When nobody clicks: How to consistently create digital ministry content
Updated: Jan 12
The web can be a harsh place for content creators, even more so for churches trying to get in the habit of creating digital content. But the harshest reaction isn't an expressly negative one. Rather, the harshest reaction is often no reaction at all.
According to Podcast.co, 50% of podcasts have been downloaded less than 100 times. Meanwhile, Hubspot tells us that 40% of internet users have never read a blog post. And that Tweet you just posted? It's competing with 5,787 Tweets that were also posted at that exact same second.
As it turns out, the typical experience for today's digital content creator is not one of "going viral" or gaining influence. The typical experience is creating a post, video, blog, or podcast that is never viewed or heard by anyone. Digital content creators are constantly playing to an empty room.
This can be discouraging to congregations who want to get the word, and The Word, out. So you come up with a plan, create a team, maybe invest in some new cameras, microphones, and lighting equipment. You brainstorm, create, and publish, and nothing happens. In this moment, we tend to check-out from the act of content creation. What use is it to work so hard to generate so little in views, clicks, likes, and retweets?
But in a church landscape where digital church-hopping is common, where a congregation's online presence is its new front door, calling it quits on content is similar to locking your front door. The podcast you publish on a Tuesday could find its way to someone who worships with you on Sunday. Or in a more likely scenario, the blog you publish in February 2023 may be the conversation starter that opens the door to a visitor in January 2025.
We create content not because it generates clicks and influence, but because it creates a consistent presence. We write, record, and publish not to achieve fame, but because its a consistent form of witness for the 21st century church.
So here are three encouragements to remember the next time your episode isn't downloaded and your post isn't commented on:
Relevant, original content determines your ministry's visibility. Search engines reward relevant, original content that matches a user's search. When you post or podcast, you are engaging the questions that those looking for a church home are also asking. If and when you don't see any clicks after you post to the web, keep in mind that online searchers will be able to return to this content at any time, so long as it pertains to their interests.
Digital content can be re-packaged. When you create something new, you're not creating a one-off project that will never be used again. You're building source material that can be repurposed for future digital content, even for sermons, prayers, and liturgies. This is the foundation of curation, the process of finding exactly the right resource for precise moments in your ministry. You are adding a new set of legos to the toybox with each piece of content you create. Just because it's not viewed today does not mean it won't find an audience tomorrow.
Original content functions as an invitation to a conversation. Physical signage and billboards tend not to get a lot of buzz, but we in the church keep putting up new signs, because eventually they will help someone connect with the church. While it was once sufficient to view a static webpage or social media profile as an invitation to the life of a congregation, today that invitation is extended through stories and narratives shared in digital content. Our digital content is our digital signage. Everything that we create or curate provides an invitation to continue a dialogue.
At times, it seems like digital content is just one more item on a ministry's already overwhelmed to-do list. So let us resolve to think of content creation as a new form of presence. If we remain persistent, if we become more practiced in curating source material like prayers and sermon texts, we might just find that content becomes more and more of a habit. And as content becomes a habit, we increase our witness in this digital age.
Five resources for congregations looking to establish content creation habits:
UMC: Become a Curator of Cool (Pinterest specific, but the logic works across multiple platforms)
SundayToSaturday: Why curation is needed in the church
Join @ryanpanzer and Luther Seminary Faith Lead for a live workshop on digital visibility. More information here.