Religious organizations are steeped in tradition and rich in history.
However, sometimes tradition can get in the way of innovation and change. Churches are notorious late adopters of technology, but it seems that many are quickly realizing that social media is a platform they can’t afford to ignore.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know it is a project for my interactive media class. One of my assignments as a graduate student was to pursue some type of original research, conduct a study and report on the results (which will eventually turn themselves into an 8-10 page paper, but as it stands right now are a fabulous PowerPoint presentation and a synopsizing blog post).
For my research, I chose to expound on this blog’s primary topic and sought to explore and understand the social media habits of religious organizations. I find this topic fascinating as someone of faith who is interested new ways of reaching out to others.
For my inevitable paper, I will look at the results of the survey I conducted through the theoretical lens of the social media marketing theory. In other words, I believe that a church can function as a business in terms of marketing.
This theory says that for years marketing consisted of talking at your audience with mediums such as brochures, commercials and advertisements. However, social media allows businesses to talk with their customers, and that conversation is valuable in creating products and attracting and engaging new audiences.
I used SurveyMonkey to send out a 10 questions survey to churches, mosques, temples, etc. of every denomination and religious inclination in Morgantown. I sent the survey to 40 organizations in all and was graced with 35 responses (which was a great turnout, I thought).
The results of the survey yielded some information that I expected, while still managing to surprise me in other areas!
This map shows every religious organization to which I sent my survey. Morgantown is home to a host of denominations and religious organizations.
Blue – Protestant
Yellow – Catholic
Light blue – Mormon
Green – Jewish
Red – Muslim
Purple – Hindu & Religious Organizations
Pink – Baha’I faith
I think this topic is worthwhile because there has been little to no research done on how churches are utilizing social networking, and most of the information and statistics are collected by religions organizations themselves. While this is a clear lack of objectivity and may not be considered quality data for academic research, at least for now, they stand alone. According to a poll of 1,003 Protestant congregations conducted by Fellowship Technologies in 2011, 47 percent of churches use Facebook, and the numbers are continually increasing (a statement that was confirmed by my survey).
According to LifeWay Research Director Scott McConnell, congregations are the ideal place for interaction, which is why churches are rapidly adopting social networking. Churches are using this technology to keep up with current members, as well as interact with people outside the church. The poll also found that of 1,000 Protestant pastors surveyed, 46 percent use Facebook, 16 percent personal blogs and 6 percent Twitter to personally interact with their congregations both outside of worship services and during times of worship.
In my preliminary research, I found that by 2001, 83 percent of Fortune 500 companies were using social networking sites to interact with both consumers and potential consumers. This shows that not only are these companies greatly benefiting from social media outreach but also that the consumers are becoming more and more reliant on this medium to decide which companies they will frequent. This information can be directly applied to other institutions who want to “brand” themselves and target members and non-members of their organizations.
So I hope you’ll bear with me for now, as I attempt to present my findings in a way that is both light and enlightening. I present my results today in class, so stay tuned for more information!