Spiritual Enlightenment: How To Host Religious Services Through Twitter

-Twitter Logo-A discussion within the SocialTimes team stemming from recent news that Buddhist religious leader-in-exile, the Dalai Lama, was tweeting on Twitter led to the question of whether the microblogging service could be use to deliver religious services, and whether anyone was doing so. In this post we explore how Twitter can be used as a platform for religious services.

A search for “religious services on Twitter” in Google shows a few lists and one app:

  1. WeFollow hosts a list of Twitter accounts that have some religious or spiritual flavor to them.
  2. Twibes has a religion-spirituality Twitter list, but the user profiles listed seem to be of people rather than organizations.
  3. If you’re interested in seeing in real-time what Twitter users are posting about “religion,” and from where, see Trendsmap’s geocoded map.

Some profiles from the first two lists, above, actually have a considerable number of followers. However, none of the them appear to be priests or ministers or nuns or monks, or what have you. The closest thing to religious services using Twitter, that I’ve found so far, is Gospelr, a Christian microblogging site. It’s built on the Twitter platform, and you can thus sign in with your Twitter account. Anyone can use it, and messages are sent to Twitter. You can browse tweets containing various spiritually-relevant keywords posted in tweets on Gospelr, as well as browse passages from different books from the Bible. E.g., Genesis. Gospelr users and ministers can add notes to any passage, offering the potential for spiritual conversation, albeit digital.

snap: Gospelr home page

This is only a very cursory glance at enlightenment options via Twitter. You might find more. If you you’re interested the Dalai Lama’s tweets, make sure you follow the right profile, as there multiple related (and a few opportunistic) accounts. It’s obvious that not all of the tweets are by His Holiness — and there are only 29 at this writing — but he is dispensing his brand of compassionate wisdom from there.

Now, if you’re a religious leader of some sort, you might be wondering how you could use Twitter to host englightenment services — to dispense both open enlightenment advice as well as take private queries and respond privately — you have two key choices. The first is to build a 3rd-part application (over Twitter), and the second is a quick do-it-yourself approach, described below in a nutshell.

  1. Select two Twitter profile names that you want to use. Make sure they’re not taken, else come up the other profile names.
    • The first account will be for open advice — a profile anyone on Twitter can follow.
      The second account will be for a protected account, possibly for local followers, but also for handling private queries. You could very well use just one account, but if the first account grows beyond one person’s ability to manage, and you don’t want a volunteer viewing private queries, then it’s best to keep two accounts.
  2. Create the two twitter accounts. You might want to have the first account verified, to show authenticity. The second account should be set to protected status.
  3. Promote & customize the first account:
    • Fill in the bio with text & links. You don’t have much space, and any information (your name, organization name, website, other twitter accounts) that you cannot fit in can go into the profile background.
    • Customize the profile background. Add a larger picture, an organization logo, the URL of the private account (and quick explanation of its purpose.)
    • Promote. Publish the URL on your website, if you have one, on your business cards, in your email signature.
    • Build your Twitter following. There’s tons of advice online, including at SocialTimes. (Or if you only want local followers, let them know about your Twitter account during live services.)
    • Start tweeting. Broadcast inspiration and advice via your Twitter status updates. Tweet links to your spiritual blog posts. If you somehow work in trending topics in your tweets, you’ll find your Twitter follower base increasing faster than if you don’t.
  4. Promote & customize the second account:
    • As with the first account, do the same kind of customizations, but differentiate as necessary, since this is a private account that only approved “followers” can view the contents of (beyond the background and bio).
    • Promote. You can promote this account on the first account, on your website, your email signature, business cards or in person at services.
    • Accept ‘follow’ requests. Those Twitter users that want to follow this account have to be approved by you or someone assisting you.
    • Start tweeting. Keep in mind that the purpose of this account is twofold. First, you might want to dispense advice openly to this sub-group of followers. Second, you might receive private queries in the form of Twitter DMs (Direct Messages).
    • Answer queries. Just make sure that if you receive a private query DM, you should answer privately. Otherwise, anyone who has been approved to follow the private account can see your answer, which could be embarrassing for all concerned.
  5. Choose your client. If you don’t like the Twitter.com web interface, use a desktop or mobile Twitter client. Most of them make it easy to tweet from — including reading and answering DMs — and to browse what your “followers” (literally and figuratively, in this case) are tweeting. There are too many to cover here, but Tweetdeck and Seesmic are two options for desktop/ laptop computers. Twitterific is for Mac and iPhone, and there are many more options.

This approach can also be applied to a variety of non-religious online services, including handling business leads and more.