There are lots of different approaches to using social media. After giving presentations to many groups about using social media for ministry, I have come up with my own strategy for getting started with social media. And it works.
Whether you are a pastor getting started on social media or a church looking to start using social media for your ministry or an author looking to get the word out about your latest offering, it will work.
The plan? Listen to Vanilla Ice.
Yup.Vanilla Ice has some wisdom to drop. Namely: Stop, Collaborate, and Listen.
Before you jump into social media, stop. Many people rush into social media, or move from one platform to another, without thinking about it. They want to be doing the latest thing, or know that they should be on social media, but they don't think about what that means. Rushing in most often results in ineffective communications efforts, and a mess that has to be cleaned up later. So stop.
Spend some time thinking about how you are going to use social media, and how it fits into your other communication methods. Think about which platform would be most effective for you, and where your audience is. Read up on social media strategy - I recommend The Social Media Gospel and Click2Save for people who are using social media for ministry.
You are not the first person to consider using social media for your ministry (or business, etc). Seek out the people who are doing it well. Sit down with them. Work together with them to develop a plan to help get you on your feet. Here's a secret: most of the people who are using social media for church communications want to help others do the same. And very often, this sort of experienced help from peers in the field is free or remarkably inexpensive.
Get together (in person or virtually) with others in the same field, people who share the same sorts of goals. Share ideas about how you can creatively and effectively use digital tools. If you are using social media for ministry check out the Church Social Media (#chsocm) community, where some of the best church communicators are collaborating and sharing ideas.*
Most people get on social media and they immediately start talking. "BUY MY PRODUCT" "COME TO MY WORSHIP SERVICE" "CLICK MY LINKS."
It's about as much friendly as the guy standing on a street corner with a bullhorn. Before you start talking, listen. Learn what are the people in your community are talking about. Learn how your church/product is perceived by others. Listen for the needs, desires, and hurts among the people you are hoping to reach. Before you can talk, you need to earn respect. And the best way to do that is by being attentive and listening.
Even once you have a plan, have collaborated with others, and have listened to the community, it is important to remember to listen more than you talk.
That's it. The "Vanilla Ice Plan" for social media. Stop, collaborate, and listen.
Well, there is one more step. Repeat. Over and over again. Continue to revisit your plan and strategy. Continue to seek out the best practitioners to learn from an collaborate with. And continue to listen to your community.
Stop, Collaborate, and Listen.
Want to connect? Find me on twitter or facebook. I'd love to hear from you.
*The Church Social Media conversation happens on Twitter on the hashtag #chsocm, especially on Tuesday nights at 9pm Eastern during our weekly chats. You can also find us on Facebook.