I’ve often commented that tools don’t make the process when talking with church organizations about social media and communications in general. I think this issue has only been further compounded as the many options for tools have increased and continue to do so. To this end I feel like we’ve all lost track of the mission: reaching new people, keeping people informed, and interacting with both of the former. (Read=Lost people, members/attenders, and everyone in-between.) We don’t need new tools to innovate church communications, we need solid, proven ministry practices and processes.
Let me explain: When one is considering building a bird house most of us would probably just go to Wal-Mart and buy one. (Or which ever bird house mart you prefer.) But, for those who like a little more adventure, they journey into their basement and/or garage to actually build it. For these experts of the craft they follow a process something like this: Step one: gather what you need to be successful at building your bird house (i.e., plans, materials, tools, etc.) Ultimately, combining these things should result in a bird house. However, most of us also know that it’s how we combine these items that measures our level of success. For example, plans need to be for what you actually want to accomplish and simple to understand. The materials should last and not create unneeded waste, and finally the tools should help you accomplish the task not make it more complicated. (Anyone see where this is going yet?) The path to success is then to follow the right plans, assemble your materials in the right way, while using the appropriate tools. Simple, right?
So how does this relate to your church’s social media and overarching communications plan:
1) Plans/Processes/Procedures: Like building a bird house, you need good plans to know where you are going and how you are going to get there. These are much like our ministry processes. Lacking solid, documented ministry processes, you end up building a dog house when all you wanted was a simple place for a blue bird to call home. For the church today, this should come in the form of an all-encompassing communications plan. This plan can cover all things from branding, marketing, website, bulletins, mass mailings, podcasts, videos, and of course social media. It’s all related and important to keep aligned and all involved accountable to the plan.
2) Materials (Read content): should be what you need to accomplish the job and should be of good quality. (i.e., videos, podcasts, mailings, bulletins, etc.) We all want to ensure the work we do lasts, answers the task at hand, and ultimately glorifies God. If we don’t, then we may end up with a great plan and/or process, but then fail in the delivery for not taking the time to ensure that our messaging/content/communications actually make sense in the context of what we are trying to accomplish.
3) Tools (Read social media platforms/content management systems/etc): Everyone wants the shiny new tool that’s on sale at Home Depot (or Lowes if you like) but do you need it? Does it help you accomplish your goal or only look pretty, take up space, and cost a lot of money? Does it even do the task you need it to do? Have you ever bought a tool that claimed to do a bunch of things including the ONE thing you need it to do, just to find out it doesn’t even do the task you need it to all? Social media and content management can absolutely be daunting in this respect. Everything is “new” or “popular”, but before you jump into the fold you should look to your communication plan and see what you are trying to accomplish as a church. Which tool best fits your goals? Blanketing the market may be an option, but in the face of small or non-existent budgets some times targeting your approach will yield the best results. Learn the tools and match their benefits and reach to your communications plan for best results and then expand as you grow.
So, maybe social media isn’t quite like building a bird house, however often times I feel we are losing sight of our task, our target audience, and the intended end state by being blinded by the shiny new tool on the shelf that promises to do everything including slice my fresh bread before a meal. Knowing the task and how you are going to accomplish it is most important today along with delivering good and relevant content to those you hope to reach. Social media and content management tools are supposed to help accomplish the tasks and support the process, not BE the process, etc. It’s time we focus on getting things done and producing results by way of using the correct tools for the job. Social media/web2.0/shiny web objects of choice are just that, tools: Some are good for accomplishing what your church needs and others are just new fancy tools that do too much for their own good. Focus on your ministry’s mission, the audience, and your organizational goals and allow the appropriate tools fall into place to make the overall experience better. Don’t fall for what every pitchman has for you or what’s on sale at the front of the mega shopping center store this holiday season, or what ever some megachurch is using with great success. Bottom line: Tools, no matter how shiny and awesome they are, should never be the solution, they are only the means to accomplishing your goals. Make a plan, do your research and watch your ministry grow through good content and audience engagement.
This topic has been coming up a lot lately. I wrote about it a few weeks back: Social Tools Do Not a Process Make. A lot of people are overly focused on technology as a solution rather than a tool that can be used to re-enforce good policy, procedures, etc. (Read=Process) Fellow GovLoop-er, and communications consultant, Steve Radick has mentioned this a few times in his blogs as of late as well.
One can argue that “2.0 technology” is so “large” or “innovative” that it’s a game changer, but this is a standard technology argument that is as old as the world it’s self. One must recall the definition of technology to understand my point: (According to Merriam-Webster) Technology=”a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge.” By this definition technology isn’t a “thing” it’s a how and this is important to understand in discussion. Changing how we do something requires good process, methods, and/or knowledge. Lacking any of these things technology typically serves to only make things more complicated instead of easier. (As stated, how many projects can one point to that has suffered this reality?) Thus, we suffer from the reality that technology can be a double edged sword if not applied correctly to resolve a problem and in fact can end up causing more problems than it was implemented to resolve. (If this is the case, then by technical definition you have already failed.) This is the root problem in technology innovation: We can be motivated to change process due to some shiny new object that promises world peace, when all we really needed was a tool/technology that makes our processes better.
So, I leave you with this: 1.) Innovation for the sake of innovation is typically doomed to fail as it doesn’t have a problem to solve. 2.) If lacking solid process, methodology, and/or knowledge technology will typically lead to frustration rather than solutions. and 3.) Tools/Technology: no matter how shiny and awesome they are, should never be the independent solution, they are only a means to accomplishing the mission/goal.
Technology does make our lives easier, but only appropriately applied technology to existing (and solid) processes change the world we live in for the better. What we need is a “Process 2.0” driven work place, that uses the right techonlogy for the job and appropriately engages people while solving problems.