Last weekend I was privileged to attend the Metro DC SWO (synodical women’s organization) spring convention where I met many who are loyal and dedicated to Women of the ELCA. Like several SWOs, these women are worried about their numbers, both financial and human.
The theme of the conference was Communication: Vertical and Horizontal, which describes the way information can flow: from above (the bishop communicates with pastors who communicate with the congregation) and on the same level (you tell your best friend about how wonderful your church and Bible study is and ask her to join you).
My task was to convince the Metro DC Women of the ELCA participants that social media is an excellent horizontal communications tool. “How many of you are on Facebook?” I asked. About half the hands went up. “How many of you are on Twitter?” No hand went up. These are the top two social media tools available to us now.
Different generations communicate differently. The way you prefer to communicate might not be the way your daughter or granddaughter or niece likes to receive information. You might want to make a phone call; they might want to get an email or a text message or hear from you through Facebook or Twitter.
Sixty-seven percent of adults in the U.S. on the Internet use social networking sites.* That’s more than half the adult population in the U.S. Among Hispanic adult internet-users, 72 percent use social networking. Among African American internet-users, 68 percent use social networking. Among Caucasian adult internet-users, 65% use social networking.
Here’s another interesting fact: With 1.06 billion users, if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country, behind only China (1.4 billion) and India (1.2 billion). The U.S. comes in a distant fourth with 316 million people.
After the bombing in Boston, Women of the ELCA posted a prayer on Facebook adapted from the pastoral care edition of Evangelical Lutheran Worship. That prayer was shared 147 times by people who like our Facebook page, shared again by their friends and again by their friends. At last count, 14,588 people saw this prayer post originated by Women of the ELCA. That’s a huge reach we could have never attained before Facebook.
Step outside of your comfort zone. Create a page for your organization and, until you get the hang of posting your own information, share content you find on our Women of the ELCA page.
If we are going to reach people with our message, we are going to have to go where they are. And that’s no secret.
Terri Lackey is managing editor of Gather magazine.
*Statistics come from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.