Who doesn’t want more visitors to their website or followers on Facebook? How many visitors or followers do you have is a question others ask us and we ask ourselves.
Many is a relative term. Whatever number is in your head, it most likely is greater than the number of people visiting your website or following you on social media. If we focus on the number only, we set ourselves up for disappointment. What is more important is that we keep growing our visitors and our followers and that we are truly serving them. We can have benchmarks, but they should be realistic and incremental. We have to work toward them. That takes time.
For most of us our ministry is to serve a certain population or a certain niche. These are our audiences and we can serve them in new ways through websites and social media. The number who visit and follow will be a percentage of that. What’s important to remember here is that the people we contact via the website will include people we do not contact in any other way. By our presence on the Internet we can attract new members and participants. But to get them to come so that we can serve them requires us to pay attention to four key areas:
1) Know Your Audience(s)
For the vast majority of us, our web and social media sites will appeal mostly to people in a certain geographic region (parishes, dioceses) or to those who share our charism (religious communities), or those who share similar ministries or interests (organizations and ministries). Within those audiences, there are segments who have specific interests. Who is our audience and what are their different needs? Who might want to join this audience and what would be helpful to them? Write you answers down and keep them in front of you whenever you are working on your sites.
2) Quality Content
Quality content is key to a successful online presence. For parishes, if we are just re-posting what members can read in the bulletin or hear in the announcements, why would they bother to visit the website? Our websites have to offer more than what they can find elsewhere. We want to “delight” them with our content. We don’t bombard them with “ads” for activities or fundraising appeals. Of course, there is some basic factual information that we need to provide, but there must also be content that responds directly to the questions, needs and aspirations of the people who visit us—especially the ones we don’t see in person.
3) User-Friendly Engagement
Our site needs to be attractive. Visuals are important. They say who we are without words. We want people who come to our sites to find what they need easily. There must be some obvious logic to the presentation of content. We answer their questions upfront (where are you located, what is your phone number, what time is Mass, etc.). We make it easy for them to navigate our site by using menu titles that make sense to them and we provide ways for them to interact with us through forms, comments, email links, etc. We must always think of web presence as two-way communication.
Many more people are using phones and tablets to access websites. If yours is not responsive, they will not “waste time” with it.
4) Multiples Channels
A website is not enough for us to have an active presence on the Internet. We need to be on Facebook as well. It is still the largest social media platform. If we are serving younger people, we may also need to be on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat or whatever their latest social media platform is. Our activities on social media can drive traffic to our websites where we have the opportunity to answer their questions more fully. Don’t get overwhelmed. At least be on Facebook.
Building an online audience takes time, strategic planning, and repeated invitations. The website address and social media names need to be visible on print materials and mentioned whenever it makes sense to do so. Invite your people to visit your website and to follow you on social media. Strategic planning involves paying constant attention to the audience, the content, the engagement opportunities and the integration of the various channels. If you do these things consistently over time you will reach the audience that you wish to serve and they will be enriched by your efforts. They will become your best promoters. Your visitors and followers will increase.
Please share your thoughts and comments below. Thank you.