What’s the current state of your church’s online presence?
Is your strategy executed like a well-oiled machine that you rarely think about? Or rather, does the thought of it cause you to break out in a cold sweat? I’m going to guess that at the very least, thinking about your church’s web presence causes your blood pressure to rise a few points, especially if you have a hand in managing it.
Why is that? Well, if you’re like many churches, you can’t even begin to count how many different websites, blogs, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages belong to your church or seem to belong to your church. That doesn’t include the new accounts being created weekly by your staff or volunteers.
Having an online presence for your church is a great thing – when it’s clear and all messages are consistent. However, when there’s too much clutter and inconsistency, it’s time to think about shrinking your footprint in the web world. Unfortunately the more things your church has to manage, the less effective each one tends to be. By trimming down your online world, you’ll increase the clarity in your communication efforts, thereby being more effective.
If you’re at the point where you’re ready to simplify, here are some ways to help you get there. It’s not an easy task, but it will be worth it in the end.
You can’t start trimming back until you have the complete picture, so start by making a list of everywhere your church has a presence to manage online. This list should include websites, blogs, and all social media. You’ll probably have to dig a little deeper than the “official” accounts created and managed by the church. Is there a volunteer-led ministry that created its own Facebook page? That goes on the list. Has your newest multi-site campus created its own Pinterest account? That makes the list too. You’ll want to document anything that puts out information about the church, its events, or services.
To help you determine what goes on the list, ask yourself, “If someone communicates inaccurate information from this account, will it have a negative impact on the reputation of our church?” If you find accounts that you didn’t know existed, try to find out who created the account while you’re doing your research. This will help you down the road.
Now that you have a list of possibly dozens of websites and social media accounts, what do you do with it? You can take the information you collected to help you formulate a strategy you can use going forward.
As a practical example, let’s say you discovered five different Twitter accounts linked to your church. Look at the activity of each account. Are they all sending out the same information? Is there regular activity or have a few of them been inactive for months? Has Twitter been an effective way to connect with your congregation? Based on your findings, you might choose to trim all but one Twitter account, and work to put a plan in place guiding what you tweet about, and what your goals are – to make sure it’s worth the time it takes to manage.
Having a plan for your church’s online communication is vital to its effectiveness. As your team is working toward a strategy, ask some of these questions:
- What are our goals for our website and our social media?
- What mediums would best accomplish those goals?
- Do we have the capacity to do this well?
- Whose direct responsibility is it to manage each of these?
The goal of your strategy is to reduce the clutter and confusion, while working to unify your church’s online voice. Once you’ve chosen what stays and what goes, consider how to handle future requests. When the next new trend in social media pops up, how will your church respond?
Trim the Excess
Now that you’ve gotten a clear picture of your church’s web presence, and you’ve figured out the best way to de-clutter, it’s time to put the plan into action. Depending on how drastically you’ve chosen to scale back, this process could take a while. Be patient; the important thing is that you’re moving in the right direction.
If you’re charged with the task of simplifying your web communications, it will help you to have the support of your team, other staff, and volunteers. Once they’re on board, it will be much easier to stay on track. No one will be happy to hear it’s their Facebook page or ministry Twitter account you want to trim. Try to help them see the bigger picture, and how their piece of the puzzle fits in with the rest. Give them alternative options for getting the word out that falls within the plan you’ve created.
If you can get your web presence down to a manageable size and be intentional about what you communicate, you’ll be more effective in connecting with your audience. You’ll also save yourself a lot of time and stress. Most of all, narrowing your web footprint removes barriers and confusion for those who are not just interacting with your church online, but who are ultimately looking to connect with God.