A Meaningful Presence on Social Media

This is the fourth of a series of ten blogs about ten cultural flips for multiage inclusion. It’s not enough to shift our culture. We really have to flip it.

 

Cultural Barrier #4: Communicating solely through paper publications and websites

Why is this a barrier to multiage inclusion?

We have now reached an era in which most of the world (and definitely the United States) is organized around social media. Many people under the age of forty use social media as their exclusive source of information and communications. If we do not engage meaningfully with social media, the younger generations will never know we exist. Even our own younger generations—those who have grown up as Friends—often have no idea what’s happening in our monthly and yearly meetings; we simply aren’t communicating information in a way that will reach them. You can’t be meaningfully included in a thing if you don’t even know the thing is happening.

 

Culture Flip #4: Developing a meaningful presence on social media 

What does this look like in a monthly meeting?

I hear all kinds of arguments about why we should or should not, as Friends, engage with social media. Some of the points made are really good ones. I, too, carry very real concerns about social media, particularly the ways in which the algorithms are contributing to a country that is more sharply divided than ever. And more generally, the misuse of mathematical algorithms and computer programming are a significant threat to social justice throughout the world.

But we can’t allow ourselves to make this decision less than what it really is. For a group of Friends, collectively, to decline to use social media is akin to the same group of Friends declining to use cars. Just as we live in a world organized around cars, we now live in a world organized around social media. To decline to be engaged in this is to reject being full participants in what’s happening in the world.

If we decide not to use social media, we should understand the gravity of the decision we’re making.  If we decide to use social media, we should learn how to do so meaningfully.

But what does a meaningful social media presence look like?  I’m going to offer here some basic practical tips, because that’s what I hear most Friends asking for.

First of all, when developing a social media presence for your church or meeting, start with Facebook. This has the broadest reach (68% of people living in the U.S.), is the most user-friendly, and serves Friends’ multiple purposes well. Once you are doing solid work on Facebook (this will take several months at a minimum), then you can consider adding Instagram, then maybe Twitter or Pinterest or SnapChat. It’s not necessary to be on all of these platforms. Beyond Facebook, use additional platforms if you have the time and ability to use them well; otherwise, don’t make the attempt.

In the same way that printed materials and websites can be used for multiple purposes, social media can be used for multiple purposes–specifically, as a vehicle for information, communications, pastoral care, and outreach. I recommend that meetings set up a Facebook page with up to four separate co-admins, though it’s just as reasonable for a single person to serve all four functions.

Your Information Admin, possibly the same person who publishes your newsletter or webpage, posts upcoming events and announcements. For events, the information admin should invite individual Friends and consider paying to boost the event if the public is invited. For announcements, relevant individuals should be tagged. This person should also share relevant events and announcements from other Quaker groups and other groups in the local community.  (If you’re feeling iffy about the definitions of words like ‘boost’ and ‘tag,’ just go over to Google and ask.  You can type into the search box a question like, “What does it mean to boost an event on Facebook?”

Your Communications Admin, possibly the same person who answers email inquiries that come to your meeting, should check the page at least three times a week and should answer all private messages, respond to comments on posts and ads, and ‘like’ and ‘share’ posts that other co-admins have created.

Your Pastoral Care Admin, possibly a member of your ministry and counsel, is specifically responsible for posting in times of general distress. When an upsetting event occurs—natural, social, or political, whether it’s local, national, or global—the pastoral care admin posts relevant, grounding, and empowering messages. These messages are not news articles. They are blogs, videos, images, quotations, and pre-existing Quaker statements relevant to the event that has occurred—messages about grieving or peaceful resistance or earthcare or loving our neighbors, etc., as seems appropriate.

Your Outreach Admin, possibly a member of your outreach committee, is responsible for posting a consistent stream of content (at least three posts per week, year-round) that is grounded in Quaker Faith and Practice and also comprehensible to non-Quakers who may find your Facebook page. These posts might include QuakerSpeak videos, quotations and queries from Faith and Practice (if possible, superimposed over images), epistles from various Quaker gatherings, Scripture or quotations from historic Friends, and simple blog posts from Quakers around the world. If your meeting is using Facebook ads, this person is also responsible for maintaining those.

A few other quick tips: Not every post you make on the page is seen by everyone who follows the page.  Sadly, Facebook’s standard algorithm shows your posts to only 10-15% of your page’s followers.  But there are some ways to increase the viewership.  First, publish in the “sweet spot” for your community, meaning the time when lots of your viewers are likely to be on Facebook–for my meeting, this is the after dinner hour, but experiment a little to find yours.  Second, make the posts as visual as possible, always including pictures or videos–text alone doesn’t get shown very much.  Third, empower members of your community by asking them to volunteer to visit the page two or three times a week, liking and sharing the posts that they find there.

Lastly–social media demands agility and adaptation. For now, Facebook is the dominant social media platform and arguably the most useful social media platform in which to invest resources. That will not always be the case. We need to reassess at least yearly—is Facebook still the best platform for our meeting’s purposes?

A note about trust. Social media moves fast. It will be necessary for the meeting to choose Friends to this work and then say, “We trust you. We trust that you will not post in a way that is inconsistent with our Faith and Practice, and knowing that, we do not have the need to approve the placement of every comma.” If a post is questionable—by which I mean not that some Friends disagree with some part of it, but that one or more Friends believe it should not have been posted at all—then I recommend a conversation offline, according to gospel order.

 

The Cultural Barrier The Flip!
Perception that Friends’ meetings are internally focused and irrelevant Doing frequent work and service in neighborhood communities outside the meetinghouse walls
Equating seriousness with sacredness Behaving as though joy and gratitude are as holy as struggle and lamentation, including 50/50 time division for the whole meeting between play together and work together
Frequent use of Quaker terminology without context Practicing brief, clear explanations and contextualization of all terms and references to institutional structure, every time, in the moment, as we go
Communicating solely through paper publications and websites Developing a meaningful presence on social media (for internal communications and outreach)
Idolatry of Quaker process Building a permission-giving culture (the default answer is ‘yes, and how can I help?’ unless there is a strong, Spirit-led reason to hesitate)
Valuing traditions over the needs of living Friends Regularly reexamining physical facilities, procedures, and practices in the light of how they are working for our communities today; recognizing the difference between our Spirit-led testimonies (which are eternal) and how we express those testimonies (which may need to change as circumstances change)
High financial cost of participation in gatherings Shifting to pay-as-led pricing; changing locations and structures of gatherings so the actual cost is lower
High reading level (high school and above) of almost all of Friends’ written materials Using shorter sentences and simpler vocabulary in all documents
Isolation of parents (among Friends and in society in general) Providing childcare at all meeting events without exception; prioritizing spiritual and practical nurture of parents
Consistent physical separation of age groups Aiming for multi-age inclusion around 50% of the time, including integration both ways (younger Friends in traditionally older Friends spaces/activities, older Friends in traditionally younger Friends spaces/activities); providing meaningful support to make full participation possible in both directions

 

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2 thoughts on “A Meaningful Presence on Social Media

  1. Maybe this will help allay your concerns regarding polarization and social media.

    Quote:

    To that point, a recent Pew study found only 34 percent of Americans at least 65 years old use at least one social media site. That’s markedly lower than the 64 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64 years old and the 86 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29.

    “For every measure, except religious polarization, we see that the oldest age group experiences larger changes in polarization than the youngest age group,” the Stanford and Brown researchers said in their report. “Our findings are difficult to square with a straightforward account linking the recent rise of polarization to the internet. This is especially true for accounts in which social media plays a central role.”

  2. I want to add a little more to the posting times. On your meeting’s Facebook page, there’s an Insights tab visible to admins. That shows what times your followers are online. Don’t just schedule posts for the top of the peak, though. From that point on, the viewership is declining, and people aren’t going to see the post the second you post it. Instead, look at the beginning of an upward slope.

    For my local meeting, the “people wake up and check Facebook” slope starts at 7am and peaks at about 9. And so, I schedule posts to go out at 7am. For my yearly meeting, that slope starts at 6am. I tried posting at 6am, 7am, and 8am on the yearly meeting page. Yep, 6am gets the most views. So go for the start of that ramp-up.

    Oh, and just a caution for advertising events on Facebook: the visual experience of a Facebook event is not as compelling as a landing page on your own website can be. Ads for FB events cost way more than ads for link clicks too. Funnel people from Facebook to a landing page specifically for that specific event. Do not just drop them on your homepage.

    I would love to learn more about how to use Snapchat as a meeting. I know the Washington Post has been very successful on it with articles in the Discover tab, but I don’t think that’s open to things other than actual media companies with contracts. I know a meeting could pay to make a Snapchat geofilter available within a given geographic range (which could be as small as their own property) for a certain length of time (say, starting 30 minutes before meeting and running through potluck) so that teens and young adults on Snapchat can show off being there. I’m not sure how much use that’d get on a regular Sunday, but maybe for a big event? I know Brady Shearer recommended a Snapchat filter to a church near a college campus recently. I’d just really like to see case studies / examples of how these work, like I’ve seen for Facebook ads.

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