Your Social Justice Ministry Leaders Are Live Tweeting the Presidential Debates, Right?

Election 2012 Panel at Social Media Week DC

Panel discussion at Social Media Week DC. Photo by Mark Alves

Are your church’s social justice leaders and volunteers taking a break from saving the world so they can watch the presidential debates?

Tell them not to bother unless they’re going to live tweet their reactions during the debates themselves. Why? Today’s micro news cycles survive on instant feedback. If your social justice team isn’t sharing their reactions immediately on Twitter then they’ve missed out on joining the national conversation.

Ridiculous or not, that’s one of the takeaways from the Election 2012 and the Fight for the Internet panel at the Washington Post during Social Media Week in DC.

Reporters are expected to file stories immediately after the debates. Thanks to Twitter, journalists can quickly get a sense of audience reactions and see whether other reporters are drawing similar conclusions right on the spot.

(The tweet above would have been much better if I had gotten political strategist Joe’s name right. So sorry, Mr. Trippi (@joetrippi).) He was one of the panelists along with Post reporter Karen Tumulty, SocialFlow VP of research and development Gilad Lotan, and Hitwise analyst Cristina Bell (no Twitter?). The event was facilitated by the Post’s national digital editor, Amanda Zamora.

Will your organization be part of that discussion? You’ve got a chance if you chime in on Twitter during these major political events.

What about Facebook? It sounds funny to say about a company that is often in the news for privacy controversies, but many of the posts on that channel are not set to public so those conversations are missed. Twitter posts, conversely, are public in most cases and make a better barometer of public opinion. Save Facebook for reaching your own audience rather than reporters.

The televised debates are here. Speak up. Retweet. Join in.

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Catholic Talk Like a Pirate Day

By Sune Rievers on Flickr

By Sune Rievers on Flickr

It’s September 19 so it must be, what, Wedneday of the 24th week in Ordinary Time (or Twitter version)? It’s also International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Celebrate with this buried treasure from ChurchMojo.com we arrrrgh diggin’ up for this here special occasion.

The usual suspects are enjoying this here holiday as well. Ironic Catholic struck gold again with Psalm 42, New Revised Pirate Version. And Happy Catholic gets literature-y.

What Does #MassCheckIn Hashtag Mean?

It means it’s Pentecost Sunday. And the folks who brought you #baconless during Lent are back with another Catholic meme. Just like the apostles went forth regardless of language, you’re invited to evangelize whatever your preferred social network. So on Pentecost, check in using hashtag #MassCheckIn whether you’re on Facebook or Foursquare, and tag a photo on Flickr or Instagram. See more info about #MassCheckIn.

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40 Ways to Keep Parishioners from Giving up Your Church Site for Lent

The Safe Way to Do Lent at Your Catholic Church (Photo by Mark Alves)Want to hook your parishioners throughout Lent so they keep coming back long after Easter? Then tempt them with enticing Lenten content on your church website or blog. Here are 40 ideas to get you started.

  1. Polls/surveys. “What Are You Giving Up For Lent?” with multiple-choice options such as sweets, drinking, Facebook and TV is one way to start. Try Do Sundays “Count” in Lent? on the first weekend in Lent. How Well Are You Keeping Up With Your Lenten Goals? can be asked later in the season.
  2. Lenten reflections, such as encouraging 10 minutes a day of prayer (Concord Pastor), or “Finding Your Priorities This Lent” or “Thirst For Justice, Hunger for Peace” or praying a novena as suggested by Catholic Matriarch.
  3. #AshTag photos. Show pics of a cross-section of your parishioners with their ashes. Search Instagram or check NPR’s collection for examples to get you started.
  4. Non-meat recipes for Fridays. Catholic Cuisine will give you inspiration.
  5. Daily reflections on the Scriptures, such as from the US Bishops, the Catholic Information Network, RC.net, Creighton U, EWTN, Mobile Gabriel and one of my favorites: Pray As You Go. Or add the audio of the daily readings to your site.
  6. Top 10 lists to lighten the mood. “10 Funniest Things to Give Up for Lent” or come up with your own, such as “Things That Sound Hard to Give Up for Lent, But Aren’t” (what would you put on this list?) or “Top Comebacks for ‘Hey, You Have a Smudge on Your Forehead.'”
  7. Saints of the day. Try the Saints & Angels list or American Catholic’s Saint of the Day (also an iPhone app).
  8. Almsgiving suggestions, such as charities or events you have in place; local or parish almsgivng; or solicit ways to donate to specific projects.
  9. Pinterest. It’s the new Ladies Auxiliary. Here are examples.
  10. Sackcloth fashion tips.
  11. Tweet the daily readings and a reflection. Retweet these from @TodaysReadings (by Yours Truly).
  12. Schedules for your church. Ashes schedule for Ash Wednesday (especially effective if added before the start of Lent!); Holy Week; Stations of the Cross; Penance/reconciliation services.
  13. Black History Month resources. Here’s how St. Charles does it.
  14. Suggestions for things to give up for Lent and let readers add to your list; or, on the flip side, suggetions for what to take on for Lent.
  15. RCIA convert stories. Or give an overview of the process and collect stories for next year.
  16. Instructions on how to go to confession to accompany the penance schedule of reconciliation service; add a personal reflection for bonus points.
  17. Bible mapping service that shows where your favorite passages take place on the map.
  18. Information about the art in your church. Here’s an example of stained glass windows.
  19. Palm (of your hand) Sunday. Promote the mobile version of your website.
  20. Washing of the Feet photos. Show some of your own and they are sure to attract attention. Here are some examples for you.
  21. Reflections on suffering, sacrifice or similar Lent-related themes. Or by schoolkids.
  22. Online stations of the cross. Examples: Creighton University, a version for kids and another.
  23. Online prayer partners. Create a posting page for those who want a prayer partner for Lent
  24. Your local politicians’ contact info. Prompt your visitors to pick a justice-related topic to write in about during Lent.
  25. Take a break from Lent with a March Madness parody.
  26. Shrove Tuesday – explain how this is the day before Ash Wednesday; include a favorite pancake recipe.
  27. Advertise your volunteers list or newsletters. Help those looking to do more during Lent.
  28. AmericanCatholic content – this site has ideas for each liturgical season
  29. Make your own PHP e-cards for the season.
  30. Start optimizing your site for Easter — so the crowds can find you.
  31. Assemble your pastor’s best Lent homilies.
  32. Instructions for adding your church to your will, for those thinking of almsgiving beyond Lent. Here’s how the Catholic Foundation describes the process.
  33. Online book club — read a Lent book and publish feedback.
  34. St. Patrick’s Day often is during Lent — provide links to St. Patrick and other Irish saints.
  35. Easter Resurrection Cookies recipe. Tape shut your oven door and see what happens.
  36. Online prayer tree — appropriate time to remind visitors if your church has one, or start one if you don’t.
  37. Interesting Bible sites, such as a Bible search engine or side-by-side comparisons.
  38. Catechism search engine.
  39. Operation Rice Bowl.
  40. Local resources for 12-step, self-help programs for those hoping to give up their addictions for more than the 40 days of Lent. AA meeting-finder.
  41. Basket blessings. You were good all Lent so you deserve more than a plain ol’ basket.

Since you’re thinking about how to help your readers on their Lenten journeys, what are you adding to your site for Lent?

The Greatest, or Perhaps the Worst, President’s Day Bulletin Announcement Ever

Back when I was running my church’s website, we ran this bulletin announcement every President’s Day Weekend weekend. And now it’s yours to use this year.

PARDON US…
On Presidents’ Day Weekend, the Web Team asks you to Grant us the favor of a Polk around the parish web site, [URL]. We decided to Fillmore space by Lincoln to other great web sites. Be on the cutting- and Coolidge of technology, which we Taylor each week to meet your needs. Don’t beat around the Bush, but a-Ford yourself of this opportunity today. We’re not making this up, dude — it’s Truman!

president's day bulletin announcement

For professional use only. Handle with care.

What Do Facebook Page Admins Want? Here’s What I Told Facebook

Facebook sent me a Facebook Page Admin survey that included an open-ended comment section at the end. What would be on your list of requests as a Facebook administrator for a church page? Off the top of my head, here’s how I replied.

  • Better incorporation of my organization’s existing Google Analytics account
  • Choice of URL shorteners and tracking
  • Option to schedule future posts within the main Facebook interface
  • More options for applying formatting to text in a wall post
  • A preview screen that shows how many lines will appear before it’s cut off by “more…” once a wall post is published.
  • Allow Youtube videos to be embedded without being surrounded by scroll bars (yes, Facebook, I know you’re encouraging us to upload our church videos directly to Facebook video, but c’mon. YouTube remains the industry standard for video embedding, for now at least, and should be accommodated.)
  • When a post includes multiple links make it easier to pick which one shows up in the blurb rather than defaulting to the first one.
  • When an event is posted to the wall, provide the option to include the existing photo of the event and more details. The previous version allowed this. The current one-line description on the wall doesn’t make it clear which link is for the event and does not help with engagement at all.

Along the way, I noticed along the way that Facebook uses Intellisurvey for soliciting feedback.

Those are some Facebook Page improvements I’d like to see administrators have. Did you receive a survey? What are you clamoring for from Facebook?

New Year Checklist for a Good Looking Church Website

8 Quick Fixes to Start Your Year Right

You know the gyms are going to be crowded at this time of year, but what kind of shape is your church website? Follow this quick-fix checklist to make sure your parish looks its best before you head out into 2012.

  1. Do you still have Christmas graphics up after the Epiphany? Now’s the time to take them down before you end up looking like that neighbor who leaves Christmas lights up all year.
  2. Has anyone asked any of your Frequently Asked Questions in the past year? Are the answers still accurate? You might want to check the freshness of your “About Us” page, too. (Here are some good About-Us examples from the business world.)
  3.  Is your domain name expiring this year? Renew it before you risk losing your entire site.
  4.  Did you add any new social media accounts in the past year? Make sure all of them are listed on your site and in your marketing materials. Reorder the list if you are more active on some than others. And confirm that you are using consistent imagery and descriptions across all of these networks.
  5. Got the wrong copyright year at the bottom of your website? That’s oh so 2011. Here’s how to fix that problem so your site automatically updates each year. If your site runs on PHP, use this line of code (without the spaces):
    &Copy; Copyright < ? php echo date ( ' Y ' ) ; ? > Your
    Business Name or Site

    This will give you:
    © Copyright 2012 Acme, Inc.

    this year and next year the 2012 will automatically switch to 2013.

    If you don’t have PHP, you’ll need to resort to JavaScript.

    Copyright &Copy; <script type="text/java script">
     document.write(new Date().getFullYear());
     </script> Your Business Name or Site Name

    And remember, you can copyright your content but copyright law doesn’t protect domain names.

  6. Do your “contact us” forms still work? Fill them out, submit and then check that the confirmation message remains relevant and that the message reaches the proper inbox. And if these submissions go to someone other than you, it’s a good opportunity to see how fast your parish staff or designated volunteer replies.
  7. Repeat step 6 with your online donations forms. (Actually, that’s a good one to check before the end of the year. Sorry about that!)
  8.  Did any of your parish policies change, such as how you register as a parishioner or timelines for wedding and baptism preparations? Update your site and remind your staff accordingly.

Those are some key items to get you started on reviewing your parish website. So, what are you doing for your church to look good in the new year?

(Note: I wrote a small business-focused version of this article for NFIB that appeared as New Year Checklist for a Good Looking Small Business)

Examples of Copyright Dates on Church Websites

Example of StCharlesChurch.org with the wrong year on home page

Wrong year on StCharlesChurch.org

StJohnsTipton.com doesn't use a year in its copyright notice.

StJohnsTipton.com avoids the issue by not putting a year in its copyright notice.

Mary.org's great site needs to fix that 2007 copyright date.

Mary.org's great site needs to fix that 2007 copyright date.

SMIP.org shows 2011 in January 2012

SMIP.org shows 2011 in January 2012

CrossintheWoods.com shows the previous year's date.

CrossintheWoods.com shows the previous year's date.

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