Hey Pastor, Quit Spamming Me!

Are you a Spammer?Are you a spammer?  And, no, you don’t have to be selling discount Canadian prescriptions or telling me how I can loose 50 pounds in 3 days on your new secret diet formula made entirely of saw dust and fruit loops to be a spammer.  You may be a spammer and not even know it.  Here are some ways to make sure you don’t end up becoming an evil spammer and don’t damage your church’s reputation in the process.

We’ve been talking about connecting with people around your community by getting involved in local online communities and seeking out people with a lot of local online followers, but there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it.  Spam is the wrong way.

So, What Is Spam?
We all think of spam as those annoying messages we get in our email, but spam is really just an unsolicited and unwanted message.  In forums, groups, and other online communities, spam is when people join a community and just post messages promoting their events or products.  They don’t connect with people and they don’t contribute any real value to the community.  These people usually quickly become disliked, ignored, and possibly banned from the community.  It’s definitely NOT an effective way to get your message out.

People Are People…Even Online
Online communities aren’t websites.  They aren’t billboards for announcements (well, some are, but I’m not talking about them).  They are people.  People are to be connected with.  They want to be heard, helped, and informed about what they are interested in.   If you want to get the most out of the local online communities, you have to go there to connect with people, just like you would in a real world setting.

If you went to a party and wanted to meet and engage with the people, you wouldn’t just walk up to a group of people having a conversation and say, “Hey guys, we’re having a cookout on Sunday.” and then walk away.  You would introduce yourself and join in the conversation they were having.  You would look for ways to connect with people personally.  When joining online communities, you have to behave the same way.

Here are 6 tips for making the most of local online communities:

1. Make sure you fill out your profile as much as possible. Be sure to include your name, a picture, a description of yourself, and any relevant links (links to your church, your Twitter account, Your Facebook account, etc.)

2. Introduce yourself. Many online communities have a place for newbies to introduce themselves.  Take a moment to write a short message telling people about yourself and your interest in joining their group.  If the community has a specific topic (sports, arts, music, business, etc) talk about how you like that topic and how you want to be involved in that group in your town.  For example, “I’ve always been a sports nut.  It doesn’t matter what sport, I’m there.  I’d love to find some leagues in our town to get involved with.”

3. Get a feel for the community. Most online communities have a certain character to them.  Is it generally serious or casual?  Are people sarcastic or is that frowned upon?  Are people open about their personal lives or do they tend to just stick to the topic?  Spend 10 or 15 minutes looking through the community to get a feel for what is accepted behavior and how to best connect with the people.

4. Look for conversations and join them. You don’t need to start new conversations.  In fact, at first, you probably shouldn’t.  If it’s an active community, there should be conversations already going on.  If you have something to contribute, join some of those conversations.  Eventually you can start conversations as well.

5. Answer questions and help people. The dirty little secret is that everyone loves to get what they want.  If they have a question, they like to get an answer.  If they have a problem, they like to get a solution.  If they need help with something, they like to be helped.  A great way to start connecting with people is to give them what they want.  Start by giving…and then keep giving 😉

6. Connect with people outside the community. This one may depend on what you are comfortable with, but there are opportunities to connect with the people from an online community outside of that community.  That may mean becoming friends in Facebook or emailing people personally.  One of the great aspects of local communities is that you also have the opportunity to meet people in person.  That may mean attending an event or just meeting someone for coffee.  Being able to meet people in person greatly enhances your connection with them online.

By starting with the things above, you will establish yourself in the community and connect with people.  Your not spamming, you are engaging in the community.

Let’s look at that situation I described at the top of this article where you are at a party and want to tell people about a cookout your church is having on Sunday.  If, instead of not knowing anyone and interrupting their conversation you already know most of the people at the party, some very well, do you think your message would be better received?

By taking some time to introduce yourself, engage in conversations, help people and connect with them personally, you open the door to being able to tell them about the events you have coming up or just inviting them to your church without being looked at as an evil spammer.

Photo by jolyonh

What do you think about spammers?

Do you have any spammer stories to share?

About the author

Kurt Steinbrueck

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