You Just Took Your Whole Business Online - Now What?
Churches and organizations that are already digital minded are positioned well to maintain relationships online. Keeping in touch with your audience will feel different than pre-pandemic, however, and will require a different strategy.
Read ahead and find 4 creative ways to stay connected with your audience online.
1. Live stream from your home office.
“A live video strategy engages viewers in immediate and authentic ways that other social media formats cannot.”
Live streaming gives your church or organization the perfect opportunity to pull back the curtain and show your followers the real you. This authenticity is what puts your brand on another level, says digital marketing guru Neil Patel.
Whether you’ve never live streamed before or it’s part of your strategy, now is the time to embrace the medium. Did you know your social media channels have the capability of live streaming? Or you can get a little more advanced by setting up your own channel on a platform like YouTube TV, Periscope or Roku. You can also learn some basics with a simple online search. Visual learners can search YouTube for “how to live stream” and get an education at their fingertips.
Learn more about live streaming with 5 Myths You’ve Heard About Live Streaming.
2. Have some virtual fun!
Direct your blue-sky thinking to focus on ways to connect casually with your audience, which is what social media channels are perfectly poised to help you with. If your church or organization doesn’t have a Facebook or Instagram page, this is the perfect time to start one. They’re free, and connecting with your audience is easily done with some searches and “friending.”
Here are two ideas:
- Invite connections over social media. Ask fun “would you rather” questions or invite followers to answer a silly inquiry or share a funny image from their photos. Keep the conversation going by replying to comments or tagging followers whose answers you’d like to hear.
- “Hangout” and play games. Typically your Google Hangout or Zoom calls are connected to a tight agenda, but what if you invited your social media audience to play a game of Zoom Pictionary with you? Or invite followers to join you on a Skype call and play some Charades? Find great ideas and examples on the Zoom blog, including a challenge to share a picture with your pet or simply announcing a live Zoom hangout.
This unusual era of social distancing has its benefits, and building connections on an authentic and casual level is one of them.
Pro Tip: Check out this article on the Church Communications blog and learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of Zoom and Google hangouts.
3. Focus your emails on generosity.
Stay connected with your donors and givers even though your call-to-action has likely changed. During this phase of social isolation, individuals are spending a great deal of time online, likely searching for some good feels, and you can still build upon your engaged, loyal following.
Nurture your contacts—literally—by offering what you can at no cost to them, highlighting good news, and sharing sincere well-wishes from your team. Try these suggestions:
- It’s a great time to help your local nonprofits by directing attention to their efforts and critical work. Give them some virtual space in your communications, informing locals where they can direct their donations, efforts, or assistance.
- Recruit a technically inclined staff member or volunteer to stitch together some recorded greetings from your team and share this in your email communication and social media. Your thoughtful connection will be a welcome distraction to weary followers.
Get disaster relief resources and spiritual first aid for disaster survivors and first responders at DisasterRelief.Bible.
4. Connect using a variety of media.
Each member of your audience has a favorite mode of communication, and you want to be present in each of them. Not only does it widen your reach, but it also provides a different level of intimacy. Showing up in a follower's social media channel with an interactive question will connect them to you and your following at large; showing up in their inbox connects them to you and your brand, endearing them to you when you display your authenticity and concern.
Joe Pinsker from The Atlantic quotes Stanford Professor Jeff Hancock who recommends using a variety of media to maintain relationships. Hancock cites the different outcomes of different mediums, but also the effectiveness. We often think of real-time phone calls or video chats fostering closeness, but so can “frequent, lightweight contact.” He says:
“The little pings matter.”
Remaining present through different mediums will keep you connected to your followers, who will enjoy seeing you and your staff in these different formats.
Check out more ideas for staying connected virtually on the Get.Bible blog. Stay tuned for a comparison of virtual conference platforms and other helpful tools to help you stay connected with your audience, staff and loved ones.