This is a transcript of the video below. This was presented at the Catholic Social Media Summit 2020.
Social Media is P2P not B2B. Social media is about person-to-person communications and not business-to-business. You are connecting with real people—not “avatars” or “users”. Social media is not the usual parish bulletin board. When you use your social media, think that you are talking to a person: Tell them about what you’re doing through your posts. Twitter asks: What’s happening while Facebook asks what’s on your mind? Your focus should be on helping your community.
Social media is a great way to find the people meant for your ministry. You can find the hashtags used by the people whom you want to minister to. For example, if your social media focuses on religious practices such as devotions, then go to search and type #CatholicDevotions and it can give you leads on the people whom you want to target. If your social media targets your parishioners, then you can use #CamaligParish #JohnTheBaptistParishCamaligAlbay to bring people from the town of Camalig, Albay to your social media account.
Some Ways to Use Social Media: Engagement and Regularity
Social media can host a chat to engage your followers. You can use the chats to answer people’s biggest questions pertinent to your social media account like inquiries, faith questions, pleas for help, even the schedule of your masses.
You can also educate them about an important issue that matters. Or, you can use them for brainstorming. After the chat, it is beneficial to post a summary of the conversation, or an update of the course of action you’ve taken listening to their various opinions and ideas.
That way you can encourage them to join you in the next conversation and you know that your course of action is anchored on the context of the people.
Consistency and Regularity. Social media will require consistency and regularity. You’ll have a hard time generating followers in your social media if you post once in a while and then disappear until your next tweet, post, or promotion. You have to be consistent to have conversations, grow your following, share your content and help others. Regular can mean daily, three times a week, even weekly. But not too long that you’ll lose their attention.
There are many applications that can schedule your posts so that you don’t have to open your social media every day. I use Plann or Planoly or even Hootsuite to schedule my posts. And oh, do not barrage them with successive posts. It annoys people who follow you because you dominate their feeds.
The New Mission
I have long been in social media. I committed a lot of mistakes. I was banned and trolled. I got into the ire of my Jesuit superiors and my brothers. However, these mistakes helped me study, observed and pushed me to know more about the new “mission area” then Pope Benedict XVI reiterated in his message at the 43rd World Communications Day. He wrote:
“These technologies are truly a gift to humanity and we must endeavor to ensure that the benefits they offer are put at the service of all human individuals and communities especially those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable.”Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 43rd World Communications Day
In my years of experience, there are many ways to use social media, but not all ways fit a person with a mission to serve people and communities.
However there are three elements that I have learned that is appropriate for a social media accounts with a faith-based mission. They attract more people to your social media account. These are connecting with your people; creating meaningful content; and finally, showing genuine and authentic service. In other words, you should know your people, find what they need, and then deliver the service.
The Three Elements For Faith-Based Social Media Accounts
1. Connect With Your People
First, connect with your people. Many religious social media accounts get the idea that they need “content” but the idea of actively building an audience for their content is often neglected. And with a handful of followers, they end up concluding that social media is a waste of time. It’s the old paradigm: priests giving out homilies without keeping in mind who their audience is. They end up with few people listening or even finding their points too conceptual or irrelevant. And they say, “What’s the point when you have no one listening to you?” And I always retort, “Because you don’t know their context!” It’s the same thing, no matter how great your content is, if you don’t have people on social media who might be interested in you and what you have to say, your content is useless—no one’s listening! Proclaiming the Gospel to everyone means that you must have people who listen to you.
Show that you are a genuine person. Not a troll. Not a BOT. Include a personal profile photo, a link to your website, a biography of your interests, a short, easy-to-remember user name. And remember this: Find them. Follow them. Hope they follow you back! Now you don’t need to have a million followers. One of the interesting Instagram account is that of the Daughters of St. Anne. They have posted photos of them cleaning homes and streets of a community affected by the flood. That to me is witnessing! That to me is proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus through photos!
2. Provide Meaningful Content
Second, create meaningful content. Meaningful content creates a reaction that begin conversations in a person-to-person basis. Social media IS social. There is a high value for being authentic and human on Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, a lesson I learned early on. When Ivana Alawi, a youtuber, was asked to give an advise to beginners, she said that you should just be yourself. This explains one of my experiences: I sweated over long articles, blog posts, messages for my targeted audience. But nothing happened and I was bored. I shared my experiences as I am, and then, I got people interested in what I do or who I am!
One of the people I follow is Pokwang. Her current follower count on Instagram is 2.5 million. Do you know what I like about her? She posts what she’s currently doing, her life as a mom and a friend, her new shows, her cooking, etc. Her posts are raw and un-edited. But people don’t mind. Following her, I practically saw how she progressed from putting up a small business from her interest in cooking to growing her business! I am following a real person!
Authenticity in Social Media
At some point, I was engaging and friendly to people who have been with me on Twitter or Instagram for a longer time; they were my virtual friends. When I saw them online, I began joking around with them, sharing something I was experiencing, the food I was eating, some personal events, the places I’ve been to, the content of my talks, other than my usual promotion of my homilies. I posted content that showed my whole personality, my human-ness, my weirdness, my various interests, not only the “priestly” part of my life. Taong-tao ka pala, Father!, they said afterwards.
At the crossroads, a wonderful breakthrough occurred. Instead of trying to find my audience, they found me. Social media is about sharing content for humans, not for search engines.
I have a website: a composite of my interests at jboygonzalessj.com. From my homilies to my scripts for Kape’t Pandasal, to articles about youth formation, leadership, places and food finds, even a journal, the posts are my portfolio. Blogs are not anymore as popular as before, but I kept on maintaining it because they play an important role in credibility in social media. Our profiles, status updates and posts on Twitter and Facebook indicate that you know stuff, but blogs, Youtube and Instagram demonstrate that you actually know what you are talking about!
3. Show Authentic Concern
Finally, authentic service. Genuine helpfulness. One of the people I also admire in social media is Gretchen Ho. Aside from her being a friend of mine, you can see from her Twitter and Instagram how she has built an advocacy. She has found a niche for service in the time of the pandemic: the need for bicycles for people to safely travel to their work, and thus, it prevented from being exposed to the virus while traveling, and at the same time, promoted exercise. Her current follower count is 888 thousand followers.
People are sick of being sold to, marketed to, and being solicited from. Posts that shows actual active help-giving not just build credibility. It makes your social media interesting. In an always-on, real-time, global world, the priority is on human interaction that leads to connections. Connections lead to awareness. Awareness leads to trust. Trust is the ultimate catalyst to all human relationships, including the relationship you build in social media.
Demonstrate Genuine Service
Here are some ways to demonstrate genuine service to others and engage in a way that builds relationships.
Answer questions or refer them to people who know. Nothing says I love you than a retweet now and then. Respond to those who tagged and mentioned you in their posts. Show gratitude publicly. Check out those who are new and respond to some of their tweets. Take private conversations to Direct or Personal messages. Congratulate people publicly on their birthdays or when they celebrate an accomplishment. Rally people around an advocacy, a relief operation, or a worthy movement. Live-tweet highlights of wonderful talks. Or, extend the conversation and build a relationship by taking it offline.
I had a wonderful experience one day when I was invited to visit Commune Cafe in Makati by Ros Juan, who was my friend on Twitter. She was the owner of Commune and I never met her face to face. When I finally arrived at the cafe, many of my Twitter friends were with her! We had a great time; I met new friends.
And now our relationships are not confined to the internet. Currently, we are helping each other with our own advocacies. Since they all have Instagram and Youtube, we followed each other, adding not just a number but real faces with real lives on my social media accounts. In religious terms, the number of my parishioners grew, adding more ears to the Gospel of Jesus that I am proclaiming.
Hope you too will use social media for the service of humanity especially the proclamation of the Gospel that everyone is welcomed as Pope Francis invites us to do.