But the biggest and most dismaying blind spot? A persistent inability or unwillingness to see that communications is a ministry. What, pray tell, is evangelism if not communication?

In an earlier book, The Word Made Fresh: Communication Church and Faith Today, I wrote about structural and cultural obstacles to embracing communications (i.e., creating, producing, distributing content that informs, educates, and inspires action) as an essential ministry. The obstacles I identified six years ago have not been removed, so this new book builds on that point.

I could almost forgive local churches for not yet understanding that communications ministry is as important as, say, music ministry. But at the judicatory level? I’m appalled by how communications budgets and professional staff are being completely eliminated rather than reconfigured. Digital tools, used strategically, are very cost-effective. I could go on and on…shocker!

How do online communications move from broadcasting to community building?

Some online tools are perfect for broadcasting and that’s enough. Others can be used to build community. Whether you want or should move from broadcasting to community building is a strategic issue.

Key questions: Why to build community? What are the defining characteristics and parameters of that community? What do you want the community to do or be as a result of being built? Strategy before crafting tactics and choosing tools.

At the tactical level, community building requires ongoing, consistent interaction that’s stimulated, supported, and monitored by a community manager. To those who are unfamiliar with online social networking tools, this might seem like a lot of work but I think it can be easier than getting church council or vestry members to play nice!

One last question: How did you find someone to write such a brilliant foreword?
Social media, of course!

I am thankful to Meredith for taking the time to talk with us during this busy week of publication! Please visit Meredith's blog, learn more about the Church Social Media (#chsocm) community, or drop in on the book club discussion of The Social Media Gospel over at Patheos.

I am excited about this book, and think it is one of the best resources available for people who are thinking about how new technologies can help them to share the Gospel. Lutheran pastor and blogger Clint Schnekloth said of the book: "This brief and compelling book packs a punch, combining immense insight into the phenomenon of social media with practical wisdom on the how of communicating gospel in social media contexts. It has become my go-to book to share with anyone interested in a combination of the why and how of social media ministry."

I think this book is so good that I want to give you a copy. Here's how:
  1. Share this interview publicly on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter. 
  2. Add the hashtag #SocMGospel to your post
  3. Come back here and leave a comment, letting me know that you have shared the post
  4. In a week I will give away two copies of The Social Media Gospel, drawn from people who shared the post. The more you share, the more chances to win! 
Also, you can order your own copy - or two or three - right here