At the Proclaim 2016 conference at Chatswood in early September 2016 (#proclaim2016), there was a spread of social media savvy types in attendance who did a reasonable job collectively of live tweeting memorable parts of the conference content and using the hashtag to enable them to be easily found. The benefits being 1) that those who attended and tweeted have the possibility of connecting with each other post-conference 2) bite sized reminders of the conference content became available to read later on and get re-energised by, and 3) those who were unable to attend the conference were able to take part in it and follow it through the social media postings – thereby multiplying the numbers of those who heard those messages well beyond the number of people the auditorium could hold.
Go to any writers (#CYA2016 early July 2016) or business conference (#SCBWISyd) and they will do an even better job of utilizing the multiplication effect of social media. However, it does pay to have a unique hashtag that no one else is likely to use – otherwise it all gets buried under later events that use the same hashtag.
Hashtags are your great helper in sharing good content, and in allowing others to find it. However, to be effective the hashtag for each event needs to be unique. #aussiepilgrim was not unique for World Youth Day because lots of other non-WYD travelers abroad used it. #sse17pat was more successful as a hashtag than #sse17 because any three letter acronym can have multiple meanings, for example #ccr can refer to both the pop group Creedence Clearwater Revival and to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. #sse can refer to the business event called the Sweets and Snacks Expo and not just Summer School of Evangelisation.
Hashtags are powerful because search engines can find them across all the major social media websites.
Find a hashtag for your event that is no more than 12 characters long, and make sure it is unique. Test the uniqueness by plugging your hashtag options into a search engine like Google.
Print that hashtag on all your printed matter for your event, and in an easy to find place on your event's website. Flash it up on the sight screens for your event 2 or 3 times a day.
I've been at play in the social media world for a while now: Xt3 since 2008; Blogging since late 2011; Facebook since the beginning of 2013; LinkedIn since 2014; Twitter since mid-2015 and Instagram since mid-2016. So I have seen the power of social media at work to disseminate information, and know that it can be used for great good. That's why I get so utterly frustrated when I see it being used poorly.
In the last 12 months I have been paying particular attention to how big evangelistic events in the Catholic world are reported on social media. The report card says, 'Can do much better' and the surprising thing is that it is our young people - and those who lead them – who are the worst at it. Only those in diocesan curia's tasked with capturing and sharing episcopal photo opportunities seem to have a clue, and writers who have (or who hope to have) religious books published.
For example the World Youth Day Krakow 2016 report card goes something like this: Lots of happy pilgrim photos, lots of photos of beautiful pilgrimage sites and extraordinary churches, plenty of photos of WYD events but….poor hashtag co-ordination and if you were following a young person's pilgrimage and hoping for a snippet of teaching from one of the catechesis sessions, from one of the pilgrimage homilies or one of the Pope's speeches you were doomed to disappointment.
It was similar when I tried to follow the Ignite Youth conference in Brisbane. A single mention of something Sr Hilda OSB said in a workshop was the sum total of actual teaching content shared.
DOJ Summer Schools of Evangelisation at Bathurst and Paterson, and the SOJ Share the Holy Spirit conference were no different. There were lots of photos of happy people, but nothing at all about the teaching given.
Light to the Nations is a biannual event over the Easter Triduum that attracted over 1000 people this year. Again there were lots of photos of happy people and live action Stations of the Cross and candle lit Easter Vigil, but as to the teaching given? The homily on Holy Thursday night mentioned something about keeping in tune with the beat of Jesus. That is all I was able to glean - and I searched and searched.
The big weekend held for the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal was sadly no exception. A few photographs, and enormous difficulty locating a hashtag that people were using for it. Like WYD Krakow it was a mishmash of hashtags, and no real content. Thankfully the talks were livestreamed and I was able to watch them afterwards. I wanted to go back and transcribe them, but they were taken offline and now you have to pay to get access to them https://something-like-real-pictures.myshopify.com/ The talks were truly excellent.
Many of my friends were lucky enough to go to Rome for Pentecost and the preceding 3 days of conferencing and workshops, preceded by a retreat in Assisi. Several of them have had social media presences for many years, but did I find anything in their posts about what they learned or what inspired them? Nooooo! Aargh!! The most that was posted was that such and such a talk was very good, or how our souls should be like the magnificent churches in Rome as dwelling places for Jesus. It wasn't only them either, it is a global problem. Thankfully many of those talks and workshops were recorded and are available online http://www.vocepiu.it/GoldenJubilee/ Thankfully Zenit Francais tweeted some of the content from the Pentecost Vigil and Google translate did its best, but sadly they were the only ones doing it. The recording given in the Pentecost Vigil link above didn't come with any English translation voiceovers.
What a lot of wasted effort!
A) Because for the want of a few extra words the impact of your social media posts could have been so much greater and B) Think of the time and effort that went into preparing the talk you heard. If it was good it deserved to be shared among a wider audience than just those who heard it at the venue.
What a lot of very easy opportunities to share the good news of Jesus with social networks missed!
We often say that a picture is worth a 1000 words. That's true if you are trying to describe a scene, but many pictures lack value unless they are put in context with a few explanatory words about Who, What, When, Where and especially Why.
There may have been better content posted, but I wasn't able to find it because a relevant hashtag wasn't attached to it.
Let's look at some biblical principles
1 Cor 11:23 For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you.
The privilege of being at these amazing events of faith is not for ourselves alone, we need to pass the good stuff on to others. Social media is a non-threatening way of doing just that.
And it is so easy to do!
Eph 3:29b-30a Let your words be for the improvement of others, as occasion offers, and do good to your listeners, otherwise you will only be grieving the Holy Spirit of God.
Add some words and a hashtag to your images, words that will help you reconnect with that moment later on and words that will help your readers and viewers connect with it too.
For example, an early morning photo of the campsite says something on its own about beauty. But if you added words like, 'I woke up tired after the long Holy Thursday night session last night, but this early morning sunshine lifted my spirits. I feel it's a gift of God to me. It is like He is preparing me for the day, just like last night He prepared His disciples for the unfathomable gift of the Eucharist by washing their feet #LTTN17' it becomes something much more.
For the love of God don't post, 'My friend XX gave a particularly anointed talk today' and then not share some of what your friend said. It only needs to be a sentence or two. For example Damian Stayne's talk in Rome was so good it needs to be shared widely. One of the things he said was, 'The charisms are not an optional extra like the sunroof on a car, they are essential, as essential as the steering wheel.' The former is frustrating to anyone who comes across it, the latter is something worth pondering on and may even intrigue people enough to watch the video recording.
1 Sam 3:19 Samuel grew up and the Lord God was with him and let no word of His fall to the ground.
Get into the practice of taking a photo at each session you attend – usually as it begins is best - then spend a minute or two when the session ends recalling the part of it that meant the most to you. Write it down. If you have time, post it then, otherwise post it later when you can. We forget so much of what happened in a session like that, even 24 hours later most of it has faded. If you capture even a sentence that spoke to you from each session, collectively they will help you discern what God's message was to you from the whole event.
Even better if you are the MC for an event, or the person giving the verbal thanks after a talk, or the person giving the talk, help people to do it. It isn't difficult. Just say, 'Before we go off to morning tea (or the next session) let us pause for a moment. If anything struck you from this talk, write it down now. A single sentence summary of what you heard God say to you though it would be ideal. Or a single sentence summary of what you think is worth remembering from it. Let's do that now….Good. Our speaker is happy for you to take a photograph. If you are on social media, share what you want to remember using the hashtag (and remind them what the hashtag for your event is).
Sharing even one of those thoughts on social media could help someone else enormously.
For an event, I'm likely to pick the best one-liner of the day and Tweet that when I get home. After each talk I'm likely to do a quick summary on Instagram. If it is very good, I will take the time to write out my notes in full and share them in a blog-post. Then if the content warrants it, the blog-post gets shared via Facebook and/or Twitter. Using the event hashtag on all of them, of course.
Do what works for you, but do something to share the good teaching you have received.
The days of people who believe in Jesus not being on social media need to be over. Realise that more and more people are thinking that if you can’t find something on the internet or on social media, then it didn't happen.
Facebook is the best social media site for connecting with people in your own locality. Parishes and youth groups, and those seeking to run Alpha courses and RCIA courses, you need to understand this and use it for good. It is possible, if you pay a small fee, to get posts targeted to postcodes.
Twitter is where the thinkers are. Twitter is where you can easily share links to good blog-posts or newspaper articles, and where you can find the good stuff too. There are a lot of good and holy people producing excellent content that doesn't get the readership it deserves because too few believers are online, reading and liking and retweeting.
If you want to be able to find a particularly good bit of content later on, for Facebook share it, and for Twitter re-tweet it. That content will then show up on your profile page for whichever social media site you used.
Instagram is where the youngsters are. If you want to connect with them, you need to be using it. Instagram is where the creatives are. Mobile devices are what Instagram works with. Instagram access via computer has much less functionality. It is much harder to share a link on Instagram, but then you aren't restricted to 140 characters and can write as much or as little as you wish.
Remember your likes, comments, shares and retweets matter. The more a social media post gets, the wider it gets shared and the more likely it is via the various algorithms to hit your inbox and the inbox of your friends. Those who posted them need the encouragement, too. Even if you share a social media post, only a fraction of your friends will see it pop up in their social media feed. However if both you and a friend share the same post, a higher number of both your friends will see it. The increase is lesser for likes, but they still make a difference, and comments are somewhere in the middle.
Trolls. Yes, they exist. Don't be one. Don't feed them attention. They roam around the online sphere looking for something they disagree with and then let it rip. The better your content is, the more likely it is to help someone towards conversion to Jesus, the more likely the first comment will be from a member of the trolls. Reading 'One Body, Many Blogs' will help.
But if you are called to be a social media apostle, then you really should be blogging. Of all the social media options, the work you do on a blog is the most long lasting, posts on Facebook and Twitter will eventually get buried by new content, and that happens even faster with Instagram and SnapChat.
If this sounds like you (and heaven knows we need social media apostles and many more of them), view this interview with Brendan Vogt on The Journey Home program back in 2011. Get a vision for it from him.
Hint: If you don't leave home without a notebook and pen, and always take notes when listening to a talk, then you should definitely consider a ministry in social media. It doesn't have to be much of a commitment, just a regular one; like 30 mins once a week reading and liking and sharing, and 30 mins once a week writing and posting about something that matters to both you and God.
If you are a grandparent and you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then you most definitely need to be on social media in order to connect with your grandchildren and to provide some occasional online reminders that God is real and active in people's lives. You don't have to be on all the social media sites, just the one your grandchildren use the most.
For those who have waded through all my rants and pleas, a reward is in order.
Towards the end of the Pentecost Vigil at the Circus Maximus in Rome, gathered together with the Pope and some 30-50,000 others, Patti Mansfield one of the two earthly protagonists of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal was inspired to give a prophetic word. It is about 15 minutes from the end of the video recording, just after everyone say, 'Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me'.
'Lift up your eyes and see that the fields are white for harvest and if you would obey Me and if you would obey the prompting of My Spirit you will yet see infinitely more than you can ask or imagine you will yet see power of my Spirit descend upon the human race. I tell you the fields are white for harvest but I need your obedience, I need your docility and I need your faith and you will yet see marvels that will astound you infinitely more than you can ask or imagine for the glory of My name.'
Everyone needs to hear this, and act on it…but I am still waiting for those who actually were there to share this prophetic word and mention in online. We have a duty to share the good stuff. Please join me in doing it.
Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles, pray for us.
St Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, pray for us.
St Maximillian Kolbe, Media Apostle, pray for us.