My mom always told me, “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” A head-scratcher for sure, it took me at least until I was, oh, six or seven, to start to understand what this cryptic phrase had to do with me! Having never gathered eggs myself, I had no idea what this meant.

This is what it looks like when you rely only on social media

The “eggs” I’m talking about today are our online relationships: our access to people, how we communicate with them, and how we relate to them in general.

These days a lot of us have all of our eggs in the Facebook basket, and it’s dangerous to do so. Facebook is the largest platform out there: all of our church members are there, all of our friends, people we’ve met at conferences and on vacation… it seems to be the one-stop shop if we want to be in touch with as many people as possible. So why would it be dangerous to have all our “eggs” there? And what’s the alternative?

1. Facebook Might Go Away

Balderdash, you say!! How could something as huge, as dominant, as pervasive as Facebook simply go away?

Well, empires rise and fall. I say this to all of you who still have a MySpace profile, shop from the Sears catalog, and hope to once again dine at Steak and Ale. However unlikely it seems today, Facebook might quickly succumb to the forces that take down all empires.

You may have noticed that social media companies of all types are coming under increasing scrutiny by the world’s governments.

I mean, yeah, this is unlikely, at least in the time you would have to make connections to people through other electronic media. But relying on Facebook as your primary medium for ministry is risky, and what applies to Facebook applies to all of social media. It hasn’t been around for very long, and who knows, it might not last very long either.

Why not build something more permanent?

Takeaway: your email list belongs to you, and though empires may rise and fall, properly backed up email lists are forever.

2. Social Media Does What It Wants

I remember when it was all bursting forth (yes, I’m an early adopter, and I’m proud of it!). I remember when you could post your status update and others would see it. Likewise, when others posted, I could see theirs as well. It was cool back then, in the early days.

But you’ve likely noticed that this is not the case anymore. All the social media platforms send you what they want you to see. An algorithm is in charge.

The algorithm really doesn’t have your best interests in mind, and here’s why: all platforms that make their money off of advertising don’t want you to leave. That’s right, they want you to hang around as long as you possibly can. Why? Because the more you stay, the more advertising revenue they can earn. The algorithm has perfected this.

I’ve noticed lately that when I post a link to another website, I get very few “likes” and “shares.” Perhaps it’s because among my almost-2000-friends, NO ONE is aligned with my tastes and preferences. OR, it’s because unless that link is demoted and deemphasized, you’re likely to read it, and therefore leave the social media platform you’re on. And even if you leave for a minute or two, that’s lost revenue for them.

If you don’t believe me, try it out and let me know how it goes.

Another thing to beware of: social media companies are always shifting priorities. A couple of years ago, Facebook Live was heavily promoted within the platform. Not anymore. Today Facebook is promoting Groups. This will no doubt change as well.

In short: that list of people you’ve cultivated on social media for all these years? It doesn’t belong to you, and it can’t be counted on to serve either you or your congregation.

Takeaway: because your email list belongs to you, it is not subject to the whims of algorithms, profit motives, and changing corporate priorities.

3. Social Media Has Become “Pay-to-Play”

Five years ago, I remember we talked a lot about “organic reach.” This is how we described how it was possible to reach a lot of people with our message through best-practices, keywording, hashtags, asking others to retweet, etc. It was possible to make a video that would go viral under the right circumstances. While we still see some examples of how this can be accomplished, it’s much more difficult today.

Why? Because social media platforms are businesses, and they have found that we are willing to pay to be seen. If you post an announcement to your church’s online event, even those who follow your church’s page will probably not see it. If you “boost” your announcement by putting some cash into the equation, they’re much more likely to.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of social media ads, and for all the reasons we hate the way privacy is endangered by them, they’re an excellent way to reach people with your message. But it’s pretty safe to say that there’s no such thing as “organic reach” anymore.

Takeaway: your emails go to the people you want to see them.

Email is not perfect, for sure. One must follow best practices so that emails don’t get caught in SPAM filters, relegated to the “newsletters” tab in Gmail, or sent to folks that haven’t checked their email in months. Some say that people under the age of 30 don’t use email at all (I’m not sure about that, but whatever). Even still, your email list is something you own, and it will not be blown away by the winds of changing corporate priorities.

If you find yourself putting all of your ministry eggs into one social media basket, it’s time to pay attention to email once again. Put similar energy into building your email lists and keep them fresh. All your hard will certainly pay off.

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