Social media has been around now for over a decade and will become even more influential as more segments of the population adopt these platforms. This is changing the way that our world shares information and churches are no exception here. Think about it: many people select their church based on recommendations from friends and others whose opinion they trust. Social media operates in a similar fashion with Facebook shares and Twitter retweets acting as an online “Hey you gotta see this!” conversation piece. This concept of involuntary peer to peer marketing has become a buzzword in marketing circles and is referred to as social proof. Here are a few more reasons that explain why creating social proof for your ministry is important:
Too Many Messengers and Messages
We are in a period of great technological upheaval and change as people are inundated with more information than they can actively disseminate. In turn this has created a media environment where no medium is fully trusted and people have become accustomed to tuning things out. But consider this, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family and for Generation Y 84% report that user generated influences their everyday decisions.
So what does this all mean for your ministry? Social media should be an integral part if not the primary focus of your church’s outreach efforts to prospective members. Because people are more influenced by what they see others do, your current congregation is likely your best promotion tool.
Reaffirm Messages of Faith
Another hidden benefit of social proof is that online media also allows people of faith to express and reaffirm their faith. As mentioned above, it is undeniable that everyone is exposed to more media and messages than ever before. These messages can include those that are not supportive of churches and of faith in general. By engaging with other members of your congregation and people of faith, we are able to affirm our faith through a larger circle. As people of faith I think it’s imperative to receive encouragement and affirmation from each other, as it helps to reinforce and validate our beliefs.
Reviews of Your Church
This may sound a bit like I’m channeling a late night Billy Mays infomercial but social media is also a space where people will review your church. Obviously this won’t take the form of a traditional star based system rather it will be reviewed through stories and impressions people take from their experience. As a ministry try not to look at this as a scary challenge but as an opportunity to share stories of faith, pass on helpful information from your ministry website and interact with your congregation online. Interacting online has become as genuine and real as interacting in person so no need to feel any trepidation about moving your ministry forward into the future.
Your Ministry As Influencer
I’ll confess here that I’m a Twitter addict who scans his feed all day so I’m certainly biased about its appeal. Nevertheless it’s still my objective opinion that following Twitter can be a great value add for your ministry as it’s a constant stream of information on all topics and unlike Facebook, this information generally is not personal. Twitter’s own CEO has stated that he views his network as a news source and not a social network.
Using hashtags that relate to major events (#SuperBowl, #Thanksgiving) and even breaking news (#Boston) can connect people to your ministry involuntarily. For example, if you have a sermon series about gratitude, you could connect with people during Thanksgiving week by tweeting out #Gratitude & #Thanksgiving together in a tweet that would appear to people who are following #Gratitude (perhaps your faith audience) and #Thanksgiving (a more general audience). I’m not necessarily suggesting that your ministry create a Twitter account but if you do, Twitter is a great venue for cross communicating with those who may not be accustomed to interacting with faith.
Advances in communication technologies and the advent of social media have transformed the ways that people communicate. Due to mass adoption across most age groups and demographics, online communications are viewed as a standard for most businesses and increasingly many ministries. Even if the reasons discussed above don’t compel you to create social proof, realize that social media is still an incredible listening tool for your ministry. If you can apply these principles in the right mix, then it can be a powerful way to connect your congregation and outsiders to your ministry and to their faith.