Chances are good that your key audiences—the people who are your customers, supporters, visitors or members—use the Internet, via computer and more often now via smartphone. I can bore you with all the data that shows that about 3.17 billion people across the world use the Internet, or that they use it mostly to find information or use social media, email, watch videos, read blogs, play games, listen to radio or read newspapers and magazines, yadda, yadda, yadda.
They key takeaway is—with all the other things fighting for your attention, should you even bother with an online strategy?
When you’re mired down in the stuff of running a ministry—a mission—it might help to know that the more you leverage the Internet, the more people you can reach AND the better you can determine if your efforts are having an impact. It’s really hard to measure the impact of something that’s printed. Or, say, a billboard. (Plus, those are really expensive.) But you can measure how well the Internet works for you. After a time of assessment, if something you’re doing online isn’t working? Scrap that effort and put your resources into something else that does.
So, why does your ministry need an online strategy?
- An online strategy can help you identify what both current and potential customers / supporters / members / visitors want from your content. What are they saying on Twitter, Facebook Instagram or other networks about your organization or issues they care most about? Use free tools like Hootsuite, Talkwalker or Topsy to listen to them. Just enter your organization’s name or perhaps hashtags you use often. Also, take a deeper look at your Google Analytics. What content on your site do people read most? At what points do people leave your site without going further into your site or without taking action?
- An Internet strategy can help you reach new people. Optimize your website so that when people search Google for answers, important pages on your site show up first in search results. Don’t know how to optimize? I’ll discuss this in more detail in another post, but for right now, do these two things: Make sure the content on your most important page(s) is well written (it should specifically answer your audience’s question) and include a couple of important phrases that they might be searching for. You can also design a great email newsletter that goes to people who sign up for it. Send it out at least monthly and encourage people to share it. You can write articles for publications and create new content for your own website. The possibilities for reaching people locally and globally are nearly endless so have a clear goal in mind. Important questions to ask before deciding best strategies for reaching people online include “what do you want to achieve?”, “with whom do you want to achieve it?”, “what do they care about?”, “where do they hang out online?” and “what do you want them to do?”
- An online strategy can help you bring in new visitors, customers or supporters. Use your website to give solid answers to your audience’s biggest questions, and give them a clear directive—help them understand very clearly what you want them to do next (call you? email you? visit you? donate? subscribe? download something? volunteer?). Here is an example of a goal page with clear calls to action.
- An online strategy can keep people coming back to your site (or mobile app). Make your site or mobile app a trusted place where your audience knows they’ll get value every time they visit. When you post great content (perhaps from sermons, blogs, magazines, newsletters, podcasts, even content you curate from other sources), use your social channels or email or other methods to bring people back to that great content, regularly.
Your 5-minute homework: Make sure there is one clear call to action on your home page. In other words, what is the ONE thing you want your website visitor to do next? You might want visitors to sign up to receive email updates or donate or subscribe to your blog, for instance. Charity Water offers a great example of a clear call to action on their home page. If you have an extra minute, take a look at your site on a few mobile devices. How does it look? Does anything need tweaked so your site works better across mobile devices?