Shut up and listen. Is this a better way forward for websites and social media?

listenWhenever I discuss websites and social media with churches and others, the wise response is, “ah yes, so important to keep them updated”.  You only have to google for social media advice and it’s often about how often you post and what you should be posting about.   At the professional end you will be advised to have a clear strategy and a consistent message.  This is all great advice, of course, but there is an activity which is often overlooked which is more important than any of that.

Supposing we stopped posting our own message altogether, abandoned our preconceived strategy and did something even more radical?  

One of the most powerful catalysts for relationship building is to show an interest.  I don’t know about you, but if someone says, “how are you?”, “how did it go?” or “tell me about your day?”  I feel instantly connected to that person.  Can we take anything from this in the way we approach media?

From a Christian point of view (I’ve just come from a conversation with the Leeds Bishop)  I would say that taking an interest  is exactly what we see in His life – Jesus taking an interest in people not just telling them how to behave or what he thinks.  The big companies that market the products and services we all know and love are recognising that listening to the ideas, concerns and feelings of customers is a powerful connector. Showing that you care is absolutely central to any respectable marketing plan these days, you only have to look at TV advertising to get that.

But what do we mean by showing an interest and what we can do.  What should our radical plan for using the web and social media be?

How about deciding NOT to set up a website and NOT to post any of your own messages on Twitter or Facebook at all?  Instead follow other conversations and join in?  Comment on a blog you’ve read, retweet a post you like, or like a facebook page.  Be relentlessly encouraging towards other people’s causes and passions (if they are the right ones).  Of course there is scope for adding your own point of view, but let’s say the starting point is the other person.

So what of those people who are concerned about how often we update our website and repeating our strategic messages?  I might say, build the relationship first.

In our website and social media activity we should not only update the presences with our own self interested content (like I do!) but we could do it in such a way as to encourage dialogue with respect for the needs, moods, opinions, trends of the wider community.  So often we post ”hit and run” messages but don’t notice if anyone has seen them or even if they reply.  We must be alert to response.  I have to say that I’m not preaching here, more confessing. A colleague of mine has just told me about some direct Twitter messages I have failed to notice or respond to!

All this adds up to a lot of responsibility.  If you are setting up a website or a social media account are you JUST going to update it or commit to taking an interest in those you’d like to connect with.  And when you do show an interest, how are you going to follow it up?


Published by Mark

Mark Waddington is a former BBC broadcaster and producer. He now works for the Diocese of Leeds as Urban Mission Officer. If you would like to get in touch email