The One Question Every Church Should Be Asking Right Now

Blog - 12-27-13

It’s all about MORE. Like it or not, when an organization decides to use social media, it’s to see an increase in something—money, attendees, sales, happiness.

Social media is an investment, which is why social media return on investment/ROI is the keyword we all love and know.

Recently, I was doing some online digging into social media ROI. The top result was an old post from my blog and it forced me to see how I haven’t been bringing up this side of social media enough recently, especially when it comes to my church friends and clients.

It’s a crucial discussion that churches need to be having, and it starts with the question: “How do we determine if we are being successful with our social media efforts?”

Inevitably what happens is that a church will try social media; they might sign up for a Twitter account or put some stuff up on Facebook and give it a go for a little while.

Time and again, however, they won’t follow through. The social high will wear off and engagement stops; it will be determined that social media is not effective for churches.

Why? Because they aren’t seeing immediate results. The problem is they’ve never defined “results” in the first place.

Defining Social Media Results

When social media is abandoned, one of two things happens:

  1. Ghost towns. Either the social accounts become ghost towns, where they are abandoned and no one looks at it or pushes content to it. No one is actively engaging on those channels from the church’s perspective and so it further drives them down the road of inefficacy.
  2. Bulletin boards. The other option is that social becomes a distribution channel where content is consistent but its only purpose is to self-promote. When this occurs, what we have is a digital bulletin board.

Neither of these options utilize the helpful functions of social media.

At its core, social has two components: sharing and interaction. You can share content but then you also have to interact and engage with an online community that gravitates towards your content.

You will see a return on the effort you put into social; both components must be in play, or the ROI you see will be detrimental.

Social Media Can Shut Down Your Church

The reality is that social media has the power to close businesses and churches.

Here’s why: whenever you start dealing with social media you are essentially talking about communications. Effective communication has to have an overarching vision to unite all of the communication channels.

Diving into social media always leads to organizational visioning questions and that’s because the dynamic at play in social media is communications.

Effective communications have to have the foundation of a compelling vision. If the compelling vision isn’t there, there is no way that social media can be effective. Social media will inevitably become scattered and inconsistent without a unified starting point; without the vision to guide it.

Many churches don’t have their compelling vision defined and written out. Sure, it may sit on a letterhead somewhere. It might even be emblazoned on a plaque in the foyer. But the vision, in many churches, lacks a “lived-in” feel.

Now, some churches are automatically seen as being effective at social, but the reality is they are successful at having a compelling vision. That compelling vision enables them to communicate from a shared point of view with a shared purpose, which leads to effective social communication and engagement. It works!

How Do We Know If We’re Being Successful?

While there are churches who have worked this out, there are very few churches asking the question “How do we know if our social media efforts are effective? Are they are doing what we want them to do?”

This is part of identifying a compelling vision. When you ask questions about effectiveness, you have to have measurement tools in place or you will never have a definite answer.

You can only measure something if you have a goal.

So when you talk about social media return on investment, you have to be able to point to social media activity and say “This is helping us accomplish {insert specific goal here}!”

Yet so many churches are leaving goals and measurement out of the equation out and then wonder why their social media efforts seem to be lacking. Here’s the truth of it; if you don’t have a goal in place, then your social efforts are a waste of time!

They aren’t doing anything; they are simply white noise.

Here’s the kicker: this would be one thing if social was a flash in the pan. As we’ve seen, however, it is fundamentally changing the fabric of our society. It is not going away. We do not step backwards in technology as a society, we only move forward.

How to Know If Your Church Will Vanish

The reality is there will be many churches who do not create a compelling vision, establish goals related to that compelling vision, create a clear communication plan for the compelling vision, and establish social media ROI points for the goals connected to the vision.

There will be many churches who don’t do this and they will be the churches that vanish. The congregation will get older and eventually die off, as harsh as that sounds. After that, the church will cease to exist.

So for those in leadership now, investing in social is an absolute necessity. The implications of this are absolutely staggering.

Leaders, one of the best ways to build your legacy is to create a compelling vision, to create a communication plan around that vision, and invest in social media to connect with the people with whom your vision could resonate.

Social media ROI should be the question that every church is asking right now. More than:

  • How do we get a bigger building?
  • What overseas missions trips are we going to take?
  • How do we increase our attendance?
  • What outreach events are we doing this year
  • How do we get more people to volunteer

Above ALL of these questions, churches must be asking “How are we determining social media ROI?” This fundamental question is the umbrella over most everything else. The answers tied to your church’s compelling vision implicate everything the church may be able to do moving forward.

Confused? Here’s a Way Forward

I’m working with 24 churches in 2014 to establish social media ROI. If you’d like to be considered, please fill out this short form:



START MEASURING SOCIAL EFFECTIVENESS

3 comments
lightenupgear
lightenupgear

I think that the one question every church needs to be asking is "How can we make Heaven more crowded?" I think social media is a means to that end.


As a corporate digital marketer, I definitely admire the fact that you're trying to determine ROI for the ministry vertical (can I say that?). It's hard enough trying to measure conversions on corporate sites much less ROI based on marketing channel...especially with the budgets afforded to corporate entities over ministries. Large companies can afford web metrics solutions like Omniture, WebTrends, etc. and web analysts to slice and dice data. They spend money on marketing automation tools like Marketo and Eloqua. And to that I'm thankful to have those tools on my side. 


So if you're a church, listen to Justin. Seriously. Let him help you develop, execute, measure and optimize your digital marketing efforts.

rjgrune
rjgrune

The goal of social media for churches as I see it is relationships.  Whether that being relationships with people who have not yet walked in the door or people who come every week - social media can make those connections.  


Example: I searched twitter on Christmas day for our church name, 2 random people showed up tweeting up the Christmas Eve service.  It allowed me to follow and reply to their post wishing them a merry christmas.  It may not do anything but it opens the door for a relational connection. 

drumdog00
drumdog00

To me, social should be a part of your discipleship plan. You have a direct line to help people grow spiritually in their timeline and we a lot of times spend most of our time talking about our sweet events that will change your life; you know in a couple weeks or months. Why not take the time RIGHT NOW to encourage and teach? Be vulnerable, just like you're asking them to be vulnerable. Ask a question. Ask a hot button question and facilitate a conversation. But that right there might be too much work for most churches...