This is the first of five chapters in a 25 part blog series titled: The Five Elements of a Fully Implemented Connections Strategy, published over a five week period. Everything I have posted here is the result of my own personal experiences, from serving on church staffs, volunteering as a lay leader, and being brought in as a paid consultant. It is my hope that these posts will help you and your church get better at connection with guests, not simply to increase your attendance and membership, but ultimately to grow the body of Christ. Implementing a Connections strategy (or “Assimilation” strategy) is a long term process, and one that relies on a culture of continual improvement. This chapter has four entries, which will all be linked below the post as they are published.
1.2 Online Engagement
Now that we’ve got you thinking about your FIRST IMPRESSIONS let’s back up and talk about what those first impressions look like online. Let’s be honest, anyone visiting your church has already looked you up on their phone, tablet, laptop or whatever else. They’ve seen some of the content you’re putting out there on your website and social networks. This is not a “How To” for building a website, or which social networks you should use. But you can give yourself an easy checkup to make sure it has what GUESTS need. I am emphasizing the guest context on purpose, because your footprint online is most likely the first encounter someone will have with you outside of a friend or neighbor who invites them to church.
And yes, your online engagement has EVERYTHING to do with your ability to grow your Connections/Assimilation process. Did you see how I capitalized EVERYTHING? All caps is serious business.
Here are a few partial checklists for your website and social networks, to do some vital self-evaluating related to the first impression you’re making. Again, this is not intended to be a complete “how to” for your website or a list of which social networks you should utilize. But I’ll still recommend a few things for you, free of charge!
Your Website Should Have This Available No More Than 1-2 Clicks Away:
- Meeting time(s) and location(s) of church.
- General contact info for your church.
- Social Media links.
- Key calendar dates & event descriptions.
- Leader profiles, or at least list the names (and photos) of core staff leadership; guests want to know who you are.
- Beliefs and Core Values: Guests want to know what you’re all about.
- Anything unique to your church that a new person might not know but needs to know (where to park, where to enter, etc).
Everything, and I mean everything needs to be available with 1-2 clicks. Don’t stick with a website that requires more than one or two clicks to find anything. You can fix this without spending any money (probably). It is worth the time.
Social Media: Best Practices
You definitely need to develop a social media strategy for your organization. You’d be surprised how many churches struggle in this area, from smaller churches entirely led by volunteers (the majority of churches), to those with several staff members employed to create and distribute content. This is something I can help you with if you need help or don’t have a strategy already. Make this a priority. Here are a few best practices every organization should commit to:
- Sync all social networks. Whatever is posted to one is posted to all of them.
- Continuous Engagement: If you’re putting out content, people will engage you. Don’t ignore them.
- Ignore obvious trolls. Occasionally someone will try and pick a random fight online. Don’t take it personal.
- Don’t post personal opinions or political junk from your church account. You alone are not your church.
- Be wise: these networks represent everything and everyone in your organization. Make sure whoever has access to these networks reflects your core values.
Social Media: A few networks worth discussing (Not a complete list)
- Facebook: Most people of all ages have Facebook accounts, or share one with their spouse, and will look here first for information about your church.
- Twitter: Great place to make announcements, distribute content, generate engagement, facilitate discussion, and link back to your website.
- Instagram: Pictures tell stories, and you can sync your account to some other networks.
- YouTube: There is more than one way to post video content, but this is the site everyone knows.
- Yelp: This website exists for people to tell other people what they think about an organization.
- Google: At the very least, make sure they have your church address, contact info, and meeting times right. Plus, there’s reviews, and ANYONE can write one…
Main Series Page: The Five Elements of a Fully Implemented Connections Strategy
Element One: First Impressions