Are you just getting involved with your church's website? Have you been on the web team for quite a while? In either case, ask these questions -
- How current is the content? Are there any 'upcoming' events that have already passed?
- Is the phone number and address present and correct?
- Are there pictures of people? Do you recognize the faces from your church?
- Is your church website important enough to be in your budget?
- How many words do you not understand, even as an 'insider'?
- Are there links to your other web channels (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter)? Are you driving people from your website to other channels?
- Is there a clear purpose for each page? Do you know what to do next?
- How are you measuring the effectiveness of your church's web presence?
These are a just a few key questions your church should answers in their strategy for the web.
Strategies: Variety, Needs, Access
It's not a strategy if you are just republishing your print publications online. Or, you are using Twitter without regard to your posts on Facebook or the content on your website or in your weekly announcements. Having an online strategy presumes you have an overall communication strategy. A strategy will position your organization based on 1 of 3 basic factors: variety, needs or access.
Variety: A variety-based strategy positions itself on offering something no one else offers. Your product or program is one-of-a-kind and can't be found anywhere else.
Needs: In needs-based strategy, your focus is on a particular group of people and their needs.
Access: An access-based strategy focuses on delivery - offering a product or program that may not be unique to a group of people that is already being serviced, but doing it in a new way.
Define your objectives: what needs are you going to meet (variety), whose needs are you going to meet (needs) and how are you going to deliver (access)?
Once you have determined your position, there are other questions to ask -
- What message are we trying to communicate?
- Who do we want to hear the message?
- Who is actually hearing the message?
- What message are they receiving?
Ask these questions initially, then continually ask those questions, refining the processes until your intentions converge with your results. Even then, you need to continue to monitor your communications to be sure you stay on track. You should be able to report on the answers to these questions every quarter. They will help you clarify your purpose so you can determine your effectiveness.
One war, but many battles
People use the web for many things -
- Post Office
- Town square
- Soap box
- Entertainment Center
There are many ways to access the web -
- Desktop computers
- Portable computers
- Mobile devices (phones, tablets, others - like iPods)
And, many avenues to travel on the web -
- Web sites and pages
- Social networks (Facebook, MySpace)
- Video sharing (YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv, GodVine)
- Microblogging (Twitter)
All the above can be overwhelming if you are going to establish a strategy for each of them. You won't - you will carry out your strategy through all these battle fronts. Look back at the 3 positions we outlined at the beginning. The web is a means to deliver and there are several avenues. The web will also be a part of who you are trying to reach, but those boundaries are blurring rather quickly. It is vitally important you develop an overall communication strategy before you venture on to the web and expect it to be your saving grace.
Variety, access, needs. What is the focus of your church communication and web strategy? What are the goals and objectives of bringing your ministry online?
If you'd like to read some other thoughts on church web strategy, here are a few I used in preparing this article:
- What is Your Church Strategy?
- The New Traditional Church: Web Strategy
- Strategies for Effective Church Sites
- Church Marketing Sucks Series: Church Websites 101
How does your church approach the web? Does it have a web strategy? Does it have a communication strategy?