Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Are you missing a channel of communication?

So many channels...

You have multiple channels of communication available for your church community. Channels like newsletters, email lists, social media, and speaking in person on Sunday. But there's one more channel of communication that churches are beginning to discover: text messaging. It is about as direct as you can get, aside from a face-to-face conversation. But how does text messaging differ, and how does it fit in?

Social Media and Newsletters

Social media communications work great when multiple people are sharing or discussing your message. But it's easy for people to miss a post when they have to scroll through a lot of daily noise, or may never scroll far enough, or didn't get online at the right moment to see your post. Having your members see a specific post in social media is hit-or-miss, so you should choose what you share in social media accordingly.

Email lists and newsletters are still essential for conveying a lot of information. You will always need to keep people informed about all the activities and concerns going on in your church, and this is the perfect vehicle when you need to deliver all the details. But remember that humans are creatures of efficiency; when a lot of information is presented, people will scan and pick and choose, consuming just the information most pertinent to them. And this may be okay.

But if your newsletter is delivered by email, recognize that it has a lot of competition for your reader's attention. Inboxes are never empty and your message could be missed altogether. Or it may be "skipped" or "saved for later" because the reader is already overwhelmed by their inbox, or they don't want to commit the time to sift through a bunch of information "right now". When you're at a party, ever notice how the smallest hors d'oeuvres get taken first? People are better at committing to smaller things. And as far as email is concerned, we've been conditioned to think of emails as not being small and consumable chunks. (That's why we never reach Inbox Zero!)

How does text messaging fit in?

Let's first highlight the single biggest strength and weakness of text messaging:

  Pro: A text message has a very high probability of actually being read immediately.
  Con: A text message must be short, 160 characters or less.

As you may see, this strength and weakness are inseparable. People actually read text messages because they are so short. That makes text messaging a powerful communication tool that should be in your toolbox.

How to leverage the power of a text message

So how should you utilize text? Answer: think "actionable instructions". What behavior do you want from your message recipients? Do you want greater attendance for an event? Do you need people to remember to bring something? Call a certain number? Or be at a particular location at a particular time? Rally interest for a local cause? Or just have everyone be on the same page?

It turns out that 160 characters is more than just room for a headline. It is plenty of space to communicate a particular subject plus details like times, dates, phone numbers, or web links. Just tell people what you'd like them to do and give them enough information to take action. Here's a couple simple examples:

You probably can't say everything you want in that small space. You must pare down your message to the essentials, or maybe you will refer people with a link to a place where they can get more detailed information. But in the end, people will actually appreciate getting a concrete, just-tell-me-what-to-do message. It makes their life easier when you highlight the essential information they need to know and what steps to take.

If you'd like more information about using text with the people in your church, download our free whitepaper below.