Show empathy when publishing content to your digital platforms. Failing to do so can result in problems that range from humorous to downright offensive. It is easy to schedule posts for your website and social media channels. Yet I caution you to review your posts before they go live. Add a personal touch that will prevent mistakes and add authenticity.
Automation is what computers excel at. Yet, in a world where we want to forge digital relationships, this may not work. We want to be authentic, and we certainly do not want to offend. Here are some ways we can avoid social media blunders.
Many people configure tools such as If This Then That to automatically respond to certain events. A common scenario is someone follows your church, and you send them a thank you message. This is a great way to start a dialog, even though it is obviously canned. The trouble starts when using automated responses to certain hashtags. First, you will publically display how insincere you are. Your Twitter stream will be nothing but a long list of obviously automated posts. Worse is that your response may be inappropriate or even offensive.
Choose your words carefully, and be mindful of events around the world. To tie in the previous topic, let us consider a scheduled social media post. On Monday you used HootSuite to send an update to all your digital platforms about an "explosive new sermon series that will rock your world". Your post gets sent on Wednesday afternoon as planned. Yet Wednesday morning there is a horrific bombing with high casualties. Do you see how your post could be considered in poor taste? Be aware of events and change the language of your posts if necessary.
If you are going to use hashtags in social media posts, research them first. There have been many situations where a hashtag was already in use. Sometimes a group or movement is already associated with it. Worse, it is not something you want your church associated with. Research them to ensure they are unique or at least no longer in use.
Caution your social media teams on the danger of automating too much. Take a day to create and schedule all your posts. Then review them the morning prior to their posting. This habit will take extra time, but it should help prevent social media missteps. Second, take the time to respond to every interaction. If you grow to the point where this becomes difficult, recruit more volunteers. This is a great problem to have, so meet it with joy. Lastly, keep up to date with the world's most recent events. Be respectful and sensitive to people's feelings and do your best to show the love Christ taught us.
Photo courtesy of Ned Horton