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  • Twitter for Your Congregation

    Posted on October 12th, 2009 Ruth Abusch-Magder 2 comments
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    When I first heard about Twitter the whole thing seemed ridiculous; after all, who needs ongoing updates on my every action and thought, especially short little burst of only 140 characters. Even my mother doesn’t love me that much never mind my colleagues and friends.

    But in the last few months Twitter has gained traction. Oprah uses it to share her ideas with the Oprah community. In Iran anti-government forces used it to spread word of protests. Caregivers for those in the hospital use it to update family and friends. Nonetheless, it can be hard to figure out if Twitter is a tool that you should make time to learn and use.

    My interest in Twitter as a helpful tool picked up after reading The Reason Your Chuch Must Twitter by Anthony Coppedge which was recommended to me by Jewish education and technology consultant Rebecca Egolf. The book is a good introduction to Twitter. Looking both at the nuts and bolts of the technology as well as opening a conversation as to why pastors should invest in Twitter.

    Coppedge makes the argument that Twitter can help make a pastor more human. It can aide in connecting the community that your institution is supporting, not only to the clergy but also to each other.

    After reading the book, I began to think of how it might be used in a synagogue. An ongoing stream of information about all activities would likely cause information fatigue and hurt the cause but strategic targeting could make this an affective tool in fulfilling core elements of the congregational mission. A Twitter group might be set up for those available for morning minyan. Instead of taking the time to make a dozen phone calls with the hope of getting one volunteer when a tenth fails to materialize, a short tweet (as Twitter messages are called) might be sent out to those (and I would recommend ONLY those) who could step in to make the quorum. A Twitter group could be set up for the Bikur Holim committee so that not only could people keep updated on Mrs. Levy’s triple bypass recovery and needs but changes in the visitation schedule to Mr. Schwartz could be changed without lots of phone calls. Additionally, the Twitter could supersede the need for a phone tree for the Hebrew School.

    According to one of Coppedge’s critics two of the major drawbacks of Twitter in the congregation are the need to educate congregants about the technology and getting their buy in.

    This is not a technology solution for all that confronts those of us working in the Jewish world. Like all innovations, Twitter has it’s limits. Coppedge’s short introduction to the subject can  help us figure out how to use it intelligently to our advantage.

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    2 responses to “Twitter for Your Congregation”

    1. Nice summary of the book! A few supplemental points. It is very easy for a congregation to publish its Twitter messages, automatically, on its web site. It’s also easy to automate turning “Tweets” into emails. I say this in order to affirm that a congregation could begin to use Twitter as a communication tool without burdening its not-interested members to learn anything about Twitter.Twitter is great on a smart phone. You can even read and send messages via text on a not smart phone. So it’s a highly portable means of communicating in a society where we want access to info wherever we are.Finally, on a fine point… Twitter doesn’t have groups. And it’s quite cumbersome to set up private communications for more than a few people. Topics, which people can follow, are set up on the fly by putting a hash (#) in front of a keyword a group may have chosen. Though a group may choose a keyword and tell its members to follow that keyword, the group has no ability to play gatekeeper on anyone’s use or abuse of that keyword. It’s the Wild West of communications. Fun, frustrating, and confusing at times.

      Thanks again for the great article.

      Shai Gluskin

    2. Shai,
      Thanks for your added insights.
      Ruth

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