Imagine one day you wake up to find your church content on a social media page is gone. It’s disappeared without you doing anything. No trace that you ever existed on the platform. How bad would that be in your ministry?
Why We Say, “Own Your Church Content”
One morning while I was working on some stuff, my buddy Gary Leland pinged me. If you don’t know Gary, he’s a media mogul. He’s got an empire he’s built since 2006 ranging from podcasting to live streaming.
Out of the blue one morning, Gary reached out to me asking, “Do you have any idea how to recover a deleted Facebook group?” I didn’t understand what he meant…but he explained that one morning he woke up and his Facebook group of 50,000 members was gone.
…And a year and a half later he was unable to recover it.
Gary and I learned an important lesson that day. We, as content creators (including you in the church space), need to recognize that many of our publishing avenues are not our own. We are at Facebook’s mercy. YouTube’s mercy. Instagram’s mercy. Etcetera.
These online platforms are just a space we rent. Just like if you were to rent a home vs. owning it. We are at the mercy of the landlords.
Remember sharecropping from history class? Families would get a small piece of land to live and farm on in exchange for giving a portion of their crops to the landowner.
We’re doing this a lot in digital spaces. I run into too many churches who don’t have websites…relying on a Facebook page for their church content and overall online presence.
You ever hear the phrase, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket?” That’s what this is. You’re relying on another platform to be the central hub for all your church content…that’s a no-no.
YouTube and Facebook own their platforms and have every right to police and manage it as they see fit. We have to accept that.
And remember that these guys are in a unique position as global platforms. They have billions of users and hundreds of thousands of hours of videos uploaded every day!
With that kind of reach and quantity, they have a lot on their plate to try to monitor the content published. They may swing the pendulum too hard one way, or make a mistake along the way trying to clean up the garbage. (We’re not defending them, just putting this situation in perspective)
That we know of, there was nothing wrong with Gary Leland’s softball Facebook group. But Facebook took the group down. Whether by accident or on purpose, Gary’s work and a good chunk of income are gone because he didn’t own this part of his platform.
So let’s get into how you can start to take ownership of your own content and minimize the damage if this happens to you…
Promote Church Content On Your Own Website
Don’t rely on somebody else to provide you with free space to promote yourself. At some point, they’re going to change their business model or call for payment.
All roads point to your website. It’s your central communication hub. Just like your church is your home base for your members, your church website is your home base for your church’s online presence.
Now how to host your website is where Justin and I (respectfully) diverge a little bit…
I have and always will preach WordPress. It’s flexible, open-source, and you own it. No one can magically raise the price for you. You decide where to host it, how to host it, and you can even move your site easily to another platform or server. (Which by the way, if you’re looking for a new host I can’t recommend Site Ground enough. We use it here at CTA and LOVE IT for the cost).
Justin, on the other hand, prefers third-party platforms. His favorite is called Duda and he uses that for all his web design clients. He likes that you can just get started with a site in a few clicks, never worry about updates or security, and their centralized support. I don’t like how limiting these platforms are and that you can’t change platforms easily…but we’ll talk about that more at another time.
Promote Church Content In Your Own Emails
Email is the most sure-fire way to communicate with people. If your Facebook page or group disappears, how are you going to continue talking with your people?
Not only that, if you do most of your communicating on social media, you’re at the mercy of their algorithm. There are ways you can try to “beat the algorithm” with specific types of church social media posts, but you’ll never reach 100% of your audience without paying.
Email, however, lets you reach your audience every time for free (depending on your list size you may have to pay a bit for larger lists of over 2,000). I know that when my church sends an email, every recipient will get it. Even today in 2018, email is a powerful way to grow your ministry.
And you better believe people are still checking their emails and prefer to receive organizational communications in their inbox.
If you’re looking for an email platform to send church content to your membership or community, we recommend ActiveCampaign. Again, we use it and love it for CTA. But you can also get started with MailChimp which is free for lists smaller than 2,000 (just remember all that we’ve talked about above…don’t 100% trust free).
Work Towards Owning Your Video Church Content
Free platforms like YouTube are great but remember you don’t own it.
A lot of churches are using audio podcasts to share their church content like sermons and services. But did you know you can create a video podcast?
You can use a service like Podbean (again, my favorite that we use at my church) and create a video podcast. This is an audio and video podcast hosting service that you are paying for and own.
Now I’m not saying shell out the $$$ and leave YouTube in the dust. YouTube is still the place you want to start. Stream and post your sermons on YouTube, embed the videos on your website as a starting point.
But eventually, you want to have your own control of your own media. That’s where video podcasting can come in as a backup. I look at it like wearing a belt and suspenders – you won’t end up with your pants around your ankles – HA!!
You can also use Vimeo plus or pro as a backup to owning your content beyond YouTube (are you recognizing a pattern here? We use it too for our CTA Insiders Courses). If you need to host private videos like training or sensitive material, Vimeo is a great option because you can privatize your videos with more control over sharing and embedding.
Free is great, but everything costs something.
My good friend Gary relied on Facebook to reach his 50,000 followers, then one day *POOF* he lost that connection.
I’m not saying you need to abandon ship and stop using social media. Social media is one of the best ways to show off your church culture and connect with potential visitors.
But you should be striving to create an infrastructure where you own your own church content.
Owning your own website is like owning your own church building. Churches start meeting in schools and movie theaters all the time, but the intent is to eventually move out and have your own building. Your content is the same. Starting on other free platforms is just okay. Eventually, you need to build your own online hub.
Don’t rely on social media to do all your communicating for you. At best you might only reach 2-15% of your following with a social media post. But every person will receive an email when you send one. Grow and own your email list and you’ll always have one-to-one communication with your members and teams.
Finally, start thinking about your video content infrastructure. Getting started for free on YouTube is great, and we encourage it. But don’t think it’ll be there forever for free. Just like your website, you want to own your video streams too. Begin thinking about how you can own your own video feeds with a video podcast.
Have you ever thought about the risks of only being present on free platforms? Let us know in the comments below!
If you do own your own website, you rock! You’ve got that down. But is your website actually doing its job and attracting new visitors?
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