Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist, Social Media + Big Data, North American Division
The Proper Care and Feeding of Followers
Social media is a valuable tool for listening to the needs of your audience and building relationships. However, simply having a social media presence is not enough anymore. Your audience expects a response when they engage with you online—often within a few hours.
Your goal in using social media for ministry ultimately should be to understand and fulfill a need, making a tangible impact in the real world. This means listening and taking action on a daily basis.
How your online followers perceive your ministry influences their perception of not only the Adventist Church corporately, but God. Your digital voice may be the only opportunity your followers have to see Christ’s love demonstrated in their life.
Strong digital brands create connection and take a comprehensive approach to the member experience. Treat your audience members online as if you’re talking with them face-to-face. Their online interactions with you should make them want to experience your faith/mission in person. When they come to you for that personal experience, it should be a continuation of the positive relationship you’ve built with them online.
Every opportunity to connect is an opportunity to advance the kingdom of God. Do not waste your digital influence. Social media provides a unique opportunity for long-term people care that can enhance and strengthen the relationships you cultivate with members, as well as the community your ministry serves.
People search online for answers to their problems—what better place for the Church to engage them?
If someone approached you in person and told you about a struggle or loss, you would respond, right? But when people pour out their hearts online to you or your ministry, are they getting a timely and meaningful response? Does your church or ministry have a team who is dedicated to responding to people online and providing a network of support? Not everyone is ready to walk through the doors of your church, but we can still show them God's love through the care we provide online.
Your digital content may answer some of their needs or questions, but not all. Be the voice that answers back and engages with them in a meaningful way. This is what we call a 360° community care strategy.
According to the Sprout Social Index, 90% of surveyed people have used social media in some way to communicate with an organization. What’s more, over a third (34.5%) said they preferred social media to traditional channels like phone and email. Like Christ, we should be willing and prepared to meet people where they are, and today, that is frequently online.
360° member/community care includes addressing the negative. By being actively engaged online, you have the opportunity to turn negatives into positives by addressing issues and resolving problems promptly. This is especially relevant to younger generations, who naturally turn to social media first to share their thoughts and feelings. Through a culture of online customer service and digital discipleship, you can build a reputation as an organization that truly cares about its members and the community it serves.
Nearly half (46%) of people have used social media to “call out” or complain about a business. That number jumps even higher when you slice the data by generation. Unsurprisingly, millennials are quick to take their frustration to the keyboard—56% of them have complained or called out brands on social media. That means that millennials are 43% more likely to call out a brand on social media than other generations (sproutsocial). Therefore, we should endeavor to be present in the digital spaces where millennials and younger generations are likely to express their dissatisfaction with religion, the Church, or the daily struggles of life. This affords us the opportunity to not only gain a better understanding of the challenges they face but also to intervene in a positive way that can prevent them from leaving the Church or bring them into a community of faith.
We underestimate the power we hold in our online content. Used correctly, social media can help us connect with and mobilize an unbelievable number of people, and the community created there drives real-world changes.
Do not underestimate the power of engagement. There’s no ROI (return on investment) without it!
Invest the time. Build a committee of digital disciples who are available to respond to comments and messages online promptly, while being human. That means engaging with a personal tone that conveys Christ-like care. It will pay dividends for your mission. By living out our mission online and exemplifying the character of Christ, we can become social media ambassadors for the gospel, who eagerly share our content and messages online.
Engagement is a Personal Ministry Opportunity.
This is not a job for one person or just for pastors. Too often, pastors are burdened with the responsibility of managing the day-to-day functions of their church while also doing all the work evangelizing to the community. When we leave all the ministering duties to the pastor or elders, we limit the opportunities for church members to grow as disciples. Engagement is a personal ministry opportunity for non-techie, nurturing individuals to be involved in digital discipleship and evangelism on an ongoing basis, from anywhere.
Leaders can divide their teams into three groups based on connections, interests, and talents.
Digital interactions should be treated like real-life conversations in which we respond to audience interactions, share community-generated content, and “like” or react to comments. Engagers should follow relevant online conversations and actively participate in a Christ-like manner. Digital disciples should seek to understand their audience’s needs and respond in a meaningful way. Building online relationships can impact brand awareness, trust, financial support for ministries, and more. The goal is to break down the perceived barrier between the individual and your corporate brand. Strive to be authentic and as transparent as possible. This is how you build trust and authenticity.
Brands are Communicated, Not Just Created
A brand is based entirely on a person's experience. Think holistically about your engagement strategy, and remember that evangelism is more effective when it is built on a relationship. Therefore, our online identity or Adventist brand and faith must go beyond what we know and the message we have to share; it must be based on how much we care if we are serious about digital evangelism. We must change the way we use social media. Aim to create conversations and meaningful community that bridges the gap between the digital and the real world. Then be prepared to meet in the real world. Remember, brand touchpoints all work together.
There should be no disconnect between how a person is nurtured in the pews and how they are treated online, and vice versa.
Social media is an extension of our church brand and voice online. Our brand is how our church is perceived. As stated previously, our online interactions with people should make them want to experience our faith/mission in person. Then, when they come for that onsite experience, it should be a continuation of the positive relationship you've build with them online. Therefore, your church greeters and hospitality teams are also part of the engagers team. They are the onsite church ambassadors, and the atmosphere they create is vital to the visitor/member experience.
How our online community perceives us influences their perception of not only the Adventist Church corporately but God. Our digital voice may be the only opportunity they have to see Christ's love demonstrated in their life.
The Church should be the clear leader in people care.
Major corporations know that customer service is the key to long-term growth. Loyalty comes when organizations (brands) help people solve problems and address their felt needs.
Our mission is to maximize the highs; minimize the lows. Loyalty is created when brands help people solve problems and address their felt needs. The Church should be a clear leader in member and visitor experience as well as in people care. Remember that approximately a quarter of people are in crisis at any given moment in North America. We should be using digital tools to understand perceptions and needs to determine the most meaningful ways to serve.
Investing time can make a huge difference in the health of the local church and its ability to effectively build relationships with the community it serves. When we use our social influence to listen and ask simple questions like, “Are you okay?” or “How can I help?”, the intentionality behind our interactions becomes a powerful witnessing tool. Whether from a personal account or a ministry account, engaging in genuine conversations online is a means to live out Christ’s example of meeting people where they are and tending to their needs. We embody the spirit of the good Samaritan every time we respond to a cry for help. A 360° community care strategy is one that is driven by purposely reaching out to whoever we encounter online.
I believe that the next great awakening will be a digital one. We have the ability to preach and live out the gospel in view of millions of people, so let’s do it. We need every single one of us to commit to being a digital disciple within our sphere of social influence, using social media and digital tools as vehicles to reach out and care for God’s children.