5 Goals You Can Set For Your Church Website In The New Year

5 Goals You Can Set For Your Church Website In The New Year

“Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” Habakkuk 2:2-3

When establishing a vision, church leaders are often inspired by the prophet Habakkuk to “write their vision and make it plain.” Writing the vision is just the first step, however. In order to actually make the vision come to pass, it takes time, energy, and plenty of patience. Setting goals is instrumental in making your vision come to life.

Without goals, the dreams and vision you have for your church will be hard-pressed to become a reality. Use the following as inspiration when setting goals for your church website.

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Is Your Church On Instagram?

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Most churches have a Facebook page. A lot are busy tweeting. But the number of churches on Instagram is growing, too. Should you jump on the bandwagon?

While Facebook is still the most widely used social network, numbers on the platform have been fluctuating recently—especially among teens and millennials. As grandparents finally begin to master likes and shares, their grandkids are flocking to new social networks where they hope to find a younger, hipper crowd. Enter Instagram.

As of March 2014, Instagram has over 200 million active monthly users, and 34% of US teens and millennials (ages 14-32) use the network. These numbers continue to grow.

Why Instagram?

The growing popularity of Instagram is partly due to its appeal to our visual culture. Most people would rather look at a flashy picture than read a post. After all, isn’t a picture worth a thousand words?

Instagram introduced video in 2013, so users can now share up to 15 seconds of video content with their followers. Sure, you can share images and even longer videos on Facebook, but Instagram is solely visual—no FarmVille invites!

Instagram is also popular with the tech-savvy generations because it’s almost exclusively mobile—you can’t post pictures or search hashtags from a desktop. It’s easy to use, and the filters will make any amateur photographer feel like Ansel Adams.

And although some large national companies are dabbling in paid advertising, Instagram is not completely pay to play like Facebook. Your posts will be visible to all of your followers when they log in.

Instagram—the right way

Just like with any other social network, you should keep some best practices in mind when using Instagram for your church:

  • Make it easy for people to find you. Include a link to your Instagram profile on your church website along with your other social pages.
  • Don’t feed into the selfie craze. The occasional goofy picture of staff is ok, but your church account shouldn’t look like it belongs to a teenage girl.
  • Use hashtags wisely. Much like Twitter, users can search for related posts based on hashtags within Instagram. Keep them simple, limit to two or three per post, and make sure you’ve spelled them correctly before hitting share.
  • Use the location feature within Instagram so people can find other photos that were taken at your church.
  • Consider sharing some of your Instagram posts directly to other accounts like Facebook and Twitter. You’ll get more mileage out of your photos and videos which could lead to more followers.
  • Remember that Instagram is a fun way to interact with your church community—in addition to your overall strategy. Not everyone will be on Instagram or see every post, so this shouldn’t be the only way you communicate.

Instagram for your church

Although many churches have seen success engaging their people on Instagram, it’s not right for every church. Consider the demographic of your church and whether or not they have smartphones. Will anyone even see the posts? Also remember that while Instagram is easy to use, it’s not the most convenient to manage. You’ll need to post from the app in real time as Instagram doesn’t allow you to schedule posts or share videos and images from a desktop.

If you’ve decided that Instagram is right for your church, try some of the ideas to engage your community:

  • Promote a special event coming up your church. You can also share photos and video during the event plus recap when it’s over.
  • Recruit volunteers and tell people where you have service needs.
  • Introduce new staff members to the church community.
  • Showcase individual ministries and their leaders within the church.
  • Highlight an upcoming sermon series at your church to build some interest and excitement.
  • Show people what goes on behind the scenes of your church each week.
  • Provide the information that visitors would want to know if they stumble upon your profile—service times and a sense of what to expect from your church.

How is your church using Instagram? 

Check out these other resources for using Instagram at your church:

20 Great Ways to Use Instagram at Your Church

8 Creative Ways to Use Instagram Video for Your Church

Your Church Should Be Paying Attention to Instagram

The 10 Commandments Of Church Twitter Use

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According to a study from ROAR, 77% of churches are using Twitter—second only to Facebook and ahead of other social networks like Instagram and Pinterest. But while some are effectively using Twitter to engage their church community, many churches are struggling to make sense of the platform. Twitter can be a great communication tool for ministry as long as churches avoid breaking these 10 commandments:

1. THOU SHALT NOT BE WILLY NILLY

When diving into Twitter, Facebook, or any new platform, developing a strategy is crucial. And this social media strategy should fit within the overall marketing plan for your church. Don’t just jump on Twitter because that’s what everyone else is doing. Does it make sense for your church? Is the community you’re trying to reach there? Do you have the resources to effectively manage it? A lot of churches can answer yes to these three questions. But they still need to determine how to create tweets that will complement their other efforts, leading to engagement and awareness.

 2. THOU SHALT NOT BE AN EGGHEAD

Utilize the image blocks on Twitter to include relevant profile and header photos. If you don’t, you’ll forever have the image of an egg or some other default avatar representing your church. When people see this, they’ll assume the church either doesn’t use the account or doesn’t know what they’re doing—and they probably won’t follow you.

 3. THOU SHALT NOT BE MYSTERIOUS

Your church may have a unique name, but did you know there are about a jazillion named “Calvary Church” or “Faith Fellowship?”  And that’s ok—they’re great names! But how will people know if they’ve found your Dallas campus or a church in Idaho? Complete your Twitter profile by using the bio portion—tell them who you are and where you’re located and link to your website.

 4. THOU SHALT NOT GROW COBWEBS ON TWITTER  

Just like with other social media outlets, you should maintain consistency on Twitter. Don’t tweet 25 times one day, and then go silent for two months. This is a surefire way to lose followers. Establish some type of schedule or guideline—like 5 tweets each day—and stick with it.

 5. THOU SHALT NOT BE A ROBOT

Automation tools can come in handy for organizations like churches—but be careful not to over-automate. Some things can only be shared in real time. If people always see stale content on your Twitter because you scheduled your tweets two months out, they’ll probably unfollow you.

Keep track of current events and be practical in order to stay relevant to your online community.

During a national tragedy, a silly post or a funny picture of the pastor would be inappropriate. Even when otherwise harmless, tweets that have been scheduled should be reevaluated in these kinds of situations.

Your church should also avoid auto-following anyone who follows the church. Take a look at the profiles before follow backs. Do they seem like legitimate accounts? Or are they sending out spammy links? Creating community through mutual relationships is great, but be sure to protect your church from fake accounts.

Finally, avoid sending canned private messages to new followers—especially asking them to like your Facebook page or take some other action immediately. They just followed you on Twitter, so prove that you have something to offer them before asking for more.

 6. THOU SHALT NOT USE TWITTER AS A BOXING RING

People expect churches to hold firmly to certain values. And you should. But that doesn’t mean you should employ your Twitter account to debate eschatology and hot topics with strangers. These discussions can get heated, and the last thing you want to do is scare people away from your church because you lost your cool in a tweet war.

 7. THOU SHALT NOT BE ANTI-SOCIAL

Sometimes in the mad dash to come up with clever, relevant tweets, churches forget that Twitter is a social network. You’re supposed to engage with your community—answer their questions, thank them for retweeting your content, and sometimes even respond to their criticism. Rather than break the sixth commandment (on this list, but please don’t murder anyone either), kindly respond to any negative words and direct the conversation offline if possible: “We’re genuinely sorry you had a bad experience at Faith Church. Please see the private message we just sent you so we can fix the situation.” Follow up with those who aren’t just trolls, and they may become your greatest cheerleaders after you make the effort to clear things up.

 8. THOU SHALT NOT TOOT THY OWN HORN 

In the age of selfies, it can be difficult to remember that social media was not designed for self-promotion. Make sure your church demonstrates humility by not just pumping out its own updates, but also sharing information from others that would be useful to your audience. Don’t become your own graven image or retweet every positive comment about your church. Focus on your community rather than vanity metrics like number of retweets or shares.

 9. THOU SHALT NOT HOST A TAKEOVER

Remember that the church Twitter account should be about the church. It’s great to post a photo of the staff or share what the day-to-day operations of the church look like. But don’t get carried away. Some churches run out of ideas, so the pastor starts posting selfies or the secretary tweets out photos of her lunch each day. Keep in mind that this isn’t a personal account, and your community is looking for relevant, useful information about your church—not pictures of a bologna sandwich.

 10. #THOU #SHALT #NOT #USE #9 #HASHTAGS #IN #EVERY #TWEET

Please don’t hashtag every single word in a tweet. And please don’t hashtag words like “thou” and “use.” Even though hashtags have been around for a few years and are becoming popular on multiple platforms, many people still don’t understand the concept. They were intended to make it easy for people to find more content on the same topic. So if your church is tweeting the link to a sermon on being a witness for Christ, then try a hashtag like #saltandlight. But what are the odds anyone is searching for #wecantwaittoseeyouatcommunitychurchonsunday? (I bet you had to try a couple times to even read that!)

If you have a decent following on Twitter, consider using a custom hashtag for a church eventor campaign. For example, when hosting a large conference, encourage attendees to tweet live with a hashtag like #CCC2014. It will get people engaged and create buzz around your event.

The key here is to always use hashtags wisely and sparingly. Limit yourself to two or three max per tweet.

 

Check out these other great resources as you develop your church Twitter strategy:

Top 10 Things Churches Need to Know about Twitter

Twitter’s New Profiles: Everything You Need to Know

Ten Things Not to Do on Twitter

8 Tips To Improve Church Communications

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How do you communicate with your church members, visitors, and community?  How do you make sure your message connects with your audience AND creates engagement across multiple groups?
We are bombarded by information.  Providing useful information that stands out from all the noise is the real challenge.  Does your church have an effective communication strategy or are you simply operating on auto pilot week after week?  In order for your church communications to be effective, you must:

  • Reach your intended audience
  • Create a message that resonates with your audience
  • Drive engagement

LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT 8 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR CHURCH COMMUNICATIONS.

1.   Understand your audience.  Respect your segments.

Who are you trying to reach?  How well do you know your current membership?  How well do you know your potential audience?  What are their preferences when it comes to receiving and accessing information?

It is true that you can’t be all things to all people.  Conversely, you shouldn’t be all things to one group at the exclusion of everyone else.  You need to have an effective communications strategy for each segment you are trying to reach.  Respect their differences.   Reach them where they are.

2.   Target your segments.  Everyone is not interested in everything.

A good database should be more than a place to store information.  It should be an essential part of crafting your communications strategy.  Use demographic information and information about interests and involvement to create targeted communications via email, texts, social networks, and mail.  Too much information sent to everyone will result in too many opt-outs.

3.   Know your options. Create the right media mix.

We have an overwhelming number of choices today when it comes to accessing and sharing information:  traditional/print, online, social media, email, texts, mobile apps, etc.  Which one of these should you employ as part of your communications mix?  It depends.  What does your audience use?

Each congregation is different.  Is yours older, younger, middle aged or all of the above?  If your congregation is older, they might prefer print over digital.  However, in order to remain healthy your church needs to grow and attract younger generations as well.  In this case you might need to create a balance between print, an online presence (a modern, professional website), email, and social media matched to your audience.  If your service is contemporary and technology oriented, then your mix might be exclusively digital media with an emphasis on mobile apps and the social media your audience connects with most.   Know what they are using and connect with them where they hang out.

You also need to have a communications strategy to transition people from your current media mix to a more relevant one.  Nobody enjoys abrupt change without warning.  Take an honest assessment of what you are currently using, identify elements to add to/subtract from the mix, and put together a communications plan implemented over a reasonable amount of time.

4.   It’s not about you.  It’s about them.

Are you providing information people care about?  REALLY care about? How do you know?

It is important to look at this from two perspectives: the regular attendee and the visitor.  Regular attendees can grow complacent about information.  They are insiders.  They get it.  They usually know where to find information.  It doesn’t mean they particularly care about it.

Does your message engage them?  Is it compelling them to take action? Think like a marketer.  What problem are you solving?  What passion are you sparking?

How do visitors perceive you? Are you speaking to them?  Are you making them feel welcome or like an outsider?  They are checking you out.  Try to connect with them at a more personal level by avoiding insider jargon.  Think about an experience you have had walking into an unfamiliar place, travelling to a foreign country, or starting a job in a different industry where everyone speaks in acronyms.  What made you uncomfortable?  What made you feel like you wanted to belong?

5.   Make it relevant.

Does your faith message speak to the issues your community faces?  Nearly 80% of practicing Christians and 56% of all adults say they want to know how faith addresses current challenges.   Tell them.

6.   Make it two-way.  Drive engagement.

Does your communication engage people in conversation? Do you give them an opportunity to comment, ask questions, or provide input? Do you respond?  Social media is a great tool for two-way conversation.  Use it to ask questions, listen, and respond.  Keep it conversational and keep it moving.

7.   Write to be scanned.

People have short attention spans.  Very few people read an entire article. They scan.  Write your articles/web pages/emails/social media postings with this in mind.  Use clean layouts that quickly guide readers to the most relevant information.  Use good headings, sub-heads, and graphics to keep readers engaged.

8.   Keep it professional

Yes, some churches are blessed with bigger budgets than others.  That really is no excuse.  Does your church website/email/e-newsletter/social media look professional?  Is it well written?  Is it attractive and easy to navigate? Does your church bulletin (yikes!) look like it was put together by your 99-year old grandmother (sorry grandma!) or 4-year-old child? (We’ll save the church bulletin debate for another time).

To stand out in a noisy, hyper-linked world, your communications needs to reach your intended audience, be relevant and resonate with them, and drive engagement.

Interested in learning how church software can you connect with and engage your community?  Contact us.

Image Credits: istockphoto

7 Ways To Engage Your Church Through Facebook

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You may be using social media to connect with people who are shopping for a church, but the majority of people you interact will already be a part of your church. So while you can also use Facebook to “market” the church, you should focus on engaging those who are already there.

Even amid rumors that it is on the decline, Facebook is still the largest social network in the world. Your community is likely already active there, so why not reach them where they are?

TRY THESE 7 WAYS TO START ENGAGING YOUR CHURCH COMMUNITY THROUGH FACEBOOK:

1. Introduce new staff members
Many churches now hold multiple services throughout the weekend in order to accommodate their growing membership. When they add staff members, it could be months before everyone meets them because of conflicting schedules. Spotlight new staff members and put a face—and a story—to the name. Let your community welcome and connect with new members of the church family.
2. Continue the Sunday morning conversation

Pastors only get a short window of time to pack a major Biblical principle into a message. Delve further into the discussion during the week with your online community. Share links to more resources on the subject, post Scripture, ask relevant questions. Don’t let them forget about everything they just learned only to be reminded the following Sunday.  And if your people are then sharing some of this information to their friends, they fuel the social outreach.3. Recruit volunteers

If you have a special program or event around the corner, utilize social media to recruit the help your church will need. Or if there is an immediate need—the church needs emergency maintenance, an elderly member is sick and needs assistance—get the word out right away. Some things just can’t wait till next Sunday. The volunteers will usually show up. They just have to know there’s a need.

4. Share appropriate prayer requests

Encouraging your community to pray for one another can be a great use of social media—supporting those who are facing challenging times is a major function of the church. But be careful as this can become a slippery slope. Remember, people outside your congregation could easily see these updates. Make sure all prayer requests you post are appropriate for the public and that your page doesn’t become a sounding board for gossip or airing out dirty laundry. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.

5. Communicate cancellations or changes in schedule

When the next blizzard hits or a small group has to be cancelled, you don’t want people showing up because they didn’t know there was a change in schedule. Making these announcements on social media will help you reach more people, and those that see it can help spread the word.

6. Post photos

You just hosted a church picnic or put on a missions conference and took plenty of pictures. Create a photo album so that everyone can have access to the photos and tag themselves or their friends. They just might share them on their own timeline, and unchurched friends will want to be a part of what they see.

And if you’re on Instagram, you can connect that account to automatically post photos to your Facebook page.

7. Create buzz about an upcoming event or special service

This is another area where your church people should be able to help out. Give teasers about the Christmas program or a special speaker and let your community share that information with their friends and family. Their word of mouth will do more than you ever could to bring those people in.

Facebook allows you to create events that your church community can use to directly invite people to your upcoming program or conference. Invitees can even send a digital RSVP so you get good idea how effective this tool is for your church.

GETTING STARTED

Use your other church-wide communications to encourage your community to follow you on Facebook—place a note in the bulletin or a link to your page at the end of an email. They’ll likely follow that link!

Facebook even provides a guide for causes and nonprofits that can help you get started and develop a strategy.

Make sure what you post provides some kind of value to your community. That way they’ll stick and around and your audience will grow. Focus on engagement rather than the number of likes. Interact with your community—don’t just shove information down their throats. It isn’t a bulletin board, but a tool for two-way communication.

Let us know—how are you using Facebook to connect with your members and the community?

Also check out these other resources as you plan your church’s Facebook strategy:

3 Quick Facebook Page Tweaks to Increase Rank

Five Business Lessons from a Charitable Facebook Page

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

5 Email Marketing Mistakes Your Church Should Avoid

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As a church, it’s important to stay connected with your community—from visitors to volunteers to the entire church body. Email is a great tool! But you should operate with some best practices in mind so you don’t make these email marketing mistakes.

1. Hoard email addresses

If people include their email addresses on a sign-up form for an event you’re hosting, that doesn’t mean they’re giving you the license to add them to your regular email list for eternity. They are signing up for a picnic, not subscribing to your newsletter. If you take any email addresses you can find and send those people hundreds of emails, you’re just asking for them to be reported as spam.

Create separate email lists. If someone voluntarily gives you his email address, he probably anticipates getting an email from you at some point. But not every single email you send out. If you need to contact small group leaders, send the email to them only. Keep your lists separate so you aren’t flooding inboxes with irrelevant messages.

2. Use terrible subject lines

Free!

Special!

Dear Friend,

Subject lines containing these types of words will almost guarantee your email goes directly into the spam folder, never to return. And even if your email somehow finagles its way into someone’s inbox, there’s a good chance it still won’t get opened. They sound generic, like they came directly from a used car salesman’s manual. You want those recipients to open the email and find all that great content inside! A great guideline to go by is, “the best subject lines tell what’s inside and the worst sell what’s inside.” Keep it short, sweet, and honest.

3. Talk like a robot

If your email flows off the tongue as easy as Exodus 29, consider how this might discourage your audience from attending your conference or visiting your church. People want to hear from other people. You don’t have to impress people with your vast vocabulary. Stay conversational. But that doesn’t mean you want to use junior high text lingo like “how r u 2day?” You still want to maintain some level of professionalism while sounding personable. Find the right balance.

4. Make it impossible to unsubscribe

Another sure fire way to get reported for sending spam is not giving people the option to opt out of future emails. Sure, you don’t want them to unsubscribe, but you have to make that option available or their only alternative will be to flag your emails as spam. It can be placed discreetly at the bottom of the email—where they are typically located. Make it easy to find, but if you are following other best practices, hopefully they won’t need to use it. Most ChMS solutions also provide these services in their communication tools so you don’t even have to think about adding it to your emails.

5. Leave people wondering the purpose of your email

Never send an email just because you haven’t sent one out in a while. If you don’t have anything important to say, don’t say anything at all. That being said, you do want to maintain some kind of regular communication schedule. Odds are you will have an update or announcement important enough to shoot into your subscribers’ inboxes from time to time. Be sure that anytime you send an email you include some useful content that gives value to the readers. And make what you would like them to do with that information very clear through strong calls-to-action. If people feel like they truly gain something from your emails, they will remain loyal subscribers.

Email, when used properly, can be an effective tool to communicate with your community and “market” your church. What are some rules you go by when creating an email for your church?

Check out these other great resources for more insight when developing your church’s email marketing plan:

7 Email Marketing Best Practices for Small Businesses and Organizations

10 Ways to Avoid Common Email Marketing Mistakes in 2014

 

Image Credits: istockphoto