7 Sources for Parish Social Media Content

Whenever I talk about parishes’ use of social media I always try to point out that a Facebook page, Twitter account, or Instagram profile won’t do much good if isn’t being updated regularly with new content. Fresh content shows that your serious about reaching our with new media and worth following.

But creating content isn’t always as easy as it sounds. And while posting announcements from the bulletin is certainly appropriate, finding other easy, free sources of useful content can help supplement in-house content and keep a parish’s social media accounts fresh.

With that in mind, here are some easy-to-use sources of content for your parish’s social media:

  1. Sunday Homilies: If the pastor’s homilies are written out: Great! Set up a blog and post them there every week. If the homilies aren’t written out: Great! Post two or three “big ideas” from each homily on the parish Twitter feed and Facebook pages.
  2. The Pope: Whether it’s retweeting his daily messages, posting videos of his daily audiences, or sendig out short quotes from his major teachings, the pope always has something new and interesting to say.
  3. Kids: Ask them to record short inspirational video messages on their phones to post to the parish social media sites. You’ll get content and involve youth in the life of the parish.
  4. Google Alerts: Getting customized search results emailed to you means you don’t have to go looking for what people are saying about your parish; you can have their thoughts delivered directly to your inbox and then share them online!
  5. USCCB Resources: The USCCB has gotten pretty savvy about producing social media-friendly resources for parishes. This year’s Nine Days for Life campaign included daily messages and images (in English and Spanish) designed specifically for Facebook. These resources are not always easy to find, but perusing the USCCB web site will usually turn up something interesting.
  6. Blogs: Do you follow Catholic bloggers? Don’t be afraid to share a post that speaks to you with the rest of your parish!
  7. Free Stock Image Sites: Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Search for “church” or “Jesus Christ” on sites like Morguefile and post the beautiful results. (Just be sure the pictures aren’t subject to copyright restrictions!)

I hope these ideas are helpful and help you think about other sources you can use for your parish’s social media outreach. Do you have a source I didn’t list? Share it in the comments!

#CatholicEdChat: Or How I Spent my Saturday Morning

appleThis past Saturday I had the pleasure of moderating the weekly #CatholicEdChat on Twitter. I was joined by Catholic educators from around the country for a one-hour real-time discussion on Catholic schools and the New Evangelization.

We had a great conversation; Nancy Caramanico was good enough to compile an archive of the event and list some of the resources recommended during the chat.

Thanks to Nancy for the invitation and to everyone who joined us! #CatholicEdChat is held every Saturday morning at 8a (CT) on Twitter. Just look for the hashtag!

Three Ways to Keep Me From Following You on Twitter

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I haven’t made any bones about the fact that Twitter is my go-to social media platform. I find that I get more value out of Twitter with the same investment of time and energy than any other service out there.

That having been said I’m still pretty picky about who I choose to follow on Twitter. (Yes, even someone who follows 2,200 accounts has standards!)

With that in mind here are three things that will keep me from following you on Twitter:

  1. Only post once per week. Twitter is a veritable fire hose of updates and information; it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. If you’re not posting on a regular basis — even once a day or so — I know I’m going to miss whatever you have to say, so I probably won’t even bother following you in the first place. The USCCB posts about 7-9 times per day (including retweets); that’s a pretty healthy stream of information and ensures that, regardless of when I check Twitter, I’ll probably notice you. I do make some exceptions for this rule, but only for people that post really high-quality updates that I don’t want to miss.
  2. Never reply to what others post. I use Twitter to interact with other people — the real takeaway for me is the conversations and sharing that occurs in 140 characters. If I don’t see any @ replies in your Twitter stream I’m probably not going to bother following you because it’s obvious you’re not interested in talking, just broadcasting.
  3. Only post promotions — or worse, spam. A couple months ago I had a Catholic company tweet at me about some service or product they were offering. Starting a relationship with a sales pitch isn’t the best first move. To make it even worse, when I checked their account it was obvious that they were sending the exact same message to dozens of others Catholics on Twitter. This is pretty much the definition of spam and I reported the account to Twitter as such. I don’t care if we share the faith or not — good manners count online. Introduce yourself to others by replying to their tweets before you start telling them about your services.

Do you have any standards for connecting with others online? Share them in the comments!

Notes and Resources: Using New Media for Professional Development

Thank to everyone who participated in my webinar today on using new media for professional development in catechesis!

Here are my notes, a link to the opening prayer from the USCCB,  and some of the resources I mentioned during the webinar:

Facebook

LinkedIn

Twitter

Reading Blogs

Creating Blogs

Podcasts/Webinars

San Diego Bound!

I’m heading off to San Diego today for the 76th annual National Conference for Catechetical Leadership convention and expo. I’ll also be attending an NCCL Representative Council meeting tomorrow.

Just like last year I’ll be live-tweeting the events, along with other attendees. Just look for the hashtag #NCCL2012. You can also come back to this page for updates:


Also, in your kindness, I would appreciate any prayers you could send my way as I prepare for my keynote address and breakout session on Tuesday. I am super nervous about presenting in front of 700+ people I consider to be colleagues and friends, so any grace you can send my way would be very appreciated.

#NCCL2011, Here I Come!

Today I take off for the annual National Conference for Catechetical Leadership convention and expo, being held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve got a pretty busy slate lined up: I’m attending the Rep Council meeting (I recently agreed to represent the Province of Chicago), I’ll be part of a learning session, and I’m hosting two roundtable discussions. That’s on top of the general sessions, business meetings, socials, and hosting Monday night’s Tweet-Up.  I’m really excited to meet some catechetical colleagues face-to-face for the first time, preview Fr. Barron’s Catholicism Project, and hear Fr. James Martin’s keynote address.

If you’d like to follow the conference online  I’ll be live-tweeting as the opportunity presents itself. I’ll try to point out other folks tweeting the conference, but you should be able to find them by following the hashtag #NCCL2011 on Twitter. Please pray for us that the conference may be a success!

Video and Footnotes “ 9 ½ Social Media Strategies for the Church

Last night I offered a webinar on social networking tips and tricks for Catholic parishes, schools, and other ministries:

Thanks to everyone who participated! As promised, I’m including footnotes and suggestions for further reading:

Books

Web Resources

Free Webinar – 9 ½ Social Media Strategies for the Church

On March 24 at 7p (CT) I will be offering a follow-up to my previous webinar, Reaching Parishioners with Facebook. This free webinar will focus on constructing a social media strategy for your parish, school, or ministry:

You’ve designed the perfect Catholic school web site, set up your parish Facebook page, and got your DRE on Twitter. Now what?! This free webinar will outline 9 ½ effective social media strategies for Catholic parishes, schools, and other ministries. Find out the most important piece of information that should be on your home page; how to jump-start your Facebook page; and why your parish shouldn’t be on Twitter — but your pastor should! Sponsored by the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership.

Register for free online at www2.gotomeeting.com/register/520350218.

Tweeting Institutionally

A few weeks back a colleague in NCCL asked about how I make decisions regarding social networking on behalf of NCCL and my diocese. This was my off-the-cuff reply:

Some quick background: My criteria for making these decisions when acting in an institutional capacity is different than my criteria for my personal accounts, especially re: Twitter; for my personal account I’m pretty indiscriminate about who I follow, since I believe the value of Twitter is in making connections and self-limiting those connections diminishes that value.

Twitter

My decisions about whom to follow via the NCCL Twitter account are based on two criteria: 1) Who has information relevant to our members? and 2) Who has need of the type of information NCCL provides? These two categories are not mutually exclusive; for instance, Nick Senger, as a Catholic educator, both tweets information pertinent to our members and can be a conduit through which NCCL information can flow to people not directly associated with the organization. So it makes sense to follow him and hope that he follows us (which he does).

Pursuant to the second criteria, this means that I’ve tended to follow anyone in a catechetical ministry in the Church as a way of establishing a connection with NCCL. This includes DREs, self-identified catechists and Catholic school teachers.

The first criterion is a little trickier since it requires a judgment call about the needs and values of our membership. I’ve picked the major catechetical publishers with a Twitter presence as well as groups and individuals that are representative of the broadness of the Church without straying outside the folds, so to speak. Figures such as Sr. Helen Prejean, Fr. Robert Barron or Christopher West, while appealing to different constituencies within NCCL, nevertheless stand firmly (and without major controversy) within the Catholic Church. On the other hand, if Fr. Charles Curran or Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, LC, (General Director of the Legion of Christ) were to start tweeting, I would not follow them, even knowing their appeal to some members of NCCL, due to their controversy within the Church.

My final criterion for Twitter is that anyone associated in a direct way with NCCL (past or current leaders, members) gets an automatic follow. Of course, this assumes I can identify them as being associated with NCCL.

Facebook

Linking fan pages on Facebook is not as integral to the experience as following someone on Twitter. Because of the terminology in use, I’m a little more selective about linking our Facebook fan page with other fan pages. Following someone on Twitter doesn’t have the same connotation as being a “fan” of someone on Facebook; the latter implies a level of approval that isn’t present in the former.

To give a better example of how I handle Facebook, for my diocese’s Facebook fan page I have linked us to groups with whom we have an established institutional relationship (CRS, Catholic Committee on Scouting, NCYC) and the schools and parishes of our diocese. This might be a model for how to handle future Facebook links and other relationships.

The Adventures of ChatRoulette Jesus

Recently I’ve been having some fun using ChatRoulette as a sort of evangelization tool/sociology experiment. For those unfamiliar with the site, ChatRoulette pairs you up with a random stranger in a chat room. If you both have web cams you can even see each other. (Note: Many people take advantage of this function to display highly inappropriate material. Enter ChatRoulette at your own risk.)

Using a piece of software called ManyCam I’ve replaced my image with that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (see above). The fun has been in seeing people’s reactions to Christ appearing on their screens. Most people quickly hit the “next person” button; some people laugh, ask “Really?!” or show a sign of disapproval. Some people smile or even write back messages like “I know!” or “Thanks.” Some just give a thumbs up. One young man actually made the Sign of the Cross and prayed. (As near as I could tell he was sincere.)

It’s been fascinating to see the wide range of reactions and responses — ChatRoulette really offers an interesting cross-section of people. If you’d like to get a sense of the reactions, you can follow the adventures of ChatRoulette Jesus on Twitter under the user name @ChatRTJesus.