If you build your church's online presence, will they know to come?

Your church has a vision of its mission, and your church web site knows its role. Your social media complements that role and points back to your web site. So who knows about your web presence? How would they know about it? The classic line from Field of Dreams might have been enough to draw the Chicago Black Sox to Kevin Costner's rural diamond, but I doubt relying on the fact that your church launched its web presence will be enough to cause members and visitors to use its various venues.

It’s time for your church to become shameless and relentless, and promote, promote, promote.

Put it in your announcements every week

I’ve known of churches who had great looking web sites, but rarely, if ever, mentioned it in announcements. Even if the details were on the web site, the announcement directed attendees only to printed materials in the entrance area. It can almost go without saying that the web site had little traffic.

Here are some of the things that can make a difference:

  • Announce something about your web site and social media during every service.

  • Whether you announce your news item (an upcoming event, a ministry report, etc) at the start or end of a service, or print it in a bulletin, it’s likely you have more information than you can present. A web site has plenty of room for all the details, so the announcement can be brief.

  • When possible, make it easy to find the news item. One way is to put a link to it on your web site home page. Another option that may be available to you is to create a custom address, such as www.mychurch.com/youthrally.

  • If your sermons are available as podcasts, or you have a blog on the site, remind the church attendees.

  • If nothing else, make a general announcement that your church site has a wealth of useful information.

Include it in your corporate identity

Does your church have a corporate identity? In a nutshell, a corporate identity is the overall image of an organization in the minds of the public. It normally includes a logo, and standard uses of fonts, colors and layouts used in printed materials. Your corporate identity should include your web site address and social media channels. Wherever possible and practical, your web site should be on your external signs, inside your entrance, on your business cards, stationary, brochures, posters, and so on.

By the way, the back of business cards is a great place to list your social media accounts.

Promote your site in your social media channels, and vice-versa

Be sure to cross-promote your online venues.

  • Promote your upcoming events and make sure to include a link to the corresponding page on the web site.

  • Post event pictures on the social media itself. If your church web site has a photo gallery, an alternative approach would be to post one picture on social media and include a link back to the relevant gallery page.

  • Promote your social media channels on your web site. Many of the social media sites offer widgets that will let you list the latest posts on your web site. Better still, if your web site uses a content management system, there may be an add-on that will lists your social media posts in a format consistent with your web site.

Reach new audiences

Much of the above reaches primary to existing members and attendees, but what about others?

  • Make sure search engines index your site to your advantage. Text on your web site should include the words and phrases you think will be relevant when potential visitors are searching the web. This is part of what's know as "search engine optimization", or "SEO".

  • If your church is fortunate enough to have a sufficient budget, you should consider advertising via tools such as Google Adwords. You can set a daily budget of any amount ... even $5.00 per day. Oversimplifying a bit, you define terms that, if searched for, will include among the search results a text ad you create, and the ad links back to your web site. You don't pay simply because the ad appears in search results, you pay only if and when someone clicks on your ad. The cost of that click depends on how many others are vying for that advertising spot using those terms. This form of advertising is known as "search engine marketing" or "SEM".

But wait ...

Before you begin this effort, make sure what you deliver is reliable, timely and complete.

Why?

In order for your web presence to be effective, particularly for your members or regular attenders, it must be consistently current and include all essential details. I’ve found that one of the keys to success is for your web site and social media to be updated with schedule changes as soon as they are known.

As well known as the world's biggest brands are, they never let up on promoting their products. Maximize your church's chance for online success by making promotion a priority.