A New Voice in the Church and Social Media Arena

I am always looking for tips and other input on how to best reach people in sharing the Good News.  A new blog has just popped up and it looks really promising.  It is Episcopalshare – Adventures in the World of Church Social Media.   Laura is the curator of this site and her goal of “sharing what I am learning about social media for churches as I go along” is off to a good start.  I particularly liked her post on using Google Docs for an online signup sheet.  A great little tip that churches can use and it is easy to implement.  Thanks Laura, and keep ’em coming!

Content Strategy with a Plan

So does this sound familiar?  You or someone you know wants to create content and have it published on your website or a blog. That is pretty easy.  But now suppose that this person wants content that is attractive and engaging.  Content that starts conversations or inspires its readers to action.  Most people probably want that (I certainly do!)  So how do we go about creating and publishing high quality content?

Part of the answer is Content Management.  Content management is just what it sounds like: a way to manage the creation and dissemination of content. Wikipedia defines this as “the set of processes and technologies that support the collection, managing, and publishing of information in any form or medium.”  Part of this is the CMS, which I have discussed previously.  Another part of this process is content strategy.

So what is Content Strategy?

In this context, Content Strategy is a mixture of information architecture, editorial processes, web writing and web knowledge that combines together into something greater than the individual parts.
So where do you learn about this stuff?  I would point you to a great little book by Kristina Halvorson called Content Strategy for the Web.  In her own words, Kristina states:
“Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.  It plots an achievable roadmap for individuals and organizations to create and maintain content that audiences will actually care about. It provides specific, well-informed recommendations about how we’re going to get from where we are today (no content, or bad content, or too much content) to where we want to be (useful, usable content people will actually care about).”

If you are serious about your content and don’t want it ending up in the digital trash bin, do yourself a favor and read this book.

What Makes a Good Website?

A few weeks ago I received a link to a site called “40 Great Church Websites of 2013“.  Obviously I was intrigued.

When I went to this site, it was interesting that there was no explanation or criteria as to what made these great sites, it was just merely a series of images and links to the actual sites.  Given that the link was originally presented by Sharefaith, a church website builder, may have skewed the data a bit and made me a bit skeptical.  However I went a little further into these sites to see what made them (at least to the people who posted this link) great sites.

What I found was that while the visualization of these sites and the imagery were very nice, what made them stand out was that they let you know out front who they were and what they were about.  They were authentic.  By looking at their site you could see their message, theology, beliefs and what was important for them to present to a visitor to the site.  They didn’t talk about being a “visitor friendly” or “welcoming” church in vague terms, they actually showed you on their site what this meant to them.  It was designed to find things quickly and efficiently.  It gave a visitor the opportunity to interact with the church through the website.  You could tell that this church was active and alive.  It made you think you could be a part of it.

It goes back to what I have said in earlier posts — you need to attract, engage and retain.  Having a site that looks like one of these “Great Church Websites”  may be a start, but without the content to back it up you will be disappointed with the results.  You can certainly use these websites to generate ideas and maybe integrate some of their functionality in your site.  However, you need to tell your stories in a compelling and authentic manner to get people to go beyond the pretty pictures and fancy graphics.

A good website is three dimensional.  What I mean by that is that it not only looks nice and inviting, but it has depth to it.  You want to dig into the site and wander around.  You want to find things easily and you want to come back again and again to see fresh content and features.  That is the real mark of a great website.

Branding, anyone?

As a followup to my TED talk in Vancouver, I would like to share some content posted by two of my favorite go-to people in Episcopal Communicators, Nancy Davidge of ECF Vital Practices and Richelle Thompson of the Diocese of Southern Ohio.  Richelle is starting a branding project for the diocese and has some good primer information on this subject.  If you are considering a similar project, or want to be better equipped in speak in this arena, these are good starting points.

Defining the Gobbbledygook

Brand Speak for Dummies – Including Me

Brand: Burn, Baby, Burn

Website Design Done Right

A few weeks ago I was at the Non-Profit Technology Network‘s annual conference in San Francisco.  It was a terrific conference in one of my favorite cities.  It was a really great experience to see how non-profits were using technology to further their mission.  There were way too many workshop offerings for only three days and all were good, but one stood out for me above the others.  Continue reading “Website Design Done Right”

Help, I’ve been hacked!

Phishing is the act of sending an email that falsely claims to be from a trusted source, in an effort to obtain your password, personal account information, or just money.  One that I have gotten a great deal of lately is the “I’m in Europe, my passport has been stolen and I need $xxx to pay my hotel bill” variant.   This was sent to me on several occasions by people I knew. Their email accounts had been compromised, and the phisher had sent the email to everyone in their address book.

Obviously, if you see something like this in your inbox, let your friend know his or her email account has been hacked. But don’t send any money.

Lastly, here are some things to do to help protect yourself from being a victim of this type of scam.

1.  Change your password on your email account regularly.
2.  Make sure your password is secure, with numbers and other special characters.
3.  Consider changing your email account if it has been hacked.
4.  Make sure you have anti-virus software on your computer and that it is up to date.  This is especially important with wireless connections.
5.  Don’t give out your email address and password to just anyone.
6.  Review your Facebook settings.  A great deal of information, including email address can be mined from unprotected accounts.
7.  If you are a victim of such an incident, change password immediately and notify the email provider involved.

Increasing traffic to your Facebook Site

With all of the other things on my plate, one thing that I need to tend to more is Facebook and using it support your mission in the world.  I found this link via @RevWeb and it has some good tips on how to make Facebook more effective for your church.  The site has an interesting title (KillerChurch) and some good information.  Here are some tips for making your church facebook page more engaging.  Enjoy!

Comparing CMS, Part 2

A while back, I wrote a piece about Comparing Content Management Systems.  My colleague Kat Lehman in the Diocese of Bethlehem has found a nice link and a fairly comprehensive list of CMS options. She compiles a great little e-newsletter called IT@Diocesan House which I commend to you to check out.  Lots of good stuff.  To get on the list to receive this newsletter, you can contact her via email and follow her on Twitter @KatLehman.