Tech In Ministry: Twitter

A few weeks back, I started a series on Tech In Ministry. This is the second blog in that series.

Some Background

When Twitter came out back in 2006 I was one of the scoffers. “Great, now I can read about what people had for lunch on Facebook and Twitter!” Most often this statement was accompanied with a huge rolling of the eyes or gagging sound. I’d been through several social networks already, and I wasn’t so interested in investing time in a new one.

Then it happened. One of my favorite bands took to Twitter. A group that I’d had interactions with on a fan forum (yes, I geek out over certain music groups) exchanged direct interaction through the forums for direct interaction on Twitter. So I caved. I wanted updates on their new music. I wanted to know when a new tour was starting and what music they were recommending. And while I was at it, I decided to follow a few other organizations, individuals, and bands that I didn’t know personally but was interested in hearing from occasionally. And I got it.

Facebook is very much a place for “Friends”. People who you know personally and want to be able see what is going on in their lives. Their Facebook profile might even be a destination. Twitter is not that.

The people you follow on Twitter are not a destination. The information is incidental. You likely won’t look at much of the tweet history of an account you follow, but you’d be happy to see what they have to say if you stumble across it. It’s a firehose of information that you can choose to engage for thirty seconds or thirty minutes. Please don’t spend 30 consecutive minutes on Twitter… Just… Don’t.

So, now we know why you might have a personal Twitter. Why should you use Twitter for ministry? How do you use Twitter for ministry? Lets start with the first one:

Why Should You Use Twitter For Ministry?

If you are a youth minister, there is a good chance that the people you minister to have a Twitter account. They also likely have a Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, and a hundred other accounts that you will never be able to keep track of. But they most likely have a Twitter. They most likely use that Twitter account. They are probably venting stuff on that Twitter account. Teens today are pretty open on Twitter. Some of them may be too open. Regardless, Twitter is a thing that youth culture has chosen to embrace. Spend enough time watching your teens twitter accounts, and you’ll learn a lot about them. Which means that your presence there matters.

More concisely:

  1. You should use Twitter for ministry because it’s where your teens are.
  2. You should use Twitter for ministry because it’s where your teens are open.
  3. You should use Twitter for ministry because it’s where your teens are sharing who they are.

How Do You Use Twitter For Ministry?

Follow your teens. This step is kind of important. If you follow them, they’ll likely follow you. Don’t be the creeper that only uses their personal Twitter account to follow the teens in their youth group, though. There are a lot of other really interesting Twitter feeds to follow. If you’re a parent, you’ll get a kick out of Honest Toddler. If you like Myth Busters, follow Adam Savage or Jamie Hyneman. As a youth minister I wince and laugh at Youth Group Boy. Regardless of who you are and what you do, there is content on Twitter that will resonate with you.

Now that we’ve insured you aren’t the 20-??something person exclusively following a bunch of teenagers on a social networking site, lets talk about what you’re going to tweet. If you’re using a personal account, tweet about your life. Quotes you’ve found that you find interesting, links to articles about faith, a daily scripture, and just about anything else that you think is appropriate for the group you work with.

Workflow

When using Twitter personally, there often isn’t a need for great preparation in what, how, or how often you tweet. I’d argue that these three matter in a big way for someone who is tweeting for an organization. It’s important to have content coming out of your Twitter account because of the way people engage Twitter. If you want it to be a useful tool, you need to take some time and make some preparation. This starts with picking the right app to manage your account.

While one can certainly use Twitter in a browser (and by some indications, that’s what Twitter would prefer you do), there are a number of outstanding applications with great feature sets out there for anyone looking to use Twitter in a more serious way.

TweetDeck Screenshot

TweetDeck for Mac allows for a very customized experience.

My application of choice is TweetDeck. TweetDeck allows for you to manage multiple accounts (if you want to keep your personal account and ministry account separate, as I do). It also allows you to compose tweets and schedule them for future dates and times. This is especially handy if you want to do a daily Bible verse, or would like to remind people about an event as it gets closer.

But TweetDeck isn’t the only app that offers these features. HootSuite, allows for managing multiple social networks in a single app, including Facebook and Google+.

If you don’t need these additional features, Twitterrific is a great application for iOS devices (though the Mac version is not quite as good), and DestroyTwitter is a good option for anyone on either Windows or Mac. And regardless of your mobile platform, about two minutes of searching can turn up a fairly decent Twitter client.

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