Is The Social Media Gravy Train Over… Part 1

Image Credit: The Social Observer

For a while I have been watching the progress and evolution of social media, with a particular focus on how the Church uses it.

There are definitely three camps out there:

  1. We get it and use it
  2. We use it but we don’t get it
  3. Social what?

Sadly there are not enough people in Camp 1 — people who really understand social media, and are using it well to further Christianity.

This is a shame as it is very possible that the wheels are coming off the social media train, and those that are not already using what is probably the most powerful way of communicating, have possibly missed the chance.

And this is very sad. Opportunity lost.

I have been a big (read massive) supporter of the Church using social media and have been an advocate since its earliest days as I could see the potential to reach millions of people in the most personal and impactful way ever.

So why do I think the wheels are coming off?

Two reasons (I will deal with just the first this week)

  1. Fake news
  2. Commercial gain

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word of the year for 2017 is ‘Fake News’. Fake News of course is the spread of fake news generated to discredit or just to create a reaction.

Fake News is so prevelant and powerful, that it is being attributed to the political upheavals generated by Brexit and Donald Trump.

But there is a much bigger impact.

According to the most recent research, articles on the internet are only trusted by 37% of people. This is less than half the number that trust traditional print sources, and includes even the sources we would normally like to trust.

Trust in social media credibility has been broken.

But so what?

Trust is something that is hard to come by and hard to get back if breached. Sometimes it can never be put back, no matter how hard you try.

So when something as prevalent as social media starts to lose its trust, everyone — even those who are truthful — are marred with the same brush.

The net effect of course is that where a Church could publish good news, testimonials and stories of hope, they are being viewed through the same sceptical lens as the stories that show 27 Ways Celebrities Met Their Partners or any headline that ends with ‘and what happened next was shocking’.

All credibility lost.

If this is the case (and the evidence suggests it is) then we need to start to look at a different approach.

Interestingly, according to Pew Research, growth in churches is being dominated by one factor — Authenticity.

Gone are the days when we can add a smoke machine, some flashy lights and a decent camera or ten. We need to get more authentic, and with that we need to think about how we build authentic community.

How do we do this? Part of it is going old school; basically just loving people. But we can also develop our own network based on something called Deep Interest Network.

What are Deep Interest Networks? Much smaller social media environments that are significantly more transparent and the ability to drive trust is much greater.

The danger of these smaller circles is the lack of diverse thinking, but careful planning and awareness can resolve this, and the future is much more community (online or physical) focused than ever before.

If you are running a church or have some influence, you would do well to start investigating deep interest networks now and grab hold of it with both hands.

But that’s not the only reason I think the wheels are falling off… but lets talk about that bag of nails next week.


I would love to hear your insights, so please do get in touch by emailing hello@digitalchurch.com.


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