Guest Post: The New Age of Mission

I rode the bus the other day for the first time in years. I noticed that most people don’t stare out of the windows anymore, they stare at their smartphones. I walked into a meeting and fifty percent of people were moving their fingers across a handheld screen. I went out for a meal ­ guess what? When millions and millions of us go home after work we reach for the tablet at some point in the evening. As a church we spend so much time thinking about how we can reach people with the message of Jesus. We think we always have to either go to people or invite them to us. This may still be true, but it is not as true as it used to be because people’s attention today has moved into the digital world.

Don’t sell. Tell
Did you see Casey Neistat snowboarding through the streets of New York being pulled by a Jeep during the January blizzard? It went crazy on the internet and major TV networks all around the world picked it up.  After one year of vlogging Casey is one of the most important people on YouTube. He is not selling anything, he is not pushing a message, and he is not asking for anything, he is simply telling his story. His vlog is about his life. Most of it is of his family, or him riding a Boosted Board, travelling, meeting people, and just thinking outloud. But Casey also runs a new App company called BEME. Because you watch his story you know his very cool office, you know the fun people in his company, and you have watched his cute baby daughter Francine become a toddler. Watching the vlog makes you feel a big part of his life and you want to use BEME because you have joined his vision of how life is meant to be. There is no hard sell with Casey, in fact there is no “sell” at all, he is only ever being himself.

Many churches today are still in “sell” mode. Many have websites, some of them are even nice to look at. The up to date ones inform you of service times, who to contact, and even about how to become a Christian. Loads of Bishops are on Twitter retweeting newspaper articles and sharing facts and their opinions. They are all pushing a message. This is fine up to a point but this is also how you sell cars and cinema tickets. Today’s successful internet users like Casey however, are going old school. Like the proverbial local butcher and grocer, sales are based on trust and relationships more than direct messages and branding. In fact storytellers like Casey are much closer to a New Testament model of mission than most churches are. The Gospels don’t push information and invitations at us. They are a story full of people, places, emotions, and stuff happening. We enter into the story, engage with it emotionally and spiritually, grow into its truth, and we begin to form our own identity around it. It is the raw authenticity of it that draws us.

Make fellow travellers
Willie Morris is a Christian entrepreneur and founder of the company FaithBox in the US. He is telling his story on SnapChat and YouTube. You enter into his day, you know when he is tired or is off to house group. When he takes advice from a seasoned Christian businessman about running a company with Christian integrity, you share in the moment and see how much the advice means to him. Willie is not selling FaithBox, he is inviting you to join him on his personal journey. His use of social media is consistent with the New Testament model of story and his company is growing because of it. Willie has a lot to teach us about mission in the digital age.

Tallie pointed out recently that a significant amount of people in the local community who are not part of your church will watch what your church is doing on Facebook. That tells us a lot. The internet is a safe place to observe what we are doing. Ten years ago a church website was like a shop window. It was a public utility that told people what the church had to offer. Today the internet is so much more, it is the story about who we are and what we are about. Using platforms like YouTube and Instagram to tell our stories builds trust and belonging with the people watching, way before they may actually meet us in the physical world.

Being where the people are
Learning to use all the social media platforms as well as all the hard skills of video production, is ridiculously cheaper and easier than ever. Nevertheless, it remains daunting. It takes time and practice. Willie recently suggested to me that we try them all and then concentrate on the ones that work best to tell our story. This is sensible advice.

The digital world is where people’s attention is, and if Missional Theology has taught us anything in the last thirty years, it is that we need to tell our stories in the most relevant places for the people we are trying to reach. The world around us is changing at a frightening pace and we need to upgrade our skills to keep up. Whether we are local clergy, or Bishops in the House of Lords, today we have powerful tools to tell our stories in meaningful and biblical ways.

The New Age of Mission moves us beyond inviting people on courses, or to hear preachers, or explore innovative spirituality. All these things remain important, but they don’t stand alone, they must be written into our stories like chapters of a book. The decline in church attendance is frightening but there is hope because the tools we have available to us for mission have increased exponentially. We just need to learn how to use them and then relax into being who we really are.

– Dan Stork Banks
Dan is a curate in Shropshire and a vlogger. You can also find him storytelling on SnapChat: danstorkbanks 

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10 Things your Church should do this year on Social Media

It’s the start of a new year and with that comes the opportunity to try some new things on social media. Social media and social networking is an ever changing landscape. Websites and apps come and go, ideas and strategies change and evolve. It’s more than just setting up an account and keeping things updated regularly. But don’t let that scare you. It doesn’t mean you have to spend your life keeping up to date with it all – that’s what you have me for (!) Below are some ideas (or challenges if you wish) to keep your social media presence and your knowledge expanding. If you manage all of the ten on the list that’s fantastic, but one or two completed will also have you heading in the right direction.  Let me know if you tick any off the list. 

Number One: Step Outside Your Comfort zone
Take a risk, try something new. Why not try live-tweeting a service, create a new hashtag campaign or use Twitter’s new poll feature for the first time. You could set up an Instagram account for your church or create a community of local church Tweeters. It doesn’t need to be a big step. It’s about discovering what else is out there and not letting fear of getting it wrong stop you from trying in the first place. Do one thing this year that you’ve never done before.

Number Two: Reach out to others
Don’t just wait for people to come talk to you on social media – start conversations yourself. You can do this by joining in on trending hashtags or just strike up conversations with your followers. Follow other churches on social media and form connections between them. By working together you’ll have a louder voice – there’s power in unity! Share events you’re holding with them, help promote their events and pray for each other.

Number Three: Learn something New
There are two things I think every church should learn how to use: iMovie and Canva. Youtube is the second biggest search engine after Google and Facebook’s move into video sharing has been a massive success for them which will only grow over the next 12 months. iMovie, the iPad app is incredibly easy to use with plenty of tools to make simple videos which you can upload straight onto Facebook or Youtube.

Alongside video, visual storytelling using graphics are still a major part of social media marketing. Anything with colour is going to make people stop for a second to see what you’ve posted. The better your design is, the more likely people are stop and read your post. Canva is the perfect tool to create good looking graphics of all shapes and sizes and post them straight to your social media channels.

Number Four: Broadcast something via Periscope
The live broadcasting app from Twitter is incredibly easy to use. All you need is some phone signal or wifi and a smart phone. Why not get involved in the CofE’s ChurchLive project or do some live broadcasting of your own. It could be a service, a fund-raising event or just a tour of your church. Live broadcasting will be big in 2016 so make sure you’re part of it.

Number Five: Teach your congregation how to use it
And by “use it” I mean social media. As your church uses social media more and more, it’s so easy to leave behind those people in the congregation who don’t even know how to turn a computer on, let alone send a tweet. As mentioned in my “quick digital wins” blog, all you need to do is set up some time for the younger ones to show the older ones how to do it. As social media becomes a bigger and bigger part of everyday life, it’s time worth spent making sure a large part of your congregation aren’t alienated by it. And you can give them the tools to stay safe online too.

Number Six: Create a strategy
If you haven’t done this already of course. Starting the year off with a plan of where you’re going and where you want to be is a no brainer. There’s nothing to say you can’t change course or have a few small diversions but if everyone in the church knows what journey you’re on, the easier you’ll find to stick to it. Have a clear idea of what your voice is and how you plan to use it. Pick out key dates in your calendar and how you can make the most of social media on those days. The more you plan ahead the better.

Number Seven: Have More Fun
It’s okay to be silly sometimes. Have a caption competition, use Twitter polls to have quizzes or have a guessing game using photos from around the parish. Get involved in funny hashtags on Twitter, share video of your youth leaders making a fool of themselves to make the kids laugh. Show the church has a fun side (one of many sides – your church is multidimensional!) When people see you having a good time, they’ll want to join in.

Number Eight: Tell Stories
You have a whole Bible’s worth of stories at your fingertips so why not come up with some creative ways of sharing them online? Don’t just share your church online, be your church online. The best way to tell these stories is using video (though anything visually eye-grabbing will work!) like this great Christmas video from All Saints, Peckham or through clever poetry, like that from Miriam Swaffield. Why not share testimonies from the congregation? Share the emotion of baptisms or use stopmotion to create animated tales from the bible. You can find more inspiration in my video ideas blog. There are so many stories to tell, so go and tell them!

Number Nine: Evaluate
Look back at your last year on social media and evaluate how well it went. Look at the analytics that are available to you and see what was popular and what wasn’t popular. Investigate what type of posts do best and what day of the week has the most engagement. Learning what has does well on your account is important in planning your future. Don’t be afraid to ditch a social media platform if it isn’t working for your church. Remember, you’re looking for engagement and communication, not just ‘likes’. If you’re not getting that, it might be time to throw out the current plan and try something new.

Number Ten: Get the Basics Right
Make sure all your bio is filled in properly including things like your web address. Not only does a half filled in bio make your account hard to find, it’s incredibly frustrating to visit your page and not be able to find your website or any information about your church. Have an eye catching header picture, something that’ll make people stop and want to investigate further. It’s these areas which are some people’s first impression of your church so you need to get it right first time. Your bio and your visual identity on your social media accounts are your shop window.

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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Doing Christmas on Social Media

Unsurprisingly, Christmas is one of the things churches do best, and there’s also a really great opportunity to do a brilliant job of Christmas on social media.  Social media is a fantastic place to get people thinking about the real meaning of Christmas as there are so many ways to communicate it. I’ve put pen to paper (or more accurately fingers to keyboard) and pulled together a few ideas to inspire you in your Christmas social media strategy.

Telling the Story
Throughout the Christmas season, try and find interesting ways to tell the story.  It could be through photos, graphics, videos or even gifs. Try and be as creative as possible, the more unusual and unique the better. For example: why not turn the church into a giant Advent calendar, revealing the next bit of the story each day? It would be perfect for the community to get involved in but also a great thing to share each day on social media.

One of the easiest things to do is to share relevant Bible verses (don’t forget that they’ll need to fit into 140 characters on Twitter). This is a great reminder for people that Christmas is about more than presents and food. Go one step further and turn the Bible verses into graphics. Not only will you be able to fit longer verses onto a graphic but they should be more engaging. As people scroll, they’ll stop to take a look at images. I’ve shared some resources on other posts which will make it incredibly easy to make quote graphics.

Promoting the Services
This might seem obvious, but don’t forget to promote your service times. Create a clean, simple and easy to understand Christmas timetable graphic and share it regularly. Don’t forget to post it at different times of day to reach different groups of people. It’s also worth tweeting individual service times and reminding people how welcome they are to come. It’s not always easy to ask someone face to face if they’d like to come to church, but retweeting or sharing a post about the Christmas service times isn’t nearly as daunting and is a great way to to invite friends to church for the first time.

Don’t forget to make the Christmas service times prominent on your website; if people have to search for them, they’ll probably just give up.

Getting Ready
There’s so much you can share on Twitter and Facebook in the run up to Christmas. Churches can look really magical at Christmas time with candles and decorations, so use that to make people want to visit your church: share photos of the christmas decorations going up, the stages of the nativity crib scene being put into place or a video of music being practised. It builds up the anticipation and excitement for the main event. Think about the things your church does to get ready for Christmas that people might not know you do, or look for the humorous side in the preparations. Take a photo of the tower of mince pie boxes you need for a service or how you get such a large tree into the church.

During/On the Day
Not tweeting during your Christmas Day service (or during other Christmas services) might be a missed opportunity. Here are just a few ideas for you to consider:

  • Why not share photos of the church filling up and updates of how you’re celebrating in church – you could live tweet the whole thing!
  • Take a short video clip of the entire church saying Happy Christmas. Short means you can share the video on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Why not try vine also? An app from Twitter which lets you share 6 second videos
  • Share videos from individuals about what they think Christmas is, you could also do it with still photos and have them hold up their message (perfect for Twitter and Instagram!)
  • Take multiple photos throughout the service and create stop-motion style video of the service
  • Live-stream it: use an app like Periscope to live video stream the service around the world. You’ll need to plan ahead and know what’s happening where but it’s worth the effort.

Videos
A video is a perfect way to share the Christmas story. Not only can you tell the story in unique and creative ways, it will also be more engaging on social media than text or image posts (plus perfect to show in Church too!). Have a look at my list of best Christmas videos, including All Saints, Peckham who used the overground train running past their church to tell the Christmas Story. Read my blog on cheap and easy video ideas which prove you don’t need a big budget or a budding director in your church to make a video. If you do create a video and also plan to post it on Facebook, don’t forget to upload the video straight to Facebook rather than using a Youtube link as you will get a lot more people watching the video.

Got ideas of your own? Why not share them in the comments below.

Social networking sites: The ones you should know about

There are many social networking sites available now in the online space. Some you may have heard of and some might be completely foreign to you. Sites like Twitter and Facebook have been around for years, whilst other sites like Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram are much newer. With so much choice in social networking websites, how do you choose which one is right for you or for your church? Below is a little guide to the top few to help you decide.

Facebook
Facebook is the most popular social network in the world with 1.55 billion monthly active users, 65% of them using it daily. The social network was created by Mark Zuckerberg and was original designed as a network for university students. Since 2006 it’s been available to everyone over the age of 13. Whilst there are users of all ages on the site, it now has a reputation as a place for parents and grandparents to keep up with their younger family members’ activities. Whilst the biggest group of users are in the 18-29 age bracket, the percentage of those in the 65+ age bracket is increasing.

The social network lets you post updates in the form of text, video or photo, play games, find and message friends and join groups or pages of particular topics or interests (such a favourite TV show, a public figure or, of course, a church!)

Alongside profiles, Facebook lets you create ‘Pages’ or ‘Groups’. A page is like a public profile that anyone can follow. Companies, products and churches have their own Facebook page. Groups are smaller communities inside Facebook which can either be open for all to join or closed to a select few. A youth group or a youth leader network may create a group to communicate with each other and share content.

Twitter
Through Twitter you can post messages of up to 140 characters. This might not seem like a lot but you’ll be amazed how creative people can be with the character limit they are given. In the ‘tweets’ you can also include images, polls, videos or links. Anyone can see your tweets (unless you specifically mark them as viewable to your approved followers only) and you can view everyone else’s. It’s used in a variety of ways but because of its reputation for being ‘of the moment’, it’s mostly used to record live moments (it’s so quick that a lot of news is reported through Twitter before the major news outlets)

The site has 316 million monthly active users (many fewer than Facebook) and 500 million tweets are sent every day.

Whilst Twitter is easy to use, it does have its own language and style of messaging that’s completely unique to the site.

Pinterest
If you ever created a mood board or pinned inspirations and ideas onto a cork board, this site will be familiar to you. Instead of a real cork board, you have many ‘boards’ to which you can ‘pin’ pictures, recipes, ideas, and more. You can upload them from your computer, take them from websites or ‘re-pin’ from other people’s boards.

You can search through the many themes or just search keywords to find all the things that interest you. It may be craft activities, fashion, architecture, typography and design, flower arranging or just cute cat pictures. People then use the boards to organise the pins they like into their own themes such as ‘Wishlist’, ‘child friendly recipes’ or ‘Wedding ideas’

There are just under 50 million users of Pinterest around the world but because of its focus on craft, recipes and weddings, its user base is mostly female.

Youtube
Youtube is by far the most successful video sharing website with 300 hours of video uploaded every hour (that’s 12.5 days worth of video uploaded every minute). It’s also the second most popular search engine after Google (which owns Youtube) People can upload videos for others to watch, build playlists of favourite videos or comment on other people’s videos. The website is over ten years old and is the most popular site by far for sharing videos. Youtube can also be used for sharing live video as well as being the home of ‘Vloggers’. A vlog is a video-blog featuring a young person talking about their interests such as make up, books or gaming. These ‘Vloggers’ have massive followings, many with over a million subscribers who watch all their videos, transforming them into a new kind of celebrity. Because Youtube offers money to creators of original content if they include advertising on their videos, Vloggers can earn a living through uploading their videos to the site.

Instagram
Instagram is all about sharing photos. The mobile app lets you easily add pre-set filters to your photos (to change the lighting, contrast and colours) without the need for expensive or complicated photo editing programs. You then post the photo with a comment and hashtags for your followers to ‘like’ or comment on. The biggest user group of Instagram is aged 18-29 and it is used to document life in a very visual way. Everything from what they’re eating, to where they are in the world, to who they’re hanging out with. The site has 300 million users and has increased in popularity rapidly in the last few years.

WordPress/Tumblr (Blogging)
Blogging is like an online journal. People use it to comment on everything from current events, their own thoughts and feelings or a recipe they want to share, or even sharing social media advice! People can then share the blogs or comment on them. The most popular standard blogging website is WordPress but another popular blogging site is Tumblr. Whilst the site lets you create simple text posts to your blog, it’s a much more visually focused platform with photos, Gifs (short animated pictures) and videos. Tumblr also attracts a younger audience.

WordPress bloggers generally fit into two categories: Those wanting to share their knowledge on a subject (i.e recipes, poetry, book) or those wanting to comment on a particular subject (i.e faith, politics, film). The blogs are normally around 500-1000 words and are ‘tagged’ with key words which help people to search, which is helpful considering WordPress users produce over 52 million new posts every month.

Other sites you may have heard of:

  • Vine: Lets you share 6 seconds of video (people manage to be incredibly creative with this!)
  • Snapchat: Lets you send friends photos and videos that self-destruct after 10 seconds (Think “Mission Impossible” without the explosions!)
  • Vimeo: Another video sharing site similar to Youtube (Known for its high quality videos, also lets you password protect certain videos)
  • LinkedIn: a professional social networking site for people to find jobs, network with people in similar fields and discuss professional ideas
  • Google+: Put people you follow into differently themed ‘circle’ groups, share content and find content based on your interests (connects to your other Google accounts such as Youtube)
  • Flickr: A photo sharing site which can group photos into albums and lets people view or download the photos
  • Periscope: Share live video broadcasts over the internet to anyone in the world

How your church can use Instagram

Instagram is one of the fastest growing social networks of all time, so it might be time for your church to look into setting up an account if you haven’t already.

Instagram is a photo sharing app which lets you put interesting colour/lighting filters over photos to make them look like you’ve spent more time than you actually have editing them; they are then posted for your followers to like or comment on. Most Instagram users are between 18-30 years old so it may be the perfect place to engage with the younger half of your congregation. If you have a youth leader or even a youth team, why not hand it over to them to look after?

So what photos should Churches post on Instagram?
Keep on reading for some suggestions to get you started. In the end you need to post what works for you and your church. It’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of posting the same kinds of images you might post on your Facebook or Twitter account, but think carefully about the audience and what they might like to see. Click on the links in the text below to see examples of what I’m talking about.

Behind the Scenes:
• Show the things happening in the church between services and what it takes to prepare for a service (And all the strange props and items collected or created!).
• Take photos from places people don’t normally see such as the view from the sound desk or from high up in the tower.
• Share the other uses the building gets as well as the work to keep the buildings running

People
• Share photos of the different staff and volunteers who make it all happen
• Catch candids of congregation members tucking into a biscuit or greeting people at the entrance
• Introduce us those people baptised or confirmed (Get a great action shot of a baptism in progress!)
• Take photos of laughter, friendship and fellowship
• Share testimonies and stories in creative ways

Fun/Unusual
• Show the fun things your church gets up to during a service or event.
• Share the unusual side of church – what people might not expect a church to be doing or involved in.
• Shine a light on the uniqueness of your church – what makes it so special?

Other tips
• Instagram is the kind of place where you can loosen up, be a bit silly and share your church’s sense of humour
• It’s also a place for the beautiful, emotional and the thought provoking. Always have a play around with the filtering settings to create some really atmospheric shots – they can make bad photos look good!
• Use sites like Canva to create promotional graphics which work on Instagram, perfect for inviting the 18-30’s to particular events and services aimed at them (Though don’t rely too heavily on graphics)
• Ask those from your Church in that age group what they’d like to see on it to get them engaged.
• Use hashtags (similar to Twitter) to categorise your photos, making it easier for people to discover your account. (You can also create a church hashtag for the congregation to use when posting photos they’ve taken at church)


For specific tips on taking photos at church, read my photography tips blog and for more Instagram examples and inspiration, have a look at some of the church accounts mentioned above::

Got any more tips or questions? Let me know in the comments.
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Scheduling your Posts

Chances are, you’re not going to have the time to spend all hours of the day on social media (big companies have teams of people that cover their social media 24/7) And if you’re looking after the account single-handedly, there will be times when you’re on holiday, or times when you’re too busy to post

You could just post when you can and go quiet when you can’t, but there are ways scheduling posts on both Twitter and Facebook so that you’ll not only have a regular stream of content, but you can also target your audience when they are most likely to be online.

The biggest times of day for audiences on social media are mornings, lunchtime, evenings and weekends, which are generally times when you may not be available to post.

(Do keep an eye on your insights/analytics as the best time of day to post can change depending on the account)

Facebook
When creating a new post on your Facebook page, you will notice a little arrow button beside the Publish button. Clicking on this will open up the option to schedule the post, backdate the post, or save it as a draft. If you choose to schedule, a new window will pop up, letting you pick on which day and at what time your content should be posted.

Once you have scheduled a post, a new box will appear just underneath the text box giving you easy access to view all scheduled posts. Through this link you can edit these posts and change their posting schedule.

Twitter
You can’t currently schedule posts straight from Twitter, but there are still plenty of places to do that. The two most well known are Tweetdeck (a Twitter owned site) and Hootsuite. Click here to find out to use Tweetdeck and how to get the most out of it.

Tweetdeck lets you schedule tweets, including ones with attached photos, and choose exactly what time and date it appears. You can also easily edit scheduled tweets.

To schedule: click the new tweet button in the top left hand corner, you’ll see an option underneath the text box to schedule the tweet, here you can pick the exact time and date. Once you’ve clicked tweet, you will be able to see the tweet in the ‘scheduled tweets’ column and be able to edit and reschedule whenever you need to.

Buffer
Buffer is a website which lets you schedule social media posts over multiple accounts which can save you time. It can also help you in finding the best time of day to post – all you need to do is create your content and Buffer will do the rest. The are also browser extensions – these work on top of Chrome, Firefox or Safari, which means that if you see an article your followers may like, you can add it to the queue of scheduled posts with just a click of a button.

Remember:

  • Choose the times to post carefully, companies have come under fire for scheduled content posting during Nov 11th minute’s silence. The type of content should also match the time you post, for example: content targeted at parents scheduled to post during the school run won’t get as much engagement.
  • Don’t rely completely on scheduled posts – what makes social media great is being ‘in the moment’ and sharing what’s happening live.

Levelling Up in Digital Media and Marketing Skills

Believe it or not, there are ways to improve your digital skills and understanding of social media marketing other than this blog!  If you find yourself wanting to go a step further with your knowledge, here a few free options for you to try:

TED Talks
TED describe themselves on their website asa nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less) covering almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.”   Available on the site are plenty of videos including those on the topic of social media. View them in one place here.

BBC Academy
The BBC academy is a great resource of articles, podcasts and videos on all things broadcast, and includes two interesting collections on social media. Online and Journalism.

Codecademy
Coding is how websites, apps and programmes are built. What might look like gobbledygook is actually a whole online language which you can teach yourself. There are various websites which offer coding tutorials but one of the best is Codecademy. You’ll learn things step by step in a very practical and interactive way and soon you’ll be able to not only understand code but use it to build your own website.

Youtube
Youtube is a fantastic resource for learning new skills. There are so many channels, offering tutorials in every topic under the sun. Just search “social media marketing” to find videos and channels offering lessons on the topic. Videos are a great way to learn as they are visual and you can return to them again and again, as well as share them with others. To find videos search for phrases such as ‘how to use Twitter’, ‘learn social media marketing’ and ‘marketing through Facebook’

Udemy
Udemy is a marketplace of tutorials and lessons in all sorts of subjects including social media. Whilst some of the lessons cost, others are free. Have a look at all the current marketing courses here (click all courses rather than featured and then use the filter options down the left to find the free courses. You will also find courses on websites, design and so much more.

For other resources to learn from, including Podcasts, Books and more, visit Hubspot’s list of social media marketing resources.

The Why and How of Tweetdeck

What is Tweetdeck?
The more people you follow on twitter, the harder it is to spot the good tweets out of the million of other not so good tweets. It’s next to impossible to read every single new tweet, especially when you don’t have much time available.
Tweetdeck, run by Twitter, is a website which gives you the ability to filter all tweets into more manageable groups of people which can be viewed all on one screen. This means it’s easier to find the tweets you need to respond to, the best ones to retweet and the best people to follow. You can also schedule tweets which means you can seem active on Twitter, even when you’re on holiday or just not able to tweet.

(There are other sites that do this, such as Hootsuite, make sure to do your research and find what works best for you)

Logging in for the first time
From tweetdeck.twitter.com, log in with your usual Twitter account username and password. The first thing you will see once logged in is a page with four preset columns.

The preset columns are:

Home: The full main feed of everyone you follow (like you would see on Twitter) as well as your own tweets
Notifications: a feed alerting you of every time you have been followed, mentioned, retweeted, liked and added to someone’s list
Messages: An inbox of all direct messages
Activity: similar to notifications, it will let you know what the people you are following are liking/retweeting etc

There are many other different other columns you can add to your dashboard to filter the information including:

User: showing tweets from an individual account (including your own)
Mentions: showing all tweets mentioning and @handle (including your own)
Lists: showing tweets from a specified group of people (either created in tweetdeck or pulled from any lists already created in Twitter)
Scheduled: showing all scheduled tweets
Search: The ability to track a particular word, phrase or hashtag. (you can search for the name of your church as people might be talking about you without mentioning your twitter handle)
You can add as any columns as you like and move them around until you have a layout that works for you.  The dashboard can be quite confusing at first, there’s a lot to look at, but once you’ve refined the columns down to the necessary information, it will become a very useful tool in engaging with your followers.
How to schedule:
click the new tweet option in the top left hand corner, you’ll see an option underneath the text box to schedule the tweet, here you can pick the exact time and date. Once you’ve clicked tweet, you will be able to see the tweet in the scheduled column and be able to edit and reschedule whenever you need to. 
 
Things to Remember

  • You will also see that all the same options on Twitter are available here too i.e retweeting and favouriting. The search option at the top is also the same on Twitter, letting you search for users, keywords and hashtags which then can easily become another column.
  • The amount of Twitter accounts you have connected to Tweetdeck is limitless (This can be useful if your church has multiple twitter accounts)
  • Most importantly – It’s free to use!
Want to know more about adding columns and using Tweetdeck? Watch this video.
If you have any other questions about Tweetdeck, let me know in the comments below.

Mythbusting Social Media

Are you having trouble convincing the clergy, churchwardens or the congregation that setting up social media accounts for your church is a good thing? Or are you wondering yourself why your church needs one? I’ve collected some of the main reasons why churches don’t set up accounts below, with the counter-arguments:

1) We don’t have the money

It’s free! You don’t need to pay any money to set up Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest or any of the other major social media channels. (Whilst you can pay for advertising on Facebook and Twitter, you don’t need to and even if you want to it’s not too expensive)

2) We don’t have the time

It will take some time in the beginning to set up, but if you utilise some social media time savers, you definitely won’t need to spend all day doing it. It’s completely up to you how much time you spend looking after your social media accounts. Some people spend ten minutes a day, some spend an hour every other day. Sharing the load will also cut down the time you need to spend on it.

3) Social media is for young people

Twitter’s fastest growing demographic are users between the age of 55 and 64. You may be surprised how many of your congregation are already tweeting – do a quick survey to find out. On Facebook from 2011 to 2014, 12.4 million over-55s created new accounts, a rise of over 80 percent.

4) People will spam/troll our accounts with negative content

Admittedly, this could happen, but the chances are probably much lower than you think. There’s no need to be scared about people not agreeing with you online, but do have a firm policy in place for dealing with trolls which will mean you will be prepared just in case it does happen.

5) We already have a website and that’s all we need

Though social media is great for directing traffic to your website, it’s so much more than that.  Churches go into their local community to be where the people are and connect with them, and social media is an online community which churches should be a part of. You can not only get to know your congregation in a new way, but meet those who are interested in church, too.

6) You can’t connect with people through social media

There are some amazing stories of people connecting through social media, from long lost siblings reunited, to friends made and mountains moved, all through the power of social media . It really does happen, all you have to do is be bold and get involved.

7) It’s too hard/complicated

It may take a bit of hard work at the beginning, but there’s plenty of social media help online (and you can always ask me for help!) Don’t forget the Church of England also runs social media training or you could speak to your diocesan communications officer who will be able to offer support and advice. It’s not as hard as it looks and the more you use it, the easier you’ll find it.

8)  It’s not the place for deep discussions of faith, worship or being reflective

It may not be the perfect place for these things, but it’s a great place to get people talking, to give people a taste of what they can find in church. Social media isn’t a replacement for going to church, but it can be a place to show people just how interesting a church you are and share all the great stuff you are doing. Don’t forget, church isn’t about one day a week, it’s about what you are doing every day of the week and social media is a perfect place to show that.

Have I missed one from the list? If I have, let me know in the comments.

Social Media Time Savers

It is often the case that you only have a couple of days a week or less to commit to your church’s social media channels, and it takes time to not only keep an eye on what’s happening but also to find, create and post new content on a regular basis, time which you don’t always have. I’ve put together 6 simple ideas which should help you make the most out of the time you do have:

1. Create a backbone
What I mean by this is create 20-30 tweets that work as the structure to which everything else you do on social media fits around. These tweets explain who you are, what you do, where they can find more information, direct people to different sections of your website. The basics.

You can then schedule these to be posted over a month or more and be safe in the knowledge that something will be tweeted even when you are too busy to log in. When you do have time, you can supplement the account with live tweets and retweets.

What you can do when you are running out of tweets, is rewrite them slightly, add a few new ones in and then start scheduling again.

The same can be done with Facebook by scheduling in 8-15 posts over the same time period, leave you time to work on finding new and interesting content.

2. Follow the right people
Make sure you’re following the people that are going to give you interesting and useful things to retweet. If you don’t have time to create content, find things to retweet. A quick check of the feed (or columns in Tweetdeck) should give you something good.

3. Plan Ahead
Know what’s in the church calendar. Letting people know what’s happening that day or week in the church makes for quick and easy content. If you have a big event coming up, schedule in tweets which slowly build up momentum for the event, tweet during the event itself and then afterwards, a look back with any photos or video you may have.

Don’t forget about national days and events. How can you play into a human rights day or even a national cupcake day. It’s also easy to plan ahead for the major dates such as Easter, Harvest and Christmas. Work out on a piece of paper, what you will be posting on Twitter and Facebook and at exactly what day and time which you can then schedule all ready to go (This especially useful over times like Christmas when you want to seem active but you also want to enjoy the festivities)

4. ICYMI
(a.k.a In Case You Missed It) There’s nothing wrong with repeat tweets as long as you don’t overdo it. Have you created a great video or have a fantastic collection of photos on Facebook? Tweet about it on a Friday evening, a Sunday afternoon and a Tuesday morning. You can either slightly reword each tweet or simply tweet it again, adding: In case you missed this the first time……

5. Use Tweetdeck/Hootsuite
Not only can you schedule your tweets, months in advance, you can also filter the tweets and divide it into more manageable chunks – all on one screen. This means you don’t have to spend hours trawling through timelines or be constantly checking for new tweets.

6. Store the good stuff up
If you find a website with a load of great content, or stumble across a good Youtube channel, you don’t have to post all the you find in one go, try and keep a store of videos, pictures, websites and more so you don’t have to spend time looking for something good every single time you need to post something. You can also encourage the church staff team and the congregation to send you good content which will save you time too.