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Getting Started in Social Media – Start by Listening

We spent a little time establishing the need for churches to engage in the social media space in the article "Why start a digital marketing campaign for your church?"   We need to clean up the digital space around us and start to "dip our little toe" into the conversation.  So, how do you get started?

The first step is to listen to the conversation that is already going on about you and the things you care about.

Remember the two minute rule…

When I was a kid, my mom always impressed on my the importance of not "barging" into conversations.  She always told me to listen to the conversation for two minutes and get an idea of what people are talking about before throwing in my two cents.  I remember a few times when I thought I knew what people were talking about and ended up fairly embarrassed when I opened my "yap" before taking the time to listen.

The same applies to social media.  We need to avoid screaming "look at me, look at me" when we first come into the space.  People get all excited when they start to research social media, get up their blog, sign up for Twitter and Facebook, and then start screaming "PAY ATTENTION TO ME…"

While that may work for a baby in real life, it will get you ignored, blocked or flamed in social media.  

Stop, Look and Listen Before Jumping into the Pool.

Take the time to LISTEN. 
You need to spend 15 minutes each
listening about your church, your target, and your community.  Get informed about what is going on and how your church is seen and
perceived by others in the digital world.  There is a whole conversation going on about your community, faith and key issues that people face.  It is only common courtesy to listen before jumping in. 

A Step-by-Step to Guide to Digital Listening

Here is a blueprint to get started to listening to the conversation.

Step #1:     Set up listening posts.  

Social media dashboard Listening posts is a general term for using
different tools to search the internet and send pertinent information to
you.  (ex. Using Google Alerts to track
your church name and have it send an e-mail to you every time it is mentioned.)
Funnel all of the listening posts into central repository (Google Reader,
iGoogle, etc.) so you can monitor the results.

There is a great article by Frank Berry on NetWits
for a quick how to on setting
up a Social Media Dashboard.
  Funneling all of the posts into a single dashboard like iGoogle will save you a lot of time to listen to the conversations that are already going on.

Step #2:  Monitor what is going on. 

Use your central repository to read everything said about
your church, your community and key areas of interest for your church.  Try to make this a DAILY activity to make
sure you don’t fall too far behind or miss something that is time sensitive.

Step #3:     Respond to 5 posts immediately. 

Air Force Response GuideMost blogs and websites accept comments.  Feel free to join the conversation.  If they do not accept comments, post a blog
article and reference the post you are responding to.  It is important that your church start to
take part in the conversation occurring on-line.  This helps you “see and be seen”
immediately.  (ex. Posting a blog post
about a newspaper article discussing rising crime in your area.)

Now, it is easy to get very defensive about criticism about
your organization.  Be careful not to
overreact.  Some comments really do not
deserve a response.  Others need to be
addressed to a broader audience but not the individuals themselves.  

The U.S. Air Force has an interesting
in how to response to comments about your organization in
the social media space.  Use it to assess
the comments and reactions across many different social media sites and how to
respond appropriately.  Remember, not everything
deserves a response.

Here is a simple rule that I try to use.  Read 15 posts, comment on 5, and write one.

Depending how engaged you are in the space, that 15:5:1 rule can applied on a daily or weekly basis. 

Step #4:  Identify key themes on a periodic basis. 

It may be regarding the church, the community, key news
events, etc.  Share the information with
your leadership and work together to determine how to respond.  This could help change your ministry
priorities to address a need or become more relevant to your community.  Take a few minutes and read
“Getting Your
Nonprofit Organization Ready To Listen”
by Beth Kanter for some
ideas on why to listen and how to use it for your church.

We all need to learn how to listen together.

While this may not be the perfect way to start listening the conversation, I think it is helpful for people to have a blueprint of how to get started.  Feel free to adjust this any way that works for you and share with the rest of us.

Leave a comment to help all of us.  We're listening.

church marketinglistening postsnon-profit marketingsocial mediaweb 2.0

eseiberling • March 24, 2010

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