Reaching 'Nones,' Activists, and Spiritual Seekers
General Assembly 2014 Event 306
This event is part of the #UUsGetSocial series of workshops.
Unitarian Universalists now have a medium like no other to attract those with common interests and common dreams. What kinds of messages and content will build a relationship with key audiences, inviting them to join in? Learn from the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign, Denver’s “Create Meaning,” and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).
- Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, UUA
- Rev. Dr. Amy Rowland, Create Meaning
- Jennifer Toth, Standing on the Side of Love
SARAH GIBB MILLSPAUGH: We are starting our workshop officially. Welcome you to UUs Get Social: Reaching nuns, activists, and spiritual seekers. This is the third in a series of four workshops on social media. We'll say more about what's upcoming and what we're going to do today. I'm going to provide some introduction and some context about the nones. I'll also say who I am very soon.
And Amy Rowland will be talking about do the work of Create Meaning in Denver and the Western region to reach out to the non-religious. And also, Jennifer Toth will be talking about how we can use some hands-on, practical tips for using Twitter and Facebook to help our love reach out. We'll also have time for questions and discussion at the end.
One of the things we recognize with this workshop is, in a room like this, we have people who have all different kinds of experience, all different levels of experience with social media. I'd like you to raise your hand if you've got a Twitter account, if that's something that you use. All right, we've got maybe about a third to half.
How about Instagram? Oh, yeah? Smaller amount, maybe a quarter. Tumblr? Pinterest? OK. How could I forget Facebook? A lot of Facebook accounts.
So we have a lot of different levels of social media experience here. Someone just came up right before we started and said, I don't even know the basics about Twitter. In this workshop we're not going to do the basics, but if you are looking for the basics, if you go to uuplanet.org— this is organization of Peter Bowden and Amy Friedman who are both active UUs here at GA— Peter put together an introduction to Twitter for people going to GA. So that it guides you through opening up a Twitter account, how Twitter works, how you can use it at GA, and how you can use it to connect with your fellow UUs. So that's a great resource to go to. uuplanet.org. You're welcome.
So how many here run a social media account, one or more, for an organization, for your congregation, or for your work or somewhere else? OK, we got a bunch here too. Excellent.
The tips that we offer today and the context that we offer today we hope will be helpful for you if you're using it just as yourself or if you're using it as a congregation or if you're using it as a nonprofit or some kind of group that wants to change the world.
We have a workshop that's happening tomorrow at this time, in this place, 10:15, that will help us to dig into Facebook, Twitter, and video. It's called UUs Get Social: Digging In. And it will feature speakers talking more deeply about how they've used these in really wonderful ways.
So I have a question. How many of us here know that someone became a Unitarian Universalist because of their relationship with you? Wow. That's good. That is a good sizable group.
One of the things that has always been true is that we share our faith through relationship, through relationships with other people. And then we have these connections and that's what draws people in. In a word of mouth is what they used to say would always be the best advertiser. And now we have word of mouth multiplied.
Does anybody know someone became introduce Unitarian Universalism because of social media, of things that happened on social media? Great. That's a good sizable group.
I want to share with you a note that I received from a friend of mine, a few years ago. Her name was Eve and She and I had gone to junior high and high school together. And we had seen each other maybe twice since high school graduation, but we were Facebook friends, and she was living up in Alaska. And she just sent me this note out of the blue.
Sarah, I wanted to thank you for two things that you probably don't know that you have done. One, opening my eyes to a wonderful community of spiritual people who are not concerned with what I am not, but only what I am and what I can be. This community is supportive loving, caring, respectful, spiritual, exactly what I have needed at this time in my life and desired for a very long time.
And I want to thank you for never trying to tell me that I should go to this community to be transformed, saved, helped, or anything else that other people from other faiths have tried so hard to do. Three weeks ago I became a member of the UU Fellowship of Fairbanks. I feel a part of something here and I'm comforted to know that there are still people out there that believe in something bigger than themselves and their own gain, which is a difficult community to find up here at times.
Many of the things that you post and read are probably never publicly acknowledged, but because of some of the things that you posted, I checked out the UUs. Thank you, Eve.
I just couldn't believe it, my jaw hit the floor. It was amazing. I had no idea that my faith, my love, was reaching out in that way to someone who really needed it. Our love reaches out. Just this morning Peter Morales said, millions of people want to connect for a just and compassionate and sustainable world. There are so many people out there who want to be able to engage in this kind of community in a meaningful way.
Invite you to think of some people that might want this connection. You may not have had to think for very long. More and more there are so many people who don't identify with any religion in particular, who are not even familiar with what a religious community could offer them. But who, if they were to learn about what we do and who we are and why it matters, could find a place within our movement.
Peter Morales talked this morning, and at previous years GAs, about the rise of this group called the Nones. Now this is not intended to label this group or call them monolithic, because they are not. This is simply a group that the Pew Research Center dubbed Nones, because when the Pew Research Center did their survey of American religious life, the people who said that their religion was nothing in particular has grown.
It's grown and grown. In the past several years it has doubled and tripled and quadrupled and now, one out of five Americans identify as having no religion, nothing in particular. And one and three is under age 30. And if you look at the demographics, that's just going to keep going up as the people age. And the none population is increasing also in every demographic group.
So it's not just the young people. Among elders the number of nones is increasing, among people of color, among Latinos, among African Americans, the number of nones is increasing. Among white people the number of nones is increasing. It's increasing in every demographic group.
Now, sometimes we can get confused. Sometimes we could think that none means atheist or agnostic. That by reaching out to the nones will be more effective if we play up the atheists aspect of our faith or that atheists are welcome. And that's true for a significant minority of nones. Because of the people who are unaffiliated in Pew's Survey, only 12 percent identified as atheists. 16 percent identified as agnostic, and 71 no religion in particular, but they did believe in a higher power.
Many nones have active spiritual lives. Many recognize that religious truth comes in many forms. Many are deeply admiring of religious figures, religious stories, and modern day Saints. I saw a Christian researcher talking to a group of Christians about all the research she'd done on nones— and I'll mention her book later, it's about to come out—but she found that biblical stories were huge in the mind of many of the people who identify as none. Particularly, the Good Samaritan and that the life of Jesus was very inspirational to them, not necessarily his death on the cross, et cetera. So there's some real synergies here with UUism.
Also, many nones say that actions are far more important than beliefs. And many nones have a negative view of organized religion. Now that, that's an interesting spot. I got a comment to the other day from a man in the coffee shop here in Providence. I told them what I was here for because he saw all these people with name tags coming in. And he said, oh, yeah, you know, I guess among the organized religions you guys are the best. Yeah. So, I think I'd count him in that camp.
So we're in the midst a movement of looking at congregational life and beyond as ways of being actively UU and engaged. And Peter Morales came out with a report a few years ago called congregations and beyond. I encourage you to read it online, it's on uua.org. And it's about how do we respond to the these changing religious demographics? How do we respond to the rise of people believing in nothing in particular? And Morales calls us to look at how we engage people, both in congregations and beyond them, how we reach out in love.
And when I think of nones, I don't think this huge mass of people. I think of people like my friend Diana. She was born Jewish, never really went to synagogue very much at all, grew up practicing yoga, and now she's an acupuncturist. And she's raising a child without any particular faith. Her husband is a philosophical atheist. They're progressive, they are compassionate, kind, good people. Very spiritual, deeply admiring of some aspects of religion, deeply suspicious of some others. And they're very much the kind of people who may, at some point in their lives, decide because of the relationship to me or other Unitarian Universalists that they want to check us out.
Elizabeth Drescher, who's the scholar I mentioned earlier who was speaking to the Christians, talks about nones in general. And of course, all of this is like generational research. You know, when you talk about Generation X is like this and baby boomers are like that. There's trends but it's not everyone to a person.
But the trend among the nones that she has researched very deeply are that nones would be categorized as relational rather than individualistic or institutionalist. So individualism is kind of a view of every person for themselves. Institutionalists would be people who want to become part of a membership organization and build an institution. And the nones that— and this also fits with the rising millennial generation— that they're a let's institutionalist. They want to get together and get organized, but for specific time limited purposes. Not necessarily for membership or for long term institutional support.
And this has implications for our congregations, but thinking now about how we might involve someone or spread the word to them, we can recognize that they may be seeking relationship with a community. Not necessarily for joining, but for the purpose of growth or getting through a hard time or educating their children or making meaning about something that's been troubling them.
And we must be relational too in meeting the nones. That in our social media, and in our conversations, we don't just broadcast. We don't just say, we UUs believe in inherent worth and dignity of every person. We can engage, we can be curious, we can seek to understand how people are making meaning themselves and really listen. And that goes far.
Also, we need to listen to ways that people are making meaning of their affiliation with us. We are often uncomfortable in our congregations. And I'll say, I was too when I was a parish minister. I was uncomfortable when someone didn't neatly fit into the category of member or visitor.
You know, say they'd been coming for 10 years and they'd never signed the book and they were in on Sunday services sporadically. I would say, what's that person doing? What are they thinking? But very much they might have been someone who would identify as a none. Someone with no particular religious affiliation, but they really like the UUs, they like the messages, they like to participate in our social justice work, or they like to come to our services at times.
So we need to let our love be big enough and reach out in enough to listen to people and accept how they are making meaning of their participation in our group. And to respect and accept how they self affiliate and how they self identify.
So social connections create new UUs. That has always been the case and now we have more power. We have social media. Relationship is the key to social media. We have each of us who are involved in social media have a web of relationships, a web of people who see whatever we post, whatever comes to mind, whenever we're talking about. And also, we need to work on our communication.
Movement wide we are working on developing clearer signals. Over the years, you've heard, in the past 10 years we started talking about the concept of the elevator speech. How do you explain UUism in the time that it takes to ride in an elevator with someone who's asking you a question?
Now we can say, how do you explain UUism in you 140 characters on Twitter? Or there was a meme going around recently called my six word story of faith. Where a lot of UUs were participating, sending in their six words that talked about their faith and what grounded them.
Movement wide we're also working one on the branding process. And you see some of that in evidence here with the logos and some of the new ways of presenting ourselves visually. But the branding process is about so much more. It's about really developing clear ways to talk about and show who we are, what we do, and why it matters.
And I realized now I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Sarah Gibb Millspaugh and I'm working for the UUA on the part of the branding process that has to do with our website and how we make what's there be accessible, warm, and very clear in showing who we are. Because we get so many visitors who check out UUA org as their first stop in learning about what Unitarian Universalism is online. And if we reach them with a lot of words, what hit them right here, we're not going to be showing who we are. But if we reach them with spiritual depth, with real love, and with visual presentation of pictures and videos, that is going to more clearly signal who we are.
And also, we have an opportunity for personal communication. Each of us has that chance to communicate and share from our own lives and values, our own deep experiences, our own experiences of connection. Whether it be in a worship service or at a rally, we can share that with others in a way that we have not been able to before.
So why do we do this? It's really— it's not about numbers. It's not about getting more members to fill our pews or more money to get in our pocketbooks for the congregations. Although those are nice things and I hope that those will be outcomes of this. But what really underlies it in reaching out and being and engaging with people who have no religious affiliation?
It's about entering into a transformative healing, life giving, and world changing relationship. We have something that people long for. We have something that people long for. How do we clearly signal and communicate and connect so that people can find it with us?
And people who don't identify as UU, nones, people can join us. Or people who identify as some other faith, even, can join us for many things. For activism, for community, for spiritual growth, and for lifelong learning. And Amy Roland is doing some of that important work and she will talk about that.
But next time, after somebody has joined us for these things, next time they're surveyed by The Pew Research Center, maybe they will answer Unitarian Universalists.
Using Create Meaning to Reach Out to Nones
AMY ROWLAND: Hi, I'm Amy Rowland and I'm the new director of Create Meaning, which is a ministry that serves online and in person providing spiritual tools and resources. Particularly directed to people who identify as not being affiliated with any particular tradition.
So we work very closely with congregations to enable congregations to reach out into the community, to build relationship with people who are not affiliated with a faith tradition at all. And so, it's very important that we have a strong social media presence.
So what I'm here to talk about today is some of our ways of understanding who we are and how we communicate that out in the world. And how important that is to the way we build relationship. Because our identity as Unitarian Universalists, as I'm sure you've been hearing over and over, is changing from an understanding of being an association of congregations in which our congregations really act independently and for ourselves.
When we think of ourselves more as a movement, and we move into thinking of ourselves in terms of programs like congregations and beyond, we recognize that being out in the community is part of our faith tradition to serve the community in which we're embedded. And also, our congregations and between program, if you've heard some of that, it's encouraging congregations— and this goes back to the Cambridge platform of 1648— to be in relationships with each other, and so to share resources. And that means, both of these programs mean, a little bit of a shift in identity to expand who we recognize we're in conversation with when we're making decisions about how we're using our resources and how we're reaching out.
So as our identity shifts, the way we communicate who we are as a faith tradition shifts as well.
SARAH GIBB MILLSPAUGH: Excuse the technical difficulties. Sorry, there was a reason the mike was far away, it was because of the plug. There we go.
AMY ROWLAND: All right, I'll speak up a little bit if there's an issue with hearing.
So, today social media signals hospitality in a way that it hasn't in the past. When I think today about whether or not a congregation is using social media, I think back to my first visit to a small congregation. And I read the newsletter and there was this great event. It looked perfect for a newcomer to go to, it was a picnic. I could bring food, I could feel as though as contributing and meet people. But then all it said was see Betty for details. You've probably been there. It feels very isolating.
Today, when we don't have a Facebook page, a web page, if we aren't out there in social media, we are signaling that we're just not available the way our current culture expects us to be available. So today social media isn't a nice thing to do, it's a way of being present that signals our hospitality. So the way our culture has changed really does compel us to find ways to be out in the community through social media. It's sort of the new baseline for hospitality.
And so, some of what Sarah has said, I want to just highlight here too, part of what this means is that our identity— we're learning new ways of expressing who we are. Since the same Pew Study shows that a lot of people identify as Unitarian Universalists who will never even attended a Unitarian Universalist congregation. So, do we count them as Unitarian Universalists? There's been a question of can you be Unitarian Universalist alone? And I think the historical answer, there's been a strong push to say well, no, you can't because our covenant is with each other. And if you are with each other then you can't be in covenant.
But I think if there's another answer to that as well. And we can say, no, you can't be Unitarian Universalist alone because you can't be alone. We are, and we know by our seventh principle, we are embedded in an interdependent web. And that's becoming more and more evident the way our culture is evolving.
So we are really on the cusp of finding ways to claim people we haven't claimed before because we've had a barrier of our church doors saying, well, if you're not coming in here, you are not one of us. But I think a way to understand now what's happening with us is that our covenants today is a covenant with people who are saying yes to life in a particular way, not just yes to the members of our congregation. But our covenant is with the wider world. And so we can be Unitarian Universalists together, upholding and living into the values of our faith. Even if we were the only one we know because we are living that way in the world.
And all of this becomes important because if we're going to be out there tweeting and posting on Facebook, it's very, very important that we know who we are and we understand the parameters of our faith. How inclusive we are, that we can say, well a lot goes on in our congregations, but actually not everything goes on in our congregations. There are values that we uphold, here they are, they're very liberal, they may well include you. Come find out about us.
And this really goes along with our understanding our faith as a movement, which is a slightly different way of understanding our faith than just an association of congregations. And so one of the ways that we would use as our baseline for understanding how we're going to message, is to— as Sarah said— start with your heart. Who are we as a faith community?
So in your congregation, if you're going to be updating and creating a Facebook page or starting a Tumblr, it's great to have the parameters that would be intellectually understandable to people, but remember also to share what it is that moves you about Being Unitarian Universalists.
And Lauren Mead has done some research about mature growth. And what captures people is really what is it that speaks to your soul, what is it that makes this way of living important to you? So important that you've invested significant amounts of time and resources because it matters in the way you live your life. Your life has more meaning because you live in to these values. And to be able to communicate that and talk about growth as maturation. Rather than growth as, well, we really want to be up on the web because we want more people, so that we can have better programming. That can be a side results to sharing the depth of what's going on in your community.
And covenant, then, is what I had talked about earlier. The covenant in the 21st century, we can think about is very, very open covenant. That we share a covenant with the world. We have said yes to life and that doesn't mean necessarily that you've signed a book.
There's a different kind of membership conversation going on right now. And I encourage you all have it and many of you probably already having it, what does membership mean? How do we include people who are the sometimes attenders? How do we include a generation that thinks going to church once a month is a lot because they have so many other commitments? How do we include them in the leadership of our congregations, welcomed them into our communities as full members? Because they are invested in living these values in the same way.
So again, it's an identity issue that's shifting from how we've thought about being a religious movement and being in covenant. So that the way we talk when we post online and in social media, than it is important for us to be mindful that we're communicating in ways that do signal our openness to different ways of being in relationship.
So at Create Meaning, we have a website, a Facebook account, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, Meetup. We do all of these things. I'm working on getting an Instagram flow going and snapshot, which I've just learned about, which is a fade out. It's about 10 or 15 seconds of post. So things are shifting, constantly shifting in the social media world.
And we do all these primarily because, well we have two missions. One is to be online and to be a spiritual resource for seekers anywhere. So we want to be online. But there's also, as I said earlier, if people are going to come to a Create Meaning event that your congregation is hosting out in the community, the first thing I'm going to do is go online and see who we are. And so, we need to have this presence up there. We need to have it relevant, timely. It needs to be easy to find because that signals that we are here.
So we've invested in having a web presence in Facebook, Tumblr, all these accounts. And we post to them and invite people to post to them to keep them fresh and renewing. We have a lot of spiritual resources in different categories on our website. One for personal growth, one for creating community, and one for doing social justice work. So all of these are just there both to serve people who are not in community and also to let people know that when they come to be with us, this is who we are, and they know something about us.
So one of the things that we've done incurred in determining what in the world we're going to post online is we've used the agile methods and how to create classes. Because what we do is, we work with congregations to reach out into the community.
And what we did at first, this project is a year old— Create Meaning is a year old— and what we did first was we developed a catalog and published a catalog. But what that meant was that six months ahead of time had to know what you were going to be doing in April. And what we found is that it made more sense to go with the energy that was more in the moment.
And so as interest rose up for a particular class, for a particular kind of gathering, we'd post it. So we no longer publish a hard copy manual or program guide, but we update. A class becomes available, we post it on the web. So it's a rotating offering.
And you can go online to createmeaning.or and you can see that we have three centers right now. One in the Denver boulder area, one in northern Nevada hosted out of a Reno congregation, and one in South Bay, L.A., hosted out of the Pacific congregation in Palos Verdes. So they're all using agile methods to reach out into the wider community to provide programming, spiritual resources.
And so one of the ways they were doing that too is to identify what group. And so the research that Sarah talked about with the nones is very, very important. Because otherwise, if you don't have a target to know who you're going to communicate to, it can feel like you have to say everything. You know, a big fire hose of this is everything about us that you might need to know. But if you know who you're speaking to, you can target your message.
If you know that you want to reach families with young children, you'll do one kind of message. If you know that you want to reach the elders who are interested in aging dis-aging, and about the different stressors of being a middle generation that's caretaking for their children and caretaking for their parents at the same time, it's a very different kind of message. So it's very important that you do what we call the persona work. That you know who you're reaching out to because then your message will really resonate when the person that you were targeting reads it. They'll know it's for them. They'll know that you have something to say to them.
So at Create Meaning, when we Create Meaning started, the key persona that was used was a tag named Jordan. And Jordan was the typical none that Sarah was describing. So it became important to create events that had a low level of commitment. This wasn't going to be a class that was going to be 12 weeks long. It was going to idea maybe a weekend class, maybe something that met once a month. A high level of interactivity and a high level of connection. That these were all very, very important things for this particular persona.
Now what we've learned is that there are other personas who want programming and are starting to do offerings through Create Meaning. And those classes are looking a little different. But it's persona by persona, so that when the message is read, it either resonates or doesn't. But you don't have to read everything in order to find the one thing that might relate to you. So paying attention to that makes a difference for how you would message on the web.
And with more details about how to do some of that posting, Jennifer Toth will talk about that.
Practical Social Media Tips
JENNIFER TOTH: All right. Hi everyone. Howdy. So raise your hand if you've been tweeting throughout this workshop. OK, cool. All right, several of you. So if you do have a device in your hands, I'm going to ask you, actually, to set it down. Just for a little bit.
We're like midway or closer to the end of this workshop, so I'm also going to ask that we all close our eyes for just a moment with me. And let's just sort of re-center ourselves again. So if we could all take a deep breath in together and a deep breath out. So, thanks for indulging me with that.
So, I am Jennifer Toth and I work with Standing on The Side of Love. Have you all heard of Standing On the Side of Love before? Yeah? So we're celebrating five years at this GA. And we have a lot of fun stuff like a party later today at five, I'm just going to plug that really quick. We're going to have cake and talk more about Standing The side of Love. Y'all should come to that, it's in the program book.
And a lot of this campaign has been done online. And creating relationships online through social media so that we can do really powerful things on the ground. And I'm here to talk a little bit more about digging into some tips for social media and reaching nones and spiritual seekers.
So, Nora, I know we didn't talk about this before but would you mind handing some of these out to folks? It's up on the table there. So we're trying to be green and not have too much paper with this GA, but also accommodate different learning styles. So as I go through some of these tips, if you want to sort of follow along. And if we don't have enough here, we have more outside as well.
Yes, it's online as well. Yeah, you can access all sorts of different ways.
So, for a long time I identified as a none or a seeker or an activist. For several years even, as Sarah mentioned, go to UU congregations. And now I proudly identify as a UU and I get to work with UUA. But for me actually, Standing On the Side of Love was a campaign that, when I saw the congregation in the town is living in Bellingham, Washington, it really drew me to come back on Sundays. To keep walking through that door because I was so impressed with the work that they were doing. So I think that we talk about this a lot, that social justice is a door that folks walk through to get to congregations. And some of how I learned that that was going on in that congregation was through social media too.
OK, let's dig into some tips here. Some of this we also shared yesterday. So if you were there yesterday, I'll go through this little bit quickly.
But in general, we try to frame things positively so that people can like them. We talk about some difficult things with this campaign. When families are torn apart because our broken immigration system is doing that to them, it's hard to a positive spin, but where we can, we try to so that people feel good about liking it. Because it feels awkward sometimes to like a negative post. So when possible, we try to put a positive spin.
Or timely. And this has been really interesting and important with this campaign. It's not our primary goal to be a breaking news source, but often we are online pretty frequently. And every time a state passes marriage equality, we try to share that news as quickly as possible. And we know that for a lot of people, the first time that they see that news might be on their Facebook feed through our campaign. And that's really powerful.
Especially if that's your home state. Maybe we try to include pictures of UUs or folks in their yellow shirts, folks getting married. So we try to do that as quickly as possible because I can be really a powerful place for people to come together and comment and like and share. And we get to create that space together to celebrate. And there's been so many times that we've gotten celebrate that over the past five years. So we try to be timely when possible.
We also try to feature powerful photos, graphics, and quotes. We know that folks love to get together and witness in their yellow shirts. And it creates like these beautiful sea of the love people together and so, that feels good. So whenever possible, we ask people to take pictures when they're out together. If marriage equality has just been passed and you all are partying at your state capitol, we want to see that. And other people want to see that too. So send that to us as well.
So those are three of our top tips there. So, follow your friends on social media. We try to work with a lot of partner organizations, we retweet their work, we share their stuff on Facebook, we ask them to do the same.
So I'll share a really recent example with you. We do a lot of things that we love on social media and sometimes we do things that we like really, really love. So just a few weeks ago with my home congregation in Washington, DC, All Souls, we did a flash mob for voting rights on the steps of the Supreme Court. And it was awesome. Yeah, really fun.
So if you want to see that you guys should come to the party tonight where I'm going to play the video that. We're going to talk a little bit about doing a flash mob, it's a super fun thing to do.
So we love all the things that we do, but sometimes we really want to promote work, and really get it out there. So we engaged people early on. We had social media plans before we launched it. We had close to 300 people there and we asked all of those people to be part of this outreach plan, and getting it out there, and sharing it with their networks. And being as excited about it as we were. And it worked.
So as of yesterday, we were getting close to 4,000 views. Maybe— we're over? All right! And it's only been online for 48 hours. So that's pretty powerful. We also asked some partner organizations that are also doing work on voting rights. When I was tweeting I was directly asking people.
So, a way that you can do that is you put a period and then their Twitter, the @ sign, and then their Twitter handle. And so I asked groups that I knew also did voting rights work. Like the North Carolina NAACP. I said hey, would you guys retweet this and they did. Bend the arc, which is a reform Jewish group. I said hey guys, you just did something awesome on voting rights, will you share what we did too? And they did.
So asking people directly and then doing the same. So I was asking folks to share our work and then I was going and making sure that I was sharing their work as well. So we're creating those relationships there. So getting people on board is really important.
And just knowing that there are a lot of people that want to see and hear about your work. So get those folks involved. And so, this kind of says a little bit more of the same thing, but sharing is caring. Be that good partner and retweet, re-share other groups work.
So sometimes it's not all feel good, right? And we have to deal with some difficult things on social media. You probably have encountered that yourselves. So we try to, as much as possible, respond to questions, respond to any criticisms that come our way, and appreciation too. So there are times that we'll share the work of a partner organization that's maybe framed in a way that not everyone agrees with.
For the most part, people that follow our work are about our same values and principles, but occasionally we do have people who aren't down with marriage equality and they want to let that be known. And that can be really hard. And we have a lot of folks who try to be loving in their responses back, so we try to be balanced. We try not to get defensive, although sometimes it can be really easy to. You probably have experience that yourselves.
We try to resist disrespectful debate. We don't really try to censor comments, unless it really sort of moves into territory that is hateful or just totally doesn't jive with our campaign. Then we might remove some things. But if it's a respectful debate, we'll keeps some stuff up there.
We share information, we call people to action, and then you've got to keep it moving too, sometimes. So try not to get locked in if anything does get ugly on social media. And thankfully, that doesn't really happen with us too often.
OK, so a couple of rules for different platforms. And Facebook is still the largest platform that we use. Probably that's the same for most of you all. I will say that I think we got pretty lucky when we first launched in that Facebook was still relatively new. And we were able to grow the campaign pretty quickly. We have over 40,000 people who like us and follow us pretty regularly on Facebook. And even just several months ago, average post for us we're sort of between 300 to 500 likes per post.
In that time, and this was right before we had launched 30 days of love for this year, so we put all this work into it. All this love, all this blood, sweat, and tears, and then Facebook changed their algorithms. And all of this great content that we really wanted to get out into the world was being suppressed.
Because Facebook is now really favoring more paid advertising, paid posts, and so that was a little bit crushing, I'm not going to lie. But you have to find ways to work with the platforms as they shift and change because they will. The platforms themselves shift and change. And then what platforms are out there and what are popular with folks, that will shift and change too. So you just kind of have to be nimble with that.
So, if you've felt discouraged, if you've put really great work out there and you're like, why aren't people liking in sharing this? I think we've all experienced that. So try to learn, too, from what has worked for you better in the past.
If you want to follow what other folks are doing, clicking notifications on Facebook, that helps and you can more easily see other folks content. We try to do something between one to three posts maximum on Facebook. You don't necessarily want to do more than that.
And then again, photographs are very popular, followed by things with links in them, and then just solo text update. So we try to have a photograph or graphic as much as possible, pretty much every post on Facebook.
So Twitter is similar to Facebook. I know that not as many people are on Twitter. So you might feel like it's one more thing to learn. Twitter and Facebook have definitely some significant differences, but they're not too different. So if you're on Facebook, but Twitter still feels like this whole other world, it's not. Signing up for it it's fairly easy and Sarah gave a great resource to walk you through that. It's on uuplanet.org so check it out if you feel totally new to it.
So we do a lot of live tweeting of things, so it's great to some of y'all have been doing that too. So with Twitter, it is different, you can tweet a lot more than you might post something on Facebook. You can get locked out if you're tweeting too much, but we treat pretty frequently and that doesn't really happen to us. All though, it is going to wait 10 to 15 minutes between tweets.
And so, this is something I will admit I have a lot of trouble sticking to. So Twitter is 140 characters. I'm almost always like bumping up against that. It's better if you try not to, to leave room for other people to retweet or modify your tweet, but that is hard for me. Images also matter on Twitter, as well. And if you do you upload a photo, that'll take away some of the characters, you're allowed, but it makes it a little bit more compelling.
So with hashtags, too, I admit that even though these are good rules to follow. Sometimes it's hard for me. One to two is good. So we've given several for this #UUAG is sort of like the broad GA. #LoveReachesOut for our GA theme, #UUsGetSocial. I think you can use more than one to two, but there are some tweets that it's like almost every word is a hashtag. You probably don't want to do that, that makes it a little bit harder to read.
And again, retweeting other folks work to try to start those relationships is really important to start and build those relationships. Including something funny or cheeky. That can be fun, change up your tone a little bit. Where appropriate, where possible. Crediting people's work is nice.
Repeat your best tweets. Yeah, so something was really popular and you want people to see it again, tweet it again. We've tweeted that video that I mentioned earlier, we've tried to retweet it several times and encourage people to do that too.
So using action phrases is important. There's throwback Thursday's, there's follow Fridays. You don't have to be involved in these kind of things, but it's something that a lot of other folks in organizations use. So you might want to consider being part of these days and movements on Twitter too, that can help.
Creating a story arc when live tweeting. For this workshop you might want to start with some of your favorite tips, and then at the end, what have you learned? How might you apply some of this? You can create a little arc as we go through it. If not today, another time.
So this can be helpful, compiling relevant Twitter handles and hashtags in advance. So I'll give you another example from this past February in Raleigh when we had close to 1,500 UUs join together for the mass moral march there. So again, we tried to be really intentional with our social media work beforehand. And we had some internal hash tags that we used, I'm totally going to blank, anyone remember? Nora, I'm looking at you. Gosh, what did we use? UUs— it hasn't even been that long. UUsLivingTheDream was one of them and MassMoralMarch.
So we encourage people to have both internal hashtags so that we could follow what other UUs in Raleigh were doing. And then external hashtags so we could be part of the conversation with the thousands and thousands of other folks in organizations that were there too. So I think that's really key.
OK, so this is actually really important for me. This is why I started with a little deep breath. How many of you all have felt overwhelmed by social media? Anyone? I do a lot. Yeah.
I love social media, I love the power of social media, I love what we can do with it. And sometimes, it feels like too much and it can feel really overwhelming. And you've probably had people tell you if you're not on Facebook, if you're not on Twitter, you need to get on there. You need to do this if you want your work seen. And it can feel like a lot to ask of people, and especially with platforms like Twitter, it can go by so fast and it's really hard to keep up.
So, I try, as much as possible to take digital sabbath. You can find the time that works for you. If it's over the weekend, what we try to do with the campaign is use a platform like HootSuite or TweetDeck to schedule posts to go out over the weekend. So that if folks are looking for work from us, we have some there, but we might personally not be online for a little bit. That can be harder if there's like breaking news over the weekend, we will try to get back online to respond to that, but.
Yeah, finding the healthy boundaries. I was noticing just over the past few days, I've been tweeting a lot while here and trying to keep up with all the great things people are saying. And for all of our folks who can't be here at GA, wanting to keep that information getting out to people.
And sometimes I realized that I'm not making eye contact with people anymore. I'm on my phone and I'm writing so much and so, I think that can be important sometimes. And then putting the phone or the iPad or whatever down for a little bit. So finding those boundaries for yourself I think is really important. What works for you, experimenting too.
It's hard sometimes. The first thing that we do when we wake up is we look at our phone and what's happening. And right before we go to bed we do that too. So I'm trying to, when I'm on social media be more on, be more present. And then when I'm off, be off for a little bit and walk away from it too, so. All right, shall I hand it back to you?
SARAH GIBB MILLSPAUGH: Thank you Jennifer and thank you Amy. It's been so exciting to see how people are using social media at GA. And I just want to hold up the incredible positivity that I've seen. And with the GA hashtag on Twitter and on the GA app, because that has a social dimension to it. People are being so positive, so supportive, so loving. Even in sometimes in disagreement being loving and supportive.
And I think that's also a principle that we can bring into the world. Because our friends do see us on social media. When we're having a fight with other UUs about divestment and we're getting nasty, or we are having a disagreement in our congregation and being tweeting in ways that are putting other UUs down, people see that too. So I think everything that we put out into the world, even if we might naturally think of it as just going to our friends or our followers, it's being seen by a lot of people and they're forming an impression of our faith. And the more we can do our tweeting and our facebooking and our Pinteresting, and our all of those things in love, that is going to help our love reach out. And we're doing such a wonderful job of it here.
I'm going to mention a couple of workshops going forward. We have later today, at 5 o'clock, there's a workshop called Love Reaches Out, There's An App For That, which is about using apps to bring your congregational life to people who might not be in attendance every Sunday.
So, both Jennifer and Amy talked about the reality of many people's lives where they might come to the congregation just once a month. There are ways to engage them in the theme of the worship, engage them in the theme of the Religious Education on social media through apps. And Karen Bellavance-Grace has done awesome work with it. So I encourage you to check out her workshop this afternoon.
And also the final UUs get social series workshop that's going to have wonderful people who've really gone deep and done great things with Twitter, Facebook, and video making and sharing. It'll be a TedTalk style event and that'll be here tomorrow morning at 10:15.
You can also keep using the hashtag UUsGetSocial and we'll have stickers at the end of the workshop that you can put on your name tag or on your mobile device. And we can do that as we keep learning about social media and keep developing our understanding together.
Also, you can check out the UUs Get Social web page. That is up at this link, uua.org/communic ations/ga/social/index.shtml. That's a long, long link, but—Margy?
Oh, you don't need the index.html Margy, says. She's our web director. So communications/ga/social. And there you'll find of the notes, the handouts, and the PowerPoint slides from each of the four workshops. You'll also, after we get them edited and put up, you'll find videos of these workshops.
Also there's a link there for a Congregations and Beyond, Peter Morales' paper. How many of you have read the article in the Summers UU World by Terase Cooley called, Into The Beyond about reaching out to nones? It's a wonderful article. I really encourage you to read it because it brings the cultural changes together with the kinds of ways we need to position ourselves in the world as UUs.
And also, mentioned Elizabeth Drescher earlier. She has a book coming out from Oxford University Press later this year called, Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives Of America's Nones. And she really does a lot of deeper look into the data and conversations with people who are not religiously affiliated, to see what people who are in religions can learn about those folks. And can learn from those folks to be able to enter into relation
- Workshop Slides (PPTX, 10 pages), (PDF)
- Handout: Social Media Tips from Standing on the Side of Love (PDF)
Audio recordings of General Assembly (GA) programs are available for purchase. Every GA 2014 registrant has access to all of the 2014 audio content at no charge.