Posted by Bill Anderton
In online ministries, more is good! More unique visitors to a website, more pages viewed, more friends on Facebook, more followers on Twitter. The more the merrier.
It is one of the basic roles of anybody who manages the Internet presence of a church or ministry is to get more visitors, views, friends and followers. These are the important results of the entire online enterprise and an important reason for the endeavor.
Simple enough of an observation but “Okay, how?” is a much more interesting question.
There are all sorts of very good tactical tricks for increasing all of these results. They are not bad tricks; I will discuss all of them in the Online Ministries Community. They work! They will produce more visitors, views, friends and followers without much fuss or bother. I use all them myself on a regular basis; many of a weekly basis and a few on a daily basis.
However, while these tricks can produce quantitative results, left to only themselves, they cannot produce the qualitative results I usually want. These tactical tricks need something else to go with them.
These techniques are considered tactical in the sense that while they can produce results within hours or days, they may not produce the more the desirable metrics of the return visit, the long-term relationship, the deep dialog with online visitors. These techniques can lack strategic qualities.
Also, a few of the tactics tend to produce only short-lived results. They may stimulate a visitor to come into the site for the first time but the visitor might not come back or might only look at the landing page and move on. “One and done” often describes the results.
To produce better long-term results, you have to leave the purely tactical realm and enter the strategic.
In other words, putting the current cat meme on Facebook might generate some chuckles but did it result in anything deeper; anything more meaningful?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I look at the cute cat pictures too and chuckle along with the rest. Also, not everything posted has to be weighty and have gravitas; balance is a good thing!
However, your online ministry does have to have some substance too. It has to contain content worthy of the visitor/friend/follower trading their time to view it. That is how the quid-pro-quo equation works; if you want people to give you their time, you have to make it work their while. The more time (another more-is-good metric) someone spends with your content assets, the more worth your content has to have to its viewers.
My term for this type of content is “destination content;” content that will cause more people to WANT to see the content; to come to your destination, interact with its content more deeply and willingly return to get more of it later.
Destination content can be anything that meets these criteria.
Yes, it can still be funny and light. I have a colleague who generates thousands of unique visitors to his church’s website by writing a very good humor blog that is embedded in his church’s website alongside a second, more traditional church-type blog he also writes. Both blogs work synergistically together. He has make several postings to both blogs every week for the last several years. He has been rewarded by between one to two thousand unique visitors per day, every day, for the last couple of years; many of them returning visitors. His blogs are destination content.
Other classic examples of destination content are media podcasts. I used to produce two weekly audio podcasts for my small neighborhood church, one of our Sunday morning worship and a second of a specially-produced Wednesday night Bible study. The worship podcasts were composed on the week’s Bible readings and the pastor’s weekly sermon. The Bible-study podcasts were produced very much like a 45-minute radio show. Two of our associate pastors engaged in a lively discussion of the week’s Bible passages being studied. We featured live music (much of it original) and one out of every five episodes featured an interesting guest that our two pastors interviewed.
Both podcasts featured excellent technical quality and creativity. Both podcasts were carried on the church website along with other support materials for reading or downloading.
Each episode of the two podcasts was posted on a regular schedule, the Worship Podcast on Sunday afternoon and Bible study podcast on Thursday evening.
Once each episode was released, I pushed the fact of their availability out to our social media. I also posted its availability on our Apple iTunes Store page. Then, throughout the week, I posted factoids from the podcasts to our social media enticing people with tidbits to make people aware of what was available.
Note that I didn’t typically post the podcast media to the social media sites, only the notice of its availability on our website. I wanted the friend/follower/subscriber to land back in our website to not only pick up the media but also see the other materials there. I want the possibility that I could create a deeper relationship with the visitor than just getting the podcasts. Yes, this required me hosting the media and its storage and bandwidth costs, but these were very small prices to pay for the possibility of having deeper relationships with our visitors.
The embedded back-link in our social media landed our friend/follower into special landing page in the church’s website that were dedicated to each episode. Landing pages contained not only the support materials for the podcast (descriptive text, photos, features, documents, etc.), importantly, they also contained a well-thought-out navigation to other parts of the site. If you came to get the podcast, you could not help but see other things to catch your interest too.
Our podcasts were destination content. All of their support pages were destination content. All of this content caused people to WANT to come to our Internet assets (website, Facebook, Twitter, iTune Store page). It also brought them back for return visits, a goodly proportion of them multiple times.
The results were very interesting. It took about a year but we built up to having our visitors download about 7,500 episodes of our podcasts per month. Of these downloads 50% were delivered to IP addresses within our metropolitan area (local) and an additional 10% within our state. An additional 30% were delivered collectively to the other 49 states in the USA and 10% went outside of the country.
The majority our media users also became returning visitors to the website to view pages in addition to picking up the podcast. In other words, while they came to the site to get the media, the navigation on the media pages caused them to look at other pages on the site and hopefully find other destination content that would bring them back. Returning media users visited our church website on average 1.6 times per month and looked at an average of 18 pages per visit.
By the way, we did lots of other destination content too besides these to podcasts like blogs, feature stories, video testimonies, mini-sites on our missions’ projects, short video documentaries, etc. Even our calendar was well stocked to the point of becoming destination content in its own right
Our destination content was a “rising tide that floated all boats.” Destination content gave us something meaningful to post into our social media postings every day. This caused us to get more friends and followers. Many (most??) of our social media postings featured backlinks to the church website to drive additional visitors to the site to get more content that was appropriate for Facebook or Twitter. Once in our site, all of our web pages also embedded social media links so our visitors could share something else that they found while in our website with their friends and followers. It became a compounding loop.
I typically use social media for producing awareness of what is available on my other Internet assets than are just a click away and embed the click in the posting. I also use social media to communicate and start dialogs. However, destination content anchors everything. Social media is an important cog in this strategy but destination content is always used to motivate the “next step” to come into the website in the first place and then return and, hopefully, return often. Taken together, all of the components are important and necessary but they work best when they are synergistic.
Category: (04-13) April 2013 Tag:
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