Lodges, The Internet, and Social media: a guide

For the Lodge using the internet for communication, here are some tips and thoughts as to the best way to use the different programs available.  This page suggests ways in which social media and internet communications can be used, and in December 2016 we will publish our Social Media Policy document offering guidance and best practices as to what content you put on your public social media presence.

The first thing to understand is

  • Not all brothers use the internet. Therefore, anything you do for internal Lodge communication has to be by US mail as well as online.

The second thing to understand is the difference between two types of communication

  • Internal lodge communication for members only
  • External information available to the public

It is important to differentiate between the two. Nothing on any internet service or program should be considered as a Tiled Lodge, even if it is a members-only service.

What's available? Here's just a few, and the most common.

  • Email
  • Web page
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

All these programs deliver information, in different ways. They can be used together as a suite of complimentary components of an information campaign, or used separately for specific purposes. The biggest confusions are caused by using a program differently from what it is supposed to do.

Let's work through the list and see how they shape up for various uses. I'm not going to provide detailed information on setting up each kind of tool, nor a detailed instruction on concepts and basic use, but will provide an overview of how to use it appropriately for your differing communications.

  • Email. Good for internal communications (in addition to US Mail). "Internal" in this instance means Internal to the Craft not just your Lodge.
  • Web Page. Your web page is public unless you've designed a special members-only area. Any information on a website should be worded and targeted at visitors. You can use this very effectively to highlight public events your lodge is holding - fundraisers, blood-drives etc.
  • Facebook. Facebook actually has three differing uses. All of them are only available if someone has a Facebook account.
    • First is the usual "Friends" page. This is for individuals. This is where you keep friends lists and communicate as individuals. Lodges can have "friends" pages too, and act as though they are individuals. You can - and should - set your privacy options appropriately so that you control who sees what you are posting. You will probably have "friends" who are family members and other non-masons.
    • Second is the Facebook "Fan" page. This is the page that you can "Like". This is a public page. To set one up is easy, but you have to have an existing "Friends" page and that page will be one of the "owners" of the Fan Page. Anybody can "Like" your page. You have little control over who does "Like" it - but that's OK because the main purpose of this kind of page is to provide public information about Masonry in general or events at your lodge. There can be more than one Administrator of the page, all of who can post articles.
    • Third is the Facebook "Group". This is for members-only discussion, but it can be open, private, closed or even totally secret. This is a great tool for internal Lodge discussion and news (remember: NOT a tiled Lodge and not all members will use the internet or have Facebook).
    • Setting up the Fan page and the Group area is relatively easy but you should check all the Facebook default settings to make sure they're right for what you want.
  • Twitter. Twitter is less useful in Lodge communication but is a great tool for giving information to the public. It provides short messages, which can contain links to other media such as web pages or Facebook pages, and it can also use what's called a "freeform indexing system" whereby the message can be "tagged" to group it with other messages of the same content. It's called "hashtagging". For example: if you send a tweet message saying "Charity Lodge next meeting July 30 2015 7pm", you could also tag it with the hashtags #rhodeisland #freemasonry. This would allow your message to be discovered by people perusing the freemasonry and rhodeisland information streams as well as those just "following" your own Twitter account.
  • YouTube. YouTube is a useful place for uploading videos as it has large and robust servers capable of storing large video images. Often it's better to use YouTube than store video on your own Lodge website.

So how do these programs work together? Let's look at a couple of examples.

First. Let's say we want to improve online discussion and communication within our Lodge. Of course, we always have to use US Mail and the phone in addition to the internet. But for internet tools we should use email, and a Facebook Group for this purpose. Email of course is private, and so is the Facebook Group, so it's a good medium to provide and discuss information not really for public view.

Second. Let's say we want to publicize a public Lodge event - for example an Open House day at your Lodge. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness of Masonry in our State and encourage men to visit a Lodge, to meet us, and to ask questions. Here are the tools we could use for this:

  • Static information about the Open House on your  Lodge website. By "static" I mean that it's a permanent reference point providing the basic core information. This is viewable by the public - which is what we want
  • Dynamic information on our Grand Lodge Facebook "Fan" Page. This is "dynamic" because here we can post and re-post the same, or updated, information and we can also allow visitors to engage in conversation or discussion. The format of the posts can change, with different photos and information. All the posts should contain a link to the "static" page on our website so that we constantly allow visitors to get up-to-date information and develop their curiosity
  • Repetitive information via Twitter. Twitter will only allow short messages, and is not intended for detailed discussion. We will use it to repeatedly "tweet" both the links to the  Lodge website and links to the Facebook Fan Page posts. We'll "tag" each tweet with the "#rhodeisland", "#freemasonry", "#openhouse" tags and we'll create a series of publicity messages - probably about 20 - with slightly differing content, which we'll automatically re-post at random over each 24 hour period.

The website is useful for permanent information; the Facebook page is useful for engaging discussion, and the Twitter stream is useful for generating a short but frequent stream of information.

The final part of effectively using internet and social media is sharing. Your Facebook pages and Twitter feeds can follow other Lodges, and they can follow you. Anything that they post, you can re-post and share to your followers or "fans". This creates a ripple-effect, distributing information to viewers outside of your immediate circle. This is a truly powerful tool; everything you post will be seen by many, and will be available for a long time.

What doesn't work? Things that don't work include the obvious such as using YouTube for lodge newsletters, but also include using the Facebook Fan Page for Lodge communication (because it's publicly available) or, conversely, using a Facebook Group or a Lodge "Friends" page for Lodge publicity.

Using email for public information also may not work unless you have a good system that allows your subscribers to manage their account - to unsubscribe, change address etc.

Lodges need to decide on the best methods of communication between its members, and the best methods of providing information to the public. Using the right tools can be beneficial; using the wrong tools won't do any harm but it'll be a waste of time and won't produce the results you are looking for.

As always: remember the internet is not private. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are private companies. Put nothing there that you'd only discuss in a tiled Lodge, and avoid identifying individuals as much as possible.