A Mission-based Web Presence Needs to be Engaging

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on September 27, 2010

in ministry, National Organization, parish, social media, Uncategorized, website

Engagement is the goal in today’s web world. Engagement on the web can take many forms from simply watching, reading, or viewing to organizing, facilitating, and helping other users. A chart of engagement levels in the U.S. taken from the Trendstream Global Web Index Wave 1, July 2009, trendstream.net, by Charlene Li in her new book Open Leadership, How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead (available in our bookstore) indicates that 80% of U.S. web users are watchers, 61% are sharers, 36% make comments, 24% are producers of content and less than 1% are curators. As we establish our ministerial web presence, we need to design attractive sites, provide content that is meaningful to the visitor and facilitate engagement in as many ways as possible. A good number of our visitors expect it.

Usually, the centerpiece of web presence is the website, but a website (even a “great” website) alone is not enough to have an effective web presence. An organization, religious community or ministry also needs to be interacting with their constituents via email and social media. An organization does not need to be using every form of email communication or social media, but I think that it does needs to be using at least two platforms in addition to the website to be present to as many different generations and stakeholders as possible and to facilitate various forms of engagement. Some popular options are sending e-newsletters or e-zines, creating blogs and podcasts, presenting webinars and e-courses, and posting to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, etc. The choice of these options is based on the content to be delivered, the intended audience and the availability of people to staff the effort.

To have an effective web presence, we must have a quality website, one that is easy to navigate, engages the visitor visually, and provides content on the home page that clearly answers the visitor’s questions. It offers visitors opportunities for further engagement both on the web through email and social media and when appropriate in person through invitations to attend events or participate in activities. Websites, email broadcasts, and social media sites need to be current (updated frequently) and relevant to their followers.

A few examples of organizations that, in my opinion, have an effective web presence using multiple platforms are:

Dioceses: Archdiocese of Washington; Catholic Diocese of Salina

Ministries: Fr. Robert Baron’s Word on Fire; TeamRCIA; BustedHalo.com

National Organizations: Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA

Parishes: St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, Ill, Christ the King, Toledo, OH.

Religious communities: Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; Carmelites of Chicago; School Sisters of Notre Dame-Atlantic-Midwest Province

Your comments are most welcome. If you liked this article, please share it with others using the icons below. Remember the TrendStream stats: 36% of us make comments and 61% share. Do your part! Thank you.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

RS Rivers September 27, 2010 at 9:38 am

Very good work! Good information. Bob

sr.marueen Spillane September 27, 2010 at 9:40 am

Great sharing of different webs for various communities. Makes one proud to see all that is happening around us and near and far.

Marc Cardaronella September 27, 2010 at 9:59 am

This is good to think about. Having a web presence is more than just having a web site. Most parishes don’t think in these terms. The common misconception is that if you build it they will come. But they won’t come if they don’t know about it. And, they won’t continue to come if you don’t make it easy to get the information. Many Catholic blogs and organization web sites I run across don’t include a working RSS feed or some way to subscribe to the content. If I can’t get the content pushed to me, I probably won’t remember to go back to the site to read the great content. There’s just too many competing voices.

Don McCrabb September 28, 2010 at 12:00 am

Received an e-mail from a company telling me to expect an e-mail … they were going to be releasing a new product “next Tuesday.” I am surprised at my own level of anticipation – curious about what they are promising. On the other hand, got an e-mail and a phone call from the car dealership – gave them the same information in two mediums; it felt redundant. I am surprised at my own impatience. Finally, picked up Time Magazine – and was surprised at the “tweeter” like reporting in it.

Nick Wagner September 28, 2010 at 11:29 am

Terrific post Susan. What I have been mulling over lately is the way businesses design “landing pages.” If I am a widget seller, then the one thing I want my landing page to do is sell a widget. So what it is it a parish does? Many, many things, of course, and most parish home pages reflect that. Often there are dozens of choices and no clear call to action.

I think the number one job of a parish is evangelization. And so our parish websites should reflect that. Everything on the on home page should be designed to meet the needs of the seeker. What if parish home pages were photo-rich and text-sparse? Parish name, street address, e-mail address, phone number (with area code!), Mass times, and three clickable links under the header: “Answers to the three most-asked questions about the Catholic Church”

I don’t know what the answers are (or even the questions), but if I were the pastor of St. Swithin’s Parish, every one of the answers would have something to do with a key ministry at St. Swithin’s.

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