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The beginner’s guide to creating a church online marketing plan

Online marketing poses a lot of untapped potential for churches. Find out how you can use it to grow your audience and attendance.

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It can feel a little weird at first to talk about digital marketing for churches. 

After all, your church’s first priority isn’t to make money. Your desire is to inspire people to have faith. The thing is before you can do that, you need to have people to inspire in the first place!

Even if you already have a dedicated congregation, wouldn’t it be nice to grow your community? Think about how good it would feel to be able to touch more lives and strengthen the foundation of your church.

Marketing doesn’t have to be a dirty word, and it doesn’t have to be difficult either! In fact, every church that wants to reach a larger audience should have a marketing strategy. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through some digital marketing strategies your church can use to get started.

🔖Recommended reading: How to Set Up an Effective Church Communication System

How to start planning your church’s digital marketing strategy

If you’re a pastor, ministry leader, or even just a Sunday morning church-goer, you know how life-changing finding the right church can be. An effective marketing strategy can help you bring more people into your house of worship.

Word of mouth among your community can only go so far. But how do you start building an online presence? 

Before we talk about specific ways to reach more people, here are the basics of putting a plan together.

Outline your goals

A goal is a specific result you want to achieve. For example, your goal may be to increase attendance during days that aren’t Sunday by 30%. Or it could be to grow your Facebook audience by 1,000 likes.

Keep your goals realistic by working in small increments. If you currently have no internet presence, attempt to reach 10 people, then 20, and continue to increase goals based on your performance.

Build a strategy

Strategy is the general path of how you’ll achieve your goal. Yours might be to share faith-based content online, or show people what’s unique about your church.

Think of the strategy as the ‘what’. What actions do you need to take to achieve your goal? For example, a church leader might want to grow the church’s presence in the community as a source of comfort and inspiration. 

What does the church leader need to do to achieve this? In this example, we’d suggest sharing stories of faith from current church members to increase awareness of the church and its services within the local community. 

Choose your tactics

Tactics are the concrete actions you’ll take to achieve the strategy. If your strategy is to share more faith-based content, your tactics could be to create two videos per month or write a blog article a week.

Take some time to think about what goals you’d like to set for your church. Then consider the overall strategies and specific tactics that will take you there. 

Putting in the time to do proper planning will go a long way in making sure you’re not wasting time on church online marketing tools that won’t serve you—or your audience.

5 church marketing ideas

When it comes to church online marketing, you’ve got a huge toolbox to achieve your goals. But it’s important to start simple and not try all of the tactics below at once. 

Try one for a few weeks or months, then adjust accordingly based on what you learn.

Send text messages to current and prospective church members

If you help lead a local church, you probably don’t have the advantage of having a huge marketing team at your side. So you can’t afford to waste time on church marketing ideas that won’t work.

We get it. You need an affordable, easy way to spread the word about your church. Text messages help you do just that.

Hundreds of large and small churches are using text messages to reach their audience. Why? Because people actually read them. Nearly everyone has a cell phone, and every cell phone is capable of receiving texts. 

Unlike emails, they don’t get ignored. In fact, texts have a 98% open rate as opposed to emails’ 20%. And they’re much cheaper to send than printed materials. SMS lets you send mass text messages to your entire congregation, and with MMS you can even include photos, audio, and other multimedia.

A church texting service can be used to:

Image for sending MMS
Join us for our new Worship Wednesdays sermon series! It starts at 6 p.m. We’ll have a pay-what-you-want dinner after the service to fundraise for our new youth center.

Texting is just one online marketing tool your church can take advantage of. It’s a great starting point for churches that are just beginning to experiment with online marketing because of how easy it is to use. 

If you can write a text, you can use our platform. Try our 14-day trial that comes with 50 free messages (no credit card required).

A Guide to Texting Services for Religious Organizations

Learn how use group texting to grow attendance and engage your local community.

Livestream your sermons

You may have heard that live streaming will lower your church attendance. After all, why would people bother going if they can just watch at home? This myth couldn’t be further from the truth.

Live streaming won’t take away from your attendance. It will help you reach a larger number of people, some of whom will love your sermons so much that they’ll want to see them in person.

Remember, church isn’t just about the service, it’s about the people in the pews. It’s about the community. Think of a live stream as a movie trailer for your church. It’s a way to entice people to come in.

Not sure how to set up a livestream for your church? Again, keep it simple! You don’t need a whole camera crew and marketing team. Even a small local church can do live streams. Open a YouTube or Facebook account, set up an iPhone on a tripod, and start streaming.

live stream for church digital marketing strategy

You don’t have to limit your live streams to sermons, either. Feel free to get creative. Stream your church’s choir or try doing a Q&A with a pastor or ministry leader.

To do a live stream, you need to have a stable internet connection at your church. If you don’t, there are still video marketing options that can work for you. Try recording your sermons, then trimming them down to just the best parts. Find 30-second to 1-minute-long clips, then share those on social media or through your church notification system.

Create online content for your church

We’ve already covered one form of online content: live streams. If you’re not ready to jump into the world of video just yet, you have plenty of other forms of content you can try first.

Remember, in order for your church online marketing plan to be successful, you need to provide value to people. Yes, the ultimate goal is to lead people to your worship services. But first, you need to inspire them by sharing gospels, providing educational resources, or entertaining them!

We’d be willing to bet your congregation is full of talented people. Lean on them to help you create:

  • Blog posts
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Shareable, inspirational images
Facebook post for church social media strategy

Creating content is the first step. Promoting it is the next. 

Think about where your target audience spends time online. Are they on Pinterest? Facebook? Are they listening to religious podcasts? Unlike traditional advertising, with online marketing your church doesn’t have to interrupt people—it can meet them where they already are.

Promote your church on social media

We don’t need to tell you that social media should be a big part of your promotion strategy. The question is, how do you get started? 

Engagement is the most important definition to know when developing your church’s online marketing plan. This term is used to refer to how people interact with your online content. It takes the form of likes, comments, shares, etc.

Here are some tips for beginning to promote your church on social media:

  • Use a scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite. (Trust us, it’ll make your life much easier.)
  • Regularly share photos of your activities and services
  • Post the content we talked about in the last tactic (And if people are engaging with it, pay to “boost it” so it will be shown to more people.)
  • Don’t have content yet? Post prayer requests, quotes from pastors, or scripture to start
  • Create Facebook events for all of your Bible studies, sermons, and more.
  • Only focus on the platforms where your target audience is.
  • When people comment on your posts, be sure to reply.
Facebook group church digital marketing strategy

You may not have the time to launch several marketing campaigns and have a robust content calendar. That’s totally okay! Even starting with one or two posts a week is better than saying nothing at all.

You don’t have to go viral to be active on social media. Just start somewhere.

Get your church listed on Google Maps

It’s completely free to have your church listed on Google. Even so, only 41% of local businesses have claimed their business on Google! 

This doesn’t mean you should join those who haven’t. Google found that 80% of people will look up a local business or organization online before visiting.

If your church doesn’t have an updated listing on Google, it could be missing out on people who recently moved to your community and are looking for a nearby house of worship.

Start by filling out your profile on Google My Business. This will let you manage how your church appears in Google searches. Complete your profile with your:

  • Accurate address
  • Website
  • Phone number
  • Photos of the interior and exterior of your church
register your business church social media strategy

Your church’s website may not get a lot of traffic, but Google does. At 63,000 searches per second, it’s the largest search engine in the world. 

That’s why in addition to the basic info above, you should include Q and As on your Google My Business listing. 

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What time is your Sunday morning service?
  • What time is the Ash Wednesday mass?
  • Does this church offer services in other languages?
  • Does this church have volunteer opportunities?

Visiting a new church can be a little scary. Providing as much info as you can upfront can go a long way in making people feel more comfortable.

Finally, encourage current members to submit reviews on your Google My Business listing to help increase visibility and tell prospective visitors what makes your church special. 

Online marketing mistakes your church should avoid

Marketing your church can feel a bit overwhelming at the beginning—which means you’ll make mistakes.

Here are several marketing blunders to avoid:

Don’t try to reach everyone

Even if you’re confident that everyone in your community could benefit from your message, the reality is you can’t get everyone to have faith. 

Think about the demographics and interests of your current congregation, and focus your church’s online marketing plan on trying to reach similar people.

Always set a goal

How can you know if your online marketing efforts are working if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish? Do you want to bring in more members? Find more donors? Grow your list of volunteers? Increase how many people sign up for your mission trips? 

Spend an adequate amount of time setting goals to get your team on the same page and make it easy to decide what platforms to spend time on.

Don’t “set and forget”

Just like a good sermon, an online marketing plan takes planning and time. This doesn’t mean you have to cancel services and dedicate endless hours to scheduling social media posts. 

However, you should regularly get together with your church leaders to review your efforts, decide on priorities, and brainstorm ideas.

Don’t focus on campaigning instead of connecting

It can be easy to focus entirely on the number of likes, followers, comments, click-through rates, and other metrics.

But don’t lose track of what it’s all really about: building meaningful connections that inspire faith. Before you post anything online, ask yourself, “Am I campaigning or connecting?”

Behind every screen is a human reading your post. Speak to them as though they’re family, not just another like on your page.

Final thoughts on church online marketing

The Internet makes it possible for any church to reach their local community—and the rest of the world. The best thing you can do is to just get started. 

Start setting goals, come up with a strategy, and start trying out some tactics. We hope this post has given you the confidence you need to begin marketing your church online.

Alfredo Salkeld
Alfredo Salkeld

Alfredo is SimpleTexting's brand manager. He's passionate about using his 10+ years of marketing experience to help small businesses grow.

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