Marketing 101: Email newsletters, social media and print can expand your reach
A strong marketing and communication strategy can make the most of readily available, low cost tools to keep your congregation engaged and get your church in front of new audiences. As more churches and public spaces open up throughout 2021, now is the time to consider how the pieces of your brand, website, and marketing efforts work together.
In a series of previous stories, we’ve taken a close look at questions and process related to branding and website design. If you missed those four stories, see the links at the end of this article.
Once your brand is buttoned up, and your website is meeting your visitors’ and congregation’s needs, it’s time to start expanding your reach and driving traffic to the site. Think of your website as the hub of your marketing efforts—and email, social media, print and other tools as your primary drivers to the site.
Here are a few of the essential marketing platforms every church should consider using to connect with people.
Email newsletters are common ground.
An email newsletter is one of the best ways to communicate regularly with your congregation. People all have their preferred social media platforms, but virtually everyone has email. And there are many great options for free or relatively inexpensive email marketing platforms.
The two most common, and most user-friendly services are:
- MailChimp: Featuring a more advanced and easier to use email builder, MailChimp is free for users with under 2,000 contacts, making it a great fit for most churches.
- Constant Contact: The email platform of choice for the NWC, Constant Contact pricing starts at $20/month, and there are more pre-designed templates to choose from, as well as a recently improved email builder. Contact management and email archiving options are slightly more user-friendly on Constant Contact, but the trade off may not be worth the cost for most users.
A weekly email newsletter provides consistency and opportunities to drive traffic to the website. Keep in mind that people scan content quickly, and you will need to repeat important event promotions and other key content for several weeks before many will take notice and click to learn more.
Provide short blurbs that link to longer form content on your website. Give your readers just enough info to glean key details, and entice them to click links or buttons to learn more or register for events.
Social media is for viral content.
The goal in using all social media platforms is to create content that compels people to interact and share. Unlike email newsletters, social media tools are, by design, meant to connect your church with new people via the social networks of those who already follow.
Regardless of the platform, try to include specific calls to action, prompts to share, and questions that require a response. It may feel “pushy” or inauthentic at times, but social media users are accustomed to being asked to like, share and comment. So go ahead and ask away.
The three social media platforms that work well for most churches are:
- Facebook: Although it’s become overrun with advertising and hot-button political content, Facebook still has the most robust tools for churches to facilitate groups, promote events, and share a wide variety of types of content.
- Instagram: Focused on photo and video content, Instagram is a great way to give followers visual insight into the life of your congregation. Make sure to vary your content so the feed doesn’t become exclusively promotional in nature. Check out the Crossroads Church feed for a great example of content mix.
- YouTube: While it’s a great platform for hosting video and livestreaming, remember that YouTube is at its core a social media tool. Make sure to pay attention and respond to comments, and tag content to increase the likelihood of showing up in the platform’s powerful search tool.
With any social media platform, plan to drive some content to your website for event details, sermons and news items, but do make sure to mix it up with posts that are created purely for social media. This will add to the personal and interactive feel of your feed.
Print is not (quite) dead.
Most churches have cut way down on common print materials like bulletins, printed newsletters and other paper goods. Depending on the demographics of your congregation, you may even be entirely paperless. Or you may find that your particular audience still likes to hold onto an order of service or receive mail from the church.
There is no right answer here, except to stay tuned to the needs of your congregation. Even if you’re mostly paperless, consider investing in well-designed welcome packets and seasonal promotions.
For example, during the 2020 holiday season, one church located just west of the Twin Cities created a custom printed Advent calendar with daily spiritual activities for families to engage in while they weren’t able to gather. The campaign connected families worshipping at home across the church body and was a huge success.
Whatever stage your church is at in the development of your brand, website or marketing strategies, it’s important to remember that there’s always room to grow and learn and evolve. And it’s perfectly fine to think of these areas of ministry as a journey. The important thing is to start somewhere, stay active, keep moving and be flexible.
For other stories in our Communications 101 series, visit:
- Brand 101: 2021 presents opportunity to evaluate brand identity as every church ‘relaunches’
- Brand 101: How do you go about evaluating and updating your brand identity?
- Website 101: Questions to answer before redesigning your church website
- Website 101: How do you go about updating your church website?
By Bryan Malley, NWC Director of Communications