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The Online Face of Church Interaction? (Image via CrunchBase)

Folks who follow me on Facebook and Twitter might have noticed that I seem to have two voices. The reason for that is simple: I do.

They are closely related, mostly because they are both me. And I don’t like to divide myself into “Pastor Joey” and “Just Plain Joey.”  But it is impossible to “wear the collar” all the time. So I post fun things about the things that interest me, pictures of family, and snarky comments about the sports and entertainment industries.

And then, there’s the very intentional effort I make to offer spiritually encouraging content online.

When you read something that appears to be inspiring, you can rest assured that I’ve put some time in ahead of the post. I sit down, examine the calendar, pray, and do a little studying.

And then I schedule about 20 posts at a time, usually a week or so ahead of the time you see the post using a program called Hootsuite — and a whole host of other apps that are free and available to you today.

Hootsuite

“You mean you aren’t really posting those?” Yes, I’m posting those carefully crafted thoughts and well-researched quotes. I’m just posting them a week at a time using a scheduler called Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com). Hootsuite allows me to write a series of “Twitter-length Sermons” and schedule them to be posted in the coming week. I could schedule them further out (like my sermons, which are prepared as much as 8-10 months in advance). But I keep imagining something happening to me. In the event of my untimely death, Hootsuite would just keep churning out the posts — and that’s just creepy.

When I first started using Hootsuite, it was just for posting my sermon synapsis to Facebook on my church’s Facebook page — sort of a preview. Then I added follow-up tweets as reminders of the points from the sermon on Monday. Soon, I was posting two or three tweets a day and cross-posting them to Facebook as well.

And that was before I ever thought to use Hootsuite to share great articles I run across online. It was just too cumbersome to keep switching to Hootsuite and posting links. Enter the Buffer.

Buffer

Almost all of those articles that I post are generally found a week ahead of time as well. I use a program called Buffer (www.bufferapp.com) to schedule links to be posted from blogs and articles that have great content.

Here’s a quick overview: When I read the writers I follow, I read them all at once, usually every couple of days.  All of the blogs in my blogroll are conglomerated into Google’s Reader. As I read, I may see a really insightful article. When I do, I click the little star icon and make it a favorite. Then, another little gem of a program picks it up from there.

IfThisThenThat

Within an hour, an application called IfThisThenThat (www.ifttt.com) will check my Reader application to see if there are any new favorited articles. If there are, IfThisThenThat sends the link to Buffer. There, it will be sorted to the end of the line. The free version only holds 10 articles. For me, that’s five days of article posting. Sometimes, when the buffer is full, I’ll post a link immediately. But not often does that happen.

IfThisThenThat also picks out my favorite Tweets from folks I follow on Twitter and cross-posts them to Facebook.

WordPress and Networked Blogs

Finally, we come to the product you are reading here, my collected articles and posts on a variety of things. I write these articles in clusters as well, and use WordPress to schedule them for later publishing. Then, a nifty little program called Networked Blogs (accessed through Facebook apps) detects the new published material and posts a quick blurb on my Facebook Timeline and my Twitter feed. I also use the Jetpack plugin to measure traffic and determine my website’s effectiveness.

Whew.

Why All the Fuss?

This effort is worth the trouble because I am convinced that online media, especially social media, are the crossroads of our society and culture. John Wesley preached at the literal crossroads of his day, encountering people in meaningful ways where he could find them. We should do the same — not standing on street corners, but finding the crossroads and setting up our pulpits and singing our sermons into the crowds and masses whenever we can. Today, that’s online. Less than a decade ago, it was still television. DVRs make commercials a waste of time for so many ideas and products. So I take up my digital pen and I write.

But I also realize that people are physically social as well. And I don’t have time to do all these things manually and still get around to seeing folks face to face. By interconnecting all of my social media efforts with this seamless automation,  I am spending less time than ever on social media and producing nearly four times as much meaningful interaction.

I measure this interaction with two metrics: Personal feedback and another nifty program called Klout (www.klout.com). Klout uses a very complicated algorithm to determine not only my productivity (how often and how  much I post) but the interactions that result (comments, likes, retweets, etc.).

While Klout cannot assess the quality of my offerings, they can tell me how well I am communicating with the folks who are reading them. I rely on your feedback to know when I’m hitting the mark, and when I’m whistling past the graveyard, as it were. For that, I depend on your responses and comments; and, of course, the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Now, how do you use social media for your personal purposes?

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Author Bio: Joey Reed