Four Effects of Low Cost Smartphones on Your Church by Darrel Girardier

Free. That's what it costs right now to get a basic smartphone phone at your local carrier. Think about that for a second, for a two year contract and no money down, you can walk out of a store with a personal computer in your pocket. To me, that seems like something out of an episode of the Jetsons.

So what does this mean for your church? How can you prepare for the what will be the last stage of smartphone market penetration? Until recently, most people saw smartphones as more of a luxury than a necessity. However, we've now reached the point where we've hit the magic price point of free for smartphones. We're about to see the digital divide close even faster.

How can your church prepare for a congregation that's mainly all smartphone users (assuming that's not the case right now)? How does this change how you interact with your congregation? How does this change how people give monetarily? Your communication tactics?

I want to take a moment and explore some of those implications. While the application use of smartphones is a wide open subject, I've narrowed it to four areas that I think will have the most immediate impact.

Social Media Numbers Will Skyrocket

I've written before about the growing number of senior adults joining social media and low cost smartphones will only expedite that. Seniors who are on fixed incomes will walk into retail stores and say "I just want to share pictures of the grandkids and check email", in return they'll walk out with a device that can do so much more.

Once senior adults realize what they have in their hands, I believe the desire to see photos and interact with family will overcome any learning barriers they might have. In other words, if grandma wants to see a Facebook photo of her grandchild, trust me she'll find a way.

Low cost smartphones will also increase the social connectedness of impoverished areas. The price of a phone will no longer be a barrier as now the "free" contract phones will be smartphones. This also means that parents who in the past weren't keen on paying for multiple smartphones might just be okay with their kids getting one as well. Soon income and age will not be a deterent from owning a smartphone.

The Next Great Divide

Soon the next great technological divide won't be about who has the latest device. It will be about who has the bandwidth to use those devices. We'll start referring to areas and countries as being "bandwidth poor" (a term used by Google executive Erich Schmidt). This means, that while devices are adequate to join the digital revolution, there's not enough bandwidth to watch videos or download apps. However, I believe that this divide will be temporary as companies race to increase the coverage of their networks.

This of course means, that churches will need to think through their IT infrastructure and whether or not they'll provide wifi. For some, this seem like a small issue, but for most people walking into any facility that holds gatherings, it's usually assumed that there's some type of wifi. In fact, in just a few more years most people will assume you have wifi just the same as you having bathrooms.

Begin to Think Beyond Mobile

While it's tempting to just think about social media, there's a lot more going on. The increase usage in smartphones will result in rise of mobile payments, location based marketing and a host of other new technologies that churches can use. Take mobile giving for example, a church can sign up with a provider like Kindrid and get a shortcode that will allow people to text in their offering. This is perfect for one time campaigns or regular giving. Couple mobile giving with the latest in NFC technology and pretty soon you won't carry a wallet anymore, just your mobile phone.

To get a head of these opportunities, begin to form a team of IT professionals who attend your church to help you make decisions on which direction you should go. Treat them like a board of a company. Present to them your ideas and let them poke holes in your plans. This process will allow you to make sure focusing on the right opportunity at the right time.

Think Mobile Web First

As I've stated before, if your designing a website, start with the mobile experience first and then work on the desktop experience. By the end of this year, majority of internet traffic will be generated by mobile phones. We're seeing it in our church right now. In fact, we should have more mobile visitors than desktop by the fall of 2014. As low cost smartphones continue to flood the market, these numbers will only go up.

Free is Just the Beginning

Free smartphones are just the beginning. As prices for computing hardware continue to drop and their cost is offset by new advertising models (i.e. Google Ads, etc...) soon more services and devices will have a "free" pricetag. For people and organizations on tight budgets, this is a chance to gain access to resources previously reserved for the tech affluent.

The tools for a church to spread its message have never been greater. The question will be whether or not your church can pick the right tools to deliver it's message. Your church will need to resist the urge spread its message across multiple platforms that will drain your resources. Instead, choose a few tools, master them and then grow from there.

How to Break Through Facebook's 16% Barrier by Darrel Girardier

In case you haven't noticed, not everyone is seeing your church's Facebook posts. By "everyone", I'm referring to people who've liked your church's Facebook page. Despite all your marketing efforts to get church members to "like" your page, there's still plenty of content that you're posting to Facebook that they'll never see. Kind of depressing isn't it?

While there's no official number out there, it's believed that only 16% percent of the people who "like" your page will actually see your content in their news feed. That number will grow as people like and share your content. However, that seems like a lot of work for only 16% and hoping that the rest of your audience somehow sees your content.

So what's the solution to getting through to your Facebook audience? Well, you can pay to promote your content and increase it's reach. Pay for Facebook? Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but that's what happens when companies become publicly traded and answer to stockholders.

Don't worry though, there's a better way to get your content to your audience without spending money. Below you'll find three effective ways you can break through Facebook's 16% barrier and get your content in front of your audience.

Upload vs Linking

Let's say you have a two minute video clip of your Pastor from last Sunday's sermon. The easiest thing to do would be to upload it to Youtube and use IFTTT to cross post the clip to your social media platforms. While that'll work, you'll find that videos that live outside of the Facebook ecosystem (Youtube, Vimeo, etc...) often don't get the same ranking on news feeds as videos that were uploaded directly to Facebook.

So what's the solution? Simply upload your clips directly to Facebook. I've found that Facebook gives videos that are uploaded directly to their platform a higher ranking in news feeds. Why does this work? Well, here's the secret: Facebook wants your content to live on their platform. Keep that in mind whenever you're posting content.

Try Long Status Updates

When we were trying to generate more traffic to our pastor's blog we found little success with posting a link to each blog post as a status update. As I said before, Facebook wants your content to live on their platform.

So what was our solution? We posted the entire blog post as a status update. That means we cut and pasted a 500 word blog post and used it as his status update. The results? Our organic reach skyrocketed overnight and we generated more likes for his page.

At first we struggled with this, since this meant that we're not driving people to his site, however we now understand that once people are logged into Facebook, they are less likely to leave the Facebook website to experience outside content.

Again this may seem counterintutive, but the less you try to get people to leave Facebook to visit your site, the more news feeds you will reach. So instead of adding links to events or webpages in your posts, try posting an image with the url clearly written on it. Yes, this may seem like more work for the reader, however the increased news feed reach will outweigh the additional work.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask

It never hurts to add "Please Share" or "Please Like" on certain posts that you send out. By giving people call to actions people will actually share your content. Now keep in mind that while this technique will work, it shouldn't be abused. Make sure you are selective when asking people to take action on your content. Don't wear out your audience.

A Challenge

Here's a challenge for my readers. I want you for one week to try the above methods with your church's Facebook content and compare the results. See if your content gains more readers and in turn generates more likes. Let me know your results by contacting me here.

What Facebook Buying Whatsapp Means for Your Church by Darrel Girardier

19 billion dollars. That's what Facebook just spent on acquiring the mobile app WhatsApp.
Yes, that's a lot of money. However, as the dust settles on the deal some experts are seeing the logic in the deal and why it makes sense.

If you run social media for your church, this type of news doesn't typically affect you. However, I do think that the purchase of Whatsapp can give us some insight into Facebook's future strategy and what it means for your church.

Facebook is going all in on mobile

Mobile is the future. Facebook has seen dramatic growth in mobile use of their platform and they know that's where their future lies. You should expect to see a heavy investment from Facebook in the mobile experience. This means that as a church, you need to focus on the mobile experience first and then focus on the desktop. Ask yourself, how does your church's content look on a mobile device? Is formatted correctly? Can it be easily read on a smaller screen?

It's a Reminder that You're the Product

Facebook's business model is pretty simple, users hand over personal data through status updates, pictures and likes. That data is then sold to marketers who use the data to sell ads. It's a pretty simple revenue model. The addition of Whatsapp and it's 450 million users adds to the growing list of users who give Facebook their data. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg projects that he could easily make at least $2-$3 off of each users to begin with.

Remember when you're dealing with social media companies, you're the product, not the customer. It's easy to confuse the two. That's not to say that Facebook or Twitter don't care about the user experience, but it does mean that goal is to get as much data out of you as possible. Again, you're not paying for the service, marketers are and that's who social media companies have to keep happy.

As churches we need to be careful not build too many of our communication channels on "free" networks. While these networks are great for your budget, they come with little or no customer service, no gurantee of their uptime and no promise of protection of your free speech as a church. Consider diversifying your channels to platforms that you're truly the customer or that you yourself can host. While yes, it does take a little more time and effort, but it ensures you will have stable communication channels.

Whatapp is just the beginning

If you're big fan and user of Facebook then this is just one more way that you will be able to incorporate Facebook into your life. However, if you're weary of Zuckerberg and Facebook, then be careful what you sign up for in the future. This aquisition is one of many coming down the road for them. As Facebook struggles to create more ways to get on your mobile device (i.e. their dismal launch of the Android Home app), they will be forced to purchased established players in the field like Whatsapp.

Facebook will continue to be a key player in most churches' social media strategy. As it should, considering its staggering amount of users and rise of popularity amongst senior adults . However, this recent aquisition of Whatsapp is healthy reminder to diversify your communications platforms and always explore new options.

Seven Mobile Tools for Church Social Media Directors by Darrel Girardier

If you're like me, you can't be confined to desk and run social media for your church. You need mobile tools that allow you to quickly capture what's happening and feed it to your social media channels. Here's a quick list of tools that I use to get the job done:

Hootsuite Mobile App

Yes, you can use the official Twitter and Facebook Pages app to handle multiple accounts, but the Hootsuite's mobile app is the tool of choice. Here's a quick rundown of its features:

  • Multiple account management (Facebook, Twitter, etc...)
  • Scheduling of posts in advance
  • Geolocation search for nearby social media activity (read more that here)
  • Check-in with Foursquare
  • Manage your Hootsuite streams

Instagram

Sorry there's no third pary app to replace Instagram. Due to their API restrictions, if you want to use Instagram and all of its features, you need to stick with its official app.

VSCOcam

VSCOcam is the best photo editor on the iPhone. Not only does it come with built-in filters, it also lets you have fine grain control over editing your photos.

Horizon

Horizon is a video camera app with one goal; to rid the world of those horrible vertical iPhone videos. You know the ones I'm talking about. The kind that makes you think you're looking through some sort of rectangular peephole. Don't know what I'm talking about? Just ask any video professional, and then watch them start to tear up.

IFTTT

I like things that are automatic. IFTTT (If This Then That) let's me automate a lot of my life. You can automate photo backups, your Buffer account, notifications and more. Recently, they released an iPhone app which let's you automate actions on your phone. For example, let's say you added a reminder in Siri but you also want email to yourself that reminder, IFTTT for the iPhone can do that. The possibilities are endless.

Feedly

There's no way to keep up with every social media news site, but there is a way to put all those updates in one place. Using Feedly you can create a dashboard for all your news sources. You can also connect to other services like Pocket to save articles for later reading. (Bonus feature: you can hook up Feedly to Buffer with IFTTT to automatically tweet articles you save.)

Over

Over for me is the best way way to lay text over your photos. While there are other choices, Over provides the best selection of fonts and tools for creating art on the go for your church social media channels.

Of course this list is just a start, however for me these are the essential apps that I use on a day to day basis. Got an app that you think should've made the list? Hit me up on Twitter (@dgirardier) and let me know.

Let's Fix Social Media Conferences by Darrel Girardier

Hey conference planners, it's time to rethink your social media conference. I think we're all tired of going to conferences and finding the same topics rehashed. It's time to move beyond speakers and bloggers throwing up their presentation decks that can be found on Google. So how do you fix your social media conference? Here's a list to get you started:

Give Me an Experience

If I could be streaming your conference and it's the same experience as those attending the conference, then coming to your conference is a waste of my time. Make your conference an immersive experience.

Deliver Original Content

If I could get your presenter's information through a google search or reading your presenter's blog, then it's not worth my time. You need to deliver original, exclusive content.

Put the Social in Social Media

If your conference has "social" in the title, then I expect there to be a live social element to your conference. I'm not talking about a #hashtag tweet conversation, I'm talking about a real conversation between a group of people.

You Need to Talk to Your Attendees

If you tell the attendees that you need to listen and interact with your audience, and your conference doesn't do that, then you're hypocritical. Conferences have to learn to be flexible and change with needs of the audience. This requires listening.

Don't Say "Think Mobile" and Not Do the Same

If you tell people it's a mobile first world, then your website has to have a mobile version. This is non-negotiable.

Conference planners, throw out your previous schedules and do what you preach. Engage your audience, listen to them in real time and give them a true mobile experience. I'm not describing the future, I'm describing the present. It's time you joined us.