Brother Matthew Gallagher has again been gracious enough to present his craft for the betterment of the Craft. He is the Lodge Education Officer of Braden Lodge No. 168 A.F. & A.M. in Saint Paul.
Freemasonry is often inaccurately referred to as a secret society. We’re not, but it’s undeniable that we’re something similar: a private club.
There’s a strong case to be made for keeping even mundane Masonic business on the down low. Excusing yourself to a private corner of the room to conduct your mysterious Masonic affairs is undeniably cool, and that coolness is valuable. Saly, however, the hesitance of Masons to discuss any part of Masonry has taken it off the public stage to the point where you’re much more likely to get a “Huh?” in return for telling people you’re a Mason than any sour looks of resentment for what a terrible job we’re doing controlling the world and keeping the Martians under wraps.
How, or even whether we should promote Freemasonry is a topic of debate, but for those potential brothers who are already interested in becoming a Mason, what can they find out about your lodge? What gets them to knock on your door as opposed to any other lodge in the area?
Just as operative masons have dozens of tools to help them erect quality, functional buildings, the Internet provides hundreds of tools to help us erect quality, functional lodges, but these tools aren’t interchangeable. They each have a specific purpose. Here is a list of tools you have at your disposal to support awareness of your lodge, and how they are best utilized.
If you’re reading this blog post, you probably already know what Facebook is (if not, please ask). Over a billion people worldwide use Facebook, including many Freemasons and as such it makes an excellent venue for keeping both our brothers and the public connected and informed. There are two ways to do this: Facebook Pages and Facebook Groups.
Facebook Pages are designed to promote an organization. They’re completely public, and updates appear in users’ news feeds. People following a Masonic Facebook page will be a mix of your lodge brothers, brothers from other lodges, and the public so it makes an ideal medium for provoking conversation on Masonic topics which we can discuss, which frankly is most of them.
Facebook Groups are different. They’re not used for promotion, but for collaboration. Group updates don’t show up in a user’s news feed, so users have to go right to the group page to contribute to any discussions, which makes them easy to forget about. The big benefits of Groups, however, is that you can set them so that any members must be approved, and you can message all members of the group at one time, which sends the note directly to their message inbox, and frequently their email inbox as well. This makes Groups ideal for informing brothers and friends of your lodge about specific events that require quick action.
So which should your lodge have, a page or a group? Both! They each serve a different purpose, and should both be in your lodge’s toolkit.
Blogs are usually wrapped around a theme, like millennial masonry, but you can also wrap one around your lodge. At my lodge’s blog we’re not just casually chronicling dates and events, we try to exemplify our philosophy and unique culture in every post we make. Our goal is that anyone who has heard of Braden Lodge should be able to go here and learn exactly who we are.
WordPress, Blogger, and TypePad, are the top blogging tools, and unlike websites, they’re easy for anyone to figure out; no coding required.
Photo storage sites have been around for a long time, but Flickr stands out by being a searchable database of peoples’ lives. Creative use of tags (searchable keywords for labeling photos) can mean that prospective brothers can learn about your lodge without ever knowing about your lodge in the first place. If your lodge skips rocks down at the St. Paul Curling Club, someone searching for “st. paul curling” will find you, letting you attract potential brothers by virtue of the activities you do, not just because you’re Freemasons.
Message boards have been around pretty much since the Internet began. While they will continue to be useful for collaboration and community, their big draw back is their top-down control by the administrators. You play in their backyard, and creativity and collaboration can suffer. Think of it like conducting lodge business. When decisions need to be made, is a stated meeting always the best venue for that? Often ideas are realized through smaller, independent teams, and it’s the same way on the Internet.
Ning is a tool that allows anyone to make a social network of their very own. Sort of like if the entirety of Facebook was all about your lodge. The thing I love about Ning is anyone in it can create their own groups, which others on the network can join. Brothers can create their own committees and interest groups, letting them more easily collaborate away from the lodge than they can with basic email or message boards.
Because Twitter posts are limited to 144 characters, the average user will have no trouble following the day-to-day happenings of 400 people or more. Because people are willing to subject themselves to endless streams of information, Twitter excels as a marketing tool. Its usefulness to a lodge, however, is in direct proportion to the effort put into it. Using Twitter effectively means using it a lot, and forming relationships with other users. If you can do this, it’s a great tool for promoting lodge events to masons and non-masons alike. If you can’t do this, it’ll sit there and collect internet dust.
Another micro-tool, FourSquare is all about location-based advertising. When you go to any public place you can whip out your phone and “check in”, which tells anyone who’s looking exactly where you are at that moment. Believe it or not, this has its uses. If your brothers are avid users, FourSquare is great for initiating out-of-lodge fellowship.
It’s also an advertising tool. If a guy is hanging out at Brit’s Pub and checks in, seeing an account called Mpls19masons checking in frequently at the same place might get him wondering just what the Freemasons are up to nowadays.
There are hundreds out there. Some are effective, some aren’t. And some are MySpace, which should probably be avoided by all civilized people. Use the tools that are right for you and your lodge, but remember, even in the Information Age, it’s still hard to be found if you don’t want to be found, and to those lodges that do, what are you doing to make that happen?