On February 3 I became the Director of Collegiate Communications for The Navigators. The collegiate mission has had communication specialists in the past, but this particular position is brand new. One of the things I love about this role is that I’ve been tasked with coming up with the vision for the Campus Navs website and its accompanying social media presence. The Campus Navs website is the national-level online home for The Navigators collegiate mission. I was recently asked by a Nav field staff to detail some of my ideas and hopes for this online presence. Today I would like to share some of my response to him with you.
Allow me to first address the big picture perspective. As a Nav associate I built the website FloridaNavs.org and managed its social media presence. It’s a regional website, so it shares a lot of the opportunities and challenges I now face with Campus Navs. My vision statement for Florida Navs was as follows: “To foster the growth and perseverance of Christ’s disciples and disciple-makers, equipping them to be lifelong laborers in the advancement of His Gospel and Kingdom.” As I begin this new role as communications director I am using this vision as my starting point. I may end up modifying it as time moves on, but I believe it’s a good initial objective.
I’m approaching the social media presence for Campus Navs the same way I’ve approached every small business, ministry, and non-profit presence I’ve managed and advised over the past nine years: listen and engage. I’ve begun to develop a strategic plan for listening and engaging with the denizens of the online community. I’ve walked into a situation where there are literally hundreds of people currently involved in our collegiate ministry at a local level, with thousands more who have previously been involved. I don’t have to start the conversation; I just have to enter into it.
Let me move on now to the practical outplaying of this vision. Internally we are asking and brainstorming answers to the question, “What will a successful social media presence make possible?” This will be an ongoing process, but I’ll shed some light on one initial direction. Concurrent to our social media overhaul is the reimagining of CampusNavs.org. To this point it has been a static website with the purpose of introducing our beliefs and values, plus providing a way to find the contact information of each local campus ministry. Moving forward this website will also have a blog on which we will share the writing of Nav staff (and possibly students and alumni) from across the country. Some of these posts will be repurposed ministry update newsletter articles, others will be entirely original. I also intend to make heavy use of streaming video and audio on this blog. So, one thing a successful social media presence will make possible is the ability to influence our online constituency directly through the content we add to our home base.
In summary, keeping in mind that my goal on social media is to listen and engage, the purpose of our accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram would include:
- Finding out what our ministries are doing on a day-to-day basis, whether that be through official campus accounts, Nav staff, or students;
- Responding directly to individual “moments” when appropriate through a Like, comment, reply, retweet or direct message;
- Inviting our followers to engage our national presence directly through our blog or by replying to something we post; and
- Inviting our followers to engage our “satellite presence”—campus websites, navigators.org, staff blogs, etc.—as a way of building an extended community.
Perhaps you’re wondering how we plan to use Instagram. I admit, Instagram is a challenging network given that I’m not in the field, but it’s also one heavily used by college students. When it comes to adding our own photos I will be swiping photos from campus-level social media profiles. (I use Repost for Instagram on my iPhone to repost Instagram photos and add an attribution watermark.) Eventually, as I develop relationships with our field staff, I will ask for photos to be sent to me directly if possible.
I am currently following all campus-level Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. I’m beginning to follow staff on Twitter as I find them. I’ve only just begun to follow people on Instagram. I’ve been following a handful of Nav-related hashtags on Twitter and Instagram as well (e.g. #NavNight, #Navs). One of my favorite tools for this is Tagboard. (My longterm plan includes using Tagboard much more publicly.)
I have an extensive to-do list, most of which I cannot accomplish alone. It requires the assistance and buy-in of our Communications department, our IT department, our field staff, and most importantly the college students involved in our ministries. Above and beyond that, I would be remiss if I didn’t underscore that these hopes and plans are ultimately in God’s hands. The caveat “if the Lord wills” permeates everything I’ve talked about.
I am so excited to have the chance to influence the direction of The Navigators collegiate ministry from a national level. It’s an honor and a privilege, one I take very seriously. If you would, please pray that these efforts would not be about increasing the renown of our ministry, but rather that of Jesus Christ. Would it be that in time we could lay hands on people whose lives were impacted in meaningful, lasting ways due to our efforts in this undertaking.