Marketing

An observation on “Church ‘Marketing’”

Hyperbole aside, this is ridiculous. It’s called the gospel. Marketing is not a negative phrase or concept that churches or religious orgs should shy away from. “Navel-gazing” and “not spreading the word,” however, are according to the Gospels.

The marketing of the church is an invention of the Antichrist. If you have to ‘sell’ your Church, it isn’t a Church that you’re selling and you are a pagan pretending to be a Christian.

— Read on zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com/2018/08/18/church-marketing-an-observation/

Church Marketing and Political Issues

Six-in-ten religiously unaffiliated Americans – adults who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – say the questioning of religious teachings is a very important reason for their lack of affiliation. The second-most-common reason is opposition to the positions taken by churches on social and political issues, cited by 49% of respondents (the survey asked about each of the six options separately). Smaller, but still substantial, shares say they dislike religious organizations (41%), don’t believe in God (37%), consider religion irrelevant to them (36%) or dislike religious leaders (34%).

Source: Why America’s ‘nones’ don’t identify with a religion | Pew Research Center

One word: Marketing.

Churches and nonprofits shouldn’t focus on attribution as a social media goal

For years, marketers have tried to attribute social directly to sales, but industry standards and consumer data reveal that their true focus should be expanding awareness and consideration.Think long-term, not quick fix. Think relationships, not attribution.

Source: The 2018 Sprout Social Index | Sprout Social

The biggest mistake I see churches and nonprofits make when engaging in an intentional “social media campaign” is counting the likes and hearts on Facebook, Twitter, or Twitter rather than measuring the engagement factor of relationships.

Only 14% of marketers polled say that they can attribute any revenue from social media. The same is true when a church or nonprofit creates a social campaign… focus on long-term relational signals, not short-term likes and favs.

What to do about the end of auto-sharing to Facebook profiles and creating episodic social media content

If you auto-share items from your site to Facebook (blog posts for example), you’ll want to take note of the big changes coming this week.

Many people, nonprofits, small businesses, churches etc use the built-in social media auto-sharing features on platforms such as WordPress or Squarespace or Wix or Weebly etc to share content to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles without much fuss.

However, Facebook is removing that ability for posting to a profile on August 1. This particularly impacts smaller businesses or a nonprofit that are smaller since it’s affecting Profiles, not Pages. But if you have been using auto-share to a WordPress profile, you’re going to have to do that manually now.

Here’s part of WordPress’ notice about it:

Starting August 1, 2018, Facebook is making a change to their platform: third-party tools can no longer automatically share posts to Facebook Profiles. This includes Publicize. If you’ve connected a Facebook Profile to your site, then Publicize will no longer be able to share your new posts to Facebook automatically. Sharing to Facebook Pages will continue to work as before.

Source: Publicize — Support — WordPress.com

Note that if you are auto-sharing to a Facebook Page (rather than a Profile… usually Pages are associated with businesses or groups and Profiles are individuals), you’ll still be able to continue to do that after August 1.

There are good security reasons why Facebook is making this change in light of the Cambridge Analytica fallout as well as the general cultural perception that Facebook is overrun with “fake news”. However, there’s also a clear self-serving reason for making this change as this post from Buffer points out:

Facebook seems very keen to encourage more users to share content and counter the decline of user-generated posts.

For example, its recent focus on Stories and Groups could be seen as a way to encourage more unique content. This, coupled with the “meaningful interactions” update, shows that Facebook might be hoping that more unique content shared by users, reaching more of their closest friends and family will help to spark more conversation and interaction on the platform.

Source: How Facebook Marketing is Changing (And How to Be Prepared) – Buffer

Buffer is a leading service in the social media sharing space. They allow for easy scheduling of posts to a variety of networks and are used frequently by businesses and nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. We’ve used them extensively with clients over the years as well.

However, the social media landscape continues to evolve since it became a major part of most people’s “online” lives over the last decade as well as a viable marketing and advertising channel.

I’ve always been hesitant about overusing auto-sharing services and blasting out the same content to every network as if they were all the same. Twitter, when used well, generates a very unique “culture” around a brand, business, or church. Facebook also has a unique community around content that will take even more of a front seat with the renewed push on “personal sharing” from the company. The same can be said about Instagram. The trick is to know your audience and be aware of the particularities of each of the social networks you’re pushing content to. You can’t treat a Facebook Live video the same as an Instagram Story or a Twitter Moment.

Additionally, Facebook Pages have taken a number of algorithmic hits over the last few years and I’ve personally had clients walk away from the platform because the ROI just wasn’t there. It’s not as simple as pushing “Publish” and walking away to let the magic happen these days.

Whether you’re using a Page or your own Profile to promote your cause, now is a good time to step back and re-examine how and why you share content and how you share content on any social network. I like to create social media calendars for our clients to help keep a more scheduled approach to content generation and sharing and to keep us from falling into the easy trap of blasting out the same content to every network at once.

Along with the calendar and schedule, I like to promote the idea of generating social media content in an episodic nature. The Netflix example is often used here to explain that people go to the service over and over to watch content they have become connected to in some way. “Binge watching” is not just about devouring a season of a TV show in one sitting, but is a psychological relationship that a person establishes with a certain brand of a show. Netflix doesn’t make its money from people passively watching movies or shows that are rolled out in a pre-programmed schedule with advertisements every 4-6 minutes. Instead, Netflix understands the psychology behind creating a connection between a person and their very interest-specific content.

In the same way, I like to promote the notion that social media content from a business, church, or nonprofit can and should tap into that same “episodic” mindset. Get your fans (no matter the size of your audience) on a regular schedule of Facebook Live events, Twitter AMA’s, Instagram Live Q/A’s, Facebook Page Pics of the Week etc… and don’t forget your weekly email newsletters on Tuesday or Thursday and your new podcast episodes every Monday.

Churches Should Realize That Branding is Dead

As with many things to do with marketing and messaging, churches are way behind the curve when realizing that relationships are much more powerful than advertisements or fancy branding.

Marketing data points have already moved larger brands to this realization but there’s still a large vacuum in the world of nonprofit and religious org marketing that keeps outreach trapped in the pre-internet days.

The Best Marketers Will Realize That “Branding” Is Dead And It’s All About Community Activation And Relationship Building. David Minifie, CXO & Executive Vice President, Centene Corporation

As a CMO, I wanted to elevate from Advertising (like personal injury lawyers) to Brand Building (like Harley Davidson).  As a CXO, however, my perspective has changed.  I want to take Transactions (like glancing at the newspaper sports scores), turn them into Engagements (like reading Sports Illustrated) and then elevate them into Relationships (like being a Cardinals fan in St. Louis).  Manufacturers that focus on branding and not relationships…beware!

— Read on www.forbes.com/

Video at every stage of the customer journey

Holistic marketing campaigns that are based on customer journeys and utilize a mixture of text, video, and image based ads have always been the vehicle for real results if you had enough budget.

It’s great to see Google (YouTube) helping to make this reachable for nonprofits, community groups, and religious orgs with a limited budget as well…

Increasingly, video is also leading people to take action. In fact, globally, conversions generated by YouTube ads are up 150 percent year over year.1 Using TrueView for action, you can drive any action on your website that’s important to your business, like booking a trip, scheduling a test drive or requesting more information.

— Read on blog.google/products/ads/results-on-youtube/

Harrelson Agency and Google’s New Responsive Search Ads

At Harrelson Agency, we manage a number of Google Ads campaigns (formerly AdWords as of July 24, 2018) for clients. Simply put, there’s really no better way to drive web traffic to a site or a landing page regardless of your budget, size, or goal. Whether you’re selling stuff, raising awareness, or trying to get more people into the door of your business or church, there’s a clear return on investment for a well-run Google Ads campaign.

We’ve been writing, tweaking, and managing these ads for years. I often tell clients its part science and part art to make everything work correctly. That may change a little after today…

Consumers today are more curious, more demanding, and they expect to get things done faster because of mobile. As a result, they expect your ads to be helpful and personalized. Doing this isn’t easy, especially at scale. That’s why we’re introducing responsive search ads. Responsive search ads combine your creativity with the power of Google’s machine learning to help you deliver relevant, valuable ads.

Simply provide up to 15 headlines and 4 description lines, and Google will do the rest. By testing different combinations, Google learns which ad creative performs best for any search query. So people searching for the same thing might see different ads based on context.

Via Google Ads Blog

Google is rolling out its new “responsive search ads” from beta today, and it does have the potential to reshape a number of processes that marketers like us use for ad campaigns. I doubt that we’ll give up on the fun whiteboard sessions where we throw ideas into the open that produce the basis for most of our managed campaigns, and I’m sure I’ll still have those “shower moment” epiphanies where the perfect headline text pops into my mind as I’m applying shampoo, but I am excited about what this could mean for our clients.

There’s no doubt in my mind that a great deal of the processes we use to build websites or manage Ads campaigns on Google and Facebook or to create memorable billboard taglines or to even write strategic plan documents will be automated and “responsive” as Google says in the coming decade. That’s why I’m betting Harrelson Agency’s future on the future and making sure that I’m staying on top of everything AI and blockchain and machine learning and augmented reality that I can.

We’ve already seen the decimation of the website development industry at the hands of democratizing creative tools like Squarespace and Weebly and Wix (as much as I dislike their pedestrian designs…). We’ll continue to see the same in other areas of marketing and advertising.

It’s worth my time to think ahead both for my clients’ bottom lines as well as Harrelson Agency’s future.

The 2018 Instagram Hashtag Guide

Common sense advice here, but I see mistakes like using the same hashtags over and over and over (or using hashtags that have nothing to do with a post) way too often (particularly from nonprofits)…

As for the practice of using the same long list of hashtags on every post… Don’t do it. Instagram’s community guidelines clearly state that “posting repetitive comments or content” is not okay.

When you create a post, only use hashtags that make sense. If you tag a post with #wanderlust, for example, your content must be something globetrotters will want to comment on, like, and share.

— Read on blog.hootsuite.com/instagram-hashtags/

Churches and Social Media

Some good points in this post regarding churches using social media as outreach, particularly for youth. It’s important to keep in mind the “how’s” and “why’s” and “where’s” of different age groups and social media use as well.

I tell my clients all the time that just like we don’t all listen to music or watch “TV” the same (in the Spotify, Netflix, and Hulu age), we all don’t use social media for the same reason to accomplish the same things. Not to mention the often overlooked variable of geography and place when using social media. Churches really need to think through their approaches and goals with these in mind.

Setting up an Instagram account is easy. Using it in a way that authentically tells your story and engages current members is tough. Figuring out if its targeted towards youth or adults and why that matters is even more difficult. Don’t put all of that responsibility on a youth minister or Associate Pastor in this age of data-driven accountability.

So do the math and don’t believe in “build it and they will come.” That philosophy might have worked for ballparks in the middle of Iowa to attract the ghosts of the past, but it won’t work to attract engagement with very socially alive people in 2018 and beyond.

“I encourage you to count the cost,” Carey said. “It’s going to take time and effort to do this.”

Churches and ministries also must focus on storytelling to foster relationships between viewers and churches.

— Read on baptistnews.com/article/churches-must-count-the-cost-of-pursuing-youth-on-social-media/

Facebook ads prices are too high and companies are shifting to Instagram

The impression-based market on Facebook ads haven’t resulted in a solid and stable pricing model for most direct-to-consumer companies (or nonprofits, churches, community groups etc). The targeting capabilities are exciting, but the pricing costs for ads have to match up with the returns.

So now we’re all flocking to Instagram Stories…

Digiday spoke with 10 direct-to-consumer companies, and all of them report their marketing mix has de-emphasized Facebook for other digital alternatives — including Facebook-owned Instagram — but seven of them also say they are expanding into traditional vehicles. The reason: Prices are getting high for audience segments and the feed has become a very cluttered space.

— Read on digiday.com/marketing/pivot-traditional-direct-consumer-brands-sour-facebook-ads/

Cautionary Tale of Patheos and Having Your Own Blog

Wow, this is quite something and a good example of why you should always run your own blog instead of relying on a blog network. Same with podcasting.

What a strange turn of events. Patheos was at the center of the Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia stories and now they host Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan. All of the those Patheos links about Mars Hill and GFA are now erased. The content is here and archived elsewhere but admittedly, it will be harder to find.

— Read on www.wthrockmorton.com/2018/05/22/the-blog-at-patheos-is-410-gone/

Ultimate guide to SEO for small businesses (and nonprofits)

There’s some really helpful advice here for small businesses, nonprofits, and / or churches looking to get a start on SEO basics. You can take a course on Lynda.com or watch some YouTube videos to learn more about what SEO can mean for your group, but the fundamentals here are pretty spot on:

SEO isn’t just for big business. As a small company or a local business, there is actually a lot you can do yourself to get good results from search. This ultimate guide for local and small business SEO will help you get the most out of search by finding your niche, optimizing your pages and using social media.

— Read on yoast.com/ultimate-guide-to-small-business-seo/

Owning your own platform is important, and valuable

I often get the question from clients of why I mostly recommend having your own website on WordPress or a self-hosted platform in the age of Facebook. As companies who built their businesses and traffic flow on the back of Facebook over the years have found out, that can be a very precarious decision. Audience and perceived impact are good, but long-term value is much better. Don’t cheap out and build your house on someone else’s property.

For instance, Medium is an interesting platform for bloggers and writers. We see everyone from politicians to celebrities to tech pundits using it as the place of record for their writings. While there is an audience there, or on Facebook, we’re already seeing Medium making changes to the way it handles its publishers in an attempt to figure out monetization (something which its founder Ev Williams knows about since he also founded Blogger and then went on to co-start Twitter… both of which faced their own monetization issues). This is going to be a constant and something you or your business or your non-profit should take notice of before you let your roots get too deep in a particular platform can change its EULA at any time.

Owen Williams writes the excellent Charged newsletter (you should subscribe) and makes this point about Medium, Facebook, and web presence in general that I highly agree with:

All of this is to say: Medium is great, but be wary! Owning your own platform is important, and valuable, even at this point in the internet’s maturity cycle. It’s a bit more work, but you are no longer at the mercy of the platform, a lesson we can learn from Facebook all too easily.

Source: #167: Medium.com feels like it’s forever. What if it isn’t?

Why you should quit blogging

Fun post that highlights many of the concerns I hear from clients and friends when I encourage them to blog.

Blogging and newsletters are still incredibly impactful for businesses, churches, nonprofits… or just sharing what’s on your mind.

Get out there. Be yourself. It’ll be ok.

You think that you are a terrible writer. No one wants to read your blogs, and if you look at the blog posts you wrote a few months ago, you cringe. You have convinced yourself you absolutely cannot write. So put yourself (and all your readers, they’ll thank you) out of their misery. Just quit.

Source: Caroline’s Corner: Why you should quit your blog now • Yoast

Blogging Guide for Churches and Small Businesses

Blogging is still a great way to get the word out about your business, church, nonprofit, cause, or interests. It’s a slow grind in the sense that it can take many months of consistency to build up an audience and see any sort of response that might make you feel like the endeavor is “worth it.” However, it is worth it.

Whatever your professional capacity may be, you should spend time blogging rather than just posting on social media if you’re looking to reach out…

Writing blog posts can be great fun. But for some of you, blogging can be quite a challenge as well. What should you write about? What do you do if you’re out of inspiration? How do you get engagement on your blog posts? And how do you market and monetize your blog? This ultimate guide covers everything you need to know about blogging.

Source: Blogging: the ultimate guide • Yoast

Focus on Engagement and Newsletters Rather than Likes and Shares

In fact, research shows that there isn’t a high correlation between reading time and social sharing.

As you can see from the graph, the high read time doesn’t translate to shares. Just because someone clicked a share button, it doesn’t mean that they were engaged with the content.

Source: How to Effectively Manage Engagement for Stronger Influence

SEO for beginners free course

Here’s a free and good course on SEO basics. Whether you’re a business, church or nonprofit, you should have some basic understandings of what SEO means to your website and how just a few tweaks can really make a big difference.

I went through most of the course and there’s some good info here, especially for beginners:

– Get quick wins to make your site rank higher in Google, Bing or Yahoo
– Have a solid basic understanding of search engine optimization and how search engines work

— Read on yoast.com/academy/course/free-seo-course-seo-for-beginners/

2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report by Social Media Examiner

“Nearly all marketers (83%+) who’ve been employing social media marketing for 1 year or longer report it generates exposure for their businesses.”

I’m skeptical of these sorts of reports generally, but SME does a good job of presenting digestible data. There are certainly some good takeaways here for businesses of all sizes, nonprofits, and churches looking to do more with their social media profiles.

The PDF download is free.

In our tenth-annual social media study, more than 5,700 marketers reveal where they’ll focus their social media efforts.

Source: 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report : Social Media Examiner

Will you be able to buy items on Instagram soon?

Looks that way.

This is potentially huge for small businesses that use Instagram for promotions of their products (I know I follow several boutique accounts promoting everything from pens to knives to stationary)…

Instagram just stealthily added a native payments feature to its app for some users. It lets you register a debit or credit card as part of a profile, set up a security pin, then start buying things without ever leaving Instagram. Not having to leave for a separate website and enter payment information any time you want to purchase something could make Instagram a much bigger player in commerce.

Instagram quietly launches payments for commerce | TechCrunch
— Read on techcrunch.com/2018/05/03/instagram-payments/

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