What’s in your toolbox?

This article was written for the Pacific Northwest Conference’s publication, Channels. To view this on their website, click here.

Let’s not kid ourselves. There is way too much information out there. It’s easy to get lost, inundated, bogged down so you feel like you don’t even know how to start sifting through the barrage of information we encounter daily, let alone decide how to mange it all.  Many of you have moved past the question of whether or not you’ll start tweeting, create a facebook page or start an e-newsletter. You’ve done that or are in the process. And just as you were figuring your way around blogs, facebook pages and podcasts, you’re learning there are even more communication tools at your disposal! How do you keep it all straight? You represent congregations and faith communities big and small. What tools can help you work smarter and more effectively?

I heard your plea. Or groan?
flickr user "cwt_ucla"

photo by flickr user, "cwt_ucla"

Here’s a sampling of basic tools you can use to keep up to speed with the changing (and sticking) technology. From eNewsletters to conference calls; blogging to file sharing; live streaming to media editing; project management to task management–you’ve got a smattering here of tools you’ll need to keep in your digital toolkit.

Use what you need, come back to the ones you don’t quite know much about. Find a friend and start exploring! Click on stuff. Don’t worry, you won’t break anything. Promise.

eNews + eCommunication :: Green is in. It’s time to start thinking about paperless communication solutions. This doesn’t mean completely doing away with paper newsletters. You are merely offering another opportunity for your community to receive timely communication about the great things happening in your congregation and faith community.

Constant Contact [constantcontact.com]
Constant Contact has been around the block. They’re a favorite email and event marketing solution for non profits and industry. If you subscribe to any of the Pacific Northwest Conference newsletters, you’ve received a product of Constant Contact. If you can prove your 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit, you can take advantage of their discounted pricing starting at $15/month.

MailChimp [mailchimp.com]

MailChip is a newer service, but I like it already. They’re hip, easy to use, and have a “Forever Free Plan” that allows you to store up to 2,000 email addresses and send out 12,000 emails a month. Not too shabby! Continue reading

So you wanna tweet? Top 15. Almost.


This is a result of a facebook conversation with @pastordj about choosing a twitter handle for a district superintendent. Keep these things in mind as you set up your account, remembering that these are just the first steps.

Maintaining your twitter account means regular engagement and updating and contributing to the body of knowledge that exists.

  1. Keep your handle [@_____] shorter than 10 characters. You don’t want your name to take up more space than necessary. After all, you only have 160 characters.
  2. Update your bio section. Doesn’t have to be complete sentences. Phrases and keywords work. This section is searchable, so the more relevant info you put in there, the more folks can find you.
  3. Add a website! If you blog or have a church or personal website, put it up there. The more info you can give people, the better!
  4. Make lists! You’re allowed to create up to 20 lists. This helps you organize who you follow, and is good will towards other in the twittersphere. Some list ideas for UMC folks: @PNWUMC [conference twitter list], @UMCclergy, @churchmedia, @theologians, @faithbloggers
  5. Change your twitter background! Nothing worse than keeping the plain blue background that’s the default for twitter accounts. Personalize it. Have it say something about you or your organization. Here are a few examples: my school/media account, my seminary one, and a post on effective twitter backgrounds and best practices [READ IT!]
  6. Add a photo! People want to connect with you and place a face with a profile. Makes you more personable 🙂
  7. List yourself on other lists. Here’s an example of a UMC wefollow list.
  8. Follow people back! Unless it’s spam, do unto others by following them back. Remember, it’s all about networks and the degrees of separation. Connections are unlimited 🙂
  9. Thank people for following you.
  10. Use hashtags [#]. It helps people find your tweets.
  11. Give credit where it’s due. If you are sharing a link from someone, be sure to say, RT @____ or Thanks, @____ for this link!
  12. Tweet relevant stuff and tweet often! Decide what your twitter account will cover and stick close to it. People will expect certain kinds of info from you because of who you say you are and what you’ll tweet. Honor that. You become irrelevant if you don’t keep up your tweets, so tweet often or people will begin to unfollow you.
  13. Thanks to Michelle for reminding me about gathering an audience. Do searches regularly for keywords associated with your audience. You can use search.twitter.com or comb through lists like wefollow.com, twellow.com, justtweetit.com, tweetfind.com, twitr.org to start. Also, start sifting through some of the followers of the orgs/people who you follow. There’s bound to be overlap in interests.
  14. In terms of cultivating and engaging an audience, people won’t know that you’re talking unless you get their attention. Be sure to @ or # people or ideas so that you become a part of the conversation, and eventually a regular contributor or thought leader. Don’t be afraid to reach out and engage people in conversation.

Want more info/tips? @sophiaSPU or @sophiakristina