by Istvan “Isti” Bardos
On an episode of Seinfeld, the character George Costanza and his girlfriend are breaking up.
The girlfriend says, “It’s not you. It’s me.”
George replies incredulously, “You’re giving me the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ routine? I invented ‘It’s not you. It’s me.’ Nobody tells me it’s them, not me. If it’s anybody, it’s me!”
Memo to congregations: When you use social media, or any communication platform for that matter, think of the words in that scene. Then, make one very important change and know this:
Social media is not about your congregation, it’s about your congregants.
That distinction is not a matter of semantics. In fact, the difference is the most important guiding principle to follow when using social media. Social media is not about you. It’s about them, and “them” refers to your congregants and potential congregants.
How does that manifest itself?
Before you tweet anything on Twitter or post anything on Facebook, ask yourself the W questions:
- WHO am I reaching?
When used properly, Twitter and Facebook can be useful and effective communication tools. While that’s not news, keep in mind that they are pieces of a larger communications mosaic. While Twitter and Facebook obviously don’t reach everyone in your congregation, if you continue to develop, promote, and effectively use them, they’ll reach ever-growing numbers.
- WHAT is the one thing that I want them to takeaway?
This is a biggie. Yes, the K.I.S.S. principle certainly applies, but it goes beyond that. To cut through the communications clutter and social media overload, your message—for it to have any chance of sticking—better be crystal clear.
- WHEN do they need to know?
Here, too, strategic planning is important. Don’t over-think it, but timing is important. If, on a Monday morning, you tweet about an event that takes place on an upcoming Sunday night, the message may be sent but not truly received. People scroll quickly through their Twitter timelines, and the shelf life of a tweet is measured in a couple of hours. Facebook is a bit more leisurely, with a post “living” for several hours.
- WHY am I tweeting/posting about [insert topic/message here]?
When a commercial begins with, “Standby for an important announcement,” I immediately mute it, because I know from experience the message is important to them, not to me. Content must be pertinent to those receiving it.
- WHERE are they consuming the tweet/post?
It’s not hyperbole to say that laptops, iPads, and smartphones have, in a short time, managed to change how people in this country are living their lives. Because so many people will consume your messages on those platforms, it’s important to tailor your content accordingly. Use fewer words, more photos, and more links.
- HOW does this affect them?
People use social media to be social. So, heavy-handed preaching, over-the-top messaging, and incessant event promotion will inevitably fall on deaf ears.
- HOW often should I tweet and post?
While this topic is open to debate, I am a huge believer in the “Content is King” philosophy. So, post and tweet when you have good content. It’s important to note that “good content” to you may be uninteresting to them.
Remember, it’s all about them, so post accordingly.
Istvan “Isti” Bardos is the Communications Director at Temple Israel in Memphis, Tennessee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 901.937.2780, follow him on Twitter @IstiBardos. See Temple Israel’s (and Isti’s) social media strategies in action on Twitter @TIMemphis and on Facebook.