I’ve noticed an interesting trend that is rising amongst ministries when it comes to reaching people online—many are one-track minded. When it comes to developing a strategy to grow their online audience, social media is often the all-encompassing solution. Many ministries believe that if you throw some social media stuff in the mix (posts, graphics, maybe a video) then it will reach people online and have an impact. Is this your ministry? Does your leadership believe that social media is the answer to all your online outreach problems? Well trust me, your ministry is not alone, but there’s a better answer than relying solely on social media.
While social media is a great piece of the online outreach pie, there are other pieces that are still necessary to reach, engage, and grow your online audience. The answer to this issue is that churches need to “think digital” and not just “social.” Thinking digital means that you need a full digital strategy for your organization. A digital strategy looks at all the ways your ministry connects with people in the online space. Usually this consists of social, mobile, web, ecommerce, multimedia and more. Let’s start with the two aspects of a digital strategy that are most impactful: social and mobile.
As society continues to blur the lines between offline and online, I believe the two most important aspects of any digital strategy are social and mobile. Let me explain. For the last ten years, social has driven mobile growth and mobile has driven social growth. Here’s a perfect example—Facebook’s social features made us want to connect with it, but its mobile features gave Facebook the ability to connect with us—anywhere, any time, any place. AOL Messenger and Myspace were some of the early social networks but they had no mobile component. Likewise, any mobile phone before apps were introduced by iOS and Android was just a phone with no social component. From 2006 when Facebook opened up to anyone over 13, to 2007 when Google and Apple launched their phones, to 2008 when Apple and Android launched their app stores, social and mobile had the perfect storm, setting up for the reality we have today of major social and mobile growth. Social media has undeniably transformed the way we use the Internet and it has surpassed email as our main form of communication. Additionally, we have seen social media quickly become the most used apps on mobile devices.
Now let’s talk strategy. When developing the social aspect of your digital strategy, include content that engages people and grabs their attention. It’s better to have higher engagement rates with a lower number of followers than low engagement rates with a high number of followers. With social media make sure that your social strategy includes inspirational and informational content, you communicate with your online audience, you post consistently, and you use a variety of platforms to connect. While there is no perfect time to post, when you are developing your social strategy, do not negate the use of analytics to measure what’s working and what’s not.
When developing the mobile aspect of your digital strategy, focus on how you are delivering your content to people that are on the go. When we hear about digital strategies, we always hear people say, “think mobile first.” This perspective is quite understandable and I find it to be very true, but not the whole truth. Thinking mobile first will help us because there are more mobile-only users than desktop-only users. There are over 6 billion mobile devices, over 4 million mobile apps, and SMS/Texting has the highest open rates of any digital marketing platform. Google has also said there are more searches on mobile than on desktop. Therefore when you want to connect with the growing digital mission field of over 3 billion Internet users, since 2 billion of them are mobile, you should think mobile-first. A great way to think about the content you create and curate is how can we think mobile-first, while also making it easy to share on social media.
Overall, I want to help you understand how important mobile and social are, together, as foundations for digital strategies to take your message to the masses. When you think about a digital strategy, consider that many people will read your content and connect with your organization online from a mobile device. But they will also connect with, share, and discuss this content and your organization via social media. Mobile and social go hand-in-hand and it would benefit our churches to make strategies that highlight this trend.