When I do web design workshops, one of the things I tell people is that simply putting up a website will not guarantee success. There is a similar misconception in connecting the faith community electronically. That fallacy is that using one method for digital communications will reach everybody. It won’t. The following is from an article “Complex Comm World” by Tom Ehrich at morningwalkmedia.com.
Maybe putting a notice on the bulletin board or a signup sheet in the back of the church worked 20 or 30 years ago. Frankly, it never worked for me; I had to continually ask people personally if they were coming to the event, have they signed up, etc. So maybe now you think email is the answer. Think again.
A standard demographic of 50 people getting information today would look similar to this:
- 1 person does not have any electronic communication connection (in some churches, with an older congregation, this number will possibly be much higher).
- 35 check email regularly.
- People between 20 and 40 rarely check email. They stay connected with social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. We’ll go with 10 people here.
- For those under 20, the preferred medium is text messaging. Say you have 4 of those.
So now if you email out your meeting notice, you have missed reaching 15 people or 30% of your targeted group and almost all of the people under 35.
So how do you resolve this?
Begin by telling the congregation that you are going to use multiple electronic methods for communication and staying connected. Each person can choose their preferred method. Allow the old print option as a choice, but strongly encourage people to use electronic means. It is cheaper and faster. You will have to make this announcement several times over a period of weeks. You will need to set up some type of data system like a spreadsheet for storing each person’s preference. It is important that you honor the choices they make. If they asked for notification by email, don’t send them a notice through the mail. You may get some pushback from some in the congregation, thinking they may be getting overlooked. Assure them that you are only trying to insure that everyone is getting current information in the media form of their choice.
Make your website the central point for information. Refer people to the church website, where you have the church e-mail address, your Twitter link, your Facebook link, and other social media options that people are using on your homepage. When it comes to text-messaging, be sure and get permission from your recipients so you can communicate with them. If you don’t have any of these social media accounts, create them. It’s easy and painless.
Finally, you will need to set up a list or group for each of the tools (email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that you will be using to communicate with your community. Then when you send out a message, you’ll input the list or group for each specific tool to send your message. It will take a few minutes longer, but you’ll reach more people.
It will be a little bit of work initially setting it up, but the benefits of getting your message out to more people in a way that they will see is more than worth it.