Churches Aren’t Paying Attention on Twitter

Churches Aren’t Paying Attention on Twitter

December 8, 2010 by

A few weeks ago, I tested a handful of churches to see how well they were listening on Twitter. The results were painful, with only one out of 11 churches bothering to reply.

However, some comments mentioned that the sample size was too small, and I agree. This time I found 25 more churches to test, so let’s see what happened. I also gave them more time to answer, by posting the tweet on Tuesday morning instead of Thursday afternoon.

I wanted to keep the question very simple, so not to waste the time of the staff at these churches, but I wanted a different question from last time. I went with:

@ChurchName What is the sermon going to be about this week?

Once again, the churches I selected had a link to their Twitter account on their home page, so I expected that they would be ready and willing to reply.

The Results
This time, let’s just start with the winners. Of the 25 churches that I sent tweets to, only three replied.

The first was Mt. Bethel UMC (@mtbethelumc), just a couple hours later, who said:

“Sermon titles are posted on Thursdays here: http://mtbethel.org/worship – We look forward to seeing you!”

Excellent!

Just after that, I heard back from Cross Point Church (@crosspoint_tv), who said simply:

“grace and justice”

I would have liked to see a bit more, like the “We look forward to seeing you” message that Mt. Bethel included, but they answered the question accurately and quickly, so they certainly get points for that.

Finally, we had Northwest Bible Church (@neiltomba), who replied a day later with:

“Preaching on the “I AM’s” of Jesus. This week John 10:1-21.”

Very nice!

And the rest of them? I’m not sure what to say about the other 22 churches in this test. It’s simply not acceptable. Your church doesn’t need to be on Twitter, but if you’re on there (and promoting it on your home page), you should at least be paying attention when people send you messages.

Sadly, 17 churches didn’t even bother to respond, despite tweeting in the interim. We decided not to list them here for a public shaming, but we’ll be sure to reach out to them and let them know we think they can improve in this area (nicely, of course).

Another five didn’t tweet anything in the past five days, so we’ll be a bit more forgiving, but we’ll still let them know about this article.

Unfortunately, the conclusion of this new experiment is roughly the same as last time: pitiful.  And between both experiments, of 36 churches that I contacted, all of whom promote their Twitter account on their home page, only four of them replied.

As I said last time, TweetDeck and Social Oomph are a few of the options that can help you stay on top of things fairly easily.

We’d love to hear in the comments if you’re using something to track social mentions and if so, what?

Post By:

Mickey Mellen


I’m a 34 year old freelance web developer living in Marietta, Ga. I currently manage a variety of websites, both for myself and for others, and I work with small businesses, churches and individuals to help them further their reach on the Internet.
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36 Responses to “Churches Aren’t Paying Attention on Twitter”

  • Jeff Boes
    December 8, 2010

    We use Twitter to send, not to receive. We also echo our tweets onto our home page with a bit of Javascript code (jquery.tweet.js); there are other ways to do it if you aren’t a web programmer.


    • Kat
      December 8, 2010

      That seems like a dangerous plan… especially in light of this “test.” Using Twitter and facebook imply that you are there to communicate and communication is a two-way street.


    • Mickey
      December 8, 2010

      That seems to be the case for many churches.

      But what happens if someone responds to a Tweet? For example, you recently tweeted:
      “Movie night Fri 12/10 7PM; “Prayers for Bobby” http://imdb.to/dUtkVv“.

      I might reply with:
      “@pilgrim_ucc We’re thinking of attending, but would that movie be appropriate for our 10-year-old?”.

      Apparently, your response would be silence. That’s obviously not good. Your integration on your website is slick, but you need to listen for responses. You won’t get a ton of feedback, so a simple email notification from SocialOomph (or any of dozens of other choices) would be fine for now.

      There’s a reason that people call it *social* media and not “the latest bullborn”.


    • Michael Buckingham
      December 8, 2010

      That’s the big problem with how churches are using social media. It’s not a megaphone. Social media is about engagement and conversation.

      Effective social media contains three parts, in this order:

      Listen
      Talk
      Measure

      I tell all the churches I consult with to take a look at your fb/twitter/whatever stream. Are there more periods than question marks? You have to have both and lean towards more question marks.

      Even in the examples, I don’t know that I’d say they were listening but simply responding. When someone asks “what are you preaching about on Sunday” they’re really saying “I’m thinking about coming to your church on Sunday, give me a reason I should.” Engage!


  • Ted Carnahan
    December 8, 2010

    Whenever you post contact information, you’re promising to reply. My research shows that many congregations still have a long way to go in getting timely responses to email.

    http://www.tedcarnahan.com/2010/04/27/elca-congregational-email-turnaround/

    I suspect that many churches have Twitter accounts because the techy webmaster is excited about it, not because it’s part of the church’s comprehensive communications strategy.


    • Mickey
      December 8, 2010

      Ted — That’s remarkable! I had considered doing a similar test, but went with Twitter for now. I’m amazed you got such a small amount of feedback via email.

      Your message may have been a bit too long (leading them to think “I’ll get to it later”), but if they took the time to read it they would see that there was no thinking involved.

      That was part of the planning behind this Twitter test. I wanted something that any church Twitterer could quickly respond to without having to ask others or waste their time. I wanted to make it easy for them, and I also didn’t want to get in the way of them doing ministry.

      Thanks for sharing that.


  • Episcopal Church
    December 8, 2010

    Hmm, that’s interesting. I think we’ll do a similar test.


  • Jason Cooper
    December 8, 2010

    I use push.ly and notifo on my iPhone to receive instant notification of DM’s and mentions on our church’s twitter account. Works great. As long as I have my iPhone with me.


  • Jamey Halfast
    December 8, 2010

    We discovered that Twitter isn’t a big thing in our community, so we have tied twitter to our google calendar, sending out tweets on the alerts set up in Google. It’s also more of a one-way communication, but I’m always monitoring it through my always-open browser – currently, Rockmelt.


  • herbhalstead
    December 8, 2010

    I think the lack of a built-in notification system for @mentions has a lot to do with it. There are some great services out there that will let you know when some one @mentions your accounts. Google “mention notifier.”


  • Mark Van Horn @mdvhROLH
    December 8, 2010

    Its a no brainer. Our church monitors this several times a day.


  • Steve
    December 8, 2010

    I use HootSuite to keep on top of both my personal, church, and other Twitter accounts. I check the ministry accounts at least once or twice a day to see if anyone has replied. I try to do the same on Facebook, but it is tougher, as I have to actually go to the page and click to display only other people’s posts. Either way, I think you have it right. Most churches that use social media are not completely sold out on it being a tool for communication. They just want to seem like they are up with the current trends.


  • Greg Simmons
    December 8, 2010

    I wonder how well these same churches follow-up on more established forms of contact such as visitor inquiry cards from services and/or email? Is their non-response to Twitter just due to poorly executed adoption of a new technology, or is it a symptom of a deeper and more widespread communications strategy problem.

    Just a thought.


  • Kevin Gillen
    December 8, 2010

    Thank you for the encouragement on this. We just started using twitter ourselves recently and after reading of your first test, we made it a habit to check our @mentions at least once a day. Thanks!


  • Drew C David
    December 8, 2010

    A quick question for churches that do use Twitter – Who do you have monitoring your twitter account? Staff? Volunteer? Team of people?


  • Aaron Burrows
    December 8, 2010

    There is no excuse. Even a small church (like mine) can and should respond to incoming communication. Our pastor keeps track of Twitter constantly, and we have a person in charge of communication, who’s constantly posting to, and listening to, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. Being part of our community is essential, and you can’t do that with a self-serving read-only Twitter feed. It would be like having an answering machine in the church office that gets erased every morning when the staff comes in, or not having one at all.


  • @PaulSteinbrueck
    December 8, 2010

    Mickey, your Twitter test was a great idea! Thanks for doing it and posting the results.

    While I agree that ideally churches should use Twitter as a 2 way communication tool, I think it is perfectly legitimate for a church to say, “We’re not really into the Twitter thing, but that’s the way some people in our church would prefer to get info from us, so we’re going to auto-tweet our announcements.” But if they choose to go that way, I do think they should make that clear in the church’s Twitter “bio.”


    • Michael Buckingham
      December 8, 2010

      “we’re not into…” doesn’t give the church a green light to shrug it off…especially if someone says “I’d like to communicate with you through _____”

      I just can’t understand why a church staff would ever not want to engage with people, phone, email, sunday, twitter…whatever. If people want to connect I just can’t think of an excuse not to connect. I would think it would be a priority.


  • John B. Chilton
    December 8, 2010

    Is there an easy way to tweet your posts? I didn’t see it.


  • Adam Young
    December 8, 2010

    To Drew: I am on staff at my church, and I’m the one monitoring the Twitter feed. I use Tweetdeck, where I monitor my personal twitter, the twitter for my human trafficking taskforce group, and the church one. Tweetdeck makes it easy to monitor it at a glance.


  • Vince
    December 8, 2010

    Churches who don’t respond:

    Stop using Twitter, you’re breaking the internet!


  • Joanne
    December 8, 2010

    We use FB much more than twitter, but we have the feeds tied together. We have so much interaction on FB from our congregation that we don’t look at twitter too often (after reading this I will check it more often). Mainly cause we have found for our people they use FB much more. Most posted get replied to within minutes, if it needs a pastoral touch. We tend to find a pastor to respond within a half an hour to post a reply. We also learned that we can’t have pastors as an admin on the account. That way our congregation sees our pastors interacting as part of our FB community.


  • Ben Clapton
    December 8, 2010

    At a conference I went to recently, a session on social media metrics recommended the following strategy for the baseline period – that is, when you’re not in the middle of a campaign. It was entitled 5-5-5+ and it works like this (for twitter):
    Each day, you should try to post 5 tweets of original content, 5 replies to other peoples tweets, 5 retweets, and then any other posts such as taking part in #FF (follow friday) or other memes like that. That way, you are taking part in the twitterverse, making a contribution of your own content, but also focussing on the community just as much as yourself. If you get into the habit of it, you’ll soon find it very easy to use, and you’ll actually start getting good conversions through to your website when you start pushing your campaigns.


  • Tim Owens
    December 9, 2010

    It’s interesting that the entire basis of the argument is that “Because this is how Twitter works for me, this is how everyone else should use it.” A few things to think about:

    1. An relative of mine, a 20 year old college student, never “engages in the 2 way social media street” like everyone wants to think. She follows people on twitter so she can read what is going on. She never replies, never messages.

    2. Can twitter not be used simply as a tool to publish quick status updates to a website? If, as a developer, I setup someone with a simple way to send an SMS and have a box on their website show what’s going on at the church is it a bad thing if they never respond to you directly via that protocol?

    There are so many assumptions being made by the article and the comments here on people’s intentions, it would be nice for everyone to step back and realize that social media and strategy is different things to different people. I don’t think that’s something that this simple test can draw any conclusions from.


  • Lauren Hunter
    December 9, 2010

    Great post – it reminds me just how important having an overall church communications strategy in place is. Twitter should absolutely be a part of this plan. If there isn’t sufficient manpower to oversee Twitter, then it’s probably better not to have an official church handle so as not to mislead people that someone is actually monitoring it.


  • Danny Ferguson
    December 10, 2010

    My church has twitter, but I’m not sure they know why. The problem stems with any “business” that thinks that people will simply come to them because they exist. On twitter it is not so much about the billboards as it is the conversation. I would love to see live discussions on the sermons during church and that the pastors would have the twitter account not the church secretaries. It is impersonal. Cool test. Keep it up.


  • Chris Syme
    December 11, 2010

    I am concerned about “formulas” for effective Twitter use. A good strategy is just to customize it to what you want to use it for. My church doesn’t have enough going on to pump out five tweets a day. But Ben brings up a great point–retweets and curating for your followers. I echo all the sentiment here–if you’re not going to monitor it, don’t use it. It just becomes more noise. You can use Twitter to broadcast, but monitor, answer and curate. Greg- I put on a free seminar on social media for nonprofits and churches in the fall and sent out invites to all churches in town (@25). Many of the churches I invited didn’t even have a method of contacting them online. Many had contact forms (ugh) and I only got a response one way or another from one. 90% of the nonprofits answered, thanked me for the invite and either accepted or declined. Are churches really that busy that they can’t communicate with people?


  • Chris Syme
    December 12, 2010

    Interesting statistics out today on Twitter use from Pew Research found here: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1821/twitter-users-profile-exclusive-examination
    It seems that 21% of Twitter users never check for material posted by others. Hmmm. Other interesting takeaways–take a look.


  • Joel Natalie
    December 14, 2010

    The HootSuite app for Android keeps me up on all @mentions, including the church’s account. However, I need to find something that will alert me to wall posts on our Facebook page…the FB Android app is pretty lame (not even able to post to the church page from it).


  • Sarah
    December 20, 2010

    It seems that churches should take advantage of Twitter as much, if not more than Facebook. Twitter provides a venue for frequently updating status. So, if the church is having a women’s Bible study that night, they can quickly remind churchgoers. If there’s a church cancellation due to weather, the church can update their Twitter feed. It could potentially be a great outlet for the church.


  • Jim Miller
    December 22, 2010

    Anyone else feel like Twitter is already dated and a touch redundant? Our church uses it, but doesn’t count on it.


  • Mark Vernik
    April 7, 2012

    Great point. Promotion without response to the “social” side of media is like receiving that wonderful “bulk mail”.


  • Church in Jacksonville
    May 30, 2014

    I found this article when googling “a good example of a great church twitter ad” and this article came up. It makes me wonder if using twitter ads is a good thing now or not. What are you thoughts on that? We use facebook ads but I have been considering using twitter to increase our following and exposure. I would love your thoughts. Thanks and good article. It has caused me to be more focused on our own twitter account and make sure we respond and not use it as a megaphone but as a dialogue.



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