Being raised in a conservative Catholic family, one of the most important values instilled was tradition. This value quite frequently comes into conflict with the not-so traditional ideals of the millennial generation. The only form of church “social media” was the old-school stock-paper weekly newsletter that was distributed to churchgoers as they exited Mass. Unfortunately, the few newsletters that were accepted were in turn used as a plate to pile on as many of the warm, highly coveted end-of-mass donuts that were served by volunteers immediately after every Sunday morning service. Absolutely an incentive to get out of bed at 8:45 on a Sunday.
The SMU Catholic community, on the other hand, has found a way to attract an impressive number of worshippers that are, wait for it, college students; and they’ve done so without the donut-incentive. But how?!
Despite their traditionally structured masses, SMU Catholic has utilized communication channels other than the word of the Lord, with those being Twitter and Facebook. In addition, the Priest and Deacon have found a way to communicate the Homily, which is a reflection on the Scripture readings and an application of the texts in the daily lives of the assembled community, in a riveting, relevant, and less-traditional fashion. In other words, their meaningfully relevant and refreshing Homily prevents easily distractible college students from texting, falling asleep, or perusing Instagram for a whole hour every Sunday evening. Traditionally, having strong public speaking skills and the ability to captivate an audience are not job qualifications for aspiring Priests, Ministers, or Deacons. However, SMU Catholic’s staff isn’t traditional, which is exactly why they’re #winning in the social media world as well as in the Chapel.
With over 235 Twitter followers and almost 700 ‘likes’ on their Facebook page, SMU Catholic’s daily posts range from infographic infused event announcements, to photo updates from social gatherings, to encouraging, smile-worthy ‘just-because’ posts. The social media/marketing team, which is primarily comprised of SMU students, is at an advantage, for they don’t just understand their audience, they are their audience. They know how the millennial generation functions, from their 3-second attention span to their preference for colored graphics and text with a 140-character maximum. For example, they’ve utilized the wildly popular meme fad, which are humorous images, videos, or pieces of text that are copied with slight variations and spread by Internet users. As seen below, they’ve made Ryan Gosling the “host,” per say, of the Women’s Group Ladies Night, slightly altering a famous quote from the heart throb Gosling’s hit movie “The Notebook.”
As ex-CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, so eloquently put, “It’s because of this fundamental shift towards user-generated information that people will listen more to other people than to traditional sources.” SMU Catholic’s utilization of digital/social media has opened the channel of two-way communication that allows for traditional Catholic messages to be heard, and wanted to be heard, in a not so traditional way. The tradition is all there, however SMU Catholic draws people to that tradition in not-so traditional ways, with those being social media and maintaining a strong online presence.