Is your church's digital presence on target?


Are your church's web site and social media efforts successful? How do you know?

In today's world, even for a church, your digital presence plays a significant role regardless of whether you are actively managing it or not. Not only do you need to be active, but you need to gather data that will tell you whether or not it is working for you. In addition, you need to compare that data against your goals, which should be defined by your church's overall objectives (more on that here).

First, I ask your indulgence as I set the stage a bit.

How your digital presence fits into the process of drawing visitors

You may be uncomfortable thinking about a church doing marketing because it doesn't try to sell things to customers. But if it is trying to attract visitors, it is marketing to them.

The marketing world looks at the process of creating a customer with a funnel analogy to explain the phases he or she experiences.  It is a funnel because the number of people grows smaller as the phases progress. My version of the marketing funnel for churches is:

Awareness. Someone learns that your church exists. Perhaps she drives by your building and sees your sign with your church's easy-to-remember web site address displayed prominently (Your signage DOES include your web site, doesn't it? And the address is easy to remember, yes?).

If you're active on social media, maybe she found out about you from social media. How did she do that? Her Facebook or Google+ friends who attend your church liked or shared some interesting or useful content posted on the church's Facebook page or its Twitter account, alerting her to the post . Perhaps it was strategic use of a hashtag that s/he happened to search.

Discovery. Now that she knows about you, and if there is interest, the next step is to learn more. This will likely involve web searches (will the search results be what you expect?). A look at your web site, perhaps checks of other social media channels, if you are on more than one.

Consideration. Research done, it's time to decide whether what she found matches her need or preference.

Visit(s). You might consider this part of discovery because it can be done prior to true consideration. I keep it separate and after consideration because a visit is a more extensive investment of time, and perhaps a sense of risk.

Commitment. If your visitor likes what she finds, then she may become a regular attender, if not a member.

Measuring the effectiveness of your church's digital presence

It would be great if you could track her, individually, from the top of the funnel to the bottom; that's an ideal that professional marketers at all size companies strive for, but that ability is still a bit out of reach.

Regardless, your digital presence has an impact primarily on awareness and discovery, and there are ways to gain insights to how well it is performing. Your church is not likely to have the resources of a business, so what can you do?

You use what you can.

Your social media channels can provide clues about how well you're building awareness. Facebook and now Twitter offer statistics on how many times a post has been viewed.  Are your tweets being re-tweeted and favorited by more than just your members? Take a look at your Facebook, Google+, Pinterest or Instagram pages ... how many of your posts have likes and shares? If there aren't many, it may be time to look at the links and pictures you're posting, and how you phrase the text.

There is a lot of advice out there on how to create the best posts and when to post.  Here's an often-copied resource that may help (An FYI: you do have to provide some contact information in order to download the free PDF, but I think you'll find it worthwhile).

Be careful how much stock you put into the number of followers you have. That can shed some light, but if your posts aren't getting demonstrable attention, it really doesn't matter how many are following you.

You can gauge discovery by the traffic to your web site. There are some great tools out there to help you monitor visits to your web site. Most churches have little money to put out towards their digital presence, but luckily Google Analytics is free, and provides far more value than you'd expect.

Analytics can tell you what pages visitors are looking at, where they are coming from, how deeply they probe into your site, and more. You're vigorously promoting a public event. How many visits is your page promoting it racking up? If few or none, you know you have some adjustments to make.

Visits? Well, those should be easy to measure, but if you want to connect visits with your digital efforts, you have to ask! If your congregation collects information from visitors, are you asking how they learned about your church, and do the choices include your social media channels and web site?