- Theological Education
Many people abandon Twitter shortly after opening an account. But if you stick with it, it will bear fruit.
While many clergy have taken to Facebook in the past decade, fewer venture onto other social media sites, especially Twitter. That’s a shame, says Diva Morgan Hicks, online communications manager at the Forum for Theological Exploration.
“It’s an opportunity to share about current events from a theological standpoint,” says Hicks. It’s also a great place to highlight upcoming sermons or series and build anticipation.
For pastors committed to fostering relationships, Twitter is another venue for making connections.
“All social media is a relationship,” said Hicks. “It’s extending the relationship we have in the real world into the digital world.”
Yet many sign up for a social media tool, only to abandon it before they’ve figured it out. A recent survey suggests 60 percent of Twitter users quit using Twitter within the first month.
Hicks offers 10 tips for clergy who would like to expand their social outreach:
Tell people about your Twitter account
If you’ve started a Twitter account, let people know. Post your Twitter handle in church bulletins and on the congregation’s website. Follow members of the congregation who are also on Twitter. Follow colleagues at other churches, especially those who have an active presence on the platform.
Set up Tweeting guidelines and make them public
Will your tweets be appropriate for all age levels? How will you respond to incendiary comments? What will you tweet about, and what won’t you tweet about? What kind of privacy rules will you follow?
Learn the lingo
For example, RT is short for retweet, and it means you are passing along someone else’s tweet. MT means modified tweet. ICYMI means, “in case you missed it,” and is often used when a Twitter user retweets his or her own content from earlier. (There are several good Twitter lingo guides online such as this and this.)
A hashtag is a word or phrase immediately preceded by the # symbol. When you click on a hashtag, you'll see other tweets containing the same keyword or topic. Hicks says hashtags are indispensible if you want to be a part of ongoing conversations online.
Make it concise
Tweets can be up to 140 characters, but Hicks says the most effective tweets have even fewer characters. Provide links where people can learn more. For example, link to an online sermon. And include photos whenever possible. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Set monthly goals
Try to grow your followers by 10, 20, 50 or 100 people a month. Check out how many tweets were retweeted by others each week and set a goal for more retweets for the next week. Same goes for the “favorite” star. Increase the number of people who “favorite” your tweets.
Stick with it!
“Most people who join Twitter give it up,” said Hicks. “Stay with it until you get the hang of it.”
Limit other social media sites
Don’t open accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and other sites all at once. You’ll spread yourself too thin, says Hicks, and it will be extra hard to engage them all. Dip one toe in the water before you dunk the whole foot.
Learn from others
Hicks suggests following successful Twitter users, pastors and congregations to see how the pros do it. Hicks, who is based in Atlanta, listed a few of her favorite tweeters: Andy Stanley, Northpoint Ministries, @andystanley; Nadia Bolz-Weber, House for All Sinners and Saints, @sarcasticluther; Karen Oliveto, Glide Memorial Church, @RevKarenOliveto; Keith Anderson, Upper Dublin Lutheran Church, @prkanderson; Urban Village Church, @uvchurch; Buckhead Church, @buckheadchurch; Glide Memorial Church, @Glidesf; North Decatur Presbyterian Church, @NDPchurch; Blueprint Church, @blueprintchurch.
Don’t forget to Tweet
This may seem obvious, but to keep the momentum going, you’ll need to tweet between 5 and 10 times a day.
Also check out these great resources from some of our affiliate websites. Happy Tweeting!
Verity Jones: Thinking Theologically About Using Social Media, offered by Faith & Leadership at Duke Divinity
Thinking About Social Media - Practices and Guidelines, a post by the Center for Congregations, and also by the Center, a series of articles about the best uses of technology for faith communities.