4 Ways to Leverage Your Church's Online Presence
Each day we are bombarded with thousands of messages. Beyond the messages we seek out (think news, entertainment, and our friend’s posts on social media), experts estimate that we see anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day. As a church, when we are communicating to our people, we are adding just one (or a few) to these thousands of messages being thrown at our people. So how do you break through the noise? Here are four things that you can do in your church to help break through the noise and use your online presence better.
1. Be Simple
When you’re dealing with online messages, simplicity is king. A simple message conveys only the key aspects of your message, nothing more. Think about the messages you see and which ones stick with you. Think about McDonald’s - what is their key message? How about Coca-Cola? These are two of the largest corporations in the world, with similarly large advertising budgets. Yet, their message remains simple. Coca-Cola builds entire campaigns around their tagline “Taste the feeling.” McDonald’s does the same thing with “I’m lovin’ it.” So, when you are communicating something—an event, a sermon, a program, some sort of news—how simple are you making your message? Simplicity should always be your rule of thumb.
On social media, this means you should post short, shareable moments. Post things on your social media channels that are bite-sized and easy to get excited about or engaged with. On your church website, keep information on your homepage simple enough that a visitor can digest important information upfront, but also easily click into the website for deeper engagement and information.
2. Be Authentic
When trying to build engagement and relationships with people online, authenticity is key. And in order to be authentic in how and what you communicate online, you need to know who you are as a church. You may feel like you instinctively know who your church is, but it is always helpful to write it down. This doesn't have to be an arduous process, but it does have to be honest. Identify things like: What's your mission, vision, and values? What are you good at? Who are the people in your pews? Once you've identified this basic information, the next step is to make sure your online presence reflects it.
Using real images of real people in real situations on your web and social media helps give your potential guests a better idea of who you are, what you’re about, and what to expect when they attend a special event or Sunday service. On social media, it is important to take into consideration the climate of your congregation and community when posting. Has your community seen a recent rise in violence? Is your congregation going through a painful leadership transition? Don't ignore these realities. Instead, embrace the realities of your struggle to post relevant and meaningful gospel content. This helps you engage your audience where they are at in a meaningful way.
3. Prioritize Your Audience
Naturally, we tend to think that our church-branded messages are geared toward everyone because the gospel is relevant for everyone. But when you’re trying to use your online presence to its full potential, you need to identify and prioritize your audiences for each message and platform. When creating a message for a specific outlet online, make sure the message applies to the potential audience. For example, a post on your church’s Facebook Page reaches far beyond your congregation and includes many potential visitors. Prioritize non-church members when you craft messages and think of this page as an outreach-oriented opportunity. For more “in house” church communications, like prayer requests or funeral announcements, using a congregation-focused Facebook group might be a better bet.
On your church website, make visitor-focused information the most easily-accessible. Guests need to know very basic information, so the front page of your website should be geared around that. They should also be able to easily get a glimpse of what the church is about and what to expect. Members will likely need more involved information with more details or content. This information should still be on the website, but can be located deeper in the pages.
4. Have a Plan
Whatever online message we’re crafting, it should always be part of a larger plan. When you have a church communication plan in place, whatever you decide to post online should fit well into that overall strategy. Even if your church doesn’t have a full plan yet, you can start with a baseline. Creating a strategy, or plan, for how and what is communicated—through all mediums—means that you have thought through what types of things are communicated. Having a plan means that you’ve done your research. You have thought about who your congregation is, who you want to attract, what those people need to see and hear, and how we should best deliver that message.
Having an effective online presence means that your church is able to reach more people with the gospel than ever before. With that much potential, let’s do things well! I’d love to see some of your successes online. Do you think you have an awesome social post or website that hits on these 4 points? If so, send me a screenshot—firstname.lastname@example.org.