Early on in our preparation to launch MERGE, I asked Kem Meyer, our communications director, what it would take to create our own social networking site for MERGE or even GCC. Kem is much better at these things than me, so she spoke with stunning wisdom and clarity. It was something like, "um, Jason... have you heard of Facebook? Why not just use that?" Brilliant. You might be thinking, "wow jason. it takes a web guru to point you to facebook?" Yep.
Thanks to Kem's insight, we've had a Facebook group for MERGE since the beginning. I can't imagine doing college ministry without it. Each week when we meet, we invite people to track us down on Facebook. The group is also linked from our page on gccwired.com. Here's why it works for us:
- Everyone is already using it. With 175 million users, it's a part of people's everyday life, so why not meet them where they already are?
- People elect to join the group, so we know we're not 'spamming' anyone who doesn't want the messages we send to group members with MERGE updates.
- It's easy to create events related to the group, and the response is terrific. We'll create an event and invite the MERGE group members, and within 30 minutes we'll already have 50 responses. With time, we've learned that it's normal to have a 3:5 ratio between 'yes' RSVPs and actual event attendance. The ratio might be different for your group, but with just a few events you'll get a feel for what to expect.
- It lets me (and anyone else at MERGE) place names and faces. A quick scroll through the member list reinforces the connections I made during the last Wednesday night. It's also a great way to ask myself "who should I be inviting onto the team?"
The bottom line is that it works. It's a natural way for the MERGE crowd to connect, and that equals a win for us.
Are you using Facebook in your ministry? What have you learned? What about other web-based social media? Are any of you working with internet campuses? I'd love to hear from you. Whether you're a ministry leader or simply on the user end of a ministry's online presence, I'd love to learn from your experience.
See you in the comments...