When you are in leadership at a house of worship, often your budget is small, in money but also in time. You have to be wise and strategic about how you spend both. You probably already recognize that social media is valuable for your ministry, and so your house of worship has a good website, a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and a YouTube channel. (If it doesn’t already have all those things, jump on that!) Is there really the need to add more to the list? Could adding something else really be valuable? The answer to those questions is no, you don’t NEED to add more, but yes, more COULD be valuable if you choose to put some time into it.
Many people wonder about the value of Google+, since it seems to duplicate the functionality of Facebook. However, there are some really unique aspects to Google+ that may mean it’s worthwhile for your house of worship to spend some time on it. One of the biggest benefits to being active on Google+ is that it is directly connected to Google, the world’s biggest search engine. So the more information you put publicly on Google+, the more likely you are to show up in Google search results. That’s a big deal.
Another benefit is that Google+ integrates so seamlessly with other Google products, so you can cover a lot of ground with what you’re doing on G+. This is, in fact, what Google insists it’s trying to do with Google+. They want it to be more than a social network, but instead an umbrella that fuses all your Google applications right in one place.
Here are some ideas for how to use Google+.
Have an organization Page in addition to your own personal Google+ account. Make sure your Page is viewable publicly so that anyone searching for it can find it. You can choose which of your content is viewable by the public and what can only be seen by certain people – see Circles below.
Take advantage of Circles. You can put people into groups called Circles, and then you can select which Circles you send communications to. This could be exceptionally valuable for sending information only to Women’s Ministry members or to Children’s Ministry Volunteers or to Youth Parents or to Church Leadership. No one else can see what Circles you have put people into, so there’s no risk of someone being offended by what Circle you put them in.
Use Hangouts for collaboration and meetings when not everyone can be present at the same physical location. Hangouts is awesome because it’s a video chat like Skype, except it’s free to have up to 10 different participants from different computers. Google has also just released Hangouts On Air, which allows you to broadcast and record a hangout session. This means more than 10 people – even a whole congregation – can watch the Hangout live, and it can also be recorded to allow others to watch it later on your YouTube channel. This has huge implications for things like meetings, interviews, promotions, long-distance communication, etc.
Make it easier to share your Google+ page by creating a personalized URL at http://gplus.to
As with all social media, you need to be engaged and focus on story. Stay involved on G+ and make sure people know you are active and what is going on at your house of worship. The more engaging you are, the more engaged people will be.
In general, Google+ is a smaller audience than Facebook, but it’s a different crowd. The people on Google+ are looking for networking and information without all the clutter that comes with a huge site like Facebook. Your message is much less likely to get lost in the shuffle on G+, but make sure to respect that people like the simplicity, so don’t clutter it up with unnecessary or pointless stuff.
If you’re willing to put a little time into it, Google+ could very well give a new aspect to your ministry.
Joni Tapp is with ROAR, http://www.roar.pro. ROAR’s mission is to help churches and non-profits communicate their passion and message clearly to their audience via multi-platform mobile apps and social media consulting.