Today, I had the pleasure of interviewing social media and branding guru, Toni Birdsong of Birdsong Creative and co-author of @stickyjesus. Join me as I dive into her brain on how to live out your faith online.
Toni, What is your favorite social media site?
I used to be a Twitter fanatic but recently went through a bit of a burnout. I’m kind of smitten with Facebook right now.
As a marketer I believe both Twitter and Facebook are the greatest marketing vehicles since television. As evangelist, I think social media in general is the most powerful tool for spreading the gospel in history—if you use it right. I’m just thrilled God dropped me into this era. This is a blast!
Why is Facebook your favorite?
Facebook allows for conversations that never would have taken place otherwise. It’s just this really cool, on-going conversation that ebbs and flows naturally. It gives God room to break in at any moment and do something off-the-charts-powerful—which He often does.
The title of your book is @stickyjesus, can you define “sticky” for us?
I wrote the book, @stickyJesus: how to live out your faith online, with my friend and co-author Tami Heim. “Sticky” is a marketing term that means “to attract and make stay.” To be “sticky” is the goal of any marketing message or web site. A sticky web site (or post) engages a visitor so they stay around, explore, act, and come back.
In @stickyJesus we flip the idea of “sticky” and apply it to the attributes of Christ and His message of salvation. The gospel is the stickiest message to ever hit the heart of mankind. It continues to do its transforming, eternal work and outlive hundreds of transient theologies. We challenge Christ followers online to be “sticky” like Jesus—loving, engaging, praying, and responding in ways that run contrary to much of our culture. It’s time for Christians to use these tools to influence culture instead of allowing culture to influence us.
You have over 12,000 Twitter followers, what are the implications of that type of following?
I think the same amount of responsibility comes with 12 thousand followers as with 12 followers.
Every time we hop online or fire up our phones, we have the choice to build up or tear down with the words we choose.
So what if I write a hotheaded post and it gets shared fifty times on Facebook or Twitter? My one post has the potential to reach thousands. I am accountable to God for all of that and any fallout it causes.
What responsibilities go with it?
While Facebook is all about emotion and self-expression, for the Christian there’s a ton of responsibility. It’s critical to get your heart hooked to Jesus’ agenda before your own. For me, to get in that mindset, and stay in that mindset is a daily workout. I need to ask God every single day to replace my reckless ramblings with the power of His holy word.
If Jesus were alive today how do you think He would use social media?
I wrote a post on that very topic once (http://stickyjesus.com/2011/04/would-jesus-waste-his-time-on-twitter-or-facebook/) because people always ask that when we go out and speak or teach.
I am not one to say what Jesus would or would not do but I do know this: That our God will stop at nothing to seek and save His children. There are 206 million people who log onto the Internet each day. I personally believe that yes, Jesus would inject himself into the online space. In fact, I see Him working miracles through His people every day online. I see him showing up and gluing hearts back together and giving them hope. He’s online.
What would be your top three “don’ts” for social media?
1. Don’t wallpaper the online space with Scripture. People will write you off as a nut if you are a streaming Jesus channel. Be yourself. Be real. Be funny. Be approachable. Love listens, it doesn’t preach.
2. Don’t argue with other Christians online. We’ve all seen a theology debate play out online or Christians get catty with one another and it’s not a pretty sight.
3. Don’t get online without praying first. When I am done with my laptop each day, I close the top and put my big fat Bible right on top of it. It’s my padlock. I can’t open my laptop the next day until I open my Bible and meet with the Lord first. That’s the way it has to be. I’ve broken that rule a few times and I can tell the difference in how I interact online.
What would be your top three “do’s” for social media users?
1. Seek to understand. This means you have to listen before pushing your own ideas. Trust needs to be earned.
2. Be generous. Encourage and lift others. I call it “being a lightbringer.” In the process of doing that, you will begin to see real relationships—those blessed by God— take off.
3. Choose love. There are always online decisions like ‘how do I say this the right way?’ or ‘how do I respond to that mean remark?’ If there’s doubt in your heart about your words or tone, then don’t post.
If you could write a tweet about how to maximize social media, what would it say?
Be a light in the darkness. Be brave and love big. Then watch God multiply your influence and impact online. #LiveSticky
2/1/2013 01:05:23 am
I love: It’s time for Christians to use these tools to influence culture instead of allowing culture to influence us. It can be a hard thing sometimes to not be influenced but it is so true.
2/1/2013 03:11:31 am
April, Isn't that a great quote from Toni? Wonderful food for thought as we log in so much time online.
2/1/2013 02:27:24 am
You are too right when you say: "Every time we hop online or fire up our phones, we have the choice to build up or tear down with the words we choose." I think of my social media time as living my faith out loud, knowing that untold numbers of people all over the world have the ability to see what I'm saying. Do my words ring true? Am I a good example? Am I approachable? Do people see Jesus?
2/1/2013 03:13:10 am
Kathrese, I know. I love what Toni Birdsong has to say about the kind of example we can set online. Once it's out there, it's out there, so if it's going to stick, why not make it something of value?
2/1/2013 05:21:38 am
Toni and Laura - I loved every word of this. It's so packed with info I'm going to have to read it several times and bookmark it for later. A lot of wisdom packed in here from a woman who has studied what's going on and distilled it down to what matters. Thanks, Toni!
2/1/2013 06:53:43 am
You girls are blessing me. I'm so grateful that the Lord has our attention. It gives me hope and joy that He is using each one of us to bring heaven's countenance to this chaotic space. Thank you each for your ministries and for logging on with awakened hearts. Let's be sure we stay connected. The Body of Christ is POWERFUL and so beautiful when we work together.
2/4/2013 12:15:33 am
Toni, thank you for blessing us with your insights. I'm curious how many people placed their Bibles on their laptop lids? You are a beautiful example of shining Christ's light!
Wow, this is such a well written post! As a Christian business owner, I need to be more open about my faith. I am not ashamed about it, but sometimes I feel like people are treating faith like politics, and I don't want to deal with that. Love that you pointed out to be yourself, to love, to help. That is what Jesus wants us to do. <3 Thank you for sharing!!!
2/4/2013 12:16:50 am
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Laura L. Smith