social media

Think Mobile and Social

Think Mobile and Social

As we continue to progress in 2016, let’s look at how to be more focused on growing our online platforms and increasing engagement with our online audiences. While there are no shortage of ways to do this, it seems that creating an online strategy is quite elusive for many organizations. One of the most important aspects of building an online presence for your organization is to develop a digital strategy, “before” you join any networks or start communicating online. 

Facebook Timeline, Pinterest, Instagram and the rise of the visual social network

Over the last month I have been updating some of the social media pages for the ministries I work with. The main updates I have been making are to facebook timeline, setting up instagram accounts and Pinterest accounts. These three networks have a common theme going on that I have noticed over the last year, they are becoming much more visual. The Visual Social Network era is here. Facebook Timeline is a great example of a visual representation of our facebook experience. Prior to the launch of timeline, the facebook profile page was considered the most under utilized part of the social network. Profile pages and Fan pages were simply plain representations of the user but not very interactive or visual. Now Facebook didn’t want to go to the extreme of letting the entire page become customizable and load slow like myspace, but they knew they had to turn the profile page into more of a visual representation of the person and a destination that people will spend time at, mainly for advertising purposes. And as we can all see, Facebook timeline has taken social media by storm.

But let’s not overlook the other two great visual social media platforms, Facebook bought Instagram for 1 Billion dollars for one reason, it’s a mobile visual social network. 30 million users are on instagram and as of the announcement of their purchase by Facebook, they had added 10 million downloads of the mobile app on iOS and Android devices. Instagram is based on photo and video editing filters that people can add to their photos/videos they take with their mobile devices and post to their instagram account. Instagram accounts can be followed and commented on within the mobile social network as well as posted on other networks such as facebook and twitter. But the main draw of Instagram is that it is fully mobile, there is no desktop version of the platform, it operates fully within the mobile space and is just pictures and videos.

Next up is Pinterest, pinterest has rapidly risen to become the 3rd largest social network in the world. Having a large user base with women, Pinterest is a visual social network that has a mobile and desktop presence. It’s based on pictures and videos and allows you to comment, pin, create boards and repin photos and videos. This visual multimedia social network shows the evolution of the visual aspects of social networking and the focus they have.

The benefit to ministries is that these visual social networks give ministries the ability to tell their story using great multimedia. Using amazing photos and videos, ministries can visually capture moments of their ministry and share them with the world. Many ministries are able to tell their stories in print but how many can visually explain to the world how amazing their ministry is and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Content is King

Depending on what technology specialist, journalist or blogger you are listening to or reading at a particular moment, they may or may not agree on the importance of content. Some people say that content is king, some say that the delivery method is king, some say that interaction is king. With the focus of the church being to take the gospel to the masses, content is king. The message is the same, the packaging may be different, the delivery method may be different, but the gospel never changes, thus content still rules. Today we have numerous ways to get the message out, websites, social media, mobile devices, mobile apps, sms, multimedia and many many others. Back in the day it was word of mouth, then came the printing press, next was radio, then television and so on. No matter the delivery method, the gospel has remained the same, thus it’s not the method but the content. Focus on the content and the delivery method won’t matter, the method will evolve and change anyway.

When I speak to ministries about what they should focus on, I always tell them that content is king. Make sure the message that is coming from the ministry is continuous and consistent. Make sure the ministry is putting out great content that reflects the ministry and the kingdom in a christian manner and helps people in their daily christian walk. Make sure when people respond to this content that the ministry is open and interactive. Don’t make the ministry just a one way street of communication, let people interact with the content and keep the conversation open. Maintain this focus and strategy and the ministry will always have a large online following because, content is king!

How can Churches use Pinterest

Just last week I was asked about Pinterest and how it could be used for churches. I have been watching Pinterest, just as I watched Path, Color, Instagram, and other online software tools that seemed to be based on pictures. I initially thought Pinterest was going to just be another fad but as time progressed (fueled by a large female audience), Pinterest took off and hasn’t looked back. Here are a few links that I looked at first prior to getting started on Pinterest for myself.

My initial thoughts on Pinterest are that it’s the easiest and best way to tell a visual story for your ministry. The church has the greatest story ever about Jesus Christ so why not use multimedia (pictures and video) to tell this story. It’s been years in the making that a network that focused on the most engaging forms of media on the internet, pictures and video, would eventually take off. It just need to be easy enough that anyone could do it quickly and with a low learning curve. Pinterest is just that, easy, visual and engaging. Now, here are some examples of great things that your church can post to get you started on Pinterest. (List below is from Ministry Best Practices Link above):

  • Share inspiring quotes
  • Share photos of your people serving, doing ministry or doing life together
  • Share news
  • Highlight books/music
  • Sharing the gospel/evangelism
  • Share sacred art/stations of the cross
  • Scrapbook your church's body life
  • Create themed boards for your church's singles/youth
  • Highlight your events
  • Share pictures that illustrate your sermon series
  • Highlight your ministry's mission

Have fun and if you are looking for more information about Church and Technology you can check out The iChurch Method today.

How Can Your Church Take Advantage of the New Facebook Timeline Features

March 31st was an important day for facebook fan page owners, the pending timeline features were rolled out to all facebook fan pages. Facebook has been notifying admins for the last 3 - 4 months that this pending change was coming so there was quite a bit of time to prepare. As I started researching how to best utilize these new changes and increase visibility on facebook for churches, I came across come great articles that pointed out the best ways to make this happen. Here is a great article to use as a reference from social media today. Here are the things to focus on with your new timeline: 1. Tell a story - your new facebook fan page is a great way to tell a story with milestones, pictures, videos, and a variety of ways to showcase what your ministry has done, is doing and has planned. 2. Cover image - the cover image at the top of the new timeline page is a great way to showcase what's going on with your ministry. 3. Custom tabs - new custom tabs are much larger in width, instead of 520px they are now 800px which gives facebook developers much more space to work with.

There are other features that can be utilized and are discussed in the article above but the three aforementioned are a good starting point. If you are looking for more information you can find it in "The iChurch Method".

Email Marketing is not Dead

I have been asked numerous times if "Email marketing is dead" and the answer is "absolutely not".  The best approach to email marketing now is to evolve it.  Take that e-blast and make it work on more levels now.  Integrate new media into the e-blast to make it more effective.  Repurpose that e-blast so that in addition to sending out a blast to people's email addresses, you also use that same content and send it out via social networks and other marketing methods to reach people that may not utilize their email.  Also, you want to make sure that your e-blasts incorporate text, images, video and links to make them much more engaging and interactive. Of course, keep in mind, e-blasts can not actually have video that plays in "all" email clients, but if you have a screen shot of the video inside the e-blast, then when people click the video screen shot, they will be taken to a landing page that should look identical to the e-blast, and they can play the video from there.

So, let's get specific, how should churches and ministries evolve their e-blast content? I'm glad you asked. First, as stated above, integrate optimized vivid images and videos into your e-blasts.  This form of content is very engaging and results in higher click thru's and response rate.  Next, in order to effectively evolve an e-blast you want to repurpose the e-blast content and send it out via other marketing channels such as social networks and blogs.  

So here is an example, ABC ministries has an e-blast for a monthly newsletter.  This newsletter is also located on their website at  Therefore, here is what they can do:

1. E-blast the newsletter out using a service such as constant contact to their email list
2. Put up a new post on their Facebook Fan page saying that the monthly newsletter is out and put a link to it.
3. Send out a tweet from their twitter account saying that the monthly newsletter is out and put a link to it
4. Take the top articles from the newsletter and put blurbs from them on the ministry blog and then have a link back to the actual article in the newsletter from the blog.
5. If there are any videos in the newsletter they can be put on and the facebook fan page with a link back to the newsletter put in the description or on the actual video.

There are numerous other things that can be done to enhance the e-blast and market it but I just wanted to give a few examples to show that email marketing is alive and well, it’s just no longer the lone focus of a marketing strategy, it now has friends that can help market the ministry.

Mobile - Take the ministry to the people

As I was reading Social Media Today’s article on “How Brands are using M-Commerce”, I started to wonder how ministries and churches could use M-Commerce.  M-Commerce, short for Mobile Commerce, is the process of doing business (financial or otherwise) via mobile devices.  Mobile devices are the future of technology and my humble opinion.  Since mobile devices are so important to technology and ministry, they play an important role in the iChurch Method.

The Ichurch Method’s task can be broken down into one simple statement, “take the ministry to the people”.  That statement can be fulfilled with the numerous technological solutions that are available today whether it be via traditional computer or mobile device (smart phone or tablet).  If ministries are to effectively take ministry to the people, then they need to embrace mobile devices and develop mobile strategies.  

According to the article at Social Media Today, the top three ways companies use M-commerce are (1) Ensuring a mobile-friendly website, (2) Engaging and building loyalty via mobile and (3) Online shopping. These three ways are a great strategy that ministries can utilize as well, let’s look at this a little more in depth.

Ensuring a mobile-friendly website - When the church creates a website, normally the purpose is to put information about the church up so that people can access it online.  Service times, location and a bio on the pastor are the usual parts of a small church website.  There’s no consideration whether the website is mobile friendly because most church leadership only surfs the web from their computer so they assume that all their online users will do the same.  That single minded perspective greatly inhibits how the ministry can advance online.  With over 4 billion (and growing) mobile devices worldwide and numerous people ranging from teenager to senior citizen carrying smart phones, it would only benefit the ministry to have a mobile enabled website that anyone can access from anywhere on any device, mobile or computer.  

Engaging and building loyalty - With the abundance of mobile devices, and so many people using them, they are a great way to stay engaged with your online users.  Whether it’s mobile social media websites such as facebook, twitter and foursquare, you can engage and interact with your online users via mobile devices.  In addition to mobile social media, text messages are a great way to engage mobile users.  When you develop your social media strategy or text messaging strategy, setup people within your ministry that are able to respond quickly from their mobile devices since people will be able to interact with you quickly via mobile devices.

Online shopping and donations - Quite a few churches offer online stores and products for their members.  Again, this is normally created based on someone accessing the online store from their laptop or desktop computer.  Additionally, online donations are an offering of churches and the process is also usually created for a laptop or desktop experience.  While this a good initial approach, if there is no mobile shopping and mobile donation strategy in place, the ministry is inhibiting how people can support the ministry financially.  Yes, there will be numerous people that will donate from their laptop or desktop, but there will also be people, usually techies, younger people, or supporters from countries that use mobile more that are comfortable using their mobile devices for commerce.  This audience should not be excluded because it will go from the exception to the norm.

Overall, any strategy for a ministry that wants to continue to reach the masses into the future will need to consider mobile because it is the future of technology.

Five Key Social Media Strategy Points

The 2011 Echo conference in Dallas was a great one based on the articles and notes that I have seen come from there. I have no excuse for not being there since I am located in Dallas, but I will be there next year and the following years.

A great article I found from the Echo Conference came from Scott McClellan and it was about Social Media Content and Strategy ( Here are a few key points from the article:

Five verbs that should be a part of your social media strategy.

Listen. People are talking, but what if we started with listening? What if we used it like a grandma who just likes to look at pictures of the grandkids? As a church, you could follow people in your church to get a feel for what they care about. If there's a community you're trying to serve, follow and listen to them.

Converse. Social in social media implies that it's two way. Churches are good broadcasters and trying to port that to social media fails. It doesn't send the message you want. It says, "I'm important and you're only as important as the stuff of mine you click on." As organizations we love to broadcast. Conversing is different than what we do lots of time as a church.

Share. It sounds a lot like broadcasting, but it's different in mindset. Sharing is about giving gifts to people. Broadcasting is drawing eyeballs. Sharing is about saying here's something you might like even though we didn't create it. Or if you did make it, tell why you created something for someone.

Tell stories. This is difficult in 140 characters. short blog formats or short videos. Committing to telling stories commits you to observing stories. You start listening as you walk through the church, or as you follow people on twitter, in a different way because you're looking for a story to tell.

Invite. Social media gives us the power to invite people into the work God is doing and the stories God is telling. It allows the stories we tell to spread (when we're telling good stories).

These Five Verbs sum up social media strategy very well. There is much more to this article, check it out -

Online Church...Social Media...The Great Comission

The 2011 Echo conference in Dallas was a great one based on the articles and notes that I have seen come from there. I have no excuse for not being there since I am located in Dallas, but I will be there next year and the following years.

A great article I found from the Echo Conference came from Justin Wise and it was about Social Media Effectiveness ( Here are a few key points from the article:

  • Internet now leads television as 'most essential' medium
  • This is culture in which we are doing ministry
  • 61% of respondents said that the church website was very important as to whether they would attend the church
  • 88% of 18-27 year olds said that the church should use social media
  • The stats go down as the age goes up.
  • Regardless of age, we're all social networking.
  • Top three social sites people are using – Facebook, Video site, Twitter. The rest are blog, private community, photo site
  • How are you using social media to create awareness? To get people connected in community? To foster engagement with your online community?
  • What is most effective in creating awareness?
  • Engaging your online community – 2 different types
  • What is least effective? Engaging a broad, public audience (everything to everyone)
  • Google analytics just pulled in social analytics
  • How often should you update your status on Facebook or twitter, and when should you post?
  • Craft your content not just for your community, but for your platform, Facebook, twitter, etc.

These key points emphasize the fact that the internet and social media will play a key role in the future of ministry. Yes, we will continue to do traditional ministry as we have before with the church and the four walls and the pulpit, but there is another facet of ministry that is emerging where an online audience is the recipient of the ministerial tools of the church. Young adults that are online will start to identify themselves with ministries and churches that they have never set foot in, they will start to create an online community that will be an online extension of the church. The church should embrace this transition and embrace online ministry, it's one of the best ways to take the gospel to the four corners of the earth and fulfill the Great Commission.

Social Media Strategy

Our good friends over at Vocus have provided a great social media development strategy worksheet that ministries can utilize to help create an effective social media strategy. This interactive module asks specific questions to help formulate a social media strategy that would be beneficial to the ministry. If you are in a hurry you can click on the PDF option at the bottom of the module and download the social media strategy worksheet and complete it at your leisure.