21 February 2012
TweetUp! How to Bridge Digital and Face-to-Face Relationships
Many ministry leaders worry that social media will erode face-to-face relationships. Unfortuately, they use this as a reason to dismiss social media altogether.
However, if this is really the concern, wouldn't a more constructive approach be to engage in social media with the goal of building connections between digital and face-to-face? After all, people are going to be in social media anyway, with our without you. (Sorry to break it to you.)
Why not help people avoid this apparently worrisome pitfall by helping make connections between the digital and face-to-face, between our online and offline worlds.
TweetUps are a great way to do this.
A TweetUp (a mashup of the terms Tweet and MeetUp) is a face-to-face gathering of local Twitter users. Our town has had two of them. We use the hashtag is #tweetupwob, short for "TweetUp Woburn." Both TweetUps drew a combination residents, community organizers, and business leaders. Some of us knew each other, but most of us didn't. As you might guess, its a pretty social crowd, so it didn't take long to get talking. The agenda was simple and effective - networking (name tags also included Twitter handles), some light trivia (all responses submitted via tweet), and a small panel of people who use Twitter in their work in interesting ways.
Because of Redeemer's use of social media I was asked to serve on the panel for the TweetUp last summer. It was a cool opportunity to talk about the way Redeemer has been ministering in Woburn for now over 118 years and how that outreach and minsitry now includes Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks to the TweetUp, I met many people in town whom I had only known through Twitter. Meeting them face-to-face became very important a couple months later when there was a shooting and manhunt in our town. The town went into lock down and the only way to communicate was social media. Because I had met these Tweeps (Twitter friends and followers) in person, I felt a deeper connection to them. I could put names with faces, stories, and neighborhoods and could better connect and minister in that situation.
And so, our digital connection led to our face-to-face meeting which led to deeper connections both online and when we see each other in the community. The digital and face-to-face connections are reinforcing one another.
Make the Connection - Any Way You Can
Finding ways to make digital connections incarnate is an important role for ministry leaders in the social networking age. TweetUps are just one way (and a pretty fun way) to do this. But it doesn't have to be a TweetUp. Find creative ways to bring together our digital and face-to-face worlds. Simply invite a Facebook friend or Tweep you've never or rarely met in person (who you are pretty sure is not a stalker) to have a coffee is a start.
Or, reverse engineer it. Since most people are more accustomed to the face-to-face, one place to start might be inviting online connections into that existing offline space. Ask for prayers on Twitter or Facebook before church and include them in the prayers of the people. Pose a question you are discussing in a group and invite other people into the conversation. Take pictures and post them. Tag people if its appropriate. Dream up creative ways of bringing people together.
This digital world needs people with incarnational imagination to keep us connected and invite us deeper into relationship to one another and to God. We need you. Get out there and TweetUp!