As I have stated in a previous post, I believe that some of the current social media tools we are using are really just the first successful incarnations of some future technologies.Â Changes in technology, along with the competitive marketplace, force the software tools we use to evolve and change. Just as Friendster gave way to MySpace, which is giving way to Facebook, so the latest darlings such as Second Life and Twitter will most likely give way to something being created right now.
If this is true, then, maybe we shouldn’t be spending so much of our time becoming experts in a new technology until this evolution has happened.Â In his paper (and subsequent book) “IT Doesn’t Matter“, Nicholas Carr makes the case that organizations should not be “first movers”, but should instead let others take the chances and then, once the best practices for using a specific software package are discovered, jump in and begin using it. This minimizes risk and allows the organization to focus on their business instead of the latest technology. Many would argue that ministries should follow the same pattern: focus on your ministry and don’t jump in to a new technology until it has stabilized and reached the mainstream. In many ways this makes sense: for those ministries who put a lot of effort into Friendster and now are wishing that they had waited and put this effort into Facebook instead, this sounds like a great idea.Â And maybe it is for some ministries.
But ministries aren’t corporations trying to improve the bottom line. We don’t want to be risk-averse: in most cases running a ministry is a risky enterprise.Â We need to go where people are, and, if possible, we need to go where they are going to be!Â By moving to social media tools early, we learn how to use them, we can innovate new solutions by experimenting and then, when the tool becomes popular we are already there. And if, like Friendster, the tool only has a short popularity before something takes it place, we can learn from our experience there and use that experience to quickly move into the new environment.
So if you feel that learning how to use Twitter for your ministry is something you should take a “wait and see” attitude on, you risk not learning how to utilize a “micro-blogging” platform for your ministry. And even if Twitter is dead a year from now, the experience of learning how to use it will better prepare you for whatever comes next.Â If you are wondering if you should get your ministry into Second Life, again I answer that you should at least begin working with it enough to understand its implications.
But, you say, you don’t have enough time or people to do all of this! Well, no ministry can do everything, but you have to have a strategy in place that drives your decisions.Â This strategy should help you understand who you are, who you are trying to reach, and what methods will be used to do this. I will write on strategy in an upcoming post – right after I give my Internet ministry strategy workshop in Indiana later this week!