CHATTANOOGA — Social media can best be understood as a two-sided coin with content on one side and conversation on the other, according to Bill Seaver of MicroExplosion Media.
“Think about any social media tools your church may already be using,” Seaver said Nov. 12 in Chattanooga. “Are they content tools or are they conversation tools?”
Seaver led one of several breakout sessions at the Tennessee Baptist Convention annual meeting held at the Chattanooga Convention Center addressing social media and how churches can best use the tools at their disposal. Seaver is a communications consultant for the TBC and is a member of Redeemer Church in Hendersonville, a Southern Baptist congregation.
He likened social media to chain saws. If all a lumberjack had ever known was an ax, he wouldn’t know what to do with a chain saw if he picked one up and would most likely use it incorrectly. Similarly, Seaver said while social media tools can be potent and powerful, they can also be dangerous for those who don’t know how to use them properly.
While the Internet in its infancy was controlled, distant, corporate, and one-directional, Seaver said that began changing in about 2005.
Now, he described the Internet as transparent, informal, collaborative, and conversational.
“The culture of what people expect online has changed,” he said.
He asked attendees to think about their church’s existing online presence and whether it felt more like the Internet was or like it is.
While Instagram is primarily a content sharing platform, Facebook is more of a conversation tool, Seaver said, and understanding the two sides of the coin helps Internet users get a sense of how things operate online. To use content tools well, users must lead with content. To use conversation tools well, they must lead with conversation.
The average American is hit by about 4,000 ads and promotions every day, Seaver said, which requires churches to rethink how they do marketing and communication — because people are good at filtering out the content they don’t want. Rather than demanding people’s attention, he suggested that churches start earning people’s attention instead.
Seaver also advised churches to think about how they can use social media to connect to the right people. If those churches don’t want to reach people who are on Facebook or Twitter, churches shouldn’t waste time with those tools.
“Don’t just use the technology that seems to be popular just because it’s popular,” Seaver said.
Seaver advised churches to have a plan when it comes to their social media objectives — know who they are trying to reach, what their objectives are, how they will earn attention through content and conversation, and what technology is worth using. Many organizations incorrectly start with the technology before they evaluate how they will use it, he said.
After a plan is in place, Seaver said churches can work to create great content that will entertain, inspire, educate, inform, and even outrage, and they can spark great conversations.