Archives For Media / Communications

We are really excited to be expanding the preschool at First Trinity. We haven’t really done much advertising in the past. Most of our families come from the church or word of mouth from other families in the preschool. With the expansion, we wanted to get a little more intentional about advertising. We took a survey of our families and found (not surprisingly) that many people look online for a preschool in addition to recommendations from friends.

We decided to take 3 first steps:

  1. Reorganize our preschool portion of the website into several smaller, more focused pages instead of one giant page with information. We’re also exploring moving the preschool to a separate website so they can have a more appropriate theme/design.
  2. Create an “Open House” event on Facebook and promote it through paid Facebook ads.
  3. Purchase some ads in Google search results that send people to a special open house page on our website.

Website Redesign

We moved from a single page to six total pages. The pages are:

  1. Preschool Home
    1. Large photo of the teachers and students from Sunbeam Sunday.
    2. Brief overview of the school.
    3. Quotes from eight current parents that capture some of the best things about the school.
  2. Classes: We list what classes we offer, including a brief description of what students learn in the class, student/teacher ratios, days the class is offered, and a picture from that age group.
  3. Enrollment: Everything you need to enroll in the school on one page. Most of this is legacy content from the old site and will be reorganized when we launch a dedicated website.
  4. Areas of Study: A more complete list of what kids learn across all classes by participating for three years. This is a direct copy/paste from the parent handbook from this past year for now. More revamp to come in a new site.
  5. Staff listing and bios.
  6. Open House: A page dedicated to the open house event and used in the Google Ads campaign.

Facebook Ads

We chose to create an event for the open house and focus our advertising efforts on the event rather than “likes” or a specific product (in this case enrollment in our school). Facebook lets us use high quality stock photos for the ads for free, which is great. Here’s the 6 we used:

Preschool Facebook Ad 3

Preschool Facebook Ad 1

Preschool Facebook Ad 6

Preschool Facebook Ad 5

Preschool Facebook Ad 2

Preschool Facebook Ad 4

We have the opportunity to asses how the ads are doing and turn off the lower performers. More on that in another post probably.

Google Search Ads

I’ve never purchased ads with Google before, so this was a great first experience. We redeemed an ad promotion to get $75 free after spending $25, which makes for a pretty good deal. The ads point people to the open house page on our website. If I were to do it again, I’d create a campaign that focuses on a specific action on our website instead of just viewing the page to better assess the effectiveness of the campaign.

Here’s what the ads ended up looking like:

Preschool Google Search AdOn our survey, we asked parents to give us 5 words that describe the school. These three were the most frequently mentioned when we were ready to create the ad. Side note: we pay for each click, so don’t go searching for the ad to click and see what happens! 🙂

communication photo

Church Communications is a difficult and often thankless job. When you are doing it well, people don’t seem to notice. When you aren’t doing it well, people aren’t afraid to let you know. Lately, I’ve been struggling with people telling us that we “don’t communicate well” at First Trinity. I’m not entirely certain that I know what that even means except that we aren’t doing it well.

Here’s what I think it could mean:

  • People aren’t hearing what they want to hear. Lots of talk about about why we use Garamond over Times New Roman in our print publications when no one cares about the typeface is not communicating. It’s just noise. (FWIW, it’s because Garamond looks much more fluid than Times New Roman, which is just plain ugly.)
  • People want to hear process, not (just) results. It’s great that we’re trying something new, but why are we doing it? How did we arrive at that decision? Who even made the decision?
  • People like Paul Harvey and want to hear “the rest of the story.” You told us about this all-church study, but then it just disappeared into oblivion. Did anyone do anything as a result of this class? How did it go? Did anyone even come?
  • People want you to communicate with them, not at them. More simply, people want to be involved in the conversation.
  • People want to hear from a variety of voices. It’s easier to ignore one person than multiple voices. Different voices/styles reach different people. Adding more people to the conversation helps communication. It’s harder to coordinate, but it’s more effective.

I’m trying to figure out what exactly we’re doing wrong with communications, but there’s no sense waiting for the answer before getting started. If you wait for the “right” answer, you’ll end up spinning your wheels and never addressing the problem. I actually created a content plan a few months ago, but I got caught up in “perfecting” the plan and the systems to make it happen that nothing actually happened. Ooops.

So we’re diving in. Here are some of the things we’re either already doing or will be coming up soon on the new First Trinity Blog:

  • Process, not just results: Why We’re Trying No Sharing of the Peace
  • The rest of the story: 40 Days of Love Recap, Kingdom Quest Service Project Update, God is Moving at the University of Buffalo
  • Multiple voices: In addition to myself, Sue Steege, Bekah Freed, and Annie Reed are writing content for the blog. Annie is doing a series of four Advent devotions, the first of which is coming on Monday. I’m also working at finding a mix of regular writers for recurring types of posts (like the devotions) and also including some guest writers.

I’m not sure we have the right answer yet, but I feel good about being on the path to get there. If you have ideas for content that people might be interested in from a church blog, I’d love to hear them.

Advent is just around the corner. If your church is looking for some free backgrounds to use in worship (or wherever) during the season, you’re welcome to download and use these as you see fit. As I worked on the design, I wanted to capture the spirit of Advent, while staying away from the candle motif. As we think about Advent being a season of anticipation as we journey towards the birth of Christ, it felt like Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem was a good fit.

The silhouette in the background came from Shutterstock.These files may be freely distributed under the Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution License. Please link people to this blog post when sharing the files. You might also be interested in my other backgrounds.

Download FREE Advent Backgrounds

Numbers And Finance

I recently ran a survey to find out how members of a church use their church’s website.

A note about the data…

Let me preface this by saying the sample size is nowhere near large (or diverse) enough to be incredibly meaningful, but it does provide some helpful data nonetheless. There were a total of 42 responses. I don’t know for sure, but I expect a vast majority of those responses came from people at my own church. Our existing website undoubtedly influenced their answers. I realized this when I had a conversation with one member about the survey. She was surprised to see that “online giving” was even an option people would look for. We don’t have that feature currently, so people don’t look for it. Therefore, a disproportionate number of people probably did not choose that. Similarly, our previous website was almost exclusively built around upcoming events and registrations for those events, which you will see reflected as a high priority from these results.

So for now, take the survey with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, here’s a breakdown of some of the more interesting things from the survey:

Frequency of Visits

I asked people how frequently they visited their church’s website in a given month. Here were the responses:

[table class=”table table-border” colalign=”center|center”]

Visits/Month,Responses

1-2,23

3-5,11

6-10,6

11+,1[/table]

As I mentioned earlier, our website didn’t have much to entice people back on a regular basis. I am considering some sort of more regular content in a traditional “blog” style as a way of getting people to interact with the website more and to double as a teaching opportunity.

Purpose of the Visits

Here are how the pre-configured options ranked in the survey for the question “What were you hoping to find/do on your church’s website?”

[table class=”table table-border” colalign=”center|center” colwidth=”65%|35%”]

Option,Responses

“Information about Upcoming Events”,40
“Sermon Recordings”,21
“Sign Up/Register for Event”,16
“News/Photos From Past Events”,13
“Prayer Requests”,10
“Leadership Information (Staff Bios, Contact Info, etc.)”,10
“Volunteer Opportunities at Church”,10
“Resources to Grow Closer to Jesus. (Devotions, Bible Reading Plans, Prayer Guides, etc.)”,9
“Participate in an Ongoing Ministry (Youth Group, Sunday School, etc.)”,8
“Online Giving Options”,5
“Resources to Help in Your Daily Living (Parenting Tips, How to Cope with Grief, etc.)”,5
“Join a Small Group/Life Group”,3
“Give Feedback to the Church Leadership”,2[/table]

Again, the results were not surprising considering the primary emphasis of our previous website. I was surprised to see a relatively large number of people who look for news and photos from past events. We don’t report these things much on our website, but we do post pictures and recaps of ministry on our Facebook page pretty regularly. Also not surprisingly, “Join a life group” was very low in our results. There is no easy way to even find life groups on our old site, let alone join one.

What Was Missing on the Church Website

This section asked people to share what they had hoped to find on their church’s website, but couldn’t. Some of the frequent responses:

  • Current newsletter/calendar/announcements.
  • Staff photos/bios/contact information.
  • Service/Bible Study times.
  • Address/Contact info.

Biggest Frustrations with Church Websites

This section asked people to share their greatest frustrations with their church’s website. Some of the key themes in the responses include:

  • Navigation – People found the websites to be too difficult to navigate and find what they were looking for. This was one of the main goals of our new site–to simplify the navigation system so people can quickly find what they are looking for.
  • Lack of new/updated contact – We’ve all seen that church website that lists a coming event prominently on the front page, only to see that it actually happened several months ago. This also includes sermons not getting posted for several weeks from a couple comments.
  • Lack of online giving options – People are looking for convenient ways to give to a church and aren’t able to find it on their church’s website.

If you would like to contribute to the survey data, you can find it here. Feel free to share with friends who are members of a church.

There’s lots of information online about why guests access a church website, but what about members? I can’t find a good source of information about why members at a church visit their church’s website. So I need your help! This survey is by no means scientific, but it will give me a starting point. Mark your answers below and if you don’t mind, send the link to your church-going friends to get their feedback. I’ll report back with my findings in a later post.

I decided to take an ad out on Facebook this past Christmas season. Here are some of my thoughts on the experience and results.

The first step in the process was deciding what to advertise. After some discussion with the staff here at First Trinity, I decided to focus on Christmas Eve/Day worship services. We wanted to use our “Hope Restored” sermon series graphic as the picture. Because of limited space and some ad restrictions, we only listed the service times without other information. Clicking the ad would take you through to our First Trinity Facebook Page.

Here was the final version of the ad:

FT-Facebook-Ad---Christmas-Eve-2012

Because the Facebook page would be the landing spot for our advertisement, I decided to do a quick redesign of our cover photo to match the look of the advertisement so people would know they landed on the right page. I ended up going with this design, which also highlights the service schedule:

FT Facebook Cover Photo - Christmas Eve 2012 580

After deciding on the content and updating the landing page, we narrowed down our target demographic. We wanted to try to find people who would be responsible for making the decisions about Christmas Eve worship. We decided on the following demographic:

  • Lives within 21 miles of Tonawanda, NY
  • 21 years or older
  • Female

This resulted in a potential audience of 5,560 people. The ad ran from December 12 through the 24th. Here’s what happened:

  • There were 67,563 impressions. This is the raw number of times the ad was displayed for the 5,560 people.
  • 18 people clicked the ad and performed 37 actions. This is a click-through rate of .027%.
  • The 37 actions were:
    • 20 viewed our photos.
    • 7 liked posts on our page.
    • 3 liked our page.
    • 7 performed other actions of some sort (video plays, commented on posts, mentioned our page to someone else)

The total cost for the ad was $30. Overall, I found the process a little confusing at first, but once I figured out the system it was fairly straight-forward. I think our next series of ads will focus on something more digital (resource on our website, posts on our page) rather than a specific event or worship service at our church, though I’m not certain yet what it will be or when we might do it.

Artwork: Haiti Benefit Concert

December 12, 2012

Laura Ciminelli and Marcus Deveso are hosting a night of coffee and jazz benefit concert for the orphanage in Haiti that we are in partnership with. They asked me to work on posters and other pieces to promote the event. Here’s the final poster design:

Haiti Benefit Concert

I am teaching a workshop at the National Lutheran Youth Ministry Conference in San Antonio this summer. The workshop is titled “Leveraging Social Media for Your Church’s Mission.” This post is part of a series relating to that workshop. Here’s a full listing of the topics.

While some people are naturally “gifted” for communicating on Facebook and other social media outlets, it is definitely a skill that can be learned. Here are a few of the tips that I’ve picked up in the last year or so of running the First Trinity Facebook Page.

Consistency is key.

One of the challenges I noticed early on was that once you start updating some sort of social media (be it blogs, Facebook, Twitter, whatever), it’s hard to stop. Once you stop posting, your content quickly becomes “stale” or “out of date.” I noticed this when I took an extended break from my blog. Some people even commented to me about how it shouldn’t be linked on our church website if I wasn’t going to be posting content to it. To them, it looked like I just vanished from my blog because one day I was posting, and the next I wasn’t. Another organization website I work on had a blog as the landing page for a little over a year and once the regular posting stopped, the website was perceived to be out of date, despite the fact that all the other content on the site was current.

Once you get into social media, try to be consistent with your posting. This doesn’t mean you have to constantly post things, but try for some sort of regular schedule. Whether that’s daily, a few times a week, or weekly, be consistent. If you have to take a break for some reason, it’s ok to post that you’re taking a break. If you can publish the reasons why, it’s even more helpful. My blog probably could have been better served by a simple post that says something along the lines of:

I’m taking a break from blogging for a bit. I’m not sure when I’ll be back, but I hope to do it again in the future.

This way, people know what to expect and aren’t left wondering. If you start a social media platform and decide to back off for whatever reason, let people know you’re doing it.

Pay attention to branding.

Branding is a fancy word for a consistent, intentional look to all of your social media. Our social media outlets are all using the same icon (pictured above) so that it’s easy to identify when things are coming from the church. While our website and Facebook page have different headers, they both share the same theme of lots of people/faces.

In addition to artwork, using common language online and practices are helpful. We have a style guide that helps us track “how” we talk. It has suggestions on word choices (for example, we talk about guests not visitors). Having some common, agreed-upon language can help people connect with your church across platforms because things will feel and seem familiar, no matter which platform they’re engaging with you on.

Mix regular and variable content.

We strive for a good mix of regular, recurring content (like our daily Bible verses) and “variable” content that we post when we can like pictures, stories and other updates. Using only regular content can give the impression that you’re not really engaging people, but rather pushing your stuff on them. Posting stories, asking questions and having conversations all help people interact with you more effectively.

Add value.

People have lots of sources of information coming their way. No one really wants to know what the church staff had for breakfast. Strive for content that will add value to the social media world and to people’s lives. A recent study suggests that quality content will get more responses from your followers than ordinary, mundane stuff. Adding valuable content also helps you influence more people as your content is shared among your followers.

Be proactive.

Great social media doesn’t just happen. It takes intentional time and planning. While you might be able to cobble together a decent social media effort by just “doing what feels right,” you’re going to be much more effective when you are proactive on social media. This certainly means planning your content, but it also means going out and engaging with others instead of just letting them find you. One of the best ways to build your audience and extend your influence is to be out knocking on digital doors.

Get feedback before posting.

Every now and then, something comes up where I run an idea past others on the staff before making a change to our website or posting something on Facebook. One of the pitfalls of social media is that once something gets posted, you can’t necessarily take it back. People have lost jobs and relationships because of one bad tweet or Facebook post that went viral at the wrong time. Running all major content past another set of eyes can not only help you judge the appropriateness of the content, but also the quality.

We have an unofficial policy that major pieces that come out of our church need to be seen by at least two—preferably three or more—sets of eyes. Larger or more visible runs need to be proofed by even more people. Our bi-annual report was actually reviewed by about 25 people before going to publication. While this level of review may be overkill for a social media piece, getting feedback can save you from embarrassing typos.

I am teaching a workshop at the National Lutheran Youth Ministry Conference in San Antonio this summer. The workshop is titled “Leveraging Social Media for Your Church’s Mission.” This post is part of a series relating to that workshop. Here’s a full listing of the topics.

What is Hootsuite?

Hootsuite is a tool for managing your social media. After some configuration, it allows you to view many of your social media outlets in one stream, giving you an “at-a-glance” view of all of your social media. Converting Copy has a good tutorial on using Hootsuite. One of the key features that drove us to Hootsuite for managing our social media was the ability to schedule tweets and Facebook page updates for a specified time in the future.

The tutorial linked above goes into the basics of how to use Hootsuite’s scheduling feature. But why is this feature so valuable? It gives us the ability to really capitalize on our planned content. Being able to schedule content for posting in the future means that we can generate posts, load them into Hootsuite and then let it do it’s thing. One of our goals for social media (really, for all of our ministries) is to stimulate growth.

At First Trinity, we recently took a spiritual life survey through Willow Creek’s REVEAL program. It helped us rethink our ministry strategy. Instead of developing programs that provide spiritual growth, we instead want to stimulate growth in people. While that might include traditional ministries like Sunday School, Sermons and Activities, it’s more important to help people take these spiritual practices outside of the church and use them on their own. A key piece of making that happen is embedding Scripture in everything we do.

To that end, we started publishing a daily Bible verse on our Facebook page. We have compiled 120 verses that we post at random. I use Excel to randomize the order, add dates and upload it to Hootsuite. Hootsuite then does the daily grind of actually posting them at 7 a.m. every morning. I haven’t done much formatting for the file, and there aren’t instructions, but you can download it here. I plan to update the sheet to make it more user-friendly in the future.

Bulk Update Resources

When I first started using the Hootsuite bulk scheduler, I found I needed to do some work to get my content formatted correctly for upload. Being somewhat of an Excel junkie, I decided what we needed was a tool to take some of the tedium and frustration out of the process. And thus was born the Hootsuite Bulk Upload Tool (download).

Currently, the file allows you to choose a start date, frequency for posting (daily, every other day, every third day, weekly), and total number of messages. You can then configure your messages by choosing a lead text (optional), message content, closing text (optional). This results in the following: [Lead Text]Message[Closing Text]. To avoid extra spaces in the final message, you’ll need to add a space after the “lead text” in the cell, and start your closing text with a space. Once you try the worksheet, it will make more sense.

After reviewing the final messages, you can add URLs (optional) and then save the file for upload to Hootsuite. All of the instructions are in the file. It’s an Excel Template, so you shouldn’t be able to easily overwrite the original. Check back here for changes to the tool in the future.

Download the Hootsuite Bulk Upload Tool v. 1.0.1

Hootsuite Bulk Upload Tool Changelog

  • v1.0 (Original Release)
  • v1.0.1
    • Added Character Count for Twitter
    • Clarified instructions to include warning that Hootsuite does not allow duplicate messages to be uploaded in the same file.

Download the Daily Bible Verses spreadsheet