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How to use social networking in ministry

Before you start using social networking in ministry, get to know what the sites are like and what goes on them. You can visit one of the sites listed below and search for friends, groups or causes without having to sign up. Once you're ready, here's what to do next:

  1. Sign up for a free account (e-mail address required).
  2. Create your profile and upload a photo or avatar (a representation of yourself or your alter ego). You can complete the basics and add more details later.
  3. Decide how public or private you want your profile to be.
  4. Start finding friends and inviting them to connect with you.
  5. Upload photographs or videos and share links to Web sites or blogs.
  6. Post notes or comments to others' profiles.
  7. Join groups or causes to expand your personal network and connect with others who share your interests.

How do I set up a group?
It is quick and easy. Here are the basic steps, but remember each social networking site will have a slightly different set-up process:

  1. Establish an individual profile on a social networking site.
  2. Log into your individual profile and create a new group.
  3. Give your group a descriptive, succinct name.
  4. Add basic information about the group.
  5. Upload an image, graphic or avatar to represent the group.
  6. Decide if the group will be open to the public, by invitation only (private) but viewable by others who are not members of the group, or viewable only by those invited to join.
  7. Use the features of the group profile, such as forums, videos and photographs to begin sharing information.
  8. Locate and invite others on the social networking site to join the group.
  9. Enlist the support of group members to serve as moderators, hosts and regular contributors to the social networking group to keep content fresh and focused.
  10. Post links on the group profile to the church Web site, e-mail and any other Web presence for your church. Provide contact information and an address for the church so online interaction easily can transition to offline participation.

An alternative to setting up a group on most social networking sites is to use Facebook Pages. With Facebook Pages, your church can have its own professional presence without being created as a group under an individual's profile. People become "fans" of your page and can interact in much the same way as groups. To learn more about Facebook Pages, visit the Facebook website.