Sometimes pastors or communicators will ask me: What are the top digital media technologies my church plant should have in place to grow?
New churches and ministries are faced with multiple challenges including:
1) limited staff and budgets
2) a need to promote their ministries in order to grow
3) a wealth of digital media choices but not knowing which ones to invest in that will have the biggest impact
The key thing to remember is that before new churches and ministries can grow, they must create awareness. If someone doesn’t know about your ministry, they can’t very well engage.
People typically learn about ministries when they search online, when an interesting post from a ministry shows up in their social media feed, when they read a news article and through friends.
The key thing to remember is that before new churches and ministries can grow, they must create awareness.
Once someone is aware that your church plant exists, the next thing you must do is spark interest.
When people are intrigued, they will investigate. They might take a closer look at your Facebook page. They might even take the time to visit your website.
When they visit your website, that’s where you can invite them to engage with your church further. Make your call to action very clear and very simple: “Join an email list for regular updates” is one example.
Asking people to sign up to volunteer or join as members, for example, is probably an inappropriate call to action on your homepage. Look at your church plant’s analytics to know for sure, but most people visiting your homepage are probably first-time visitors who are trying to learn more.
Don’t invite people to marry you before you’ve asked them for a date.
So, knowing that you must first create awareness and then interest, here is how church plants can grow using digital media:
Google processes around 4 billion searches each day. Much of these searches come from people looking for local information (like churches!) and local events (like your church’s events!) and much of those searches come from people using their smartphones to find the information.
This means church plants must optimize their websites for people searching locally for a church and on their smartphone.
How can church plants implement SEO? Here are a few quick SEO tips:
Check your website’s page titles – Here is a title tag emulator to see how your page titles will look in search results.
Check meta tags – Meta description tags give people a clear reason to click through to the web page. Remember: Keep them under 160 characters.
Check H1 tags – An H1 heading is HTML code that indicates to the search engine what the main topic for the page is. Page titles should carry H1 tags.
Check Alt tags in images – Search engines can’t always read your website pictures but they can read the Alt text associated with pictures.
Check your robots.txt – A robots.txt file instructs search engine spiders (like Googlebot) about which pages it is allowed to crawl and which should be ignored. Here is a guide on how robots.txt works.
Optimize for Google My Business – It allows your church to showcase its phone number, address, operating hours and for mobile users, will enable people to easily access driving directions.
SEO and content go hand in hand and together, they are the fuel to Google’s fire. In order to have great SEO, you must also have good content.
According to think with Google, people turn to their smartphones when they have something they want to accomplish. Google calls them I-want-to-know (curiosity) and I-want-to-go (“near me” searches) micro-moments. Your best chance for reaching people is in these intent-filled micro-moments.
In other words, create awareness and interest through good content. When people turn to search engines to find a church or church event, use content to help them find you.
How can church plants and new ministries generate awareness and interest through content? Here are few ideas:
Create a short film on why you love your city
Blog and answer pressing questions, challenge thinking and share about what’s happening in your ministry
Conduct outreach to the local media on your upcoming events or offer your pastor or leader as a spokesperson on important topics
Live stream services
Live stream behind-the-scenes work
Create videos about your ministry’s work in your city
Start a podcast about what’s happening in your city and how Christians can or should be involved
Getting your new ministry or church plant to show up in people’s news feeds is a key way to create awareness and interest.
Again, look at your analytics to know for sure, but most likely, most of the people you’re trying to reach are on Facebook and Instagram. Perhaps also Twitter. Perhaps other social networks.
With this in mind, take advantage of the opportunities that paid social media marketing affords.
Facebook advertising? It works. It creates awareness and also interest. Consider paying to boost your livestream or a video post that tells the story of a changed life as a result of your ministry’s work.
Social media posts that tell stories through video or include a call to action often get higher rates of engagement. When someone “likes,” reacts to, comments on or shares the post, it will show up in other people’s news feeds. That also creates awareness.
But organic reach on Facebook (or other social networks) is hard. To make sure you’re seen, you really need to invest a few dollars in social media advertising.
People must first become aware of your church plant or ministry before they can be interested in it.
And before they decide to engage, they will almost always investigate further by going to your website or looking more closely at your social media properties or online reviews.
People want a good understanding about what your ministry stands for. This is how church plants can use digital media to grow.