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February 23, 2010

Church Signs: The Original Tweets

2 minute read, in Content / Impact / Social Networking / Tone/Voice / Writing

Screen shot 2010-02-23 at 1.29.59 PMThink about it.  Those backlit signs with the manually-applied characters that churches use to recruit parishioners are the original tweets. Today’s Toronto Star profiles these signs featuring clever (under 140 character) proclamations like:

“A Toyota’s not the only thing that can be recalled by its maker”

“Want to talk to God? Try knee mail.”

“Remember, even Moses was a basket case once”

Fact is, those antiquated church signs can teach us alot about how to tweet, and frankly about how to communicate in general. Take note:

  • The churches aren’t selling themselves: The signs never say “Come to our church”, “Check out our new pews”, “We have the tastiest wafers!” Instead, they sell an idea—usually spirituality, church-going, etc. They’re talking about something bigger than themselves. In this case, God, who supposedly is much, much bigger than us. Consider how many tweets are wasted talking about a new menu item, a sale or a new account. It’s too inward-looking. Look out; waaaay outside yourself and talk about the bigger issues that matter to your communities of interest.
  • They have personality: Some are witty, some are welcoming, some are really, really scary. The point is, each has a distinct flavor  that ideally reflects the values of the church it stands in front of. What’s your personality and how do you express it?
  • They are (often) shareworthy: Brevity forces creativity. You’ve got one shot, one sign, one message. Even though the medium is cheap,  a lot of thought goes into making an impact with a single church sign. I’ve seen much pricier media buys that haven’t had nearly as much impact as those signs. A tweet, or any piece of communication, is an opportunity to be talked about. It’s not enough just to be provocative—you want people to say the right thing about you. So, what do you want them to say?

Picture 1When we talk about social media, the newness of the medium often keeps us from remembering that the same old rules of communication apply. Say something. Stand for something. Be memorable. And do it in under 140 characters.

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