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Websites & Social Media

by Tim Isbell

This web page is about the integration of websites and social media - especially around local church ministries (though the same concepts apply to many non-profits and even commercial ventures). Whether your plan is to use social media to nurture your organization's community or for outreach to grow the community - or both - this post is for you.

Most churches have at least a "billboard website" where people come to learn about the church and see a current calendar. Some churches provide subscriptions to notifications of new or upcoming items as they are added to the site. That way people don't have to remember to periodically check the church website to see what's new. Notifications come in many forms: email, RSS feeds, or as posts to the social media sites (such as Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) where the church people visit regularly.

Many churches also post sermons, teaching or discipleship content on their site. A few churches even engage people in conversations about the content they post. These conversations are not likely to occur on the church website; they are more likely to occur on some social networking site. This concept is not yet widespread, but it will be in 5 years. Out of these conversations will emerge significant original content, some of which will then be posted back on the church website. An example of this is the very post you are now reading. Read on and you'll see what I mean.

The implications for a website are becoming obvious. They must offer increasingly thoughtful content, notifications to people that new content is on the site, and an invitation into a discussion about that content on a social networking site that people are already on.

This will lead to increasing ministry staffing (volunteer and/or paid) devoted to serving people through social networking. I suspect this will involve guiding those on-line conversations (from in front and from behind).

At least, that's how I see it.

So, let's take some action - together.

It may sound like I'm pretty sure of how all this will sort out. I'm not. So I'll follow my own advice by starting a conversation with others who are working through this Websites & Social Media strategies. Maybe if we work together the Lord will lead us in fruitful directions.

To foster this, I've set up a private Google+ Community called "Websites & Social Media." You may join it because you're really interested in the topic and want in on the conversation. Or you might join it because you're mildly interested and want to follow the process, and along the way sharpen your social media skills.

Once we get things started I expect to bring in some other Google+ people who are already moving active in this area, and who are from a broad range of Christian traditions. They will significantly enrich the conversation.

So, here is how to join the "Websites & Social Media" community:

1. If you already use Google+, hover over the Google+ Home icon (upper left corner of your G+ screen), then browse down to Communities and click on it. Locate the search box (to the right) and search for "Websites & Social Media." Request ent I'll meet you there.

2. If you are not yet using Google+, follow this link: 

Then look under the tab that says "Getting started for yourself." You will need at least a Google account, but you don't need a gmail account. If you are already a member of either the NorCal District Leaders group or the NorCal Pastors group then you already have a Google account - just use that one. When you set up your Google+ id, I strongly recommend that you use your real name (I use Tim Isbell). Then put a few things in your Profile, but you don't need much more than your name to begin. To see a reasonably robust example of a Profile, here is mine.

Need a bit more help getting started on Google+? Join "Tim's G+ Tips" community.

I set up a second private community for any of my FRANs (Friends, Relatives, Associates, and Neighbors) who are new to Google+ and want a "sandbox" to play in for a few weeks. So whether you are involved in the Websites & Social Media community or not, if want to get up-to-speed in Google+ this is a safe/nurturing place to start. 

First, set up a Google+ account as described above. But you won't find the Tim's G+ Tips community using the G+ Search box. Instead, use the Contact Tim form and tell me you want in this community. Or, if you have my email just send your request directly to me. I'll respond by sending you and invite into the community which you can accept. Then you can start reading and sending posts in a safe environment. But note: you must have a Google+ account before I can send you an invitation to this community.

Remember when I wrote to expect that some original content will emerge in social media and then be brought back to the website. Well, this web page is an example. The first post of this web page was significantly informed by conversations in the NorCal District Leaders Google group. The current revision was primarily informed by what's been going on the past few days in the Websites & Social Media community. So get ready for original content to emerge as often from the social media world as from the church staff posting it on the website. In the area of churches using social media you will learn a lot more in the social network community than you will by waiting for some synopsis of it to appear on this website. So if this topic interests you, please join us on Google+.


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