Communications Overview: Social Media Handles/Usernames

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BY ANDREW DAVID COX | 
Consistency is important in communications, and social media is no exception to this rule. Social media accounts have what are referred to as handles, which are a way for your audience to find or tag your page on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Social media icons on phone

Photo by Pixabay via Pexels.com

Use the same handle (username) on all of your social media platforms. If you can make your handle the same as your website URL, that is even better! Even if you aren’t ready to use additional platforms, go ahead and reserve the handle on other platforms by setting up an account on them. Just don’t point your congregants/audience to those social accounts until you are ready to use them regularly.

 

Example: The Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries’ website URL is https://www.MoravianBCM.org. We can be found by and tagged with @MoravianBCM on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This saves us from confusion and makes promoting our online presence much easier. On promotional materials, we just need each social media logo (or list them by name), and @MoravianBCM next to the logos or list. Add our website, email, and phone number, and we’re good to go!

Cutting Through the Tech Jargon:

According to Google.Domains, a URL (Universal Resource Locator), is the complete web address for a particular page on the Internet. The URL for our Moravian Church Communicators in America, South group is https://www.facebook.com/groups/MCSPCommunicators/.
Your “handle” on social media is usually all one word with no spaces, and is typically preceded by an “@” symbol (at least in the case of the big three social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). It can also be called a username. This is different than your display name.*
Example: our display name on Facebook is “The Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM).” Our handle, or username, is @MoravianBCM. The handle is also what is used in your social profile’s URL (https://www.Facebook.com/MoravianBCM or https://www.Instagram.com/MoravianBCM). It is critical that you set up your username on Facebook (it doesn’t necessarily do it automatically). Otherwise, you’ll get an impossible to remember URL for your Facebook Page.
It is less important for your display name to be the same on each platform (some platforms limit length more than others). But it recommended for churches to always have the word “church” at the end of their display names, so they’ll appear in searches for churches on each of the platforms.
That is all for now. I hope this short overview is helpful to you!
Don’t hesitate to ask the BCM or myself questions here or on social media. You may also email me at Andrew@MoravianBCM.org.

 


*Facebook calls it a “Page name” and Twitter calls it a “display name.” For simplicity and consistency’s sake, I’ve defaulted to using “display name” here for all three major platforms. This is also a bit more accurate, as the term “Pages” is used exclusively by Facebook to identify public entities active on their platform.

Source:

“The Difference between a URL, Domain, Website, and More.” Web Terms 101: the Difference between a URL, Domain, Website, and More. – Google Domains – Google, Google, domains.google/learn/the-difference-between-a-url-domain-website-more.html#/.


Questions? Comments? Or need assistance with your church’s communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at Andrew@MoravianBCM.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Andrew portrait

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Andrew is a driven creative person with established experience and skill in a variety of fields. Experience includes communications, social media management, event coordination, marketing, graphic design, photography, customer service, hospitality, security, writing, cartooning, illustration, fine art, and more! His main passion though is creating visually and emotionally interesting creative content for the Internet.


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Reflecting Christ Online: The Antidote to Poisonous Internet Trolling

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BY ANDREW DAVID COX |

Preview image - post about trolls

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been harassed online. If you were in a room of 100 people, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report, 40 people would raise their hands.73 would raise their hands to say that they have witnessed someone be harassed online. Of 100 young adults (18-29 years of age), 65 would raise their hands to say they’ve experienced online harassment.

Reading these numbers may evoke empathy in you, but not as much if you were actually in a room and saw these people raise their hands.

How negative harassment affects different individuals varies quite a bit, but no amount of harassment is acceptable. The majority of it occurs on social media along with less hurtful disrespect and blatant rudeness. This behavior, both the kind that rises to the level of harassment, and the kind that is just petty ugliness, is often referred to in 21st century colloquial language as “trolling.” It can cause a range of feelings from annoyance to fearing for one’s life, as Bloomberg Businessweek shows in its story involving a Reddit employee who tried to shut down fat-shaming trolls.2

“Trolls” are people who have no interest in having a rational, respectful, and meaningful discussion online. It’s less about “winning” a discussion, and more about getting a reaction out of someone by repeatedly hammering them with negative comments and content. As Pam Ramsden notes in her opinion piece for Newsweek: trolls desire attention and an audience.3 They’re somewhat different from cyberbullies. Rather than selectively choosing their target, they go after whoever reacts and gives them the most “fun.”

There are multiple ways to handle trolls, perhaps the easiest is blocking them. Most or all social media platforms have some setting by which you can completely revoke someone’s access to your profile. This method is an effective solution for the individual, but has no impact on the prevailing culture. If you block a troll, they’ll just find someone else to harass.

We can’t blame social media or the Internet for our predisposition to be imperfect people. Fortunately, we are blessed to have grace and forgiveness on our side.

Social media icons

I am not suggesting you refrain from blocking those who harass you. But blocking is the easy short-term solution. The long-term solution is challenging. We as Christians are called to reflect Christ in all aspects of our lives. This includes social media and the Internet. Christians, myself included, seem to frequently fall short when it comes to reflecting faith, love, and hope on an individual level online.

Christ’s light is not limited by any given communication method. It is we as fallible human beings who are susceptible to indulging in the faults of a given communication method. We can’t blame social media or the Internet for our predisposition to be imperfect people. Fortunately, we are blessed to have grace and forgiveness on our side. Making a conscious and pointed effort every day to spread Christ’s love online is perhaps one of the best ways to fight the proliferation of online harassment.* This will also keep ourselves from emulating troll-like behavior.

I asked the Rt. Rev. Sam Gray for his insight on reflecting Christ on social media. I remembered him sharing on Facebook about a test of sorts to determine if something should or shouldn’t be posted.

Sam shared, “It is always good to try to apply the ‘Philippians 4:8 test’ before posting something or replying to a post online. That’s the verse that says:

‘Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, post these things.’

OK, it actually it says, ‘think about these things,’ not ‘post these things!’ But I think the rule can apply to things that we post (and, hopefully, think about!).”

Sam’s Philippians 4:8 test, builds a criteria that content should meet before sharing, posting, or the like. He breaks it down by what he calls the six “test words” of the verse.

  • Is it true?
    • Is the source verifiable as trusted? Are the facts proven to hold up?
  • Is it honorable?
    • Sam shares that while this means our behavior should reflect depth and substance, that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with posts like cute animal videos
  • Is it just?
    • This means avoiding picking sides
  • Is it pure?
    • Is your point untainted by your personal prejudices or biases?
  • Is it pleasing?
    • Sam notes that the original Greek word for “pleasing” is more similar in meaning to “loving affection”
  • Is it commendable?
    • After meeting the first five criteria, does it still avoid harshness?

Man sitting at computer

Before I conclude, I want to add another layer to to this: specifically being mindful of the faults of online communication and the best ways to combat them. These are ideas to be considered prior to Sam’s Philippians 4:8 test. Implementing these ideas and Sam’s test can help us make progress in reducing online trolling culture.

Wait before responding to a comment or a newsworthy item. Don’t let the heat of the moment get the best of you.

See a comment or a news story and immediately feel affronted or angered? Wait. You can go ahead and write your reply or reaction. But do not hit that “post” button. Go get a coffee, go for a run, walk the dog, or watch some TV. Then come back to your phone or computer. Your mind will likely be clearer and you’ll be able to better spot the words that wouldn’t pass the Philippians 4:8 test.

Imagine the person you are talking about or responding to as physically in front of you.

One of the faults of social media and other online communication forms is that you can’t see someone else’s body language or make eye contact with them. Being free of this is known as the “online disinhibition effect.” Newsweek’s Pam Ramsden explains that other people’s gazes are known to “inhibit negative behavior.”3

“Eye contact increases self-awareness, empathy and the awareness of other people’s reactions to what is being discussed.” This is the same reason why museums have security officers and don’t rely solely on cameras.

Take time to deliberately do good for others online, and flood those who have been trolled with good vibes and encouragement.

Inspire in others good deeds and amicable behavior by setting an example with your online presence. Serve and surprise others with acts of kindness. However, keep in mind Matthew 6, in which Jesus cautions against doing good deeds for show or to rack up kudos.4

What are some ways to do this? Some ideas:

  • Make a dedicated post to one of your best friends on their birthday
  • Write positive and encouraging words to a public figure that you know has been heavily trolled, as they receive some of the worst trolling
    • Do this even if you don’t always agree with the person
  • When a friend shares uplifting or sad news, write a personalized comment that expresses how much you care and do it consistently
  • Share a link to a nonprofit you are passionate about and ask others to consider giving to them
  • Simply post a status asking your digital community what you can help them with
    • Amy Jo Martin did this and experienced some uplifting results, as acts of kindness can boost serotonin levels5
  • When you see someone acting like a troll, approach them about it in person, and let them know, kindly, that their behavior is hurtful and/or unhelpful
    • If that’s not possible, try sending them a polite private message… however, only do this if they have a clear identity (don’t try to reach out to someone who is hiding behind anonymity)
    • Be patient and forgiving of those who exhibit troll-like behavior, as it can be an indicator of certain psychological conditions, Australian Broadcasting Corporation notes6
  • In general: spread lots of positive vibes and encouragement to everyone
  • Reward positive behavior and ignore trolls (except to reach out to them personally)

The Internet and social media can be a black hole into a realm of ugliness and hatred. But they can also be the single most powerful influencers for social change, positivity, and kindness. Our digital lives, while intangible, are just a real part of our lives as anything else. We are called to live in faith, love, and hope, and to be a safe and encouraging community on the Internet. Let’s do better by that.

*If any online harassment you witness or experience seriously worries you, please contact your local law enforcement and report the offender to the site on which the harassment occurred. 


Sources:

1Duggan, Maeve. “Online Harassment.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 22 Oct. 2014.

2Stein, Joel. “It’s Like Reddit, Without the Trolls.” Bloomberg Buissnessweek, Bloomberg, 7 Dec. 2016.

3Ramsden, Pam. “Here’s How the Internet Generates Its Trolls.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 5 Mar. 2017.

4Matthew 6 – – Bible Gateway. Bible Gateway.

5Martin, Amy Jo. “I Set aside 30 Mins to Spread Some Serotonin Manually, Here’s What I Did:” Be Yourself, Be Yourself, 25 Apr. 2016.

6March , Evita. “Trolls Understand What Hurts People but They Simply Don’t Care.” ABC News, ABC News, 12 July 2017.


Questions? Comments? Or need assistance with your church’s
communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at ACox@MCSP.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Andrew portrait

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Andrew is a driven creative person with established experience and skill in a variety of fields. A storyteller, his main interest is creating visually and emotionally interesting creative content for the Internet.


Follow the Moravian BCM on Social Media: 

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Basic Social Media Strategy for Ministries

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BY ANDREW DAVID COX |

Author’s note: A while back my friend Adriana asked for some advice on coming up with ideas for social media. The BCM needed a blog post to fill the deadline this week, so I asked her if we could use her inquiry for a post. You can see her question and my response below. The original content has been edited minimally where necessary for clarity and further elaboration of certain topics. We hope you find this helpful for your social media endeavors! As always, you can email me Andrew@MoravianBCM.org, message me on social media, or drop in the office Mondays and Wednesdays between 1:30pm and 5:30pm, if you need help with social and digital media. 

“Hey Andrew! I am working on the Unity Women’s Desk’s Facebook page, and I am running out of ideas and thoughts about what to for something new. I also would love to expand the number of likes and followers. Could you give many any information that could help me out from your experience with the BCM Facebook? I appreciate any help! Thanks!” -Adriana Craver, Konnoak Hills Moravian Church

Hi Adriana! So I looked over you page briefly… some tips below. They’re not necessarily reflective of what you are or aren’t doing, but is some of what I’ve learned. Pardon me for it jumping around a bit. There’s so much that could be covered!

Sam Gray checks his iPhone for the BCM Facebook page

1) Pictures, pictures, pictures, and good graphics!

Take or curate new and interesting pictures, whenever possible, of your staff or volunteers at work. If the desk can invest in a nice camera (mid-range pro is around $700), it’s worth it, if you’re willing to learn how to use it. If not, a nice smartphone will suffice. In the photos, explain what the people are doing. Bonus: give a line about why it’s important–but don’t hit people over the head. It shouldn’t be written blatant and dull, “this work is important because…” You can say something is important by sharing who it impacts, or by telling a bit about who is in the photo. Think about why people should be paying attention. People have content bombarding them 24/7, think really hard about if you were in their shoes, why would you give your time to this page over another?

Use services like Canva, Adobe Spark, or GIMP to do decent quality designs. If you can invest in it, get an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (about $60 a month without a nonprofit discount… you can get it cheaper for nonprofits through TechSoup). Use professional quality images from free stock photo sites like Pexels or Unsplash.

Author’s note:
Do not just grab images from Google without checking or verifying the usage rights. If you do, you could get into legal trouble. The image search engine is a helpful tool, but not a invitation to use any photo however you please.

Develop a voice for your brand identity. It needs to feel authentic and consistent, but not robotic or self-serving.

2) Real people. Not stock photos all the time.

I hit a bit on this above. Stock photos are fine for scripture graphics and such. But when it comes to ministry, make a concentrated effort to share the story of the real people and places involved in your ministry. Moravians have a tiny, but global, community–everyone knows everyone. Take advantage of that.

3) Authenticity

Authenticity is important! Audience members can sense pretty easily if a brand is trying too hard. Especially younger folks. Develop a voice for your brand identity. It needs to feel authentic and consistent, but not robotic or self-serving. With a few exceptions, when I post for the BCM, I am not speaking as Andrew for the BCM, but I am speaking in the BCM’s voice. It’s sort of like acting. You become the character of a brand. I like to think the BCM’s voice follows that of the writing in the resource Simply Moravian. Our audience, unless we intend otherwise, should not be able to tell the difference between me posting for the BCM and the rarer instance of Ruth posting for the BCM. Find a voice, and develop and practice it. Think, “does this sound like the Women’s Desk, or does it sound like me?” Find accounts you like with big audiences and look to their written and visual voice for inspiration.

4) Hashtags

Use them. Make sure you’re using them right. And if you need to, help your followers learn how to use them. Develop hashtags unique for your organization, but capitalize on big generic ones everyone follows… #Moravian, #ThrowbackThursday #MotivationMonday, #WSNC (Winston-Salem NC), #FridayIntroductions, #TransformationTuesday, etc. Also, capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag… it’s easier to read. Try to keep Facebook post hashtags seven or less (or five to ten is fine), especially if you put them all at the bottom like I do. Some people intersperse them throughout the post only, or do that and put them at the bottom. Develop a method and stick with it. But use hashtags!

You should ‘listen’ as much or more than you ‘speak.’

5) Listen

What are the people in your organization’s circle (geographically, topically, shared interests, etc.) saying or doing? Look at hashtags that are being used. Look at what people are posting in your geographic area. This can help you plan your content or even events. When people comment on your posts, comment back as the organization. Where possible, interact with other people’s content (you can do this more on Instagram than you can Facebook). You should “listen” as much or more than you “speak” (the whole two ears and one mouth saying).

Share other people’s content when relevant. The BCM recently shared a Colorado author’s post that mentioned the Daily Texts (see here). Even if you can share content without asking permission, it is always best to try and get the original creator’s blessing, particularly if their page is private. They’ll usually be happy to oblige! Exception: if the content was posted by a public page on Facebook or Twitter, you can share by clicking the “share” or “retweet” buttons and you don’t need to ask for permission. Asking permission applies mostly to Instagram and sharing content from private Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

James Jarvis checks the BCM Facebook Page on a laptop

6) Lead with questions and encourage comments

This is part of “listening.” Where possible with posts… lead it (or conclude it) with a relevant question to your audience, followed by a statement encouraging them to comment with their thoughts. I’m a proponent of leading with the question, as people are more apt to see it. And again, when people comment, react and reply to their comments as the organization.

Post more content like that which is getting good engagement, and less of what isn’t getting good engagement.

7) Develop social campaigns or consistent weekly content/look at analytics

Post one quality post once a day if possible. No more than 2 or 3 a day. Use Hootsuite (or a similar service) to help schedule posts. Their autoschedule feature is pretty good at detecting optimal posting times (typically 9am, 3pm, and 6pm for BCM). But make sure it doesn’t autoschedule your announcement before or after you want it announced. Sometimes it’s better to manually schedule time-sensitive content. Do the occasional paid boosted post or paid ad campaign if you can. Look at your analytics (Facebook Insights). Post more content like that which is getting good engagement, and less of what isn’t getting good engagement.

Some specific ideas for the Unity Women’s Desk: Do a weekly #FridayIntroductions post with a female Moravian… take their photo, ask for a photo, and ask them a few questions about their involvement or their community of women, what the church means to them, etc. If you can’t do that each week forever, do it as a month or two long campaign each year. Start or end each week with a Bible verse graphic relevant to women. Find old photos of Moravian women to share each week for #ThrowbackThursday and tell the story behind them. Get to know your audience… look at them on your analytics, how old are they, where are they? When people react to your posts, look at the list. If they have “invite” next to their name, click it! This is you inviting them to commit to following your page, and not just liking its content every now and then.

There’s really a lot I could share with you. The above is a mini-novel, but it barely scratches the surface. And the problem is social media is always always changing. You don’t have to do all of what I’ve suggested, but I hope some of the above helps you out, and if you have questions, just ask! You are also more than welcome to drop in the office anytime I’m in for my regular hours (Monday and Wednesdays, 1:30pm to 5:30pm).

Resources:

Some people/groups who have influenced my thinking on social media for ministries:


Questions? Comments? Or need assistance with your church’s
communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at acox@mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Andrew portrait

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Andrew is a driven creative person with established experience and skill in a variety of fields. Experience includes communications, social media management, event coordination, marketing, graphic design, photography, customer service, hospitality, security, writing, cartooning, illustration, fine art, and more! His main passion though is creating visually and emotionally interesting creative content for the Internet.

Putting the Hashtag (#) in Faith, Love, and Hope

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BY ANDREW DAVID COX |

#MoravianStar2015, #MoravianStar2016, #MoravianLenten, #MoravianMoms, #FaithLoveHope, #ThrowbackThursday. You’ll notice on the Moravian BCM social media sites, we like to put strings of words like these at the end of posts. What do all of these have in common? By the way they’re written, they’re hashtags. What is a hashtag anyways? Well, here it is straight from the horse’s mouth (Google definitions):

“hash·tag
ˈhaSHtaɡ
noun

(on social media sites such as Twitter) a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.

‘spammers often broadcast tweets with popular hashtags even if the tweet has nothing to do with them'”

The hashtag is strongly associated with Twitter and reportedly first originated as a social media tool ten years ago on that site. Prior to that, and still for a lot of people, the “#” symbol is known as the “pound sign.” The first hashtag on Twitter was created by social technology expert Chris Messina. According to Hashtags.org, Messina wrote to his followers, asking them what they thought about using the pound symbol to identify specific groups. Hashtags had been previously used in Internet Relay Chats (IRC). Essentially, what hashtags do is they allow a post on social media to be searchable by topic. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, they become hyperlinks leading to pages for that respective topic.

Girl on smartphone

Hashtags are functional on both desktop and mobile devices

As of writing, #NSHvsPIT is trending on Twitter. The hashtag identifies tweets about the National Hockey League (NHL) Stanley Cup final between the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins. A Twitter user could search “Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins” to find tweets on the topic. But on Twitter, posts are limited to 140 characters, meaning most of the content in a searchable tweet can taken up by the full name of the game. Searching “#NSHvsPIT” should bring up only tweets about the game, and often are more engaging tweets and have more interesting content being shared by people who follow hockey. Their tweets don’t have to spell out the full name of the game, because it is identified by the shorter hashtag. By using the hashtag, hockey commentators don’t have to worry about providing full context for every post, because other fans, by looking at the hashtag, will know what they are tweeting about. The hashtag can save creators from having to sacrifice quality or brevity in content when they feel compelled to give context for content.

This handy functionality of the hashtag was used in the #MoravianStar2015 and #MoravianStar2016 social media campaigns, and every social campaign the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) has done since. On a Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram search, if a user searches “Moravian Star 2015,” it’ll bring up all kinds of posts about Moravians, stars, Moravian stars, and the like, because the search is comprised of terms, when separated, are relatively generic and not specific. By stringing the words together without spaces and with a hashtag in front, information about the social media campaign and posts relevant to it are both immediately discoverable. By adding a year to the hashtag, it makes it even more unique, and limits its timeliness. This allows the BCM to find users who purposefully intended to submit content to these campaigns by using the unique hashtag with their posts. Otherwise, we’d have to sort through every other post with Moravians, stars, or Moravian stars and would wonder if someone intended to share the content with us or not.

The promotional Facebook banner for the #MoravianStar2016 social media campaign

Some general rules about hashtags:

  • A hashtag must be a single word preceded by a pound sign (#) with no spaces
    • #FaithLoveHope works, FaithLoveHope# does not work, # Faith Love Hope does not work
  • Hashtags are primarily functional on social media, and are not intended for texting or email
    • However, you can share in any medium what a designated hashtag is, so people can then use, search, or interact with it on social media
  • There are brand-specific hashtags and hashtags everybody uses
    • Coca-Cola uses #ShareACoke to identify their brand’s specific campaign, but everyone uses hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday or #MotivationMonday each week to share memories or words/pictures of motivation
    • Church or ministry pages should develop their own unique hashtags for their congregants to use, as well as capitalizing on common hashtags to boost engagement
  • Always capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag, as #ShareACoke is much easier to read than #shareacoke
  • There are no hard or fast rules as to where to place hashtags–some accounts sprinkle them throughout a post and others at the very end of a post (or both)
  • Try not to use too many hashtags all the time, especially not on Facebook, as it looks cluttered and tacky… try to stick to around five to ten
  • On Instagram, place a double space between your text and your hashtags (if you list them at the bottom), by using a character such as a colon “:” to hold the place of the double space that Instagram would otherwise delete
  • Hashtags will not automatically become hyperlinks if they have special characters in them, but they can end with special characters (a period at the end of a hashtag will not break its link)
    • Example: #FaithLove&Hope will not link to anything on social media, #FaithLoveHope or #FaithLoveAndHope will
  • Posts marked with hashtags typically can not be found by the general public if the account using it posted it with strict privacy settings… for hashtags to be most effective, posts using them generally need to be posted publicly
    • Example: If Ruth Burcaw, with strict privacy settings, posted #Moravian on Facebook, I, being friends with her, could see it and click the hashtag and be taken to a page with all public posts with the hashtag or posts by other friends who used it… but people who are not Ruth’s friend could not find her post

Hashtags are a powerful social media tool. If you’re looking to grow your church or ministry’s page and connect to relevant topics and interested people, hashtags are a must! To get people in the door and doing ministry with us, we need to have faith, love, and hope. But to help people be aware there is a door even to begin with, we need to have #FaithLoveHope.

Other Resources:

Hashtags on Instagram: How many should you use?

Instagram Hashtags in the First Comment?


Questions? Comments? Or need assistance with your church’s
communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at acox@mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Andrew portrait

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Andrew is a driven creative person with established experience and skill in a variety of fields. Experience includes communications, social media management, event coordination, marketing, graphic design, photography, customer service, hospitality, security, writing, cartooning, illustration, fine art, and more! His main passion though is creating visually and emotionally interesting creative content for the Internet.

Adventures in Advent

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BY SUZANNE PARKER MILLER | @SuzParkerMiller on Facebook and Twitter |

nativity scene

Image courtesy of Suzanne Parker Miller

“Mommy, Mommy, Wake up! Wake up! I just put Mary on the Advent Calendar!” So began my morning on December 1st. Lacking coffee and still rubbing my eyes to wake up, I dragged myself out of bed and into our Den to see the source of my son’s excitement. Our Fisher Price Little People Nativity Advent Calendar finally had someone Velcro-ed to it. My five-year-old son was so excited to finally begin the Advent calendars we had put out in the house four days before on the first Sunday of Advent on November 27th. Most Advent Calendars begin on December 1st in order to have a standard 25 days on the Calendar despite the number of days between the first Sunday in Advent and Christmas Day fluctuating each year. He had waited as patiently as a 5-year-old can near Christmas for those four first days of Advent to pass by, and he was so glad we could start the countdown officially!

“Mommy, Mommy, Wake up! Wake up! I just put Mary on the Advent Calendar!”

Advent is a season about waiting—waiting for the Christ Child to be born and waiting for Christ to come again. Christ is already here and yet Christ has not yet come. We live in an already-not yet world, and it is difficult on normal days, but is even more difficult this time of year. For my family to be better about living into the waiting of Advent, we have multiple Advent practices we have developed over the past few years. While they are not unique to our family, we claim them as our own. They help us focus on the season of Advent and not jump too quickly to Christmas and beyond.

nativity scene

Image courtesy of Suzanne Parker Miller

We have four Advent calendars we are maintaining this year. The Advent Calendar my son added Mary to has a person or animal a day that we add to the manger scene by Velcro. Another is a coloring sheet he got at school. Yet another is a Lego figure that you build each day that he does with my spouse. And my favorite is one I ordered a few years ago online is a take on the Charlie Brown’s Christmas play, where we add one person or story element each day. My son is of an age now where he does them himself before school each day, and loves getting to show me his latest additions. Having these to help him count down to Christmas makes it easier for him to mark time and focus on the season.

We also have an advent wreath on our dinner table and, when we remember, we light the candles for that week at dinner. Having candles on the dinner table makes the meal feel even more special, and there’s always the fun of blowing out the candles at the end! My 20-month-old daughter loves to pretend to light the candles, and I envision her doing it for real during Worship one day when she is older.

A new Adventure in Advent for our family began with our Wise Ones from one of my nativity sets. Last year I discovered the Wandering Wisemen on Facebook. A mom in Kentucky came up with the idea to have her nativity scene’s Wisemen and their faithful camel travel around their home looking for the child. In the spirit of whimsy that Elf on the Shelf evokes for kids without the attachment to Santa, these Wisemen have adventures of all sorts. I decided to try this tradition with my own kids, so I’ve been moving our Wise Ones and their Camel around our home each night after the kids go to bed. They get to search for them in the morning to see what they are doing that day. They cannot touch though, or the camel might run off, as the note they left my kids the first day said. Follow our adventures on Facebook by searching the hashtag #WanderingWiseOnes.

nativity scene

Image courtesy of Suzanne Parker Miller

 

Nativity scene

Image courtesy of Suzanne Parker Miller

My final Adventure this year has been a fun opportunity for me to share my Nativity collection with those friends and family near and far on Facebook. I have been posting one Nativity from my collection each day since Advent began. I decided to take this on as my Advent Adventure this year because I wanted to have something positive and fun to post each day on Facebook (Along with my Wandering Wise Ones’ adventures). I have collected over 40 nativities from around the world, and my preferences are for ones that are more diverse and explore the Christmas Story within that culture’s own context. They draw me in to think about the deeper meanings of the story of the birth of Christ Jesus. I have a Nativity from Uganda that includes a water buffalo and one from Peru that has a dolphin in it, and these cause me to ask what animals were likely in the first nativity. This question draws me back into Scripture to look at it more closely and with new eyes. It has been a great practice for me, and I am really enjoying the feedback and comments people have shared on my photos. I have heard stories about friends’ nativity sets, and learned that ones I thought were unique are in fact made from a pattern. I am thankful social media has given me an opportunity to share them and for others to get pleasure in seeing them. They help me to appreciate the diversity of our world and see the story of Christ through other people’s eyes. Follow along with my Adventures in Advent at #NativityAdventure.

Wishing you and your family many Adventures in Advent this season!


If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Suzanne Parker Miller serves as Local Coordinator for InterExchange Au Pair USA for the Raleigh, NC area. She attends Ekklesia Church in Raleigh, a new church development that meets at Athens Drive High School. When not chasing her kids, she enjoys reading and playing The Settlers of Catan board game.

Suzanne pic

Utilizing the Facebook Cover Image Space

BCM Spotlight Banner

MAY 25, 2016

The space above a public Facebook page is important. It is wise to use it strategically, rather than giving it little or no thought. Apart from the profile image, your page title and category, the cover image is one of the first things people see on your page. Unless there are faces in your page’s profile picture, the cover image usually IS the very first thing visitors see. Your page’s profile picture should always tell people who or what you are… usually this is a logo or, for churches, an image of the church building itself. The cover image space should most often show what you do as an entity/ministry or who your people are. 

Below is a screenshot of the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries Facebook cover image I designed. Currently, we are utilizing the space to promote an upcoming summer event. So one of the first things our page’s visitors see is information about an upcoming event. By clicking the cover image, Facebook brings up a window with an editable image description on the right. In that space is a link to the event RSVP, condensed by the URL shortening service Bitly. 

Cover Image 1

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 11.05.59 AM

We’ve used this space on Facebook to promote a variety of events as well as a social campaign. We’ve also used it to show (literally) who we are by displaying a group image of our board members. Cover images should be about promoting engagement, accessibility, approachability, and authenticity. They should change regularly to keep the page fresh, by either reflecting upcoming events and campaigns, recent photos of relevant people/images, or seasonal imagery.

The actual cover image space is 828 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall on desktop and laptop computers. The 160 by 160 pixel profile image eats into some of the space, as does the page title and Facebook page buttons. (Again, this can be seen in the first screenshot above.) The dimensions are different on mobile devices, so that is something to keep in mind when you are choosing a cover image. On mobile devices, Facebook page cover images are proportionally not as wide and are slightly taller. It is best to design the cover image for the desktop first, but keeping in mind that any essential imagery or information needs to be towards the middle (length-wise) and top two-thirds or half (height-wise) to best fit both desktop and mobile. It can take some trial and error to get it ideal. You can not move the profile image, the page title/category, or Facebook’s buttons, so you always have to design your cover image around them.

For full details about Facebook page profile image and cover image dimensions, visit Facebook’s Help Center here.

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Clicking the camera icon in the upper-righthand corner of the cover image will prompt a menu to appear that allows for editing. The first option, “Choose from Photos…” lets the user select a photo already uploaded by the page to use as the cover image. Clicking this option will bring up a window with the page’s different photo albums. Already have images of your congregation on your page? You can make one the cover image by clicking this first option.

The second option, “Upload a Photo…” gives the user the option of uploading their own photo (an image of your own creation or one you have permission to use.) The third option, “Reposition…” will bring up a cross-with-arrows cursor when you hover over the cover image. This allows the user to re-adjust the precise position of the cover image to their liking by clicking and dragging. The final option, “Remove…” will remove the cover image from the page, leaving a blank space with a default Facebook design. It is important to note that this option does not remove the image from Facebook altogether. To do that, you must go to your cover images album under the photos tab and delete the photo. If the cover image was selected from a previously uploaded image, it has to be deleted from both the cover image album and the original album it was in.

So how about designing a cover image? If you really get into it… Adobe Photoshop Elements is an affordable option. GIMP is a free design software alternative, which can be downloaded here. The simplest option, especially for non-designers, is to use Canva’s online Facebook cover image editor feature. Canva is online, so there is no software to download, and is free to use (there are some optional paid add-ons.) The best part about using their cover image editor is that they take care of the pixels for you, so you don’t have to fret about it being the right size! Just make sure your essential imagery and information is where it needs to be as mentioned earlier.

Happy designing and Facebooking! Best of luck to you!

Andrew portrait

Questions? Or need assistance with your church’s communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at acox(AT)mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)