EDIT: This blog was written many years ago, and things have changed since then. Twitter is still the platform of choice for hundreds of millions of users engaging in short-form messaging, yet some dynamics have evolved, which means I needed to update this blog post as well. It is also the most viewed post on my blog, closing in at almost 10,000 views. Do share with your fellow pastors, priests, clergy, youth minister etc.
Many people who view my blog might be surprised at this post, considering Twitter is such a mainstream daily application now, as mainstream as sms or Facebook. Shouldn’t people who work in church ministry already know how to use it?
Well, just like there are still people out there with opposing tech thumbs for microwaves and prefer putting the pizza in the oven instead, there are people who need to know not HOW to set up a Twitter account, but how to set one up for a higher purpose, for e.g. their Church or ministry.
That’s where it gets tricky. For when you start creating a social identity for something that deals with spirituality – esp in organised religion or organised Spirit-led faith gatherings – there are many aspects to consider, including the most ignored one: ‘do we even NEED a Twitter account for our church?’.
So here goes:
- Write down on a piece of paper the approximate number of members your church or ministry has.
- It’s 2016, which means you probably have a good grasp of the demographics of your church. Make an approximation of the percentage by age, e.g. 50% over the age of 40
Once you’ve established this, ask yourself what is the purpose of your intended Twitter account?
- Is it to stay in constant communication with these existing members?
- Is it to gain a virtual member-base by having many new people not necessarily in your area ‘follow’ you and your ministry on Twitter?
- Is it to share your daily or weekly services or sermons online with everyone?
Every church account has a different purpose, and some have all these purposes.
Have you decided on a name for your Twitter account? A common mistake people make both for personal accounts on Twitter as well as professional ones is they fail to realise the difference between your Account Name and your User Name. Here’s the difference:
Account name: The name of the person or entity who owns the account. This can be your name as the pastor or ministry leader, the name of your church or something generic but ‘homely’. E.g. Pastor Bob, Father Michael, Sister Anne, Saint Pauls.
User Name: The visible name of your Twitter account, usually known as a Twitter Handle. This is what appears as your URL (web address people type into the internet browser) e.g. www.twitter.com/marketingdude where marketingdude is the User Name/Twitter Handle.
When people view your Tweets in the stream of tweets as shown below, they see the Twitter Handle as the main name of the person tweeting, and right next to it appears the actual Account Name (look at ‘grattonboy’ below for e.g.:
Hence, you need to decide whether you want your personal name to appear next to it or something else.
How do I decide?
Well, think about it in terms of people searching for you. Is your name as pastor or ministry leader remembered more than the church or ministry? If yes, then use your name. If the other way around, then use the other. The whole point is, when people google you or your church/ministry, your Twitter account will show up depending on what you’ve chosen, and it should ring a bell with them when they see it.
How do I choose a good enough User Name?
Aah, the all-important question. Many people when embarking on creating a Twitter account want something that stands out, that people will ‘obviously’ look for. That’s why for people starting a Christian Twitter account the first thing they always check if available is the handle /jesus or /christ or even /God. 🙂 Sorry folks, too late.
The best thing to do when thinking up a handle is what will people search you by. Something like ‘Saint Mary’s Church’ or ‘Pastor Bob’s Daily’, or even ‘Daily Bread’ if available.
So you’ve decided on the name. Now you need to establish who you are when people visit your Twitter profile. People look up words like God, Jesus, Christ, SEGA, Nintendo, rock, metal, jazz. Not many people type in ‘church dedicated to the word’.
Choose a name that is easy to remember.
While a profile that says ‘A church ministry which develops personal relationships with its members to allow the Spirit of God to manifest itself in the collective lives of the community’ sounds very good in conversation and on the ministry’s website, this won’t bode well for your Twitter profile. Instead, ‘Ministry dedicated to building Jesus’ relationship in the community, using Scripture, relationships & fellowship’ has better keywords and will show up more often in searches.
So you’ve got your design all set up, and you’re raring to go. Whatever you share on twitter, always be sure to stick to the following rules of thumb and you’ll be gaining followers in no time:
- Always tweet succinctly. The shorter the tweet, the more it’ll catch the eye of someone scrolling through hundreds per minute
- Add no more than 2 hash tags. One is ideal. None are ideal too unless you have a reason to, or are participating in a popular conversation. Hash tags are the symbol # followed by a keyword which people will follow e.g. #jesus. For e.g. when you tweet ‘Our God is a God of love #jesus’ then everyone who follows the #jesus tag will receive your tweet, whether they’re following you or not. How do you follow a #tag? Simply do a search for the #tag you want e.g. #jesus or #church and save that (the option is given in the menu)
- Always retweet someone else’s tweets if you like them. Twitter is a community of sharing. Don’t hoard or be selfish. The more you retweet, the more people will engage with you
- Try to mostly follow someone back when they follow you. It’s not just courtesy, you help grow each other’s Twitter following
- Always tweet something at least once or twice a day. It’ll be difficult at first, but if you are shepherding a ministry, surely you have more than enough material to share. It can be a great Scripture reference or the link to an online version of your last sermon.
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