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My tweeting has changed my teaching style.  I have taught continuing education computer classes for a community college for 14 years – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access classes. Every time I teach, I leave classes happy because I have found some way to empower my students to better use computers to make their lives easier.

When I started teaching companies to use social media, a key point was telling them to listen.  If they listen and engage on those levels, good things will happen.

That has migrated into my classroom.  First, I started broadening each class to begin with a question/answer session.  That’s riskier than following a book.  As I answer questions, I demonstrate live, in front of the room.  Sometimes the demonstrations don’t go as planned.  Those become better teachable moments than if I merely followed a cookbook textbook approach to lesson plans.

Something funny happened on the way to the spreadsheet in a recent Excel class.  As I reviewed options on the ribbon, I pointed out the translate button.

Suddenly, the entire room began to buzz.  The employees in this class began to talk to one another. 

I listened.

They are working with a plant in Mexico, and every student in the room had a daily need to find better ways to communicate with non-English speakers.

Pause the spreadsheet formula. 

For the next 20-30 minutes, I showed how to do a simple translation in Word and how to set up translation tips.  That morphed into googling for translator helps; none of the students ever thought of googling for a translator.  Then we discussed Google chat and its translate feature.

We eventually got back to the spreadsheet.  Class ran a little late as I raced to meet all the goals set for the day’s class.  Had I bulldozed over their conversation, we would have finished on time.

However, my listening gave the class an unexpected lesson in something they needed right here, right now, to decrease their stress and better focus on their jobs.  They saw new ways to leverage technology to work FOR them, not against them.

I saw something new too. In 14 years of teaching, I have grown too comfortable teaching the same old same old.  Listening and keeping up with tech advances makes every class a game changer.

Tweeting is make me practice what I teach.

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Last month, Nibby Priest wrote, Are You an Evangelist for Your Community?  

Take that a step further – Are You a Social Media Evangelist for Your Church?  How does your church make use of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, blogs, and Foursquare to reach out to its congregation and beyond?

How does a church approach with new evangelization?

Reserve your name: Even if you don’t plan to use them now, go to social media sites and reserve your name before someone else does.   You can use them later.

Listen first: Listen to your community and people’s concerns.  How can you best be a beacon of light to the hurting?  St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times.  Use words if necessary.”  Listening and helping people works better on social media than standing on a corner posting Bible verses constantly. Don’t proselytize as people will unfriend and unfollow you.

Be generous: Promote and encourage good people in your area.  Share opportunities and ways to help the poor and serve your community.

Be real: Who you are Sunday morning should not contradict who you are Saturday night on the town or Wednesday morning in the office.  Neither should photos or videos.

Where do you get started? 

If you do social media well, it will boost your search engine optimization and make your church’s website appear higher on Google rankings.

Facebook – begin with a Fan Page.  Fan pages work best for public groups to reach others and share information quickly.  Groups work best for private groups where you select and restrict members.

Twitter – we need more Twittering pastors who can be funny, engage in conversation, and lift people’s spirits. Writing in 140 characters or less makes writing more concise.

Youtube – start a video blog with a simple message and talented musicians in your church.  Keep it short.

Blogs – post blogs of no more than 450 words to encourage people.

Foursquare – make sure your church’s location is listed on Foursquare.  Someone can post a tip of when services are held.  Members who are comfortable doing so can “check in” when they are there, and your church’s location with a map will show on anyone using Foursquare in your area.  Visitors who search Foursquare will see your church and see that it is a congregation with active, welcoming members.

Real life relationships begin and can be made stronger with social media.

For centuries, missionaries ventured to foreign lands and mastered new languages to evangelize.  That is still important.

We have a new way to share.

In the beginning was the Word.  Now the Word can be tweeted, blogged, and YouTubed. 

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