Tech news from GA 2015 by Beth Ogilvie

At General Assembly 2015 in Portland, Oregon, I attended 2 sessions run by #UUsGetSocial, about how to use internet technology to advance our mission. The first was called Make Your Website Awesome and Make It Yours. Here are some of the things I learned.

New UU church website design coming. More than 50% of all internet accesses are from mobile devices now, and our church website is not mobile friendly. Luckily, the UUA is helping us out. In a session called Make Your Website Awesome and Make it Yours, I learned the UUA is developing a WordPress template for churches to use, coming in September. (Our current website uses a WordPress template called “Light of Peace” created by an independent graphic designer.) The UUA is researching the new design intensely, optimizing it for accessibility,  ease of navigation, and best practices. For example, suppose a nonmember wants a place to hold a wedding or memorial service. How long will it take them to find the information they need on the site?

Testimonials. The new template will have a place for testimonials. They suggest having them on every page- one or two sentences and a photo. That would be a fun little project for someone, collecting testimonials.

Email service. The UUA has negotiated a good rate with an email marketing service called Emma. I have not looked it into it at all. In addition to the good rate, they’ve created templates for us. Here’s another little project for someone, evaluating Emma and recommending whether we should switch or not.

Website hosting. I asked if they had negotiated with website hosting companies, and the answer was no. They recommended paying extra for a managed hosting service, where the hosting company maintains WordPress, does all the backups, etc. It typically costs $25-30/month, but it’s more secure, faster, etc. With our site, by the time we’ve paid both for the site and the add-on security service (SiteLock) we’re at 2/3 of that anyway, so it wouldn’t be a big jump. And if we could save a little on the email, that would help.

UU Website Lab on Facebook. Lots of good stuff here, and quick answers to questions.

Rich content. In another workshop called Creating Content That’s Seen, Liked, and Shared, they started with how a communications plan should be based on the organization’s goals, and then suggested ways to add rich content to social media. Betsy is doing a great job of getting worship info and some of our blog articles there. We need to feed her more good stuff. Ideas:

  • RE events and messages
  • Comments on news in the media (bad news or good). This would require a thoughtful response from one of us, of course, though we can also, occasionally, repost something from the UUA or Standing on the Side of Love or  UU World or …
  • Seasonal messages (mothers/fathers’ day, memorial day, etc.) Often worship is focused on these, so it can be simple to pull something out of the worship materials.
  • Messages from the minister
  • Other original content
  • As a last resort, pictures of baby animals are always a winner. 🙂

None of this needs to happen on a regular schedule.

Content gimmicks that boost sharing. Judicious use of images. Lists! Lists get shared more. “How to” posts. And you can combine them: “How to Live a Spiritual Life in 7 Easy Steps.” Ten is a popular number in lists, and 23 is the next most popular. “What” posts are good (“What you miss by not being part of a spiritual community”), also “Why” posts.

Facebook groups. We have one, for members. Many churches have multiple private groups, for different constituencies within the church. Not sure if we’re big enough for that, but it’s a possibility. The Beloved Conversations group last year had a private Facebook page that got some use.