G’head. Admit it. I won’t judge you. It’s time to admit that your website has become the much-dreaded “info dump.” A place where well-meaning websites go to die.
Much like the 405 freeway in LA during rush-hour traffic, your church or ministry website is cluttered, clogged and crammed with as much information as possible (with no way to get out!). You’ve taken every program, service, ministry and event and blasted it to every online channel you have. Twitter, Facebook, blog, website … nothing is safe. You think you’re getting the word out, but in actuality you’re turning off members, volunteers and donors.
This, in a nutshell, is the “info dump.”
It’s tempting, really. You have the ability to inform large amounts of people about something you’re doing with the click of a button. Email, social networks, blogs, your website–all potential sources of publication. The “info dump” occurs when you bombard every channel at your disposal with mostly useless information about you.
The “info dump” is dangerous because we live in an opt-in world.
- If someone doesn’t like what you’re sending out through your Facebook fan page, all they need to do is make one click and you go “bye-bye”.
- Twitter updates getting obnoxious? That’s what the “unfollow” button is for.
- And don’t even get me started on the ease of unsubscribing from an unwanted, info-dumping blog.
Simply put, the power is back in the hands of the user/consumer/reader and you must adapt your online content strategy to match this new reality.
Here are five easy-to-follow ways to avoid turning your online presence into an “info dump.” I’ll give some good and not-so-good examples of each one so you can see what to embrace and steer clear of.
5. Build Social Integration Into Your Webite
Nothing says, “We care about hearing from you” quite like websites with social network-integration built right in. Whether it’s a link to the official blog or an invite to follow on Twitter or Facebook, organizations that make this a priority instantly create a culture of interaction. The importance of integration cannot be overstated.
Don’t let people think you don’t care about them. That’s not true. You do care. Counteract the natural tendency to over-share about your organization (thus, info-dumping) and give your online community a place that’s front-and-center.
4. Craft Valuable Content
If you give your social networks a prime spot on your website, make sure you’re giving them some meat! I love what the staff at Compassion International does with their award-winning blog. They create posts that focus on increasing child sponsorship, but they do it in a way that adds value to the readers. This isn’t a blog that simply panders for people to donate. No. It focuses on increasing sponsorship while informing current sponsors how to write to their child. Helpful. Info dump avoided!
3. Interact, Don’t Broadcast
This is my personal pet peeve. Nothing is worse than going to a church or ministry Twitter feed and seeing post after post after post of self-referential tweets. Ugh. Here’s an example from CFCC, the organization I co-direct. As you can see, we have some work to do with our Twitter feed. This should be an example of what not to do!
The danger of the info dump creeps in here because you think that blasting people like this is effective. It’s not. In fact, I’ve found just the opposite to be true. Chris Brogan suggests a 1/12 rule: For every one tweet you send about your own “stuff”, send out 12 tweets highlighting or interacting with someone else.
Qwest does a great job with their Twitter account, constantly sharing and interacting with their followers:
Find the right balance for your context, but don’t miss the principle: Share and interact!
2. Ask Questions of Your Audience
People like to talk about themselves. I know I do, don’t you? Yeah. That’s what I thought!
Social networks are a great way to ask people questions and gain valuable, informative, helpful and fun feedback! Facebook has an amazing polling option built into profiles and fan pages that make asking questions a breeze. Here’s an example from the MonkDev Facebook fan page.
It’s not rocket science, but it gets people talking and interacting and it combats the info dump-effect. So get curious about your audience and ask questions! (Make sure they’re sincere, though. You want avoid the “Bette Midler in Beaches” effect: “So enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think about me?”)
1. Move One-Step on the Social Integration Flowchart
Finally, take a page from the Altimeter playbook and move your website one step further on the “Socially Integrated Website” flowchart. It sounds a lot more intimidating than it actually is. All we’re talking about is shifting the sails from where you are to where you want to go. (And you want to go social. Trust me.)
Here’s a simple breakdown of each section:
- No Integration: As simple as it sounds. No social integration (Twitter, Facebook, RSS, Blog, etc.) anywhere on the site.
- Social Linking: Links away from your website to external social networks (i.e. your Twitter profile).
- Social Aggregation: Some social content provided on the website itself; ability to login to the site with an existing social profile.
- Social Publishing: Publish content from the website to user’s social networks (i.e. “liking” a news story or blog post).
- Social Context: Website displays user’s social network on the site itself (i.e. you can see who in your friends network “liked” the same news story you did).
- Seamless Integration: Main web presence exists solely on social network channel (i.e. VitaminWater).
- If you want to see this presentation from Altimeter in its entirety, click here to gain valuable info on the socially integrated website.
If you follow these five steps, you’ll be on your way to providing a fun, valuable and interactive online experience for your church or ministry.
The info dump is something you want to avoid at all costs. It tricks you into thinking you’re effective in your online communication efforts when nothing could be further from the truth. Be careful if you’re the biggest fan of your online content … You may have wandered into the info dump!
What tangible steps can you take to move your church or ministry website down the social integration continuum? Simply put, what are you going to do with this information? Let me know in the comments!.