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Online Ministries Community Blog

Apr 03

All Content Should Be Social

Posted by Bill Anderton

We all know that Facebook and Twitter are popular destinations on the web because they allow people to connect on a very personal level. In other words, we naturally assume that social media are not one-way streets or a place where we only “talk at” our audience but rather engage in them by listening to others, carrying on on-going conversations, helping them and communicating with them.

thumbs_up_like_400w.jpgWhy do some people think this powerful social interaction is the sole province of Facebook? It is very limited thinking to believe that social content can only appear on the large consumer social media sites.

I like Facebook and am an avid Twitter user. However, I also know their limitations and believe that they are rightly positioned as only components (albeit important components) of a comprehensive online presence. One of my most significant impressions about being a social media user is that the consumer social media sites should also be analogs or models for what should be done (and can be done) on ALL websites and online media, particularly ministry-related sites.

All of your content and a large percentage of your entire website should be social in nature by providing the similar mechanisms for collecting and displaying what your visitors are willing to share.

All online content should be social! Church websites should be social.

I’m not talking about only having a contact form on a “contact-us page.” Such contact-us pages are too far away from your content. If contact-us pages are the only way your visitors can engage with you, only a very small percentage will. The click into the contact-us page acts as a filter; the more clicks required to get to a response process (the farther away from the content that triggers the response), the more users will be filtered out. To get a higher percentage of interaction with your visitors, your interaction technology has to be embedded in direct proximity of your content. It has to be a part of your content; it has to be in context.

To make content social and harness its power for online ministry, you need to be prepared to do a few things.

First, you need the ability to solicit responses and comments from your visitors on any page where it is appropriate. Many content management systems have this ability without special programming required; certainly all of the higher-end systems do.

Next you need content that will drive social actions and even encourage them.

Then, you need to reply promptly to each response you get. I’m not talking about pre-programmed auto-responses but human-generated responses. You should make it clear that there are real, live people behind your website. Being social is being personal. Also, the value of the visitor’s submission is a perishable asset. Ideally, you should respond in near real time; the sooner the better. At worst case, you should respond the same morning or afternoon; overnight is usually too long. Prompt responses are in your interest. The reasons for prompt responses are three-fold. First, the person submitting the response deserves it. They took the BIG first step by making a submission and you should honor it. Second, you should respond quickly because it encourages dialogs. The shorter the cycle time, the more opportunities there will be for engaging in more back-and-forth transactions. Third, you will find that IF you can get a dialog started with lots of back and forth, others will likely join in too. Two-party dialogs will become three-party, then four-party and so on. Multiparty conversations tend to go much deeper and last much longer than a two-party discussion and produce more value.

Finally, be prepared to deal with messy issues; if you collect comments and responses from the public they will happen eventually. However, there is no need to be afraid of them. First, messy situations will not occur all that often. Second, messy issues are major opportunities for you just like they are in other parts of face-to-face ministry. Messy situations, handled properly, allow you to show how Christian community should work. Also, because these social discussion will be in a public venue, even if you don’t (or can’t) please the person being messy, you might really impress others who are reading along with your grace while handling the situation. Build respect for your responses among all visitors who are reading along.

Category: (04-13) April 2013   Tag:

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