08 Jan Six Things Every Church Must Do Online
We live in an internet-based society. Information is building faster than we can even imagine. According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.” That is simply astounding. The great majority of this information is being produced, and made available, on the internet.
The great challenge facing churches today is finding a way to be noticed in this overwhelming sea of information. How does my church’s online presence become important to the internet user? How can my church impact lives in such a vast flow of information?
Here are six steps any church can take to become a visible part of our modern internet landscape.
Establish a church Facebook page. I know many people have already done this; but if you have not, put it at the top of your to-do list. A good Facebook page can be instrumental in providing a necessary on-ramp for your overall online presence. Facebook is currently home to over 1.11 billion monthly users. This means 71 percent of American adults, and 73 percent of young Americans between the age of 12 and 17 are logging on. (Pew Research Centre) With so many people looking at the targeted information that Facebook provides, it has become one of the most effective ways to attract people interested in what you are providing. When setting up your church Facebook page, be sure to complete as much information as possible. When adding this information, make it concise and informative. Remember people are choosing to give your page some of their valuable time. Make it worth every second of their time.
Keep your Facebook page fresh. Once you have your Facebook site up and running, your information and appearance become paramount. What impression do you want to portray? Your Facebook page presence will become an extension of your local church’s online image. One trick to a successful online presence is regular updates and a consistent information flow. It’s a good idea to use quality graphics and inspirational messages to increase interest and gain more followers. After all, the reason for the page is to gain followers and hopefully influence that will help win people to your church and, in turn, the Kingdom. Opinions should be carefully thought-out before being posted on a church Facebook page. While we all have political and social opinions, it can quickly become detrimental to air polarizing ideas in a public place such as our church Facebook page. Philippians 4:8 is a great guide to post by.
Promote your church Facebook page. So now you have a great church Facebook page. Information is getting updated. The message is getting out. Now you need people to subscribe to your page so that the information you send out gets to people who are interested in what your church is doing. There are several ways to advertise your page. Some of the options are free, while others are offered for a fee. Let’s look at some free options. When you go to your church Facebook page, toward the top, on the right, there is a “friends” box where you will see which of your friends have liked your page, and who else outside of your friend list has liked your page. There is also an “invite” feature in that box. Facebook allows you to invite all of your friends to come visit and like your new page. Another way to gain new “likes” is to post content that gets people talking. When a person comments and interacts on your page, it becomes possible for their friends to see that interaction. That will many times produce positive traffic to your page, quite often resulting in new page “likes.” Some of the paid options include Facebook ads and promoted posts. These are both entire subjects of their own to be studied. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Click on the “promote” button and set your budget. It is very simple; however, there are rules and regulations for what can be promoted or advertised. If something you try does not work, they will kindly let you know, and you can try again. The bottom line is, the more “likes” you have, the larger your potential audience will be each time you post an update. And more is definitely better!
Get listed with Google Plus and Bing Places. Most everyone has heard of these companies as search engines. Google is searched about 500 million times per day, for anything and everything imaginable. However, Google and Bing are also two of the most predominant listing services on the internet. Let me explain. Say you are driving through a town and want to find Walmart. You grab your smartphone and go to your search browser to type in Walmart. The next thing you see is a listing which includes a map, a phone number, website link, address, and directions. How does that happen? It was sent to the search engine company on purpose. Now, imagine someone driving through your city and wanting to attend a church like yours. They type into their search browser ‘Pentecostal church,’ and what will they see? If you are listed, they will see the same thing as in the Walmart example. They will see a map to you, your number, address, website, and directions. If you are not listed, there is no telling what they will see. It is a very simple process to get listed. Search for their websites and create a free account with each company. There is no cost to be listed. However, their is physical address verification that is done with a postcard and verification code, so it takes a couple of weeks to complete the entire process.
Create an attractive and informative church website. Having a website is still a vital part of your church’s online presence. When a nice website is supported by an active and interesting church Facebook page, traffic flow is almost guaranteed. Just having a website is not enough. It takes work and persistence to be noticed, but once a person has landed on your website, you have their undivided attention, as long as you can keep it. Having an attractive website will get people’s attention, but it will be the information that will keep them coming back. A website must be more than an online billboard, or address page. It is necessary to provide a content-rich site to engage people. Here’s my opinion of information that should be found on any church website: pages sharing What To Expect, Our Story, What We Believe, Photo Albums, plus original content. I think most of these are self-explanatory, but let’s discuss “original content” for a moment. Original content is going to be content that is created by your local church, and can not be found anywhere else. This could include a written blog, video blog, audio and video archives of services, study guides, or articles originating from your local church. It is very easy to make sermons or lesson series available online, and content like this is what will keep people spending more time and coming back again. You will be offering a unique service not found anywhere else, and it will become an online ministry to the world. Another thing to remember about your website is to replicate your website name at every opportunity you have. Be sure it is listed on every online listing you create, including your church Facebook page, and every piece of print you create.
Setup online tracking analytics. It is impossible to measure the effectiveness of an online resource such as websites without the proper analytic tracking. This is another free toolset that is offered in a variety of places, and we use Google Analytics to track our website interactions. Go to the Google Analytics website, create a free account, and follow the directions. The possibilities are amazing. You can track just about anything you want to track from the countries of those visiting your site to the images and links on your page that received the most clicks. We have built a report that auto-emails the requested statistics each week to help us monitor the activity of our sites. Without it there would be no victory reports, or reality checks, and both are needed to keep us moving forward.
The Great Commission is to go into all the world sharing the gospel. I believe Jesus’ intent is for us to go where people are and present the good news in a fashion that will be well-received. Jesus and his disciples went into the towns, villages, and countries teaching anyone who would listen. Paul went into the public markets, Mars Hill, and synagogues, converting anyone who would hear the message of Jesus Christ. We, too, must go to where the people are, and people are on the internet. They are looking for answers, information, and truth. Let’s get onto the worldwide web, and share this wonderful truth!
Written by: Lee Wells