Social media trainings for Unitarian Universalists (Spring and Summer 2010)

Looking to learn the basics of using social media to serve your Unitarian Universalist congregation? Or ready for an advanced discussion of congregational social media strategies? There are trainings for both beginners and more experienced social media users coming up this spring and summer. Gather with fellow Unitarian Universalists at these events:

Integrating Social Media for UU Congregations
Tuesday, March 23, 2010, 7:30 PM – 8:45 PM (Eastern)

This webinar presentation and Q & A session we will explore ways to integrate social media tools so content is automatically passed from one tool another. Starting with a traditional monthly newsletter content, participants will be shown how announcements can be shared via a blog format (for fee) and be set up to automatically  be shared via a Facebook page, sent out as a “tweet” on Twitter, and displayed on a congregation’s website. This webinar is sponsored by the UUA’s Ballou Channing District.

“Introduction to Social Media for Unitarian Universalist Leaders” Webinar
Wednesday, April 7, 7pm – 8:30pm (Eastern)

This is a beginner-friendly webinar before the conference that will introduce participants to the basics of different social media tools. Although this webinar is intended as a prelude to the spring conference, it is open to registrants outside the New England area as well! Space is limited and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Social Media Conference for Unitarian Universalists in the New England Area
Saturday, May 1, 9am – 4:30pm
Weston, MA

Social media will be the focus of the Mass Bay District Spring Conference!

General Assembly 2010 Workshop – “Introduction to Social Media and Public Relations”
Thursday, June 24, 9:00am – 10:15am
Minneapolis Convention Center – 205 A-D

At this beginner-friendly workshop, learn the basics of social media (including blogs, Facebook, and Twitter) and public relations. The emphasis will be on practical information and examples to help you further the mission of your congregation through successful communication.

General Assembly 2010 Workshop – “Advanced Social Media”
Friday, June 25, 1:00pm – 2:15pm
Minneapolis Convention Center – 101 DE

Twitter – Facebook – blogs – RSS feeds – handheld apps – all this adds up to so much more than websites and email messaging! This advanced-level panel presentation will cover major social media tools in use by congregations, how ministry occurs through social networks, ethics and safety concerns, trends, and more.

Ferry Beach Religious Education Workshop – “Social Media and Religious Education”
July 10 – July 16
Ferry Beach in Maine

Learn about Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media, and how to integrate them in religious education.

Can you suggest any other social media trainings for Unitarian Universalists that should be added to this list? Please comment!

Technology use, social isolation, and the implications for congregations

The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently released their “Social Isolation and New Technology” which investigates the relationship between social isolation and the use of mobile phones, the internet, and online social networking. The report is complex, as the it attempts to account for varying degrees of social isolation, different types of technology use, and unresolved questions about causation. The following are some of the key findings of the survey (as found in the report conclusion):

  • The “size and diversity” of Americans’ social networks has declined (although the prevalence of severe social isolation has not increased): “Compared to the relatively recent past, most Americans now have fewer people with whom they discuss important matters, and the diversity of people with whom they discuss these issues has declined.”
  • The changes that Americans are experiencing in their social networks are harmful: “Smaller and less diverse core networks diminish personal well-being by limiting access to social support. There are simply fewer people we can rely on in a time of need – whether it is a shoulder to cry on, to borrow a cup of sugar, or to help during a crisis. Small and narrow core networks also impede trust and social tolerance; they limit exposure to the diverse opinions, issues, and ideas of others.”
  • Use of social networking tools is not correlated with the trend towards “smaller and less diverse core networks.”  The headline-worthy news from the survey is: “[The] survey finds the opposite trend amongst internet and mobile phone users; they have larger and more diverse core networks.”
  • The report doesn’t prove that engagement with certain technologies causes users to have larger and more varied social networks: “We do not know if use of new technologies contributes directly to larger and more diverse core networks, or if those who use technology in a certain way are likely to have better networks from the beginning.”

The survey — and the larger debate about the connection between internet use and social relationships — raises questions that may be relevant to congregational life, such as:

  • What is the role of congregations in responding to the deterioration of social networks and the resultant challenges facing individuals?
  • Are there ways that congregational leaders and religious professionals can use new media to help build more robust and diverse social networks within the congregation?
  • Because of the relative size and diversity of new technology users’ networks, do congregations have a greater likelihood of reaching a diverse audience through social networking tools, rather than relying solely on word-of-mouth and other traditional outreach methods? (This question relates not only to the composition of online networks, but also to the patterns of how content is shared among social media users within networks).
  • What are the unique challenges of promoting a congregation or faith movement through social media? The Pew report also found that “Users of social networking websites are 40% more likely to visit a bar, but 36% less likely to visit a religious institution.” Egad! Is this because of the demographics of social networking users, because religious institutions aren’t using social networks as successfully as possible, or due to some other factor?

New blog about growing our faith, post about ministry and new media

I’m posting with two quick shout-outs to Unitarian Universalists sharing their wisdom about new media:

Peter Bowden, the Unitarian Universalist lay leader who created and manages, has recently started “The UU Growth Blog” in his role as a growth consultant for the UUA’s Ballou Channing District. He’s published several posts specifically about communications, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

Rev. Cynthia Landrum recently wrote about how she uses blogging, Facebook, and Twitter in her ministry. I especially enjoyed this pithy remark: “Putting something out on Facebook is like saying something at a crowded party–you can’t assume everyone present heard you say it, yet you shouldn’t say anything you don’t want repeated to everyone.”