By Mark Brooks
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Those two iconic phrases remind me of the rise of social media and mobile access.
If you haven’t been paying attention, both continue to grow at a speed which — while not as fast as a bullet — is nonetheless very rapid.
As I wrote my new book, The Digital Church, the rapidly rising profile of social media and mobile access was a constant challenge. Every time I thought I was finished, another statistic popped up and simply had to be included. I finally arrived at a realization: Social media is so fast, and so changing, that the minute my book was published, it would be out of date — as with any computer you buy!
In a recent blog post, social media expert Jeff Bullas spotlighted two key factors driving the social web. Citing a Global Web Index study, these are:
1) Mobile — In the past two years, the number of people accessing the internet via smartphones has increased by 60.3 percent, for a total of 818.4 million.
2) Adoption by older users — On Twitter, the 55- to 64-year-old age bracket is the fastest-growing demographic, with a 79-percent growth rate since 2012. On Facebook and Google+, the fastest-growing demographic is the 45- to 54-year-old age bracket, at 46 percent and 56 percent, respectively. (Don’t look now, but Grandma is following your Tweets!)
Also worthy of note is the rise of mobile, which many churches disregard. We’ll soon reach the tipping point where most people access the Internet via a mobile device. Tablets will soon replace standard computers and laptops as the most purchased tool.
Go mobile, or get lost!
If your church wants to be relevant, it needs to have an online presence. You need to be where the audience is. While your church might not be on social media, millions of people are — many of them in your neighborhood.
Next, not only should your church have an online platform, but it needs to be accessible to how people are viewing online material today. More individuals than ever are connecting to the Internet using tablets and smartphones.
There are at least two major areas in which not being mobile can be costly to your church, starting with search optimization. If your sites aren’t mobile, search engines won’t rank them high on the list when people type in “churches in my zip code.” Even if browsers somehow find your church on their mobile devices — if they find the site unreadable — visitors will leave within seconds.
The second area (often overlooked) is making sure online giving is set up for mobile access. Again, studies show that people quickly leave sites that aren’t mobile-friendly.
So, let’s say you’ve included a QR code to your giving page in the Sunday bulletin. If that page isn’t set up for mobile, then mobile users can’t give easily. Non-mobile sites mean users must use their fingers to enlarge the screen, which makes it harder to read and type in information. They’ll leave without giving.
Mobile setup isn’t difficult, and most online firms now offer this with little cost to your church. If you’re concerned about your lost community, then you’d better not get lost to that community.
It’s time to get mobile.
Mark Brooks is founder and president of The Charis Group and Charis Giving Solutions.