If social media is like the town square, Twitter is the center of the square while other social media is the restaurants and shops around the edge. Being a super-public forum, it is a great place to engage culture beyond your real-life friends. On twitter connecting to thousands or sending tons of messages is acceptable and almost normal. Its no-limits nature allows those who figure it out to get a lot out of it.
All freelancers who want to promote their books, public speaking, or articles should be on twitter. Parishes and others who only seek to contact a small group of 50 to 500 people should see if many of those you want to contact are on. Twitter use is not universal like Facebook. I want to look at 5 differences and 7 tips for using it well.
This is a follow-up to my post 7 Social Media Secrets in Catholic Youth Ministry. Since that seems to have had success for others in Catholic ministry, I expand this post for all Catholic ministries but my examples still come from youth ministry.
Let’s examine 5 big differences Twitter has with other social media:
Simplicity: Facebook has page likes, post likes, comments, comment likes, shares, friends, followers, places, pages, users, etc. Twitter only has tweeps (users), and tweets. All you can do to a tweet is reply, retweet, or favorite. The simplicity is like that of a motorcycle (2 wheels) vs. a car (4 wheels) – it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to learn.
Connections: In most other social media making a connection is by mutual agreement, on twitter anyone can follow anyone. Once you follow someone (what the connection is called) it is valued the same as all your other connections. There are few limits on following others that only the most aggressive freelancers may sometimes need to consider.
Public-Private: Unlike Facebook where most posts are for friends only, the default setting on Twitter is 100% public and most accounts are public.
Language: On twitter all the abbreviations u ever imagined r used 2 fit into 140 characters. As well you need to understand that your user name becomes your name. “@22Catholic Can u pls pray 4 my mom” is a completely polite message to me on twitter.
Hastags and trending: Twitter wants to connect every corner of the globe, not just friends. Hashtags where several words are squished together preceded by a hash to link all the tweets. Trending show s the top topics people are talking about in a certain area. Trending can be controlled by a big enough group of people, for example we got #ITrustinU trending at 3pm on the feast of the Sacred Heart.
Now how can we use this to spread the Gospel? Here’s 7 tips to use Twitter well in Catholic ministry.
Connections are one way in twitter but if you want to connect with people you need to follow them back once they follow you. You don’t need to follow everyone (some are spambots) but at least those whose connection is important to you. My rule is that if the person includes something distinctly Christian in their profile, I follow back. Your circumstances may merit something else, for instance youth ministers may focus on following back everyone in the neighbor but not care about a nice priest from another state. If you’re Cardinal Dolan or Fr Frank Pavone, you don’t need to follow back since you’re already a public figure but I doubt their reading my blog. (If you get enough followers, you need to start lists where you read most tweets and not pay much attention to the home screen.)
If you want to grow, you also need to seek out those who might want to follow you and follow them so they can follow you back.
On twitter you need to be yourself, but be your public self. I’m not dividing who you are but Facebook is much better than twitter for cute baby photos, vacation plans, or the like. Twitter is about talking to the whole world while Facebook is often more intimate.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. It is very hard to over-communicate in Twitter since your messages pass down the screen fast and are usually only seen by a small percent of your followers. If you are having an event Saturday, tweeting 3+ different reminders for the same event during the week is not at all problematic. Whereas in FB, sending more that 2 or 3 updates a day is super-active, sending 15-20 tweets a day is no problem (you likely don’t have time for that much).
Don’t be afraid of multiple accounts. If you are the youth minister, you may want to set up one @StFrancisYM and one @JoeKSmith. That allows you to pass on one to the next person and keep your own Plus it allows one to be for youth ministry announcements while the other is your own reflections. You can link the 2 accounts by including each in the other’s bio. (I’ve not followed this well and now need to split my account.)
Follow top Catholic tweeters to get ideas. By retweeting us, you’ll have good stuff to tweet every day so people remember your account. Here’s a short lists of great Catholic tweeters – whose tweets alone are valuable. These may not all be the most famous
1st: @Pontifex – The Pope (obvious…)
2nd: @22Catholic – that’s my account: I tweet phrases, quotes, mini-homilies, and you’ll be reminded of new posts on this blog. You can follow without leaving this page by scrolling up on the right.
3rd: @LT_TheBibleGeek – Mark Hart is the VP of Life Teen and the author of several books for teens. He has great one-liners.
4th: @CathTools – Fr Nathan Miller, LC is a priest-friend who also tweets cool phrases like Mark Hart. He’s often more adult directed.
5th: @FrLarryRichards – the only priest who I’ve seen consistently quote the Bible and give a homily in 140 characters
8th: Your diocese, your bishop, the office of youth ministry, etc. – You want to be in the loop.
Tweet at the right time. Tweets fall in line by time (to the millisecond) so you want to tweet just when the audience you want to reach is on Twitter. To do this I recommend Buffer (which I use). It lets you tweet always at a specific time of the day (for instance a parish youth group probably wants to tweet right after school and again in the evening). Once you set the schedule just fill up your buffer with 10 tweets you want your followers to see.
Respond to others on Twitter. If you want to grow on Twitter, you need to respond to others, that means replying to and favoriting tweets. If someone tweets to you (this will appear in the “connect” section atop Twitter), you should reply or favorite most of the time. The odd time it is spam or trolls (people who look for pointless arguments) which is best to ignore. This also means participating in things on Twitter like the #CatholicFollowChain or various twitterstorms.
Those are the main tips I see for effectively using Twitter to advance the Gospel and the Catholic Church. I’m sure some of you have others. Please add them in the comments. If my post didn’t clear up twitter for you, Catholic Tech Talk posted some interesting rules 2 years ago.