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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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Do Churches Really Need Marketing?

It can feel a little weird at first to talk about marketing for churches. After all, your church isn’t out 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 what online marketing strategies your church should use, and what tactics you can implement.

What to Do First When Planning Your Church’s Online Marketing

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? Social media sounds like a good idea…though…where do you start? You may be feeling overwhelmed. That’s totally normal. By the end of this post, you’ll be more confident about how you can start marketing your church online.

A solid marketing plan starts with understanding the difference between goals, strategies, and tactics. Here’s what you need to know.

A goal is the 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.

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.

Tactics are the concrete actions you’ll take to achieve the strategy. So, if you’re going share faith-based content, your tactics may be to create 2 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 strategies and tactics that will take you there. Putting in the time to do proper planning will go along way in making sure you’re not wasting time on church online marketing tools that won’t serve you—or your audience.

Online Marketing Tools for Churches

When it comes to church online marketing, you’ve got a huge toolbox to achieve your goals. But when you’re just starting out, keep things super simple! Don’t 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 SMS and MMS Messages to 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 cellphone, and every cellphone is capable of receiving texts. Unlike emails, they don’t get ignored. 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:

Today 12:10 PM
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. Seriously, see for yourself. We offer a 14-day trial that comes with 50 free messages.

Live Streaming Your Sermons and More

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 live stream 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.

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.

Creating 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 the gospel, 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

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.

Promoting Your Church on Social Media

We don’t need to tell you that social media is huge. Look up any blog post about “growing your church” and you’ll be told you need to be on social media.

The question is, how do you get started? Actually, let’s take one more step back. What even is social media marketing? Social media marketing is engaging your audience on various platforms with the intent to get them to take an action.

Engagement is another 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 can look like likes, comments, shares, etc.

With the basics out of the way, 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, etc.
  • Only focus on the platforms where your target audience is
  • When people comment on your posts, be sure to reply

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.

Think of it this way: Let’s say you move to a new city and are looking for a church to go to. There are two options near you. You Google them both and click on their Facebook pages. One hasn’t posted since 2017 and the other shares a few articles from theologians and volunteer photos every few days. Which one are you more likely to go to?

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

Getting Your Church Listed on Google Maps

All of the online marketing tactics and strategies we’ve discussed require regular monitoring and effort. However, there is something you can do that will online take one day and, for the most part, you never have to think about again.

Get your church listed on Google Maps, if it isn’t already.

It’s completely free to have your church listed on Google. Even so, only 56% of local businesses have claimed their business on Google! But wait, here’s where things really get crazy: Google found that 50% of people who looked up a local business or organization visited the location within 24 hours.

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

Even if your church is already on Google Maps, make sure your profile is complete. A good place to start is 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

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 A’s 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.

Online Marketing Mistakes Your Church Should Avoid

Marketing your church is exciting, but can definitely be a bit overwhelming at the beginning—which means you’ll make mistakes. That’s a good thing! You can learn from your errors and improve your church communication moving forward.

There are several marketing blunders that are easy to avoid, as long as you’re aware of them. Here are a few:

Trying to Reach Everyone

Even if you’re confident that everyone in your community could benefit from the word of God, 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.

If your goal is to bring in new members, making a blog post about “10 Reasons Atheists Should Reconsider Their Beliefs” may not be the best tactic. However, it could be helpful to write a blog post about “Why It’s Okay to Be a Christian With Doubts.”

The latter will appeal to potential members who may be hesitant about attending church again, but the former would have to be a really convincing post to bring in members*.*

Not Setting a Goal

How can you know if your online marketing efforts are working if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish? Spending an adequate amount of time setting goals will get your team on the same page, and make it easy to decide what platforms to spend time on.

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? There are many goals you could set. Ask yourself what your church needs to succeed, then set some realistic long-term and short-term goals before even opening your laptop.

Trying to “Set and Forget”

There are a few rare cases, like the Google listing example above, where you can afford to spend just a few hours on a marketing tactic then forget about it. But the truth is, marketing takes effort. Then again, so do most things worth doing.

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 schedule social media posts. However, you should set a schedule to regularly get together with your church leaders to review your efforts, decide on priorities, and brainstorm ideas.

Campaigning Instead of Connecting

Especially when it comes to online marketing, it can be easy to focus entirely on the numbers: likes, followers, comments, click-through rates, etc.

There’s no doubt that these are important metrics that good marketers should look at it. After all, they’re a clear sign of whether or not your outreach is working.

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, along with affordable tools such as SimpleTexting, 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.

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