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I admit it. I was wrong. At least, partially. I have believed, taught and evangelized about the benefits of “engaging in the social media conversation” for as long as I’ve been in the social media space. It’s always felt right to say and, for the most part, could be backed up anecdotally with a few personal examples.

Talk to ye hand!

All of that changed after reading a few blog posts from the “original social media scientist”, Dan Zarrella. How did he change my world view literally in one afternoon? It all started with a tweet. This tweet, to be exact:

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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.”

Poor chap. Left to wade through worthless church website information.

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Your church website is the new front door to your worshiping community. As Anne Rudig, Episcopal Church Director of Communication, puts it, “If a church can’t be googled, it doesn’t exist.” Increasingly, people are finding their way into the pews and programs of your church by first “kicking the tires” online. If your website doesn’t make the cut, people won’t go. It’s that simple.

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Ever wondered what a social experiment using a Twitter profile picture would look like? Ever had an interest in stop-motion animation? Dig Vampire Weekend? Google Chrome?

If so (and I know you do), then you’ll love this video:

All this (and more) from the Mystery Guitar Man. (HT: Emily Carver).

BIG UPDATE #1 (11/01/11): Google is no longer allowing churches or religious non-profits to participate in this program. Read the following with that in mind. It seems nonprofits with a humanitarian angle that are still faith-based have better luck than those are more forward in their alignment. Multiple reports have confirmed this.

BIG UPDATE #2 (2/16/12): It seems that Google is once again allowing churches to take part in this program. From Google:

  1. Please note that the following organizations are not eligible for Google for Nonprofits:
    • Governmental entities and organizations;
    • Hospitals and health care organizations;
    • Schools, childcare centers, academic institutions, and universities (philanthropic arms of educational organizations are eligible). To learn more about Google’s programs for educational institutions, visit Google in Education.

Although, it does seem like they left in a “weasel” clause just in case:

Google reserves the right to grant or deny an organization’s application or participation at any time, for any reason, and to supplement or amend these eligibility guidelines at any time. Selections are made at Google’s sole discretion, and are not subject to external review.

Google Apps is the joint for anyone who’s serious about big, bad online collaboration. Sharing and editing docs in the cloud, free email and storage, groups and shared calendars—this is a legit operation.

Google has taken a step forward in helping the non-profit world (here’s looking at your, churches and ministries!) by extending their Google Apps suite for free to non-profits. Here’s what you get:

  • A marketplace of Certified Google Partners (in Adwords, Apps, Analytics, Website Optimizer, Geo and more) that have offered to help nonprofits optimize Google tools at a special discounted rate or pro-bono
  • Up to $10,000 a month in advertising on Google AdWords to reach more donors
  • Free or discounted Google Apps to cut IT costs and operate more efficiently
  • Premium features for YouTube
  • Google’s mapping technologies to raise awareness of their cause

That’s a good deal. Google Apps are, of course, free to everyone, but some of the features Google is giving away come at a cost for regular business customers. Essentially this is Google Apps for Business at a pretty steep discount.

Simply put, this is a great deal for any non-profit. You can apply for Google for Non-Profits here.