Today, social media and technology have allowed church leaders and ministers to express themselves freely. Broadcasting your sermons, thoughts, opinion and point of view to the entire world is as simple as clicking the ‘live’ button on a mobile app. While the ease of technology is empowering, sadly it has also given rise to the habit of talking more and listening less, specially online and on social media.
Whether it is online or offline the basic rule of communication remains the same – communication is a two-way street, and it is effective only when you learn to ‘listen & talk’ in equal proportion.
What is social media listening?
A simple definition: It is the art of tracking the public, online conversations that your audience or potential audience have about you and your ministry, specifically on social media.
Out of the 7 billion people on this planet 2.6 Billion are already using social media to communicate with other fellow human beings on a regular basis. They are communicating and having conversations with their family, friends, colleagues, etc.
Wouldn’t it be good if you know which of these conversations are about you and your ministry?
Sometimes it need not be even about you, but it could be about the topic that you are interested in. For Example: If you serve people as a Family Ministry, wouldn’t you like to know about the conversations that people are having on social media about topics like marriage, divorce and parenting? Wouldn’t that be helpful for you to know how to fulfil your calling in a more efficient way by knowing what people are talking about?
That is why the topic of social media listening is important to understand.
How to improve the social media listening skills of your team?
Social media listening needs to start long before you say the very first word on social media.
Listening should be part of your initial preparation. Everything you do online (campaigns, posts, ads, etc) should be based on what you have learnt from listening keenly to your existing and potential audience. For example: In my earlier blog post, I wrote about content ideas for social media. Listening to the conversations on social media is a great way to get content ideas by knowing what your audience want and then creating relevant content.
That is why involving your ministry team and creating a ‘culture of listening’ in your organisation is important. Here is a list of 3 steps you could take to help your team improve their social media listening skills.
Step 1. Educate your team about social media listening
Most team members in a ministry team have the right attitude about ‘listening’ in real life. But what they may lack is the understanding of online/social media listening. So, organise a training program to help them understand how social media works and how conversations need to be tracked. For example, knowing how ‘hashtags’ work and how people use hashtags to talk about a particular topic online, can help your team understand how online conversations work. You could also educate them about various conversations medium like comments, posts, shares, video chats, private media (messenger) chats, etc
Step 2. Empower them with social media monitoring tools
Once you educate your team, now you need to empower them with tools that will help them listen to social media conversations that are happening globally on various platforms. The listening tools are popularly known as ‘social media monitoring’ tools. There are specialised monitoring tools like Google Alerts (free), BuzzSumo, Mention, Awario and Nuvi that focus on online listening. But most of social media management tools that you may already be using for scheduling posts, like Hootsuite and Agora Pulse, also come with listening tools built into them. The advantage in using an existing tool for listening is that your team need not open multiple apps to monitor conversations. Do a research and equip your team with the right tools that will help them listen.
Step 3. Encourage them with results
Nothing encourages teams like results. So schedule a regular review meeting with your ministry team and share stories or experiences of how their social media listening effort has helped people. Track phone calls, emails, chat conversations, etc., that people use to share feedback/testimonies and watch if any proactive steps taken by your ministry monitoring team has been helpful to others. Share these results with your team and encourage them.
Bonus Tip: Handling criticism on social media
When you start listening to social media conversation be prepared to notice criticism and negative feedback. It is part of social media. If its not already happening, its good, but it will eventually happen.
As Christians, we are experts in the art of being nice. We think that the expression of love is all about saying nice things to people. But expression of love, as we can see from the life of Jesus, is not just about being nice, however, but about being right. While you as a leader often practice saying the right things to people (with love), should also learn to receive straight and honest feedback (which comes to you with love).
This openness to feedback will help you re-examine what you have implemented and consider how you can improve it. There will always be room for improvement in everything that you do as a ministry. If you do not have an open attitude to feedback and react sharply and defensively to every single criticism, then eventually people will stop telling you the right things, knowing it upsets you. You may lose the great opportunity to get quality, honest feedback from your colleagues, users and ministry audience who love you. So keep yourself open and be ready to listen.
If you have any specific questions or thoughts related to social media listening, please share them using the comments section.
Stay Connected. Stay Blessed.