Monday, July 25, 2011

Social Media

I've spoken about blogs and facebook, but the evolving world of social media is continually bringing us new ways of connecting. Recently, and reluctantly, I accepted an invitation to join Google+. (Let me know if you want an invite.) So I'll talk a bit about my take on Google+ as well as on Twitter as I've also been a Twit for quite a while now. Whether you choose to use social media or not it is good to be aware of what's out there and how you might be able to leverage it in your ministry.

Twitter

I have been tweeting under the name PomoRev for a few years now. I know a lot of people like Twitter and keep it streaming on their desktops. I tried this for a bit but found it way too distracting. I do like to drop in on it once and a while and see what is trending. Trending is basically a snapshot of what topics people are talking about the most.

What Twitter is really good for is sparking ideas. Writing a tweet, which is a message within 140 characters (including spaces!), forces you to write concisely. Some people are really good at Tweeting. I use Twitter almost exclusively to put up pithy quotes from books I'm reading. Stuff that really gets me thinking. It helps me remember the quote (to type it out) and it sometimes generates neat conversations. The thing to realize with Twitter is that it is like shooting a shotgun at a distant target. Sure you might hit it, but a lot of tweets just evaporate and some hit unexpected targets as well.

Google+

Google+ is a whole different beast. Right now it seems more like a social media connector with filters. While I don't see a lot of native content, it does capture lots of linking to content in other forms and at other locations (blogs, etc.). What is different about Google+ is that you have a lot more flexibility for who you pass on content to and filtering the content you follow from other people.

The main filter is in how you set up your contacts (what facebook calls 'friends'). Google lets you organize all the people you want to network with in a variety of ways. You can put some in family, some in friends (those you feel you can share deeply with, unlike facebook's friends' concept), some in acquaintances, some in a group called following, you can even make more groups - I have one for ministry contacts, academic contacts, and even gamers. You can place folks in more than one circle - which is helpful. Also, and this is important, no one knows what circle(s) you put them in.

Circles are used when you post status updates or link things like blog posts you like. Circles dictate who can see what you have done. Circles are also used to limit what goes in the streams you want to look at. So if you really like a few bloggers and just want to see what they've linked lately put them in the following circle and click that stream. Voila you have a window into just their online lives.

There also seems to be a move towards collaboration in Google+. The way it is set up makes it great for forming working groups and teams that you can deal with directly without getting them all mixed up with the rest of the social media crowd. (I still think that one needs to realize that all online media is in some ways public.) And Google+ includes a tool for setting up chat/video groups called hangouts. I haven't tried this yet, but I'm thinking of setting something up soon with people I normally Skype.

I think Google+ has potential for being a helpful tool. But it will depend entirely on who chooses to use it. I know my own church dragged me onto facebook - I did the myspace way back in the day and was not intending on going near facebook. But in retrospect facebook has been a good tool even if it is full of distractions. I still find myself going to facebook for updates on the people I can't see as much as I'd like. So far Google+ isn't that helpful yet and the few Google+ folk I like to keep tabs on are also doing the same stuff on facebook.

Hope this is helpful. Next week I'm hoping to have another installment of Blogs That Get You Thinking.

Frank Emanuel, Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa.

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