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Before You RETHINK Your Web Presence…

Churches often rush into a new technology before considering all of the financial and human resource implications, not to mention the impact on the church’s members and guests. Before you jump into a half-cocked web strategy and solution, DC wants you to step back and think about six critical focus areas to expanding your web impact.

Value Your Web Presence More Than Ever
The digital age has transformed how generations connect today. It’s common for people to have multiple devices that keep them connected to everything they want online. People are wired like never before. It’s time for organizations to have a stronger, more strategic web presence than ever before. Anything short of that will devalue your brand, limit your reach, and stymie effectively communicating your mission and impact. Be a fierce advocate for a stronger web presence birthed out of clear vision, solid strategy, greater investment, and creative risk taking. Dream boldly and you’ll be satisfied with your return on investment

Be Strong in the Right Areas
There are so many facets to creating relevant web sites today. Branding, content, media, blogs, delivered content, calendars. It should be your goal to be good in all of these areas. But what are you going to be great at with your online presence?

Don’t be…

+ the strong leader who has the terrible blog platform,
+ the dynamic teacher who has an undervalued media section,
+ the church with an amazing mission, yet underdelivers in communicating that mission to the world, or
+ the church that prides itself on guest experiences, yet has an uninspired or unimaginative presentation to guests online.

Underscore the critical areas that your web site needs to excel in, and seek the platform and strategy that will help you be great instead of pretty good. What facet of your website are you going to prioritize so its more valuable and desirable than ever to your members, guests, and the community?

Integrate your Website and Social Networking
In most instances, organizations are still trying to figure out how social networking figures into their communication and online strategy. We see many organizations that treat social networking and their web presence as two different worlds. Facebook and Twitter should be viewed as light communication platforms that can lead to deeper connection points within your website. It’s critical that messaging in the Facebook and Twitter communities connect back to your website whenever possible. Your website should be positioned as a content aggregator comprised of all of your resource, media, blog posts, and content assets. It will always house valuable content, but make sure you utilize Facebook and Twitter to proactively leverage and broadcast content and conversation that leads to deeper, meaningful connection points at your site.

Think Efficiency
Web editing tools (CMS) are simply smarter than they were five years ago, frankly, even just one year ago. Web technology is changing fast and getting stronger without getting overly complex. Your next generation website should allow you to deliver content smarter and more efficiently than ever before. We know your time is valuable, you cannot continue to use dated web platforms and strategies that do not offer you measurable improvements in time management. Additionally, a smarter CMS should allow you to automatically deliver content and automatically populate content areas so you are doing more with content without expending extra time and energy.

Don’t Settle
We believe in excellence. Don’t settle for a mediocre web presence. The stakes are too high and your audiences are unforgiving when a website does not meet their expectations. We’ve seen many organizations opt for an easy approach to their website and take confidence in the fact that “it was easy.” Easy can also translate into shallow. Whatever happened to “nothing good ever comes easy?” Some organizations need an easy web solution, some organizations would be misrepresented with an easy web solution. You will not advance your web mission or connect with more people with a website that takes two hours to develop. Take a look at any organization that is leading the web charge and you will not see them taking the easy way out in creating their site. Don’t get me wrong, there should be aspects of your website that are made easy, but don’t compromise depth and impact in the name of easy. Too often, an easy website equates to “brochure ware to end users.” Don’t settle, invest for greater impact.

Commit to Sticky
You have to know what your audience wants and commit to providing it consistently and better than ever before. This means . . .

+ If you blog, how can make it more compelling and attention grabbing?
+ Easy functionality for end users like online giving, registration and event calendar are convenient elements to a website. How can you improve those offerings to repeatedly connect with more of your audience?
+ How can you make it easy for more people to connect to your sermon media and consequently utilize that ministry tool for greater impact and reach?
+ How are you using smart delivery tools like RSS feeds, email subscriptions, and social media to grab the attention of those you are trying to connect with?

An effective web strategy must prioritize the stickiness factor.

Remember, the first frontier in connecting with new people today will likely be online. Additionally, more people can be online advocates of your organization than ever before… so where can they point a friend or follower? What will happen when they follow the trail of your digital conversations and experiences?

We’ve seen many organizations miss the mark because of haste or simply not valuing the strategy and planning part of web development. Thoughtful, strategic planning on the front-end will boost your online ministry reach. Count on this, lack of planning will ensure greater disconnect with those with whom you are trying to build relationships. At DC, we can help you plan, strategize, and design a web presence that will be more effective, efficient, and impacting for your church.


4 Imperatives for Churches to Be Stronger in Today’s Digital World

We’re more wired than ever. What would we do without our desktop? Notebook? Smartphone? Tablet? We spend more time in the digital world because it fits the way we want to spend our time. We cannot imagine life without being connected. Smart technology has focused on developing tools that feel natural to the way we want to talk, share, learn, and experience life.

So what do you need to have in place so that you are connecting with people in their digital world, and their chosen devices?

1. Remodel your web strategy to have a universal approach. There are more platform options today. Because of the different platforms available (notebooks, smartphones, tablets), it’s critical that you have a web strategy and content delivery platform that allows you to be strong and present on anyone of them. There should be no platform exceptions or exclusions. If you have a Flash heavy site, you’re a missing out on large audiences of smartphone and tablet users. Also, don’t think you have to have a mobile version of your site. Because smartphones and tablets are providing rich end user experiences, they will likely be disappointed by a lighter, mobile version of your web site. Focus on one strategic web solution that accounts for the different devices that are popular today

2. Do you really need an App? Apps have been a hot topic, and we’ve seen many organizations scrambling to have their own app. The reality is that an app is a custom created solution that requires time and resources to create. Many experts feel that an app creates unwarranted redundancy. You have to ask yourself, are we providing content in our app that they likely would receive on our website, blog, or media library? The redundancy that an app creates means your spreading yourself thin and likely creating a mediocre app experience. Explore richer website experiences that have greater value and efficiencies versus app creation.

3. Simple. Engaging Content that’s Shareable. It’s a perfect time for people to share your content. If we like it, we’ll share it! “Brochureware” content is not what people are sharing. A blog, a video, a story of life-change, a program or learning resource that is valuable… these are the things that people will share freely from your site or in their Facebook or twitter worlds. Churches have an abundance of sharable content. The problem is they are not making it available. The opportunity to reach more people has never be greater. A church’s reach has the potential to connect with more people on the outside. The content has to be engaging. Less content, but higher quality content is what people respond to today.

4. Blogging: Undervalued and Underleveraged. Leaders, here is a tool that you strongly need to consider adopting, if you haven’t already. As a leader, your blog has the potential to create a following, speak to people in intimate and compelling ways. And, more importantly, lead more people to invest in your mission and vision in a church. Some churches are using blogs very effectively, while many others simply do not know where to begin. Today, it’s a way for the church to be engaged outside of Sunday services. Blogs are a way to speak authentically to more people. The potential to impact people with a simple blog post is profound.

We could have easily added a fifth and sixth point. Remember it’s a digital world… and there’s no signs that it’s slowing down anytime soon. It’s a new frontier for ministry and connection for the church. You have to be there, because people expect you to be there. It’s no longer acceptable or relevant to use the “we’re a church” excuse. If you’re not digitally strong, you really have to question your priorities and approach to communications and connection.

Mobile Revolution: A Look Behind the Numbers

Mobile internet usage is projected to be higher than desktop internet usage in 2015. We all know the smartphone movement is turning communications and connectivity upside down. Here’s a great infographic that takes a closer look at the numbers behind the Mobile Revolution…

How Do People Spend Their Time Online?

Great overview of how different demographics spend their time online… huge implications for communications and brand strategies for all organizations. It’s a digital world in which we live. Are you in it? Or not? Enjoy.


Part 2 of 2: Four Critical Success Factors to Greater Web Relevance

Previously in our two-part series on “Four Critical Success Factors to Greater Web Relevance,” we looked at the importance of knowing your web audience intimately and creating a web strategy with focus. The following factors are equally as significant in the minds of your end users and to you as well. As a daily challenge, let’s stop looking at technology and the Internet with fear and trepidation, but rather embrace it as essential to how we do life today. Because web technology is moving so fast, you cannot delay making changes to your online offering. Today, everyone must become faster and earlier adopters of technology and change.

The days of considering web content as text on a page are long gone. End users expect content in so many different forms. Different demographics prioritize particular types of content over others. The key to remember is that all content you provide is important content. Beyond words on a page, your organization must now consider the content quality of its blog, tweets, Facebook posts, promotions, and video/audio. There is a quality expectation for online content that is higher than ever. Your content must engage and relate to your site’s visitors in ways that earn their trust and respect. People are unforgiving when they conclude content to be irrelevant. The sober reality is that if you are not providing relevant content for your audience, someone else most definitely is. Following are things to focus on to improve the impact of your content…

+ Establish content standards that reflect the level of quality, continuity, consistency, and presentation excellence you and your site’s visitors expect.
+ Purge your content to exclude unnecessary volume and mass. Remember the impact of the “less is more” principle. People are moving fast, therefore, your content must be lighter and more on target than ever before.
+ Speak in plain English. Be inspired by the simplicity movement in communications… simple, short concepts that avoid sensationalism and wordiness. Focus on succinct, honest communication.

Web tools and Content Management Systems (CMS) that you were using just two years ago may be less efficient than newer solutions. In addition, there are so many new platforms to consider (i.e. social media, tablets, smart phones). In working with churches and ministry groups across the country, we see the pattern of churches holding on to their tool set and processes much longer than they should. We understand things are moving fast in the ministry world and to stay current on the latest trends and most relevant tools represents a real challenge. Our biggest disappointment is seeing churches in “the web rut.” They’re stuck or hindered by outdated platforms and strategies rather than being liberated and more productive with today’s best solutions and best practices. If you are using dated tools and methodology with your web site delivery, social media, pushed content, and media, it well be very apparent to your audience. People today are conditioned to seek, scan and quickly discern web relevance or irrelevance. So where do you begin with implementing smarter web tools? Here are a few questions to help you down the path…

+ Do you have a strategy for content management and the platform(s) you are using? Does your staff and congregation clearly understand the strategy?
+ Are your content management tools helping or hindering your ability to easily execute your communication strategy? Does your CMS allow you to manage content and content delivery with ease? Is your web tool set increasing your reach and visibility to larger audiences?
+ How many people subscribe to your delivered content or follow your organization in social media? Is it static or growing?
+ Does your website utilize share tools so more people can distribute your relevant content with their networks?
+ Do your web tools account for the growth and user expectations for smartphones and tablets? How effective is your presence with these rapidly growing audiences?

Your website will begin to move in a more targeted direction with greater relevance by prioritizing content, understanding your users’ expectations, executing a web stratetgy based on audience needs and implementing smarter web tools.

Remember, effective web communication doesn’t just happen. And it certainly won’t happen without continual change and an openness to “rethink.”

Right now, the digital movement is allowing organizations to be more effective and targeted, while multiplying its message reach. The stewardship and impact benefits behind the digital movement are exciting to consider. Are you on board? Or, are you watching the digital shift pass you by?

Social Media Revolution Video Installment 3

Here’s the latest video installment on the Social Revolution by Socialnomics author Erik Qualman. As with previous video installments… clarifying, thought-provoking, amazing, and maybe a little overwhelming. Well done.

Four Critical Success Factors for Greater Web Relevance (Part 1 of 2)

If you think your website should be more effective… the people you are trying to reach couldn’t agree more.

Technology is an integral part of everyone’s daily lives. Corporate America’s M.O. is to remove the stigma of technology by making solutions that are smarter than ever, yet easier for everyone to benefit from. It’s time we stop looking at technology and the Internet with fear and trepidation, and embrace it as essential to how we do life today. Because Internet technology is moving so fast, you cannot delay making changes to your web offering… everyone must become “faster and earlier adopters” of technology change.

We’ve seen many organizations in panic mode because of the state of their website. Unfortunately, panic can lead to overlooking or short-cutting critical steps in creating a relevant web experience. Through our research, surveying, and experience, we’ve found four critical success factors that must be accounted for. Implement these and you’ll have purpose and confidence… overlook them and you’ll have missed targets and poor returns.

1. Know Your Audience… Intimately. Too often we see organizations creating their website from the inside-out, versus from the outside-in. An inside-out approach will always create a disconnect with your audience because you are prioritizing your agenda rather than speaking to their needs. Imagine if corporate America ignored the voice and expectations from their target audience. It’s foolish to produce any resource in a vacuum… websites included.

Audience Questions:
+ What would make the visitor experience unforgettable and not regrettable?
+ What do members and loyal constituents expect to find and want to find at your site?
+ What are their digital preferences? Smartphone user? IPad/tablet user? Email? Facebook or Twitter (or both)? Audio/Video? Blog reader?
+ What is the vocabulary and messaging that is most comfortable for your audience and fits your culture most closely?
+ How can your brand be introduced with greater clarity, quality, and embrace?

2. Build A Web Strategy Around Audience Needs. You now know your audience expectations, now its time to build a strategy that accomplishes your objectives AND theirs. Too often, churches and ministries bypass the strategic aspect of web development and their end solution shows it. Church communications is more strategic to the successful engagement of more people than ever before, yet churches are simply not being strategic. We’ve found strategy creation helps remove the unknowns on so many levels. The digital landscape today is complex. Don’t make it more complex by not having a digital strategy.

Strategy Considerations:
+ How can you advance your mission and vision for greater impact? How can you reach more people?
+ How can you merge your organizational objectives with the expectations of the end user?
+ How can you prioritize your cultural and content assets to build your brand?
+ How can you provide content that is relevant and habit forming?
+ How can you be relevant and consistent on all devices? How can you be relevant and consistent in social media?
+ What are  industry leading technologies and third-party integrations that can be easily implemented into your site? What content management system fits your budget and the way you communicate? Vimeo or YouTube? Podcasts? Social media? Registration? Online giving and e-transactions?

NEXT POST: Part 2 of 2 on Four Critical Success Factors to Greater Web Relevance?
Content. Content. Content. and Implementing Smarter Web Tools