OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–Socialized networks have revolutionized the way people communicate, as evidenced by unfolding events in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. But it should be no surprise that, for spreading the Gospel and globally mobilizing people for missions, social media also can have significant, positive implications.
Here are several ways to use your social media profile to become a cyber-activist for international missions.
The International Mission Board has created an easy-to-use page with live updates about the work of Southern Baptist missionaries. The IMB Live site (live.imb.org) is a place to find the latest stories, videos, photos and IMB-related Tweets to share in e-mails, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter and any other social networks. The content can be customized on the live page to fit the needs and interests of the people in your networks. It’s a social-media “dashboard” that pulls together the most recent content into a single place for convenience.
You also can reference mReport (mreport.org), a site for postings of IMB missions coverages in real time. The latest coverage was Jan. 30-Feb. 6 in Southeast Asia, with updates about and by Southern Baptist missions volunteers from five states as they distributed Bibles to Chinese tourists.
Some tips to leverage the power of social media for outreach in your community include:
Message: In order for your communication to have impact for your cause, it has to contain your message. As in all advertising, a funny or interesting video, even if it becomes a very popular online phenomenon, is useless to you if it doesn’t get people to take action.
“Meme”: The message of your viral outreach needs to be easy to grasp without explanation and easy to pass on to others. (“Meme” is a relatively new term for a concept that spreads via cyber channels.)
Meeting: Find the media that your target audience likes to use and go where the people are. Media researchers estimate 60 percent of adults belong to a social network, but most only belong to one.
Manage: Funnel the contacts you make in social media toward your website or blog. Make your website the second tier of your social media strategy. The third tier is when people register with your site. Mobilize the people who sign up on your site to help spread the message.
Material: Give people the content they need to pass on your message. Provide opportunities for your audience to make their own videos, allow them to put their pictures in e-cards — anything that helps to put them into the story line and send to their contacts that multiplies your message.
Mobilize: Make it easy to pass your content through word of mouth. Choose the video tools that allow you to embed your videos directly into Facebook, blogs, etc. Social bookmark tabs need to post your link and teaser copy into other sites.
Medium: Make your content a good match for the medium. Long videos will not be watched as much as shorter ones. Break paragraphs into articles and write lead sentences, remembering they also may serve as teaser copy for links when they are visible on other sites.
Marketing: Your content needs to link back to your sites and copy that promote your organization. Don’t leave the “More Info” section blank; include good copy using your key words and links.
Metrics: Watch the statistics. Check not only how many people view, forward or Tweet your content, also track how many click through and take the next step with your message.
Momentum: Start the ball rolling by forwarding your content to the networks of your intended target audience. Leave room in Tweet messages for people to “re-tweet” (RT) your messages. Prime the commenting by starting the first comment on links and posts you put in other networks. Push your message into new networks until it takes off on its own.
Chris Forbes, co-author of Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits, has pioneered social media initiatives for various organizations within the Southern Baptist Convention. His website is ChrisForbes.org. This article follows an analysis by Forbes in BP on Feb. 9, “Social media sparks change in Middle East, helps spread Gospel,” at http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=34624. Keep up with the latest from the IMB on social networks by logging on to live.imb.org and by following the IMB on these social networks: