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Social Media Is Relational

Social Media Is Relational

Posted October 18, 2011 by Jerod Clark

There’s still plenty of debate in churches around the question of, “Is social media really relational?”  It’s probably a fair conversation to have as long as it’s not just an excuse to quickly dismiss using social media because it’s new or too hard to do.  But I’d like to layout my reasoning that social media is indeed relational.

In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Claire Diaz Ortiz, leader for social innovation at Twitter, talked about how social media makes perfect sense for churches.  She said:

"It's about relationships and social media is about relationships. A lot of companies don't understand that. They think it's a new way to market themselves.  In contrast, religious organizations have been relying on word-of-mouth marketing and relational marketing for forever, so they take to social media well."

Unlike some other tech companies—like Google who is restricting religious organizations from the free services they offer non-profits—Twitter is reaching out to the church to help them better use social media.  Why?  They see that there’s a lot of good interaction with Christian content on Twitter.  While Diaz Ortiz says that some things, like daily devotions, can start to feel automated, other Christian leaders and organizations are getting high rates of engagement.

It’s not surprising to me that Christian content is finding an engaged audience online.  The church has always been good about using the popular medium of the day to share God’s story and aid people in spiritual formation.  It’s never been about the medium.  Sending a letter or making a phone call to someone is no different than sending tweets back and forth.  My experience in social media tells me that I can build meaningful relationships with people through conversations online who I’d never have the chance to meet face-to-face.

Also, I’ve seen social media work as a gateway to meeting people face-to-face – the pinnacle for hardcore relationalists.  Like most sorts of media, online avenues can also serve as a way to make first contact with someone in hopes of meeting them in person.  As a church, we’ll send out post cards, erect scrolling electronic signs and buy the occasional billboard in hopes of getting people into our buildings so we can have a relationship with them.  Why not look at social media in a similar way?

Finally, social media can be a good way to stay connected with someone you’ve already met.  For churches, this can be your members or visitors who are looking to become more involved.  Part of any good relationship is communication and social media lets you be better communicators.  People are already online, so why not be there with them where they’re already at?  And as more social media outlets, like Facebook and Google+, are adding video chat, a face to face conversation is just a click away.

It’s easy to say social media isn’t relational because of old think and the easy out it provides from doing something new.  But I challenge you to take the harder road and ask how you can use the newish medium of social media as a way to better engage with people and keep them connected to your church.  In my eyes, social media is relational and online relationships have real meaning.  

(Social media network vector graphic courtesy of Shutterstock.)

Filed under: Communications, Social Media, Facebook, Twitter

About the Author

Jerod Clark

Jerod joined ReFrame Media in 2007 and built Church Juice from scratch. He poured all his passion for branding, marketing, and messaging into the ministry, publishing e-books, blog posts, and speaking at conferences to help churches energize their communications. He also served as ReFrame’s in-house graphic designer. Before beginning his work at Church Juice, Jerod was a local TV news reporter. In 2016, Jerod stepped away from the ministry to pursue interests in marketing and communications on new horizons.

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Comments (4)

  • Martin Davis
    10:36 PM
    Tue, Oct 18, 2011

    This is a frequent point of discussion among readers and visitors to the Congregational Resource Guide. Getting past the notion of social media as, first and foremost, a marketing tool is crucial. But that is the way many congregations look at it—how do we use this to bring people in.

    The real question behind all of this, of course, is what do we mean by “relationship,” or friendship. This is hardly a new question. Aristotle wrestled with it in ancient Greece. Peter of Abelard wrote reams on friendship (amicitia).

    Start with the question of what does it mean to have a relationship—period. Then discover how social media fits in that plan. Starting with social media and asking can we have relationships through this makes it difficult to discover the possibilities.

  • Christopher Kirk
    8:02 PM
    Mon, Nov 21, 2011

    Interesting blog!  I use social media all the time to further relationships in the church
    Been relational housechurching and planting for 30 years now.
    My blog is about Jesus, Church and life in general
    http://notesfromthebridge.wordpress.com

    Christopher “Captain” Kirk

  • StevenTart
    6:34 PM
    Sun, Jan 8, 2012

    There has to be a balance between face time and social media time.  Are we still connecting face to face with those people we need to?  Most churches operate an employee schedule that allows for outreach pastors as well as technology/social media pastors.  We need both.  Churches that aren’t marketing through social media might not connect with younger people.  Yet we absolutely can’t give up on face to face relationships.

  • windyguy22
    2:54 PM
    Wed, Jul 11, 2012

    It really depends which side of the argument you are approaching this issue from. As a retail manager that is dependent on social media as a form of marketing you can only hope that the time people spend on these platforms continues to rise. On the other hand i tink there is cause for concern with the amount of time and lack of face to face contact people are experiencing. I have talked to a retail owner of a small streetwear shop and from my understanding is people are opting to buy more products online as oppose to come to the store.

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