Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Social Media Gospel: Meredith Gould Blog Tour @meredithgould

I recently had the opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Meredith Gould and ask her a few questions about her new book, The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways

This brief and compelling book packs a punch, combining immense insight into the phenomenon of social media with practical wisdom on the how of communicating gospel in social media contexts. It has become my go-to book to share with anyone interested in a combination of the why and how of social media ministry.

Here's what she had to say:

What's the most interesting early response you've had to your book?

At least two people, experienced users of social media, have publicly shared their surprise (and delight) at learning new ways of thinking about social media that will change their use of it.  My favorite was this tweet, “Holy cow! I really thought I knew everything there was to know on the topic…and I was wrong!”

I loved seeing this and at least one other similar comment but not only because I’m a triumphalist smarty-pants. I’m also an educator and former academician, so I rejoice whenever I’m able to help people expand and deepen their thinking.

Most surprising – as in unexpected –has been the personal warmth people have expressed for me.  Knowing that I’d be breathing into a little brown paper bag to cope with this appreciation, a few clergy friends have ministered to me via the back channel.

What drives your passion for this topic?

Here’s the trajectory:
  • My passion for social media is driven by my call to the ministry of communications.
  • My passion for communications ministry is driven by my call to preach and teach the Gospel.
  • My passion for preaching and teaching the Gospel is driven by the imperative of tikkun olam (repairing the world), a legacy of my Jewish upbringing. 
As a semi-side note, I didn’t connect these dots until a colleague on the pastoral staff I was on said, “Don’t you get it? Communications is your ministry, write about that.”

The Social Media Gospel, which focuses on social media, is in fact a logical sequel to my first book about this ministry, The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today. I’m hoping people find their way to that earlier book. 

Having written your book, what's the next step? I think we have been in social media 1.0 for a while now, and I think we are on the verge of 2.0. What's that look like?

We’ve been in social media 1.0 for a while and it may seem we’ve been stuck here too long. But that feeling of stagnation tends to be among those of us who have been at this for a while.  The vast majority of church folk are just now discovering social media. We need to teach, train, and support them.

From my experience in the world of healthcare (Note: I’m a charter member of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media advisory board and helped develop the Social Residency curriculum), I can say that social 2.0 looks like pushing beyond “how to” and into “why to” – strategy. 

And as I’m responding to this answer, I’m realizing my emphasis on strategy in The Social Media Gospel is a result of being in 2.0-ville with healthcare communications colleagues. My vehement emphasis on strategy can also be traced to the decades I spent in secular marketing communications. Have a good laugh: I worked on a pesticide account for two years.

In the secular world of business and industry, social media 2.0 includes a greater focus on ROI (return on investment) and measurement. I touch on the difficulty of doing this in The Social Media Gospel (p. 100).  I devote an entire chapter in The Word Made Fresh to explaining the near-impossibility of measuring effectiveness in the world of church communications.

Meanwhile, all this (i.e., becoming more sophisticated about social media use) is happening as we’ve entered Web 3.0 (i.e., portable personalized content and search functions).  As a sociologist, I’m delighted by the conceptual intricacy.  As a minister doing in-the-trenches work with churches and judicatories, I’m often in danger of tumbling  into a pit of despair.  To ameliorate that, I check-in with my social media tribe and prayerfully focus on everything that pops up in the “Fun” column I’ve created on Tweetdeck. 

For more information on Meredith Gould and her work:

Twitter: @meredithgould

She is available for consulting and also for engagements as an interim (2 month) director or manager of communications.  

Thanks, Meredith, for taking the time. May our tribe increase, and may your social media gospel spread!


  1. Thankyoublessyouthankyoublessyou, Clint. Nine books and many interviews and no one has ever asked me questions #1 and #2. More evidence of your wisdom and my cause for my gratitude.

  2. I can't be the only one who wants to know what's in Meredith Gould's "Fun" column on Tweetdeck.