Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

 

A Preliminary Theology of Social Networks

Posted on: January 2nd, 2013 by Hayim Herring

One of my findings from  interviews with rabbis that I conducted for my book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today,was  their lack of specific, intentional connections between their personal theology and their congregation’s organizational structure. I asked them how their personal theology influenced their congregational governance, how they worked with volunteers and similar types of issues that are often labeled as the “business” or “administrative” side of congregational life. This lack of conscious connection really didn’t surprise me because structural issues and theology don’t naturally mix. They require a leader to constantly work at making those connections and creating patterns of organizational behaviors that are infused both with spirituality and effectiveness at getting work done.  And it’s difficult for rabbis who are juggling many balls to reflect on how their theology can amplify their work on the structural side of congregational or Jewish organizational life.

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Message to Synagogues: Don’t Forget the “Social” in “Social Media”

Posted on: July 26th, 2012 by Hayim Herring 3 Comments

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing my friend and colleague, Lisa Colton, Founder and President of Darim Online. Lisa was far ahead of the curve in recognizing the value of technology for synagogue and continues to be one of a handful of thought leaders in this area. I asked Lisa about the evolving role of social media in synagogues and the challenges that social media tools present to synagogues.

Click below to hear the conversation. Also, you can watch a webinar that I recently gave on my book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today, sponsored by Darim at www.darimonline.org/blog/tomorrows-synagogue-today-insights-author. We discussed the notion of synagogues as “platforms,” and implications for synagogue leaders in making this shift.

When Leaders Become Distant, Expect Rebellion

Posted on: December 21st, 2011 by Hayim Herring 2 Comments
Lighting Hanukkah Candles

From Sarah Ross on flickr

In America, where Chanukah is often perceived as the “Jewish Christmas,” there’s a tendency to universalize the message of the holiday. You’ve probably heard Chanukah referred to as a victory for religious freedom, with the few (Maccabees) defeating the many (Syrian Hellenists). While it’s actually not quite that simple, there is a legitimately universal insight that we can draw from Chanukah: when leaders become distant, expect popular rebellion.

Chanukah was every bit as much of a civil war as it was a war of the Jews against a Syrian oppressor. The religious leadership in Jerusalem had become corrupt and violated essential tenets of Jewish faith. They had become elites, who believed themselves entitled to make any changes they desired. They no longer believed that they were accountable to God or to the people who had entrusted them with their spiritual well being. They became oblivious to the reality on the ground.

Does this story sound familiar? It does seem to be universal today. The global “Occupy” protest movement is just one modern manifestation. Social protests against the recent Russian elections are another.  The fighting between the Egyptian military and civilians, and the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad in Syria against a people that is no longer willing to accept authoritarian rule are yet other dark examples.

But these modern day rebellions have a new feature that did not exist in the time of the Maccabees. Today, when leaders act corruptly or brutally, their actions are likely to be quickly broadcast worldwide via social media networks. Social media contribute to transparency in leadership, increasing the likelihood of protest when leaders stray from their responsibilities. If you’re in a position of leadership, Chanukah offers a perfect opportunity to reflect on how close or distant you are to the people that you are entrusted to lead.

Free Social Media Tools for Your Organization

Posted on: September 6th, 2011 by Hayim Herring 3 Comments
Social Media Logos

Image courtesy of prlog.org

This summer, Facebook surpassed 750 million users worldwide. In the past year alone, the average number of tweets per day nearly tripled from 50 million to 140 million.[1] Simply put: if your organization is not yet engaging with social media, you are missing out.  But chances are you know that social media are valuable, and that the real looming question is how your organization can maximize the benefits of social media while minimizing the time needed to devote to these platforms.

The short answer is that with a little more time invested up front, your organization can have a social media presence that will add value to the organization and its stakeholders.  And the best part—most social media are free for individuals and organizations alike!

HCN advocates creating a social media strategy before jumping into the social media game.  Having a clear strategy will help keep you focused on why you are using social media in the first place and keep you from getting distracted by the chaotic environment of the World Wide Web.

In order to help you in the process, we have posted a free guide for creating your social media strategy.  You can also download our social media glossary (in case you still don’t know what an “RSS Feed” is…).  Please click here to access these free resources.

By spending the time now to create a social media strategy for your organization, you will hopefully begin seeing real results in the near future, such as driving more traffic to your website, attracting new event attendees or enhancing relationships with your existing constituency.[2]  Social media will never obviate the need for meaningful face-to-face interactions.  Yet in today’s digital environment, can your organization really afford not to make this small yet critical investment?


[1] As of March 14, 2011 (http://blog.twitter.com/2011/03/numbers.html).

[2] See a recent survey by Idealware on the impact of Facebook on non-profit organizations: http://idealware.org/sites/idealware.org/files/Facebook_survey_2011_v2.pdf.

A Sabbath from Technology: Turn Off and Tune In!

Posted on: May 4th, 2010 by Hayim Herring 4 Comments
I’m starting my post with a thank you to one of the most valuable blogs on social media’s potential for societal good: Beth’s Blog: How Non-Profit Organizations Can Use Social Media to Power Social Networks for Change.
Beth writes at the end of her most recent post,

We’re all struggling with balance of technology and a purposeful life.  We need to reflect inward and examine our motivations, patterns, and use of technology – understanding when we’re mindful and not.

Then we need to integrate ways of finding the right balance.  That balance is not a simple on and off switch – it is understanding how to integrate focused and receptive attentions into our online and offline lives.

In her post, Beth recommends a few tips about how to get into the habit of disconnecting from our electronic tethers: smart phones, laptops, Kindles, iPads—and whatever will be next. But the insight that caught my attention was that disconnecting is only a part of the problem. The other part is integration—given that technology is becoming increasingly embedded in our lives (and now, our bodies,) how do we work with it, so that it doesn’t work against us? Futurists and science fiction writers have a long history of creating scenarios about computers or robots taking on human characteristics. I’m more concerned lately about human beings becoming too robotic and losing our essential humanity.
Religious traditions which have a Sabbath offer much wisdom on this subject. Here’s a slice of this wisdom from the Jewish tradition, one that I know reasonably well. While the book of Genesis gives work a bad reputation (Adam has to work the garden after he and Eve violate God’s rule against eating of the forbidden fruit), the book of Exodus (20:8) views both rest and work as positive commandments.
A life of all work is prohibited because it’s destructive. But a life of no work isn’t healthy either from a Jewish perspective, which views humanity as partners with God in working to sustain and enhance the created world. It’s all about balance. And, ironically, by scheduling a day with no creative work, we return to life reinvigorated and attuned to our surroundings and the people who matter to us.
For me, the solution to this problem of electronic enslavement is turning off in order to tune in. Call it a Sabbath from Technology. Integrating technology in my life means not exhibiting a Pavlovian response to the chime of an email or instant message and freeing myself from the pressure to take every call when it comes in—regardless of what I’m in the middle of.  And increasingly, I’m feeling a need to cultivate mindfulness so that multi-tasking doesn’t take a permanent toll on my ability to concentrate. I recognize that I’m the only one who can take this kind of control of technology in my own life.
So—how do you feel about this age-old problem of enslavement taking a new digital guise? Is it over-exaggerated? Or, is it something that you feel but don’t talk about too much anymore? Do you have other suggestions about navigating these issues? Please comment!
Thank you,
Rabbi Hayim Herring

I’m starting my post with a thank you to one of the most valuable blogs on social media’s potential for societal good, Beth Kanter’s: Beth’s Blog: How Non-Profit Organizations Can Use Social Media to Power Social Networks for Change.

Beth writes at the end of her most recent post,

We’re all struggling with balance of technology and a purposeful life.  We need to reflect inward and examine our motivations, patterns, and use of technology – understanding when we’re mindful and not.  Then we need to integrate ways of finding the right balance.  That balance is not a simple on and off switch – it is understanding how to integrate focused and receptive attentions into our online and offline lives.

In her post, Beth recommends a few tips about how to get into the habit of disconnecting from our electronic tethers: smart phones, laptops, Kindles, iPads—and whatever will be next. But the insight that caught my attention was that disconnecting is only a part of the problem. The other part is integration—given that technology is becoming increasingly embedded in our lives (and now, our bodies,) how do we work with it, so that it doesn’t work against us? Futurists and science fiction writers have a long history of creating scenarios about computers or robots taking on human characteristics. I’m more concerned lately about human beings becoming too robotic and losing our essential humanity.

Religious traditions which have a Sabbath offer much wisdom on this subject. Here’s a slice of this wisdom from the Jewish tradition, one that I know reasonably well. While the book of Genesis gives work a bad reputation (Adam has to work the garden after he and Eve violate God’s rule against eating of the forbidden fruit,) the book of Exodus (20:8) views both rest and work as positive commandments.

A life of all work is prohibited because it’s destructive. But a life of no work isn’t healthy either from a Jewish perspective, which views humanity as partners with God in working to sustain and enhance the created world. It’s all about balance. And, ironically, by scheduling a day with no creative work, we return to life reinvigorated and attuned to our surroundings and the people who matter to us.

For me, the solution to this problem of electronic enslavement is turning off in order to tune in. Call it a Sabbath from Technology. Integrating technology in my life means not exhibiting a Pavlovian response to the chime of an email or instant message and freeing myself from the pressure to take every call when it comes in – regardless of what I’m in the middle of.  And increasingly, I’m feeling a need to cultivate mindfulness so that multi-tasking doesn’t take a permanent toll on my ability to concentrate. I recognize that I’m the only one who can take this kind of control of technology in my own life.

So – how do you feel about this age-old problem of enslavement taking a new digital guise? Is it over-exaggerated? Or, is it something that you feel but don’t talk about too much anymore? Do you have other suggestions about navigating these issues? Please comment!

Thank you,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Where’s the Game Changer in Fundraising?

Posted on: January 10th, 2010 by Hayim Herring 5 Comments

The proliferation of social media tools has fundamentally changed organizations. (Not all organizations have grasped this reality!) Specifically, sites like Google, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr have enabled and empowered individuals to deeply influence organizations-to highlight their relevance or their superfluity, to engage with them or to bypass them. (For more about this, see http://tinyurl.com/n7sx7e). Individuals can organize in, through, around and across organizations in ways which were unimaginable only a decade ago.

While I’m not a professional fundraiser, my impression is that non-profit fundraising has not caught up with the Web 2.0 era. And there’s special opportunity for churches and synagogues to benefit from social media tools. Even in this environment, where public charities have seen a decline, the one sector that hasn’t felt this impact relative to other causes is religion (http://tinyurl.com/m889b8 ). True, many faith-based organizations allow members and supporters to donate funds online. They may even announce special campaigns and provide updates on them through their websites, Twitter and Facebook. Maybe some are even using video testimonials to promote fund development. But, the underlying methods of fund development appear to have remained the same: dues for synagogues and donations for churches, special appeals or campaigns, endowments and bequests, annual fundraisers, etc.

What would be some game changers for congregations?
• Within the mission of the congregation, allowing groups or individuals within congregations to determine what they want to contribute to (perhaps once a minimum amount of funds was raised for operations).
• Inviting people who are not members to financially support a cause in which they believe.
• Creating a flash fundraising campaign to support an emergency need (like a flash mob) and then disbanding when the goal is met.
• Providing congregants with opportunities all-year long to offer ideas about how to maintain the financial health of the congregation.
• Adding an on-line component to all ongoing fundraising activities.
• Involving those who are more tech-savvy in discussions about social media fund development.

Maybe I’m off-base, but it seems like we’re still at the stage where we’re using unconventional tools in conventional ways when it comes to fundraising. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!

Rabbi Hayim Herring, PhD

Coming Soon: A Social Media Site That Rates Your Synagogue

Posted on: June 2nd, 2009 by Hayim Herring 17 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