It’s far too cliché to start a blog post with “it’s been a while since my last post”.
So much so that in the world of content marketing, where ‘articles’ seem to have won out over a traditional blog, it’s getting rarer to see.
Still, it has been a little while since my last post on ChurchTrain. And this ‘been a while’ cliché exists for a reason.
Amongst the business of life, blogging can often get pushed aside.
Actually, let’s change that slightly:
Amongst the business of life, <insert-almost-anything-important-here> can often get pushed aside.
There are designs and websites that need finalising, church website feedback to write, and of course, our church’s Christmas publicity. Not to mention the logistics of organising the trip itself.
So as important as ChurchTrain is to me, it’s often hard to prioritise writing over the pressing things in life: those things that need to happen to pay the bills, or because others are dependent on them.
In this busy state, it strikes me how similar this is to the view many churches have towards their digital outreach.
We’ve thought before about how church communications is not simply a means to an end, yet it so often gets neglected; pushed to the bottom of the pile.
Near the bottom of the ‘To Do List’
But why does this happen? If we think logically, we can easily see how essential it is to communicate digitally with people in today’s world; competing messages from every direction should force us to look for new, creative ways to share the old, old story with our audience online and offline.
And of course, it’s not only evangelism that can happen online. We also seek to use new online technology to build on the communities that we’re part of offline.
Yet, despite this importance, our online efforts are often neglected.
I just don’t have the time to give to it
Perhaps this is in part due to the time needed to make things happen.
Of course, we want to see churches make best use of online networks, and it does take time, but this is all the more reason to ensure we work efficiently. This is to say that we should seek to not use more time than necessary.
This efficiency is something I’m passionate about sharing through ChurchTrain. There are plenty of time-saving tips that we can employ to help us make the best use of our resources when working with websites, social media and the like. It does take time, but it shouldn’t take that much time.
So perhaps our perception of the time investment needed is worse than the reality. Even so, I know this isn’t the only reason that we ‘put off’ practising online communication for our church.
Another key reason we don’t prioritise communication is because the results aren’t always obvious.
This is something I can really sympathise with.
As an example, with church design work, it’s sometimes difficult to know if anyone is benefitting from the hard work you put in to your publicity.
The same can be said for blogging.
Even for those readers who really enjoy, and benefit from your written content; sometimes they need a push to get in touch and let the writer know that they’re appreciated. If they don’t how are you to know?
In this case, people clearly are being reached – the results are there, but they’re not obvious.
Even when we do actually get great results, and we see positive effects from our work, the encouragement can be short-lived.
In a world of vanity metrics, we can get sucked-in to unhelpful comparisons (sometimes with those that aren’t even our competitors!).
Do you ever catch yourself thinking like this?
Sure, our church social media made a big difference to a member of our congregation today, but ‘that church across town’ has 5x as many Twitter followers as us…
It’s so easy to get a sort of tunnel vision: forgetting the good and focusing instead on the ‘not good enough’.
It’s easy to get communications tunnel vision: forgetting the good and focusing instead on the ‘not good enough’.
So, ‘they’ have more followers than you – so what?!
Would having more followers make you more ‘successful’, or is it just a ‘status symbol’ that distracts you from the other good things you’re doing online? It’s important to work out what you’re trying to achieve, so you can measure your results against this, rather than against other people.
I’ve tried to distil all of this in to some brief, actionable advice, to help you avoid unnecessary discouragement whilst working with church marketing:
Know where to look for results
Whilst the number of followers is an easy metric to find and keep track of, it’s not the only thing. Think about interactions – are you having quality engagements with people on social media? Use the inbuilt tools such as Facebook Page Insights or Twitter Analytics to get some detailed data.
For your church website, use Google Analytics to see how people are using your site – what pages are they visiting, are they getting what they need?
Google Analytics is also really helpful when it comes to physical publicity such as flyers and posters – how many users are visiting the web addresses that you include there?
Google Search Console, whilst not the simplest tool in the world, can work alongside Google Analytics to give you some helpful insights for the routes users take to land on your church site.
Know which results to look for
What matters to you? Which results can you use to measure whether you’re hitting the goals that you’ve set out to achieve.
Think about what counts as a success for your communications efforts.
Bear in mind these goals can be offline too – it could be an increase in people getting in touch with you via your website or social media, or it could be an increase in the number of attendees at a church service or event.
Know which results constitute your KPIs – marketing buzzword alert – your Key Performance Indicators. Keep track of these over time.
Make an action plan!
What has worked in the past?
Looking at the types of results that matter to you, what have you done to bring about these types of successes?
In light of this, what needs refining or scrapping?
Use your analysis of your past results, to shape your future efforts.
Act on your action plan!
Set aside time to make this stuff happen.
It won’t happen by itself. You will need practical goals and it may well require some self-discipline!
Think about who in your organisation is best-placed to take on these responsibilities – it doesn’t always have to default to the youngest person in your church!
I’d strongly suggest that you put time in your diary to plan your online communication for the next week or month. It might only be half an hour, but having this time to focus will stop you wasting more time by doing everything at the last minute. This is actually something that comes up in the previous post ‘Don’t Lose Focus’.