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.
Today is a big day for social media and emergency management: The Emergency 2.0 Wiki is now live! For those already in the know about #SMEM and its rather large following this is great news. For those of you that have no idea what ‘m talking about, let me fill you in: #SMEM is the twitter hash tag that a great deal of emergency management professionals are using to track conversations and connect on topics that involve the use of social media in emergency management. (Did you catch that? Social Media in Emergency Management..Clever right?..moving on..)
The Emergency 2.0 Wiki Project, as it has been deemed, is an international group of emergency management professionals from every corner of the globe and is current lead by Eileen Culleton an emergency management professional from Queensland, Australia. Like most organizations of its type, its followers and supports come together via multiple forms of social media including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and of course their brand new Wiki. However, unlike a lot of social media outlets, this one is specifically dedicated to the profession of emergency management and how to use technology to better keep citizens informed during disasters. With experienced professionals from all over the world inputting their lessons learned and best practices, people can search the wiki for just about any related topic and find input on just about any type of emergency situation.
The Emergency 2.0 Wiki has now been officially online for a few hours, but be sure to check in and see what’s going on. Eileen and crew have been reaching out around the clock for people to help provide content on different topic areas and many around the glob have answered the call. This is a huge moment for emergency management professionals the world over and even more so for those directly involved with the project. Like any wiki, the success of this tool will hinge on the community and those that choose to help support the efforts.
Bottom line here is that the #SMEM community grows almost by the hour and new professionals come to the plate to discuss what they are up to and/or issues they face. If you are interested emergency management and the use of social media, this is a great starting point to plug into a worldwide community of professionals.
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.
If you aren’t following the work of Jason Calacanis (Mahalo, ThisWeekIn, etc), the short answer is you probably should. Like many others at the tech forefront and the many start up guru’s of the West Coast, Jason is one that loves to share his ideas, his work, ideas with others, and simply just provide information that helps people get where they are going. But enough about how awesome Mr. Calacanis is (even if he is beyond awesome..) The point to my entry today is to draw attention to an awesome social media impact assessment tool/engagement measurement tool that Jason passed along to the masses just this week and in the wake of finally having a way to keep track of your Google+ impact on the world. (Yup, I said it..You can actually get Google+ stats now.) So, what is this magical tool? ThinkUp.
Okay, so now what? Well what have we covered so far? 1.) Jason Calacanis is someone you should follow/friend/etc. He’s got the goods. (if you want a full feed, add Robert Scoble as well.) 2.) ThinkUp is a free social tool that helps you digest your social media actions on the interwebs. That second part is the one that is probably most important here. ThinkUp allows you to track your social footprint, your digital footprint, digital engagement, or whatever buzz term fits your existence best. (I’m not here to judge, simply to pass along the awesomeness.)
Right, so: ThinkUp. Basically, ThinkUp is an open source beta that allows users to keep track of a cross section of social media accounts/tools to see what types of impact/engagement they are having on the rest of the world. Everything from tracking twitter accounts, facebook accounts, and now Google+. To catch your attention I have provided a few screen shot examples that demonstrate just what the tool can do. But if seeing some static screen shots just doesn’t do it for you, check out the live twitter demo! Whitehouse Twitter.
..Want to track your tweeks, replies, retweets, traffic, etc? Yeah, there IS an APP for that..
..The White House apparently averaged roughly 600 new followers a DAY in September..
Not sure about anyone else, but this looks to be an outstanding option to start trying to keep track of traffic type stats and in formats that are very straight forward use and manipulate. The latest version even does geo-location of content being tracked, when and if available.
Bottom line: it’s open source, it keeps adding features, and seems fairly simple to use. So, what are you waiting for!?
(Note: if you are already using this awesome tool, let us know what you think and how you’re using it!)
As most of you have probably heard by now, BART had turned off cell towers in three stations in an attempt to stop a potential protest from taking place and being organized using cell phones and social media. A direct result of this announcement came the night after the original protest was planned via a far larger protest that resulted in public violence, property destruction, etc. (The irony here being that the original protest was practically non-existant and had been planned well in advanc, were the protest against the shut down of the cell towers was unplanned and viral.)
The SFGate did a great story on multiple issues of this entire event(s). SFGate Story on BART Cell Blockage
The summary goes a bit like this: Nobody wins. That’s right, nobody. On the one hand it seems clear that restricting a form of speech and communication is not exactly the right course of action, equally so, the destruction of property and impacts to the commuting public in SF is by no means the response.
So, I ask this for the consideration of GovLoopers: “For the sake of public safety, is it right to take action like BART did?” This is timely, given the on-going riots in London and throughout the Middle East. (London did the same thing in an attempt to quell rioters. Egypt, Syria, etc have as well, though “purpose” may have been drastically different…or was it?)
What is the right answer? Is there one? This by no means is an easy question, but with the up tick in recent events (even locally with the MD 7-11 flashmob.) What is the solution? Should there be a solution?