I have written about this topic more than once but I never get to publish it and yesterday was another of such a saga with so much rage from social media commentators and there is a begging concern certain changes need to be made by the church with its current use of social media marketing both as evangelism and PR tool.
Twitter was agog Sunday, March 31st with news of 22-year-old Miss Uwa, raped, ruthlessly battered within the premises of an RCCG Church in Benin City. Due to the brutality of the wounds she sustained, Miss Uwa died on arrival to the hospital.
The RCCG and its leadership are known to be a trending topic on social media for different controversial reasons and it didn’t take long for the General Overseer, Pastor E.A Adeboye to become a top trending topic. To add salt to injury the RCCG PR Twitter Account was tweeting prayer requests and requests for church donations and offerings while publishing accounts and this scream “insensitive” to many but whether that was the motive or not, it’s entirely up to debate and you are allowed your opinion on it.
The Church’s Social Media Marketing Challenges
The Church needs to understand whether it’s as regards a message that was wrongly misconstructed or an incident as grave as a rape case within your premises, you owe the online community which you are a member of an explanation but a swift one at that.
I do understand certain issues need to be understood before a statement and stand is taken and officially announced but your social media channels do not have to wait for that position to put a statement acknowledging the incident and communicating that your full position on the matter would be soon announced.
The managers of these channels need to understand that if you don’t make your stand and position known, people would create all sorts of narrative for you and many will uphold it. We need to treat the word of God as a product, which has an audience we are trying to convert to buy into, have top of mind and incidentally gravitate to you or not but most importantly, creating conversations that allow people to be heard, understood and well as your position heard and understood is primarily important.
In times of crises or social media backlash, the church needs to stay away from being tone-deaf and continuing with scheduled programming, put everything else to a stop till you have addressed the incident, provided calm and reassurance to commentators, followers and everyone in direct or indirect on the conversation of the incident.
3 Changes Church Social Media Marketing Needs
1. Customer-Centric Engagement: A customer-centric engagement approach to marketing centres an organization’s marketing strategy around the customer. Prioritising a positive experience for engagement, followers and non-followers needs to become a new norm for addressing the trending issues like Miss Uwa’s incident as well as other social media trending topics to present the church in a bad light.
After years of battling adoption of the internet and then social media, every church or religious organisations SMM team needs to realise that the users should be at the centre of how you post and what you post.
2. Feedback Must Be Immediate: Social media has been praised for its power to be super immediate. The only way to correct wrong narratives like the many perpetrated during such trends is not to keep mute or posted other unrelated things, the immediacy of your online feedback can be immensely impactful ever for “social converts”, being heard and understood.
What came after several hours as a statement from the church on this incident felt to many like it lacked substance and did not directly address the issue of rape. The simple reason is that it wasn’t’ swift and when it did come out, it lacked being directly on the incident, RAPE!
Rape is assumed by many on social media to be a word the church distances itself from addressing and the lessons here is that for every PR incident related or unrelated to rape, ensure to provide the insights you know on the incident (this was done), explain what you are doing (assisting authorities, maybe prayer as was mentioned) and give hope most especially for justice.
It is true to note that social media responses can be overwhelming and you might be able to attend to the droves of mentions and false allegations your handle might have to deal with, just make sure you attempt as many as you can. Create a human effect which shows you are answerable to society always (many church organisations and its leadership seem to come off perceived as lacking this).
3. Create A Strategy Template: Over and over again whether it be a message being taking out of context or heinous crimes like rape happening within the premises of the church. The PR team of any church organisation should create a template for the first immediate response to such incidents. This gives room for the decision-makers to tinker on a more detailed response and/or legal line of action as well as spiritual ones when needs arise.
The church needs to understand that with being online to evangelise the word of God comes with being under severe scrutiny from people who do not understand or agree with the ordinances of the faith.
The goal is never to hide under the rubble of righteousness regardless if the topic be about a rape incident like in the case of Miss Uwa, tithing and offerings, church leadership assumed flamboyance and other issues. It is important to communicate with immediacy attributed to social media always.
Hoping for Justice for Miss Uwa and prayers for grace to her grieving family.