“How can I get on the first page of a Google Result?”

SEO still matters as a part of your marketing mix. This helps, though…

Google has introduced infinite scrolling to mobile search results pages.

Where there used to be page numbers at the bottom of SERPs there is now a “more results” button. Tapping on the button will trigger more search results to load within the same page.

Source: Google Switches to Infinite Scrolling Mobile Search Results – Search Engine Journal

“Why does church marketing fail?”

From Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Study

I recently had a question from a friend who attends a small church with a smaller budget but interested in marketing and outreach their congregation about the pitfalls of church marketing.

“Sam, why does church marketing fail?”

So with her permission, here’s my response…

The reason most church marketing and outreach efforts fail is lack of follow-through and consistency. We all want the quick dopamine release that comes with likes, hearts, and favorites based on our social media posts. But marketing (well, good marketing) isn’t about the quick and transient. Patience is part of the very intrinsic nature of the concept of marketing. Churches, particularly dealing with a budget, do a poor job of recognizing that.

Second, church marketing tends to be generic and formulaic. Perhaps because of the common practice of churches getting many of their resources like Sunday School materials (or pastors who “borrow” sermons from the internet), Vacation Bible School posters etc from a central office or approved denominational body, church marketing, church marketing also tends to be generic and not in touch with the surrounding community. But like politics, all church marketing is local. Not everyone can walk in and teach the youth Sunday School class even if they are using LifeWay materials. Not everyone can walk in and run your church’s marketing or outreach efforts even if they have a Facebook account. Nevertheless, church marketing often doesn’t live up to expectations because it is formulaic and generic rather than reflective of the local community.

Third, church marketing and outreach efforts often do a very poor job of asking “why would anyone who is not coming to our church want to come to our church?”. Salvation? Good luck marketing theology. In reality, if a church is going to embark on marketing or outreach, the church should first ask existing members “WHY?” as in “Why do you come to this church?”. Once you have answers to that first Why, ask Why four more times with the responses. The “Five Why’s” is common tool in setting up marketing and branding efforts and can really help clarify both a church’s identity and what makes it special (or not). I love doing this with our clients and it always leads to unexpected and surprising places. Don’t assume… ask why.

Church marketing is often targeted at the wrong audience. Denominational identity is rapidly becoming less of a “selling point” and something that can be used as a marketing point. I often have clients who initially want to “target (insert denomination here)s living in our town.” If you’re a Baptist church targeting Baptists in a few zip codes, you’re not going to have great success with your outreach. That time has passed as we now have more Millennials than Baby Boomers. There’s a reason we see many youth-focused churches dropping denominational labels in their name, even if they were planted and / or affiliated with a particular denomination or church.

Last, churches often target their outreach efforts to what I call the “seldom attenders”. You don’t want a congregation full of “seldom attenders” even if they write big checks once a year. A church should market to those who will attend every week and take part in activities and programs frequently. “I like the pastor’s preaching” isn’t a “selling point” anymore. People, particularly younger cohorts of people, want experiences. In this world of on-demand movies and music and dating and socializing, it’s the experience of your church that will directly help growth. Be authentic and own who you are (and the WHY’s from above). If you’re traditional with traditional hymns and everyone wears “Sunday Dress”… own it! There are people in your community who want that experience. Don’t market what you are not because you see the non-denominational warehouse church down the street bursting at the seams with involved young families. Churches, as all businesses and nonprofits, should tap into the unique experience of worship or the incredible feeling of belonging to a community of people seeking something larger than themselves.

Oh, and don’t be pretentious. If you don’t think your church is pretentious and wonder why it’s not growing, it’s probably because your church is seen as pretentious. You can’t market earnestness. But you can drop the pretentions and be an authentic congregation. That’s a whole other conversation though 🙂

Facebook Alert Day

This is going to be quite the talking point for many Facebook users today…

“All users will receive a link at the top of their News Feed outlining which apps they use and what information each app uses, Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer said in a statement. Users whose data may have been improperly harvested by Cambridge Analytica can expect to receive an additional message like the one below:

“We have banned the website ‘This Is Your Digital Life,’ which one of your friends used Facebook to log into. We did this because the website may have misused some of your Facebook information by sharing it with a company called Cambridge Analytica.”

Facebook to Begin Letting Users Know If Their Data Was Harvested By Cambridge Analytica – HuffPost

You should blog

Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction.

We could say goodbye to the creepy targeted ads and the algorithms, to the Nazis and bots and propagandists, to the harassers and the people selling hate. We could stop being spied-on for profit…

Or we can make the moral choice of renewal, of planting new bulbs and helping this old tree, a little bigger now, flower again.

Our hearts may end up broken. Again.

So?

Source: inessential: weblog

RSS in 2018

There’s so much wrong with this post, but I’ll point out my biggest gripe here… RSS (like podcasting) doesn’t need the metrics of behavior tracking for it to be a success. It’s distributed. It’s not commercialized. It’s not tracked with clicks based on eCPM’s or eCPC’s or brand quality engagement views.

And that’s ok.

It serves a heck of an important purpose.

Let’s all start using RSS readers again, btw. The internet will be a much better space.

RSS’ true failings though are on the publisher side, with the most obvious issue being analytics. RSS doesn’t allow publishers to track user behavior. It’s nearly impossible to get a sense of how many RSS subscribers there are, due to the way that RSS readers cache feeds. No one knows how much time someone reads an article, or whether they opened an article at all. In this way, RSS shares a similar product design problem with podcasting, in that user behavior is essentially a black box.

Source: RSS is undead | TechCrunch

Twitter’s Developer Problem

While Facebook continues to stumble through its public relations crisis over how it has handled developer access to user data, Twitter has been having its own issues with its developer base … just in a self-inflicted manner.

Twitter’ developer problem goes back to its decision to pivot the service into an advertising mechanism back in 2010 as it faced questions about monetization and shareholder returns. It’s simply shocking to me that Twitter executives are still struggling with these same issues 8 years later.

What made Twitter exciting and compelling in 2007 and 2008 was the rapidly expanding developer base that became attracted to the platform because of its rather open API that encouraged a healthy ecosystem of apps that built off of the Twitter coral reef.

So, it’s disappointing to see this struggle continue:

It’s good news that Twitter is backing down, but there are still open questions about whether its new Account Activity API is robust enough for third party Twitter apps to provide the same streaming services they now offer. So far Twitter hasn’t allowed outside developers to participate in the beta testing of that API.

Source: Twitter postpones platform change that would cut off third-party apps – The Verge

Moving beyond links

I’ve long argued that “links are dead” (going on a decade now). Some of that was hyperbolic to discuss the need for a better mechanism to derive value or information from one site to the next or from a marketing campaign.

It looks like Google might be moving beyond links as well and towards more of an “entity database” where the connections and relationships between search terms are prioritized. I can get behind that.

The idea that we can push our rankings forward through entity associations, and not just links, is incredibly powerful and versatile. Links have tried to serve this function and have done a great job, but there are a LOT of advantages for Google to move toward the entity model for weighting as well as a variety of other internal needs.

Source: Google patent on related entities and what it means for SEO – Search Engine Land

Stripe now offers subscription billing

Good move here, particularly for small businesses…

That’ll allow them to handle subscription recurring revenue, as well as invoicing, within the Stripe platform and get everything all in the same place. The goal was to replace a previously hand-built setup, whether using analog methods for invoicing or painstakingly putting together a set of subscription tools, and make that experience as seamless as charging for products on Stripe.

Source: Stripe launches a new billing tool to tap demand from online businesses | TechCrunch

Don’t fall for lots of likes and retweets

Also good advice for churches and nonprofits doing social media marketing on a shoestring budget:

Bots manipulate credibility by influencing social signals like the number of aggregated likes or shares a post or user receives. People see a large number of retweets on a post and read it as a genuine signal of authentic traction in the marketplace of ideas. Do not fall for this. Trends are basically over—they’re too easy to manipulate. This goes for any information online that feeds off of public signals, including things like search autocomplete or content recommendation lists. Journalists can no longer rely on information sources reflecting some form of online “popularity.”

Source: The bots beat: How not to get punked by automation – Columbia Journalism Review