Social media was once considered the realm of teens looking to communicate away from prying adult eyes. No longer. One of the biggest mistakes we can make today is to underestimate its influence and relegate its usefulness to juvenile applications.
Social media can be your ministry’s best friend or worst enemy. But gone are the days when it can be ignored. The good news is that what you do on the Internet can magnify your platform. The bad news is that it can amplify your mistakes. Those mistakes can be costly for you and your ministry, because once something is posted in cyberspace, it’s there forever.
So let’s try a little quiz. How many of the following social media errors have you been guilty of?
1. All Business: Taking the “social” out of social media.
Do you use your Twitter or Facebook feed solely for announcements about your ministry, such as your next event or sermon title?
Keep the “social” in social media. Follow the 80/20 rule: 80% social interaction, 20% announcements.
2. Fluff vs. Substance: Remember WIIFM
Do you fill your social media feeds with information about what you had for dinner or the details of your recent stomach virus?
While we need to retain the “social” in social media, ask yourself if others will find your posts beneficial or self-centered. Remember that as readers scroll through social media feeds, they will be drawn to posts that answer the age-old question, “What’s in it for me?” also known as WIIFM. This doesn’t mean your posts have to be all business. They can be fun, too, since your friends and family will enjoy sharing your interests and activities via the virtual world.
3. Fishing for Compliments: Public Displays of False Humility
Do you post messages on your spouse’s Facebook wall about how much you’re looking forward to the great service at your church? Or post a message on your Pastor-spouse’s wall telling him/her what a wonderful sermon it was?
This smacks of self-serving manipulation. Have something to say to your spouse? Walk across the room and tell them in person. If you want to send a message to your congregation about the wonderful Sunday service, post it on your own wall. Don’t pretend to have a private conversation with your Pastor/spouse that just happens to be open to thousands of other people!
3. Hitchhiking: Tagging People
Do you post announcements on someone else’s wall in addition to your own? Or perhaps tag others by attaching a list of names to your post. Once again, this smacks of being self-serving, since your post will now be seen by everyone in your network as well as everyone in the network of the person you tagged.
If you are posting interesting information, trust that others will choose to share your post with their followers; don’t do it for them.
4. Forcing Group Growth: Adding people without asking them
Have you created a Group on Facebook and added people without their permission? Just because you can does not mean you should.
Groups are helpful tools to provide a quick means of communication and sharing. However, your respect is best demonstrated when you invite them to participate rather than presume that they will want to be included.
5. Inconsistency: Failing to have a regular Internet presence
Do you update your blog or post on social media “when the Spirit moves you”? For people to connect with you, they like to be able to count on regularly-scheduled posts. For your convenience, social media management tools such as Hootsuite, Buffer, Sproutsocial, and others offer the ability to schedule posts in advance.
6. Airing Dirty Laundry: Public sparring
Do you argue or debate with those who disagree with your social, political, or theological views?
Social media is not the place to engage in verbal sparring. You may win the battle but lose the person. Of course you want to stay true to your convictions, but this is not the place to be drawn into angry disputes.
7. Hit-and-Run: Lack of Engagement
Do you update your blog or add a post to a social media network without engaging your connections?
Make it a practice to read the comments you receive and respond to them. But be careful of your use of sarcasm or humor. A lack of visual cues and body language makes it easy for humorous or sarcastic responses to be misinterpreted.
8. High-jacking newsfeeds: Back-to-back posts
Do you have a practice of signing in to your social media, then listing posts back-to-back? That’s called highjacking a newsfeed. When readers open their accounts, your posts will dominate their feed.
Sprinkle your posts, don’t dump. The social media management tools mentioned earlier can assist with scheduling posts for later publication.
9. Selfishness: Me-first mentality
Do you limit your content to information about you and your ministry?
Be gracious by quoting or promoting other people. When you do, you acknowledge that other people and ministries are important, too. Graciousness will benefit you, too, since the person you quote or promote may link back to your post, bringing your greater exposure!
10. Words, Words, Words: Lack of visuals
Are your posts lengthy or devoid of photos? Too many words cause readers to lose interest.
Spice up your posts with visuals such as pictures and links to videos. But be careful about the sources you use. Just because a photo is on the Internet does not mean you have permission to post it.
How many blunders have you been making in your social media interactions?
Regardless of the number of gaffes, there is one mistake that is worse than all the others combined: the mistake of not participating in social media at all.
Ava Pennington teaches a Bible Study Fellowship class. She is also the author of Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, published by Revell Books and endorsed by Kay Arthur.
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