How To Connect With Your Community On The Internet – Part #1
Have you ever wondered how easy (or hard) it is for people in your local community to find out about your church? Many churches rarely think about this because they are blessed with a membership of regular attenders. This however can limit thinking about reaching out to people who don’t necessarily know where you are or what you offer. There are some very effective steps you can take for free that will help you connect with your community. I often find churches with little or no signage to help people who are unfamiliar with the church to know where to go. People may drive past your church every day of their lives but be oblivious to your existence. This is also evident in the online presence of many churches. There are plenty of cost effective (and even free) ways in which churches can enhance their reach into the community. Here’s some tips on how to become more visible online and to increase your capacity to connect with people (in addition to your physical missional presence in the local community).
The number one place where people go to look for information in our era is Google and it has a feature that churches can use to great effect: Google My Business. Google My Business is an essential tool that allows people to have access to vital information such service times, contact information, photos, posts, etc. It’s an easy way for people to connect with you directly from within their Google Search query, making it a mini-website. Once you have set this up Google sends you monthly statistics on how many people searched for you on this feature, how many called you directly from the search query information on their devices, how many people visited your website and how many people used Google maps to navitgate their way to your church.
When someone types in the name of your church, and you are registered with Google My Business then all the essential details of your church will show up right at the top, next to the search column. This not only gives the church great exposure on the go-to search platform of our time but it provides those looking for your church access to essential details of your church: service times, location, contact information and a direct link to Google Maps to show where you meet and to help them navigate there.
How to set up Google My Business
Firstly you will need a Google account. If you are the only person on the planet who hasn’t got one yet fix that up and then register a Google My Business account. Once you’ve done that you will need to add your church or ‘claim ownership’ of your church. Go to www.google.com.au and type in the name of your church into the search bar. If any of the results match your information then look for the ‘own this business?’ link (see image below).
If you see that link then your church has not been claimed and you can go ahead and do that. Click on the link and it should take you to a map where you can get started on the process of claiming ownership and adding essential information.
If you don’t see that link click here: google.com.au/business It should take you to the registration page where you can get started on a listing that should look like this:
Click on the ‘Start Now’ button you will see at the top right hand corner and you will be given an opportunity to locate your church on a map along with other important information. Type your church name into the bar and a list of suggestions will come up. Select yours when you see it. If it doesn’t, click on the magnifying glass icon and you can enter it manually.
Once you have completed the steps above and you have entered in the correct details for your church, click on the ‘confirm’ button.
You will now be asked to verify that you are authorised to manage this by ticking Google’s terms and conditions box. This is important as it lets Google know your listing is the real deal and that you are the legitimate owner. Google will send you a verification code in order to complete the verification process.
Once you have registered you can log into your Google My Business dashboard and add information, posts, website adresses, manage reviews and post photos. The more you look after this dashboard and thereby your listing on Google, the higher you will rank and the easier it is for people to find you. You can also utilise the paid Adwords Google feature from this dashboard using the Adwords Express feature.
If you don’t have a budget for Adwords then simply updating your dashboard is effective as well as interacting with people who review you. Actively solicit reviews from people and interact with them when they do. In the digital age referral is king. Most suburbs have their own Facebook groups and every day all day people post questions inviting referral for anything from a mechanic to a photographer. The more reviews you have the more trust and credibility (hopefully!) you will build.
Stan Fetting, Crossover Operations Manager, Sept 2017