Has it been a while since your parish really discerned its online presence?
Is your website, blog and/or social media account outdated or languishing in disuse?
Do your parishioners struggle to connect with the parish via its digital platforms?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes — or even a hesitant “Maybe?” — it might be time to reexamine how your parish presents itself online. It’s crucial for any organization to be able to connect virtually with its community, and this has never been truer for churches. Not only is society shifting to a decidedly web-based model of consuming information, but since the COVID-19 pandemic many of the pews remain empty. Increasingly, parishes have to rely on web-based communications to reach their parishioners.
How can you make sure your parish isn’t being left in the digital dust? Here are some questions to ask yourself if you think it might be time for an online refresh.
How many unique visits does your website see in a day, a week or a month?
How has that number changed over time, and how does it compare to the number of people registered to your parish?
How do your parishioners access information they want, and how do they connect with the outside world?
If your typical parishioner was going to see a movie, how would they find out the showtimes? Would they pull out their smartphone and open an app, would they consult the newspaper, or would they call the theater? If they were going to get in touch with a friend, how would they do that? Would they send a text or a Facebook message? An email? Would they call them?
What does the demographic make-up of your parish look like?
Think about statistics like median age and income. How many of your parishioners have access to the internet at home? How many utilize mobile devices like smartphones? How many have a Facebook account?
Who is your website for?
Is it primarily to connect your parishioners with information and resources, or is it also to introduce newcomers and visitors to your mission statement and programming? Are you hoping to grow parish membership by revamping your online presence?
If your parish has a blog or social media account, identify four or five simple goals that can help to “brand” these platforms and to dictate the messaging shared through them. Are they meant to be a hub of information? A snapshot of parish life, a place where the story of the parish is told? A tool of evangelization? A mechanism for the dissemination of news?
What are the needs, expectations and wants of your parishioners?
Consider using a service like SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics to gauge the kind of digital engagement your members would benefit from. Ask questions about their online habits, their information consumption, and their social networking.
What would a stranger’s impression of your parish be if they viewed your webpage, blog and/or social media accounts?
What do you want it to be? Are you projecting an image that is vibrant, engaged, and innovative? They say dress for the job you want — have the online presence of the parish you want to be!
If you’re inspired to take on some online renovations and want to dive deeper, check out Website Navigation for the Best User Experience for some tips on improving the navigation on your website, and 6 Ways to Build a Healthy Church Blog for easy ways to boost your blog.