17 Nov, 2009
What If I Was Just Starting to Market My Church?
For those into what some call Web 2.0 or Social Media, then you have probably heard of Chris Brogan. Chris is someone who I have read with regularity. I also follow him on Twitter and was very intrigued by his tweet “If I Started Today”.
So, that got me to thinking…what if “I” were to start out marketing my church? What would I do considering all of the opportunities such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, linkedin, Flickr, and Blogs on every subject being available?
Just like Chris talks about if he were thinking about joining the Social Media experience today, here are some of the things that I might consider:
Listen (What? Me listen?):
Whether you are looking to expand your Social Media landscape or want to be more effective in reaching your target market, you need to listen. Too many people both in and out of the church seem to have a vision that is unmovable. And to some extend that is applaudable. However if your vision in no way meets the needs of your customers (ie. Prospective congregants), then your vision is irrelevant.
So, if you are going to understand the needs of those who you want to seek you out…listen!
Not just on the first day, or the second day. Listen everyday! I can’t tell you how many people in business that I have met that started out well, but didn’t adapt to the needs of their customers. And there are a lot of churches who fall under this category as well. For example, younger folks with kids moved in and the church continues with traditional hymns and songs that don’t resonate with the prospective audience. Thus, they go somewhere else that they can more readily identify with.
While much can be said about the Catholic Church, you have to give them their props as their views on many things once thought sacrosanct have changed. Why? Because they listened.
Besides listening to your prospective customer, don’t hesitate to do some online research to find out what people are saying/doing. A resource that I use when I want to learn about a subject is alltop.com. Why alltop vs Google? With Google, I am going to get more of a solution that someone wants to sell me. Not that selling me is a bad thing, because we are all selling something. But if I just want to learn, I have found alltop to be a better resource.
Go to other blogs or out in the twitterverse to get plugged in. There are some amazing thinkers out there that both you and your congregation will benefit from.
Website or Blog (Which is best for my situation?)
If I were just going to start with one, I would join the Blogging Brigade. Why? Websites, especially church websites have a tendency to be static (might go back to that listening thingee we were talking about above). Websites also tend to put forth the “Company Line” (ie. What Church Headquarters tell us). Blogs on the other hand are living and very much organic. They play out individuals within the community having a human experience. And isn’t that not just what Social Media/Web 2.0 (or whatever you want to call it) and your church is all about?
We want people to connect with us personally and as an organization. We can show pictures of people/events that we are participating in as well as detailing how we as individuals and as a church are reaching out into the community.
In addition, I don’t really need to depend on a webmaster to get my info uploaded. With all of the free blogospere tools that are out there (WordPress, blogger, drupal, etc), almost anyone can get started and it doesn’t take what I term a “gearhead” (another techie term that describes a geek) to do it.
I can start a blog, choose a theme, add pages to cover the multiple ministries that you are serving and then it is ready for you to start writing. No need to know code. Just write as you would on a document, add a picture or a video here and there and hit the button that says “Publish”. It is that easy.
As an added bonus, search engines seem to have a greater appreciation for blogs vs sites because they love new content.
Already have a website? Fret not! Blogs are a perfect addendum to your current web space. Once again, easy to install. (If I can do it, almost anyone can…trust me on this!)
Communications – Is Email Enough?
Whether you agree with it or not, we live in a fast paced, very mobile world. Walk down the street and see how people are communicating these days. Some are talking constantly on their phones while others may be checking emails. The younger you are, the more likely you are text messaging your friends or loved ones. But is that the only ways that churches are communicating these days? Absolutely not!
What are some other methods that church’s are communication their message?
• Facebook – Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. Many people are raving about it, and I can understand why as you can get caught up with people you haven’t spoken to for many years. Unlike email, there is a instantness of communication with people and no spam. Which means that short conversations can happen quickly, but without the intensity of instant messaging. Also, unlike other social community websites, the privacy settings allow for close control of profile and information.
• Twitter – Described as a service for friends, family, co workers and other like minded individuals to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequents answers to one simple question. Quite simply, tell what you are doing in 140 characters or less.
• Linked In – LinkedIn is a professional network for business and (and nonprofit professionals.) It is often described as an online social network for job seekers. Think of Linked In as a Facebook that appeals to eiher a more mature audience or that has a more professional bent to it and you have Linked In. More and more people are using this space as their personal rolodex. Churches can take the same approach.
Other places such as MySpace and Friendster are potential avenues to use as well. Imagine your church as the head of an octopus with the opportunity to have all of these tentacles out there reaching and connecting to people they know or want to know, while providing a safe outlet for others to get to know them.
Be Helpful To Your Audience
The go forward strategy at this point should be to “consistently” articulate your message via your blog (or through your ever changing website) as well as some of the communications/social networks described above.
Then think about your audience. What is one of the reasons people come to church? To be with like minded individuals. Your challenge is then going out to find them. Almost all of these networks provide a search mechanism that makes the task very easy.
Once you have located your audience of like minded folks, be helpful. The way you build a community and an audience is to be helpful. One example would be to write blog posts that others can use (hopefully like this one).
What is that Zig Ziglar saying? “Help people get what they want and you will get what you want”
Simply put, the more content/information/updates that helps others, the more they’ll want to visit or come back.
Besides searching out folks who might be interested/like minded, an important note is to be part of the community. Go out to other people’s blogs and start getting involved. Use a service like BackType to learn what other people are saying and where they’re commenting. The more you make your voice heard in the general space where you want to do business, the better you’ll be.
Note something important: you might want to think about commenting in two places. First, where your peers are writing their stuff makes sense as a place to comment, but that will only bring you into a better relationship with your peers in a space. If you want to generate growth and interest in your church, start learning to comment either on blogs where prospective congregants might read/write, or in other areas where those folks might be spending their online time. The local online version of the newspaper might provide one place you can start. Finally,
Be Willing To Test And Fail
While I would start with the list/approaches above, I wouldn’t limit it to just that finite (although large) space. This is a fast changing world. What is working today may not be relevant tomorrow.
And just because something is working doesn’t mean that it can’t be tweaked to get better. Everything can be improved upon. One word of caution though. Make small tweaks. Measure the results. Try to understand how the change you made impacted the results you desired. So, if you are changing a bunch of things at once, it is going to be a challenge to ascertain what went right…or more importantly what went wrong.
Once you have found something that is working well for you, don’t stop. And don’t be afraid to add. You may have just started out with a blog, but a website that tells more about your organization is still a good thing.
Want to learn more about church marketing? Or did you read something here that you want to discuss more? Perhaps you have a project that you need help on or at least want to bounce ideas off. We are there for you!
We think church can and should be more. We hope you do as well!