I am teaching a workshop at the National Lutheran Youth Ministry Conference in San Antonio this summer. The workshop is titled “Leveraging Social Media for Your Church’s Mission.” This post is part of a series relating to that workshop. Here’s a full listing of the topics.
Social media is so large that it’s difficult to talk about everything that exists. The for purpose of this post, the “Big Picture” will be limited to blogging, social networks such as Facebook and video sharing. They are influenced by how we use each of these platforms at First Trinity.
Blogging continues to be a fast-growing sector of social media. It’s not as “social” as something like Facebook, but still serves a valuable purpose for churches. The platform is great for extended posts that go deeper into a topic or are a little less “conversational” in nature. Blogs are great for sharing your views or ideas about a topic. They can be wide-ranging in topics, but it’s generally best to let blogs have one distinct “voice.” In other words, there is one author and face for the blog. The good thing is that you can have any number of church leaders blogging (we have 4 regular bloggers).
Setting up a blog is pretty painless. There are a number of options available:
- WordPress (Free)
- Google Blogger (Free)
- TypePad (Paid)
- SquareSpace (Paid, also good for building a full website)
While there are some really great things to say about all of these options, WordPress is by far my favorite platform. If you sign up for a blog at WordPress.com, you’ll have limited customization options with a few added options you can pay to use. The free account was my blogging platform of choice for several years. Recently, I moved this blog from WordPress.com and used their free software to host my own. It also runs the First Trinity Website.
All of our staff bloggers use WordPress. It’s a powerful, fast and easy-t0-learn. Google’s Blogger is a fair alternative, but not nearly as good. When I compared TypePad and WordPress, I felt like WordPress did everything TypePad did and more, all for free.
Social networks are really about building relationships with people and interacting together. The strength of any given network is largely determined by the size of the user base and if your circles (to borrow from Google+) are using it. It’s not unlike cell phones and the free “in-network” calls. If everyone in your family uses Sprint, it’s hard to get out because you lose the free minutes you experience from being in the same network. Social networks are similar. If all your friends use Facebook, Google+ won’t be as attractive to you because you won’t be able to communicate as easily.
Some of the major social network players include:
At First Trinity, we have chosen to focus most of our efforts on Facebook, because that’s where a great majority of our people are located. Google+ tends to have a smaller audience than Facebook, but provides similar features. Twitter is a supplement to the two that we often use for communicating in short bites (140 characters or less) on mission trips to Haiti, youth Workcamps or others that we do.
Posting videos online can be a great tool for helping people understand who you are as a church. Whether it’s a welcome video on your website, a video “advertisement” for an event or just a video of something that happened at your church. There are really only two major players in the hosted video market:
Several years ago when I first looked at hosting video online, YouTube had a limit on video duration that was shorter than what we needed, so we decided to go with Vimeo. Over the years, however, that limit was removed and we use YouTube exclusively for hosting video. It’s easy to use, fast, and easy to embed in other projects like our website, blogs and Facebook. Vimeo is an excellent alternative, though the lion’s share of the traffic goes through YouTube (3 billions hours/month watched at time of publication).
If you’re looking for livestreaming of events, there are two companies that I’m familiar with:
I have not used either service extensively. Both are ad-supported for free accounts and come with some restrictions. Both have paid accounts available as well.