Coming Soon: A Social Media Site That Rates Your Synagogue

Posted on: June 2nd, 2009 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Shalom to all! I’ve invited one of STAR’s media maven consultants, Elana Centor, to post her thoughts about social media trends which are likely to impact upon synagogues. Please read her post and share your reactions, which her provocative post and thoughtful suggestions will engender! Thanks, Elana, for being a guest blogger on Tools for Shuls!  -Hayim

With a tag line of Get the real scoop on doctors, clinics and hospitals, TheHealthcareScoop.com is a place for consumers to share their personal experiences. While the majority of comments are positive, about one-third are negative. Piloted in Minnesota, and now a nationwide community, HealthcareScoop.com is part of Blue Cross Blue Shield. That’s right: an insurance company is sponsoring a blog where its group members can weigh-in on doctors. Isn’t that an “interesting” way to influence doctors?!

Now substitute rabbis, synagogues and religious school in that tag line and you have a peek into the very near future. Get the real scoop on rabbis, synagogues and religious schools.

If there is one trend in Web 2.0 that most synagogues are not prepared for, it’s the proliferation of what Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li coined as Groundswell

“A groundswell is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other rather than from traditional institutions.”
 
Bernoff and Li say the groundswell has created a permanent, long-lasting shift in the way the world works–one that most traditional institutions see as a threat.

Just in case you think you have some time before the groundswell impacts synagogue life, think again. Introducing ShulShopper.com, which bills itself as, “The premier online service for finding and reviewing congregations that you help create.”  Shulshopper, which is currently in a beta release, is part of the nonprofit independent Jewish organization Matzat. While there aren’t many synagogues reviewed on the site right now, that could change any moment and probably will. And, even if Shulshopper doesn’t go viral, some other synagogue social media site will appear without notice and it will allow people to share their experiences at your congregation. You can count on it– not every comment will suggest you have a warm and welcoming culture.

Since the question is not if, but when members, former members and visitors will share stories about your congregation in an online community, what will be your strategy? How will you respond if someone writes a negative comment? How will you even know if someone has written about you?
 
Here are three things you can do to prepare for the synagogue groundswell.

  1. Develop a Social Media Communications Plan
    Every synagogues needs to have a social media communications plan which includes strategies on how the synagogue will respond to positive comments, negative comments that are nasty, unfair or untrue as well as negative comments that have validity. Create the plan when the emotions of the comments are not part of the equation.
  2. Become Digital Detectives
    Digital Detectives are people who investigate what is being said about their organization on websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and a host of other social media sites. It’s not as difficult as it sounds thanks to Google Alerts – a free feature of Google that can be configured to send you an email alert every time your synagogue, rabbi or key members are mentioned on a website or blog.
  3. Spend Time Doing Some Online Listening
    In many ways, participating in social media is like immigrating to a new country. It has its own culture, customs and language. That’s why it’s important to spend time observing how things are done in social media before you try to actively participate in it.  By taking the time to listen and observe you will represent your congregation in an appropriate and respectful manner.

Elana Centor is Chief Strategist For Digitalwagontrain a training, coaching, consulting firm helping individuals and organizations achieve their goals faster, smarter, easier by using social media tools.  Elana posts regularly on her blog Funny Business.

Image from Flickr.comLong Zheng

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