A Peek Behind the Scenes at Joel Osteen’s Social Media

joel osteen social mediaThe Huffington Post published a fascinating article about social media of Joel Osteen, senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, the largest church in the U.S.

Here are some of my thoughts on it…

1) Great addition to the conversation. It’s encouraging to see such a large media outlet talking about social media and the church. The article is mostly positive about the potential for churches connect, engage, share the gospel with people and do ministry online.

2) God is big… online. Two of the top 5 most active Facebook fan pages are Jesus Daily and God. 3.6 million people have “liked” the Joel Osteen Ministries (JOM) page. While that’s big, what’s even bigger is that posts to the page average 160,000 interactions, 4x Rihanna (the most liked page on FB), 3x Justin Bieber and 16x the White House. That’s a lot of engagement!

3) Joel Osteen takes social media seriously. Joel Osteen Ministries hired a social media consulting firm. For the “Night of Hope” stadium event, the social media staff included 10 consultants from MCP, a team of 11 marketing & developers to ensure everything ran properly, and 7 staff & volunteers from Lakewood Church to pray with people online & on the phone. This is a big investment and tells me they want to do social media well. They aren’t willing to wait around or risk bungling opportunities while they figure it out themselves.

4) It leaves spiritual and authenticity questions. The biggest concern that I have after reading the article is with all the consultants speaking on behalf of Osteen. Consultants do all of his tweeting and posting to the Joel Osteen Ministries Facebook page. Consultants even reply as if they were Osteen.

“I eat, breathe and sleep Joel at times,” says [consultant, Kelly] Vo. “I speak Joel now … You pick up the voice and it’s like, ‘Oh, God bless you’ and ‘Would love to pray for you.’”

Really???

Questions come to mind… Do these consultants actually pray for these folks? Do they even follow Jesus? Do the people realize Joel himself is not responding to them. And I’ve gotta say I cringe a bit when I hear some of these cliché responses like “We stand with you in prayer.”

It’s a difficult challenge. When God gives someone the opportunity to minister to millions of people, the leader can’t engage personally with everyone. They have to scale the ministry and delegate a lot of the prayer and ministering to other people. I get that.

But real prayer and real encouragement by real people is essential.  How is that best done with both effectiveness and authenticity?

I encourage you to read the full article: Click ‘Pray’ to Pray: How Evangelical Megapastor Joel Osteen Is Saving Souls With Facebook

Thoughts?

I realize that Joel Osteen is a very polarizing figure.  I don’t want to get into a debate about his ministry or message.  Let’s focus the conversation on his use of social media.

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

10 Responses to “A Peek Behind the Scenes at Joel Osteen’s Social Media”

  1. Focusing on the use of social media raises the same questions as the controversial points of his ministry. Who does he say that Christ is? Who do his consultants say Christ is? That frames any response a social media follower will get, right?

    • PaulSteinbrueck May 29, 2013 at 9:07 am

      LaNeisa, that's true, and you've posed the questions in a way that addresses one of the underlying issues we all need to ask ourselves when creating and leading our communications teams. Thank you. :)

  2. Daniel Bardales May 28, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    I totally agree! People that leads that may people needs to delegate a lot, but also it comes to my mind if there is really influence on his ministry or just light, media etc…all i know is that the message of Jesus’s GRACE is more than pure positivism on pulpit. It is a message that TRANSFORMS LIVES.

  3. I did notice that most of the comments are marked as "-JOM Team" and it does not appear to me that someone is pretending to be him.

    • PaulSteinbrueck May 29, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      Hey Kevin, I can see that in the screen capture in the article of the live event chat. Kudos to JOM is using a chat interface that supports multiple moderators where each can identify themself. Twitter and Facebook are tricky though because they don't work the same way.

  4. Hi – I'm the CEO of MCP mentioned above. I wanted to clarify that all of the content on Joel's social media actually comes from Joel and Victoria. When our team publishes content and it's not directly from Pastor Joel, we label it "- JOM Team". We believe in integrity. It's critical. IMHO it's integrity or nothing. And guess what – we believe in prayer too. :)

    • PaulSteinbrueck May 29, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      Hey Brian, I appreciate you stopping by to clarify. You, your team and all of JOM have a challenging job, and I appreciate the opportunity we all have to learn from you through the article and your comments.

      >>all of the content on Joel's social media actually comes from Joel and Victoria

      The article says…

      "[Vo] helped manage Osteen’s social profiles for six months, and spends an hour or two every day responding to his followers’ comments or drafting status updates to send from the pastor’s accounts. The posts, based on lines from Osteen’s sermons and books, are each screened by Joel Osteen Ministries’ media relations chief, Andrea Davis, before they're published. Osteen is against personal updates and insists on short, motivational phrases: "It's hope, it's inspiration, it's stuff that they can use," the pastor explains. "That has helped us be effective." Though Osteen doesn’t tweet himself, he has a separate, private Twitter account from which he monitors his official feed. If Osteen sees a tweet go out that doesn’t sound true to him, Davis can expect a call."

      Is the article mistaken? Or how does it work?

      >>When our team publishes content and it's not directly from Pastor Joel, we label it "- JOM Team"

      On which social media platform do you do that? How does that work on twitter.com/JoelOsteen? And how do you respond to comments on the JOM FB page?

      >> We believe in integrity. It's critical. IMHO it's integrity or nothing. And guess what – we believe in prayer too. :)

      That's good to hear. So, does a person have to be a Christian to work on the JOM social media team? And do you train the team to actually stop and pray when they respond to someone saying they are praying for them?

      Thanks again for your insight Brian. You, your team and JOM are doing some amazing things and creating record levels of engagement. I hope you can tell that I'm not bashing you, but questioning where I see gaps in the article.

  5. +1 Kevin. The fact that its signed JOM team makes it pretty obvious.

  6. Kevin – I can guarantee that no one is pretending to be anyone. That goes against our core principles as a social media consulting organization. We've actually let clients go that ask us to pretend or make up content. It's a core integrity issue with MCP.

  7. just wondering if I received a friend request from Joel Osteen and the page says it is him. is it really him? I also received a message from that person today and I asked was this really him and I got no responce just wanted to know what if that was him?