Improve Online Engagement and Expand the Reach of Your Church or Business
In 2020, we saw our already digital-centric world become even more virtual in the blink of an eye. Technology is constantly advancing, but in light of a global pandemic, we experienced it advancing faster than we ever had before. With stay at home orders in place and social restrictions everywhere, everything pivoted to online platforms.
Before 2020, you might have been able to lead a church or own a small business, or operate a nonprofit and be pretty successful without much of an online presence or marketing strategy. After 2020, however, there is no more room for excuses. Having an online presence is a must if you wish to be effective in anything from running your business to even leading a church.
We saw that the businesses who were the most successful throughout the pandemic were businesses who already had a solid online platform and/or online options. We also saw many businesses pivot, adjust, and innovate quickly to create an online presence in order to remain successful.
Restaurants had to create online ordering systems for curbside pick up and churches had to produce services for online viewing and participation. Events and social gatherings switched to using zoom and other online video platforms.
We hope and pray that your business, nonprofit, side gig, or church was able to remain successful. Whether you have mastered your online marketing and online community engagement, or you are just getting started, we can all agree that it is incredibly important to reach your audience and succeed in your mission, whatever that may be!
What is Online Engagement?
You may be wondering what exactly do we mean when we say online engagement? Before we dive into why online engagement is important to your business or church, let’s talk about what online engagement really is.
We are talking about the way people interact with your online content, whether that is your social media platforms or through your website, and yes, you should utilize both!
Specifically, we are talking about “likes”, comments, shares, website visits, and links followed. According to Young Entrepreneur Council, “Your online engagement is your most valuable resource.” Let’s jump into why that is!
Online Engagement for Businesses
Online engagement matters for small businesses. Even service-based businesses. Especially service-based businesses. Not convinced? Here are some of the benefits you can expect to see should you choose to invest in your online platforms.
Reach Your Audience and Beyond
Being active on social media, your website, and other online platforms will increase the access your customers have to you and your business/products/services. Online engagement is a great way to connect with your loyal customers and those who already know your brand, mission, or product.
In addition to staying connected to current customers or supporters, online engagement is also a way to expose yourself and business to those who are not yet customers. Your online platforms, including social media, should be considered a valuable part of your marketing strategy. Social media has become so much more than just posting photos of your meal or your family at Christmas. Social media is one of the best ways you can introduce your business to new customers.
How does it work? Engagement!
The more active your accounts are, the more customers like your postings, the more conversation happen in your comments, and the more your content is shared, the more likely it is that you will show up on the feeds of those who don’t follow you or have never even heard of your business.
The more successful you are with online engagement, the more exposure you will get as people scroll through their feeds or search for related keywords.
It’s so much more than posting and entertaining your current customers and followers. It’s about building a community that will continue to multiply, which will then likely multiply your businesses success!
Providing You Constant Feedback
When you start to engage and connect with your customers on your social media, through your website, or other platforms, you will find you will be getting a constant stream of feedback. Being connected to your customers and supporters gives you access to an incredible resource to improve your business.
Whether you are seeking it or not, your customers will tell you what they like and don’t like through online platforms. This will be done in a few different ways.
You will certainly get explicit feedback where your customers use online platforms to tell you exactly what they like and don’t like about your services, products, or any other area of your business. When dealing with online platforms, it is important to know you will be exposing yourself to the possibility of public feedback and it may not always be positive.
How you handle this feedback, however, is what will determine your success.
It is important to engage with your customers always, but it’s especially important when they deliver you negative feedback. According to a study done by Sprout Social, 34.5% of customers prefer for their customer care to be done through social media. This was the clear winner over email, website, phone, live chat, or in person.
You should always be addressing and responding to customer feedback on your online platforms. This is an extension of your customer service, and it’s done in the public eye, which gives you an opportunity to show how you care for your customers and value their feedback.
At the end of the day, it’s only going to make you better!
We haven’t mentioned one of the most important factors of online engagement and social media use, it’s free! Social media is one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing your business can utilize. Yes, there will be investments involved when you decide to devote more time and energy into online engagement, but overall, it is free to have accounts, it is free to post your own content, it is free to communicate with your customers, and it is free to share posts.
Social media provides your business a place to grow at little-to-no cost, and the best way to make that happen is with consistent engagement. Creating content that your customers want to share will create a chain of free marketing for your business.
When people enjoy your products, service, or business and post online about it, that is marketing you didn’t have to pay anything for. There is so much power in word of mouth marketing and social media provides a platform for that to happen in the blink of an eye.
(A create way to create shareable content and improve online engagement is by starting a blog. For more information on creating a blog for a service-based business, click here.)
Online Engagement for Churches
Just as online engagement is important for a business, it is also important for a church. We saw this become especially true when, for the first time in recent history, the doors of churches were closed throughout the world due to the global pandemic. While some churches had the resources in place to engage with their congregations online, many had to learn and improvise quickly!
Now that most churches are back to meeting in person with restrictions continuing to loosen, you may be wondering, is online engagement still important for my church? The answer is yes!
Just like a business, online engagement is important for the church today for all the same reasons listed above. However, it takes on a little bit of a different meaning.
Just as a business wants to reach more customers, a church wants to reach more of those who are lost, hurting, and haven’t learned of the love of Christ. So while a business is looking to reach more people to acquire more customers, a church is trying to reach more people to expand the kingdom of God and introduce them to the life of freedom in Jesus Christ. And yes, this can be done through social media and other online platforms.
A church’s online platform is really going to operate as your new first impression and your new front door. Most people will look at a church’s website and social media pages before they ever step foot in their building. What do you want people to know about your church or your mission from that first impression?
Social media also puts power in your attenders hands. Sharing posts, liking photos, and commenting are all ways your attendees can easily invite a friend or even a stranger to church. Just as we shared above, through likes and shares, the reach of your content can multiply in the blink of an eye.
At the end of the day, the Church’s goal is to expand the kingdom of God. Greater reach and a greater audience online will help spread the message of the gospel faster than it has ever spread before. If churches lean into their digital presence and engage with people online, they will see they have a whole new resource to reach, and serve, and love people, whether they are in the same city or halfway across the world.
How to Boost Online Engagement
Hopefully by now we have established how important an online and social media presence is for churches, nonprofits, and businesses both large and small. But how do you do that? How do you maximize your online engagement to reap the benefits it’s been proven to show.
Read on for a few practical things you can impediment to your digital strategy today to help boost your online engagement.
Be Active on Social Media
The simplest thing you can do to boost online engagement is to be active on social media. Consistency is key when it comes to online posting on any platform. Consistently posting will keep your account at the top of your follower’s feed and minds.
Actively reply to comments and engage in your followers posts, as well. When you support others they will want to support you back!
If you aren’t already in the habit, set a time each day that you will spend on your online platforms. Check and reply to messages, respond to comments, and post new content each day to stay relative amongst your followers and to show up for those who don’t yet follow!
Add Value to Your Audience
While consistency and quantity of online content is really important, you also need to make sure your content is quality. The more value you can add to your followers the better. This value can be found in many different places, from posts that simply entertain and put a smile on faces, to educating your following on a new topic.
Posting content that will lead your followers to a blog post on your website or a webinar are great ways to increase website traffic and help educate your followers, as well.
Share Other Accounts
Take the eyes off of yourself and share other accounts that you find valuable, enjoy, or that relate or can partner with what your mission is. This is a wonderful way to help support others and give your followers more value while at the same time creating partnerships with accounts who will then want to share and support what you are sharing and creating.
Utilize Analytics as Feedback
We talked about the constant stream of feedback you will receive from your online content so we encourage you to take your analytics (numbers of likes, shares, website clicks, etc.) and do something with it.
Take note of what type of content gets the most likes, shares, and comments, and create more posts like those. In the same way, notice the posts that don’t get much engagement and shy away from those types of posts. Whether they mean to or not, your followers will tell you exactly what they enjoy. Pay attention.
Post Giveaways or Prizes
Giving your followers a call to action will result in major engagement. If possible, hosting a giveaway or providing free resources is a simple and practical way you can encourage your followers to engage on your posts. Create content that encourages your followers to click to your website or even offer incentives to joining a mailing list or newsletter. It’s all about advancing your connection and communication with your audience.
It’s Time To Innovate
The world has gone more digital than ever, and believe it or not, technology is only going to continue to advance. Now is the time to invest and innovate when it comes to your online presence and marketing strategy. Whether you own a business or lead a church, the mission and goal is the same: to reach more people!
Helping You Reach More People Online
The next generation of Torrch is coming! Torrch is an online platform that can operate as an extension of your online marketing strategy. Through Torrch, you will be able to reach more people and expand your mission through online community and engagement.