How the New Facebook Changes Impact Youth Work

This past week at the f8 conference facebook rolled out new changes for their social networking platform. Timelines are the most noticeable change but the one change that is of greatest significance is the adaptation of the “like” button. So let me explain this for those in youth advocacy or youth ministry.

In the past, your students, yourself, and others when prompted to share or like content online would be confronted with a “one click” button to distribute information to friends on facebook from a site. You could repeatedly visit that site over and over again sharing only the content you wanted.  But what you will see over time is that more and more apps, sites, and content creators will prompt you and your students to not “like” one time but “like” and “share” permanently. It’s an on/off switch for your online and mobile activity. 

You see this most noticeably in the music application. I have been using the new profile since Friday and what has happened is that while I listened to spotify every single song I played was shared on my profile so my friends could listen to what I was listening to. Yes, I was asked if I wanted to do this. Do you see the difference? It will become more of what I’m actually doing as opposed to proclaiming what I like to do. 

“Chad is on his kindle reading, Les Miserables.”

“Chad is on crazymonkeygames playing Box-head Zombie Wars.” 

“Chad is on the 9th tee and just went 5 over par at the 8th at the Firewheel Golf Course.”

“David just went to relevant youth group and opted to do service project #2 after the talk.”

THIS IS A SOCIAL NETWORKING SHIFT

More and more of your life will be shared online with less and less of management. 

Techcrunch put it this way;

There’s one massive problem in the social space: everyone is competing for the same user time. But most services compete by piling on features that erode that time even quicker. They’re offering up services that if I use, it means I’ll have even less time to actually enjoy life. That’s not a sustainable model. Being “social” online has become far too much work.

So, Facebook will begin to become an extension in the background of your life as you do life so that you don’t have to manage your network. Creepy, yes, but easy and natural. 

Now, more than ever, influence will drive purchasing power and choice. The social currency of trends will happen so fast and in such a prolific way that the places, preferences, and activities of your students will be coveted and collected as information for the continued monetizing of every social aspect of their life. Facebook with it’s ginormous user base has become the spicket that apps will want to drink from for the escalation of their goods and services. Your students influence will be measured and sought in public and also undisclosed ways. Think of “Klout” but in means yet really imagined for your life.

So a few implications…

  1. You must work harder at creating an environment where students can come as they are and be accepted for who they are while still maintaining your group’s message and motivation for mission. You’re going to see more than you may be ready for or want to see. This cannot become cause to categorize or judge your students as their activities become more accessible to you.
  2. You have no more excuses. You have this amazing opportunity to see what is culturally relevant and frequented by your students in ways that can be leveraged to your advantage. Don’t creep but at the same time don’t shun. 
  3. You may have to rethink the group fanpage. The fanpage has become a glorified business card instead of a share point. If the content you create in your group can be distributed in and thru an app or service so it’s an extension of their life you will create more networking awareness as opposed to simply getting one time “likes.” Example: “Sally Student” is listening to “Relevant Groups” Saturday night conversation on Spotify. Make sense?
  4. You will have to make new choices as the changes evolve as to how you and your leaders share so that your privileges and adult life are not a detriment to your students trajectory. 
  5. I think you will also see students, aware of the changes, and peeling away networking connection that are invasive to their need for guarded privacy away from authority’s eyes. Tumblr, skype, and texting will become even more attractive to them as places where they can express but not be socially excavated. 

So with all that’s been said we are headed to a place where relationships and face to face moments will be even more important. At the same time, the power of influence at your disposal through Facebook will need to be revamped and re-visited because it’s no longer a powerful tool for the way that it has been in the past. The fanpage and the one time “like” are going to have less and less steam.

Watch carefully how MTV, ESPN, retailers, and publishers react not for reasons pertaining to their message but to their mode of communication. Your message, as important as it is, merits your willingness to adapt and get educated as this new shift plays out. Once again we cannot be content to remain in the past even if the past is just two to three years ago.

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Chad Swanzy
Chad Swanzy has served in youth ministry for 15 years and currently works as the student ministry director at Gateway Community Church in Austin, Texas. Learn more from Chad and ask him your questions at ChadSwanzy.com.

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