The final observation that I have seen as it relates to social media and the church has to do with what I call “The Ripple Effect.” It’s not a new concept at all, the idea of people being like stones thrown into a pond, making ripples, but it’s an important one when it comes time to consider the influences that your people have on spreading the word about your church and faith community to their broad base of connections within social media.
If your faith community is made up of 400 people of which 75% are connected to social media and each of them have 100 unique friends (in other words, there are no overlaps or mutual friends among them), and 50% of that friend base is local, you can reach 15,000 people. While those numbers are speculative, the power of the “ripple” is significant. I hear something from you, I share it with all of my friends who in turn share it with their friends who share it with their friends, and so on and so on. All of us a sudden, your sphere of influence has increased significantly.
You can never underestimate the power of “word of mouth” publicity. People are going to be much more trusting of people that they know, so if people are talking about your church, chances are good that the people who are connected to them will be listening. This publicity goes both ways too, so you need to be careful. As easily as good words about your church could travel throughout social media, bad words can travel equally as fast. It can’t be denied that the ripple effects can impact churches for the good or the bad.
The power of instant information in our technology rich society is significant. It has changed the way that companies do business and how they handle customer relations, wouldn’t you think that churches would also rethink the way that they do things as well? As I wrote a few days ago, to deny the power of social media and the power of its influence is to commit technological suicide. The ripples of social media are felt throughout churches as well, tapping into those ripples and letting them be used for their benefit would seem to be a smart move on the part of churches.
It’s a new day and technology can no longer be denied its influence. By tapping into it, churches can significantly increase the number of people whom they are reaching. It can save them money on mass mailers, advertising, and other mediocre means by which people can be reached. The best part of the power of it is that it’s mostly free too. Find a couple of bright youth who can figure their way around a computer and you’ve got yourself some pretty fascinating graphics and pages. Even if you have to pay for some digital design (which is probably a pretty good idea for the investment) it feels much more beneficial and worthwhile than spending some of the money that churches have generally spent in the past on advertising.
This whole world of social media is still new enough that the jury may still be out on it for many people. It’s something that I am watching carefully and regularly. I’m curious to watch the trends in the future and see how long its effectiveness sticks around. For now, I’m going to keep tapping into the ripples and see what they can do, keeping in mind that they can go for us or against us. I’m going to see how influential we can be without moving past the digital page. We’ll see how it goes!