It’s now been over a year since I’ve taken on the role of Digital Strategy Director at Brentwood Baptist. It’s been a lot fun and I love the people I work with. Here’s some things that I’ve learned along the way:
1. Consistent Content Generation is Hard
If you’re trying to create a week’s worth of content for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you can easily find yourself overwhelmed. Content creation is not an easy task and it’s one that requires a lot work (i.e. a content calendar) and a good deal of dedication.
2. Facebook is Becoming Harder to Work With
I’ve written before about Facebook’s 15% rule and the difficulty of getting content in front of your Facebook audience. However, with each month it seems that with each interface change, that Facebook’s ultimate goal is to get money out of organizations that have a Facebook page.
3. Own Your Own platforms
If you can build and maintain it, do it. There are thousands of platforms out there that are offering you free services, however when those free services go down or out of business, you’re stuck. Own what you can.
Not all your ministers are going to be comfortable with social media and that’s okay. Some people will claim that you’re out of touch as a minister if you don’t use social media. I disagree. Every minister has different gifting and personality and sometimes social media isn’t a good fit for them. This doesn’t make them a less effective minister.
5. Don’t Answer Your Critics
Lately I’ve seen a lot ministers and churches face criticism on blogs and social media. While the natural tendency seems to be to respond your critics, that usually never works. If you’ve done your job ministering to your community and congregation, they will rise up defend you. Don’t feed internet trolls, it never works.
6. Mistakes are Quickly Forgotten
Your church will make plenty of mistakes on social media. That’s okay. Just delete the inerrant tweet or post, then post new content. Focus on what you are getting right.
7. People aren’t Reading Content Any More
People don’t read content anymore. We’re living in a world of images and videos. If you have to write something, keep short and sweet. As much as I hate to admit, there’s reason why sites like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post are popular. They’ve mastered the art of brief writing filled with pictures.
8. Think Video and Images
When I start creating content, I used to think about word count, title and headings. I’m now more concerned with what sort of multimedia component is being tied to the content. Can we tell this story better with photos and videos? More than often the answer is yes.
9. Designing for Android is Pain
I want to like Android. However, whenever I’ve sat down to create something for the platform I want to pull my hair out. Too many devices with different size requirements and menus that are not uniform across devices. It’s a nightmare that I don’t want to deal with.
10. Email Still Rules
The email list still rules. Email is still the best way to get your content in front of your church members. Even if you have just 35% of members open up an email from your church, I bet that will be more than the number of members who read your Facebook posts.
If you’re just starting out doing social media for your church, you’er stepping into world with a really great community. Just type “#chsocm” into Twitter search and you’ll see what I mean.
12. Online Church Has a Long Way to Go
In theory I like the idea of online church, however when I start asking questions about how discipleship occurs or community happens, I begin to see that no matter how alluring online church is, nothing can replace live human interaction that a physical church provides.
13. Most Online Platforms Designed for Churches are Poorly Designed
I’ve had the opportunity to use a lot of different platforms that are designed for churches. While they all have good intentions, I’m finding that there seems to a lack of effort into interface design. While your product may have 400 features, if I can’t find them, then they are useless to me.
14. Like Church Attendance, Most Web Numbers Can be Inflated
I used to get jealous about a church that might have more online visitors or Facebook likes. However, just like there’s a difference between church attendees and church member, the online world has same the issues. Sure you may have a lot Facebook likes or Twitter followers, but how many people are actually interacting with and sharing your content? What’s your true impact?
I love following other churches on Twitter to see what’s going on, but I believe we starting to repeat ourselves (how many times can we tweet that our worship band rocks?). We need to work on producing better original content.
16. Share Your Data with Your Staff
While all your staff may not being on social media, it’s helpful to show your staff the numbers behind social media. Let them know who’s sharing what and how often. The more data you give them, the more you can make the case for their involvement.
17. Track Everything
If you can track it, do it. I’ve tried to track everything I can think of, from emails to heat maps on our website. The more data I gather, the more I get a better picture of where the church digitally needs to go.
18. Champion Your Bright Spots
When you get a win, let everyone know about it. The more wins you get, the greater chance you have to create momentum.
19. Internet Explorer is Still Horrible
The majority of our user problems that occur are usually from Internet Explorer. Whenever I see reports that it’s declining usage, I smile.
20. The Future is Very Bright
I’m excited about the future. Every day brings a new challenge and a world of possibilities. New platforms, a growing number of mobile users and better ways to get our content out. It’s a very bright future.