Church websites are for visitors, social media is for members

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Published on: 9/27/2013
Last modified on: 10/18/2013
by Kevin Duncan @kevinjduncan on Twitter

My opinion on the roles websites and social media play in churches will likely seem strange to some of you at first. After I explain it a little, you’ll likely find it stranger. But after I explain it a little more, hopefully it will make sense. I believe:

1. A church website should be designed primarily for visitors (even though they may never return).
2. A church’s social media presence should be for existing congregation.

At first glance, it would seem as though I’m saying social media is more important. Which probably sounds a little batty coming from a web designer since it’s my job to create websites — not social media sites. So allow me to add a third point:

3. Social media sites should be integrated with — and point people to — your church website.

Okay, so what does all this mean?

Visitors are most likely to find you through your website, not your social media site

This may very well change in the future, but right now most people aren’t going to search Twitter or Facebook when trying to find a new church. They are going to use Google, Bing or another search engine, and they are going to look for church websites in their area.

Will church Facebook pages show up in those search results? Of course. But you know what most of those who click on a Facebook page will look to do? Go to the “About” page so they can find the link to your website.

Why? Because…

As a general rule, church social media sites are exclusive, not inclusive

Imagine there is a Facebook page for Toyota Prius owners. It’s available to be viewed by the public. So you view it. And even though you can follow along with the info posted there (“I haven’t had to buy gas in four years!”, “I am never going back to my El Camino!”), you’re probably not going to “Like” it and keep coming back.

Why? Because most of it doesn’t apply to you. It’s Prius-related news, published by Prius owners, for Prius owners. And that’s okay, because it’s what the page was created to do.

Church Facebook pages are the same way, with one caveat: They should point people to the church’s website. Why? Because…

In the age of social media, church websites need social media to thrive

Or, to put it another way: If your church members can get 75% of what you offer via your social media site, they will not go to your website for the remaining 25% unless your social media points them there.

Want to ensure existing congregation rarely, if ever, visit your website? Create a Facebook page and put every church announcement on it without ever, ever linking to your website.

The takeaways

1. Since your website is how most visitors will find you, yes, you should design your website with them in mind. After all, your existing congregation will be more patient than a visitor navigating your website to find the information they desire.

2. All content of note should originate on your website. If your pastor writes a blog, don’t paste its entire contents into a status update on Facebook. Publish it to your website. (For small announcements and such, posting only on social media is fine. Just make sure the meat and bones stuff go back to your website.)

3. When new content is added to your website, tease the content on Twitter, Facebook, etc. and provide a link to it. Facebook and Twitter are where the people are, but your website is where you want them to be. So, go get them and bring them home.

Is this overly simplistic? Yes. And just like shoes, shirts and lemonade, there is no “one size fits all” solution. However, if your goal is to drive church members to your website, use your social media presence to do it.

Just make sure your website remains visitor friendly.

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