Should black churches use social media differently? Part 2

Posted May 04, 2012 | New Media Project

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By Monica A. Coleman


Best practices: During February, March, and April, 2012 the New Media Project bloggers looked intentionally at new media “best practices.” Today, we continue. Join the conversation: What are the new media best practices in your church or organization? What are some other examples of how communities engage in new media well? Tell us in the comments below.

In a previous blog post, I raised the question of whether or not black churches should use social media differently than churches with other racial demographics. I noted that while African Americans represent approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population, 25 percent of blacks online used Twitter in May 2011. Recent numbers indicate that as many as 40 percent of Twitter users are African American.

This implies that black churches—if they are interested in reaching black people—should be active on Twitter. While I haven’t seen any statistics on the religiosity of the black people on Twitter, if the recent Pew study is correct that African Americans are more religious than the U.S. population as a whole (as measured by things like belief in God, church attendance, and frequency of prayer), then it’s worth assuming that some of the black people on Twitter have a decent level of interest in church.

So black churches should seriously consider Twitter when selecting social media outlets. The clergy at Community of Hope AME Church (COH) regularly give verbal references to the Twitter-followers and live-streamers during worship service. In this way, COH indicates that they are paying attention to the people whose bodies are not in the sanctuary. They are part of the church community as well.

To get attention on Twitter, one needs to be a serious Twitter-er. Studies show that most people on Twitter see items posted within the previous two minutes of the time they check Twitter. One should post 4–10 times an hour for Twitter recognition, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the highest traffic days for Twitter users. Given these trends, it’s clear that it takes a lot of time and attention to get Twitter-juice.

Tips for making it easier:
1. I find Twitter user-friendly via a good smartphone app, and it enables Tweeting-on-the-go.
2. Live-Tweeting an event (such as a worship service or program) can generate a lot of attention and far more than 10 Tweets an hour.
3. Choose a hashtag for your church that other church members can use.
4. Allow more than one person (i.e., the pastor) access to the church Twitter account so that the responsibility is shared.
5. Offer a theological perspective on what’s trending on Twitter.
6. Follow religious new sources and websites.
7. Retweet religious articles or news of interest—which is good Twitter etiquette. And it can generate conversation with followers.
8. Reference Twitter followers during a church service.
9. Encourage Tweeting during sermons. People might actually pay more attention, and it’s a good way for the preacher to get immediate feedback about what parts of the sermon were the most salient for listeners.
10. Use a social media management program, and catch the insomniacs/partiers/people on the other side of the globe during one’s normal sleeping hours. (Who couldn’t use inspiration in the middle of the night?)
I can’t guarantee that black churches will see jumps in membership and giving if they take to Twitter. I can’t even say that the black people on Twitter are black church people. Yet given the percentage of black people who are active on Twitter, it seems like it could be worth the effort.

Monica A. Coleman, a research fellow for the New Media Project, serves as Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions and Co-Director of the Center for Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Associate Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University in southern California.

The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact newmediaproject@cts.edu.

4 Comments

  1. 1 @tim_hutchings 31 Jan
    People do use Twitter... but that doesn't necessarily mean the church must use Twitter too.

    I'd suggest that churches only need to use Twitter if all of the following statements are true:

    1. People who use Twitter cannot be reached by the church through other media.
    2. People who use Twitter are interested in hearing from churches through Twitter.
    3. Talking to people on Twitter has some kind of impact on those people that is consistent with the aims of the church.

    Perhaps something to consider in your next blog post?
  2. 2 Monica A. Coleman 31 Jan
    I'm not saying that churches "must" even use new media. I am suggesting that for black churches that do use social media, that they seriously consider the high percentage of African Americans who are on Twitter along with the high percentage of African Americans who express a belief in God. Many people prefer Twitter to email these days - especially people of certain demographics (i.e. age, etc.). There are also countless interests on Twitter, with religion and Christianity being just a couple. Many blogs on this site have discussed the strengths and weaknesses of social media and new media. I encourage you to check them out. Like all media, the content is up to the entities who use the media - thus if a church has a positive message, it can be a positive message across a variety of media.
  3. 3 church website design 31 Jan
    Thanks for the post Monica. I'm a big fan of churches using any and all social media. If social media provides a platform to reach hundreds of millions of people, why not use it to benefit the Kingdom?
  4. 4 Michael Smith 30 Jul
    Monica, you are correct that Twitter can have a great impact on reaching people for Christ.  Just this past March we used a live Twitter campaign during a youth worship conference and it was a great success!  Another social network that got a lot of participation and sharing was Instagram. I suspect this was simply due to the demographic we were connecting to.  My company Burning Bush Web Design actually offers social media marketing services for churches and church website design.  In the future, I'll note your observation about Twitter being a great tool to the African American demographic and that the user base for Twitter has grown substantially since this article was written. Thanks again for your post!

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