Now more than ever, it is essential to have a well designed and engaging church website. Here are my top ten commandments for getting the most value out of your church website.
1. Focus on Newcomers
Your church website's primary value is as an introduction to newcomers and then secondarily as news, resources, and information for members. Of course, there is overlap between the two. The difference is that members know where to find what they need. First time visitors don’t.
The home page and prominent menu items should focus on newcomers, providing the most crucial information on the first pages they see. Of course, you also want news and information for current members. You can place links/portals with this internal communication, especially administrative information, to the bottom or side of the page (and let people know where to find them.)
Help newcomers find your website on Google search using this technique.
Back in the day, people used the Yellow Pages to find churches and local businesses.
Since all the Yellow Pages listings were done alphabetically, people would purposely name their companies with something that started with an "A" like "American" or "AAA", so they'd appear first and get found faster. Easy.
Now, of course, people don't flip through the Yellow Pages. They Google it. And getting found on Google - and its super secret search algorithm - takes more than just your "A" name. It requires your "A" game.
Here is how to get your church website or blog found on Google in five easy steps (and I mean easy - one is just writing down a few words) and why it matters.
Anyone can create a Facebook page, Twitter feed or YouTube channel. Almost no one has a plan for how they will use it.
If you want to be successful in social media, you must have a plan.
This post will help you create a plan that fits your congregation. It covers these topics:
- Having Clear Goals
- Being Consistent
- Capturing Your Content
- Automating to Save Time
- Developing a Schedule
- Studying the Statistics
- Where to Begin
Using Social Media to Support Your Cause
My library, the Woburn Public Library, was designed by the renown architect H.H. Richardson in 1897. It is a beautiful building, but it is too small to meet current demands and the building condition is deteriorating. The Library recently received a $5 million grant from the Mass Board of Library Commissioners to expand the building, but the majority of the cost, around $16 million, must come from the City of Woburn. It’s a hard sell in difficult economic times.
However, the library has redoubled its efforts to secure funding from the City through the Yes To Our Library campaign and they are doing an incredible job using social media to build support and make their case. It’s a great case study about leveraging social media for your cause. Here are some of the ways they are doing it:
In August 2010 I attended Follow Me: Sharing the Gospel in a 2.0 World, a conference hosted by the ELCA for synod communicators and campus ministry pastors and students. You can find video, presentation slides, and other resources on the Follow Me webpage.
On Friday afternoon, we heard from Andrew Bleeker and Michael Organ, two experts in social media, who were instrumental in President Obama's groundbreaking social media campaign. They covered many social media basics and best practices. Here's what stood out:
- Best Practice: Make sure your online activity is driven by your offline goals. Don't do social media just for the sake of doing it. Make your activity and choices purposeful, focused, and aligned with your congregational goals.
- Best Practice: Your social media content should have a clear and distinct voice. Don't do it my committee, or, if you do, be sure the tone, language, and perspective is consistent.
- I haven't anything in regards to text messaging, but this is a great way to connect with people quickly and directly. This is also a great way to use Twitter in a way that doesn't require people to have a Twitter account. Here's how: you can get anyone's tweets sent to you as a text message by texting "follow @[their twitter handle] to 40404. For instance, here's how to get my tweets:
Get updates via SMS by texting follow prkanderson to 40404 in the United States.
Today I discovered the new ELCA "LIFT Taskforce." LIFT stands for "Living into the Future Together: Renewing the Ecology of the ELCA." The taskforce's mandate is "to develop and recommend options for the future of the ELCA in light of its identity, changes in its environment and its call to God’s mission."
To my mind, they are already doing it.
The first thing I noticed about LIFT is that they have created a web "site" entirely through social media. Their main website is a Wordpress.com blog. They also have a Facebook Page and a Twitter Feed. That's it! Compared to the epic maze that is the ELCA website, the LIFT site is totally refreshing - clean, crisp, and concise.
LIFT is a great model for congregations that 1. don't already have a website, or 2. are looking to reboot or simplify their site, or 3. don't have the financial resources to spend on web hosting, software, or a professional web designer. It's also a good way for individuals to begin crafting a web presence.
This is a deceptively simple way to have a cutting edge site. Here's the trick: