Let’s Talk About Youth, Social Media, and the United Methodist and Episcopal Churches

In the wake of my analysis of UMC annual conferences and TEC dioceses, I’ve been working to compile one brand new spreadsheet (and massively update another) to collect social media data on annual conference/diocesan youth organizations across the United States. Titled “The United Methodist Church in the US – Social Media Presence (Youth)” and “The Episcopal Church in the US – Social Media Presence (Youth)” respectively, I’m hoping to draw more conclusions on how the church is communicating with youth and connecting them to youth-centric events and conference/youth campaigns.

As with my UMC annual conference and TEC diocese spreadsheets, I am tracking social media presences on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Each social network has two sheets, one based on the number of likes/followers for the account and one based on membership in the church (the latter being based on either line 16 “CF YOUTH” of each annual conference’s Table I Statistical Report for the United Methodist Church or an estimate based on a combination of the 2016 Table of Statistics and the 2014 “New FACTS” report for the Episcopal Church). Having finished with my compilation of both datasets, I would like to talk about my thoughts on the data, social media outreach, and general engagement of youth by annual conferences.

In the vein of the posts that started it all, I’ll be covering the analysis of the data itself first by denomination. After that, I’ll discuss the differences in how this data can be interpreted as compared to the annual conference/diocesan data.

A Quick Analysis of the Data

United Methodist

  • Just under 60% of United Methodist conference youth organizations use Facebook, exactly 50% use Twitter, and only around 36% use Instagram.
  • The average time since the last post on Facebook is approximately 52 days; on Twitter, it’s approximately 354 days; and on Instagram, it’s approximately 351 days (all data based on last posts as of 3/9/2018 12:00 am CST).
  • Around 30% of conference youth organizations use the same username on social media for their accounts (for organizations that have a minimum of two accounts), and around 11% use different usernames for every account. Those that use the same username include:
    • Arkansas (@arkansasccym)
    • Dakotas (@dakyouth)
    • Holston (@holstonyouth)
    • Louisiana (@laumcyouth)
    • Minnesota (@mnumcyouth)
    • Missouri (@nextgenumc)
    • North Alabama (@umcnayouth)
    • North Carolina (@nccumcyouth)
    • North Georgia (@ngumcyouth)
    • Oklahoma Indian Missionary (@oimcyouth)
    • Peninsula-Delaware (@umyoungpeople)
    • Rocky Mountain (@rmcyoungpeople)
    • South Carolina (@scmyp)
    • Tennessee (@nextgentnumc)
    • Upper New York (@unyyouth)
    • Virginia (@vaumcyouth)
    • Western Pennsylvania (@wpaumcyouth)
    • Yellowstone (@ystoneyouth)

Episcopal

  • Around 37% of Episcopal diocesan youth organizations use Facebook, only just over 14% use Twitter, and around 27% use Instagram.
  • The average time since the last post on Facebook is approximately 151 days; on Twitter, it’s an astonishing approximately 794 days; and on Instagram, it’s approximately 124 days (all data based on last posts as of 3/8/2018 11:00 pm CST).
  • Around 8% of diocesan youth organizations use the same username on social media for their accounts (for organizations that have a minimum of two accounts), and around 7% use different usernames for every account. Those that use the same username include:
    • Arkansas (@eycarkansas)
    • Atlanta (@eycdioatl)
    • Connecticut (@cteye17)
    • East Carolina (@dioecyouth)
    • Indianapolis (@indydioyouth)
    • Mississippi (@diomsyouth)
    • Southwest Florida (@edswflyouth)
    • Western Tennessee (@episcoyouthwtn)

Thoughts on the Data

I must admit, interpreting youth organization social media data in the greater scheme of youth using social media is considerably more difficult than interpreting the social media for dioceses or annual conferences. First and foremost, there simply isn’t quality research that exists for the usage of social media for people below the age of 18 in the United States due to privacy concerns and laws, so it’s hard to state which social networks are best to target from a quantifiable standpoint (since the accounts I’m tracking are all supposed to be targeting the youth of the conference/diocese). However, from personal experience, I know that Instagram is still most likely the number one network to target as far as communicating goes. However, Instagram adoption still lags far behind both Facebook and Twitter, and for those who have adopted it, the numbers show that it’s just not being updated all that frequently (averaging 351 and 24 days for United Methodist and Episcopal organizations, respectively). I consider this to be one of my major concerns. Stemming off of that, another major concern centers around the fact that aside from Facebook on the United Methodist side, the “time since last post” for all networks across both denominations is in the hundreds of days, with half of those times being close to or over a year. Outdated accounts are not just bad sources of information, but the lack of content is a disincentive for youth or anyone associated with youth to click “Like” or “Follow” in the first place, preventing organizations from reaching their full potential when it comes to getting the word out about events and other information through one of the fastest-growing methods of communication.

However, I want to leave the post with this: while these numbers may be disheartening, they are fixable. It may take time, patience, and a lot of trying to figure out what works (in terms of what networks are of the most interest to the particular group of youth, what information would be most useful for them, how to tie in official conference/diocesan communications that are also relevant for them, etc.), but it will pay off in the end, not just for the organization but on all levels of the church, from the local parish to the national and international level.

With that, there are my thoughts on how United Methodist annual conferences/Episcopal diocesan youth organizations across the United States use social media. I hope this ends up being of some benefit to someone, and as always I appreciate any comments or questions.

Until next time,
Jacob

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