As I’ve said in an earlier post, more and more churches are being rated online, and some of the ratings are not happy. And in a recent survey I did on social media in the church, a majority said that a negative review of a church they read online would “somewhat” affect the way they viewed that church. Luckily, you don’t have to leave your church’s online review process to chance. Not only should you proactively respond to any negative reviews, but you should also encourage people from your congregation to rate your church online.
But how should you do this? Most people don’t even know churches can be rated online, and in my survey, an overwhelming majority had not rated their church online. But even if you announce it in church and in your digital and print newsletters, there’s still no guarantee people will actually take the time to do it. That’s why, in order to be proactive about your church’s online reviews, you need to throw a party.
What, a party? It could be a luncheon, it could be a small get together, or even a segment of a meeting or social event your church already has planned. Timing-wise, it should be when most people are already at church – like during coffee hour or right after the service. The point is to create a festive atmosphere, get everyone together in one place with as many laptops as you can gather, and “reward” people for helping the image of their church online.
Have people log in or register at Yelp.com to review your church there, and help them get around the site if they haven’t been there before (note: if your church doesn’t have a listing there yet, you must create one before people can rate it – do this a couple days in advance of your party!). You should also claim your church’s Google Places listing and direct people to review your church there as well. It would be a great idea to “coach” people – not to lie about their experience of the church, of course, but to give ideas about what people might include in their own personal reviews. Needless to say, the process isn’t going to work if everyone submits the same review saying “I love this church! It’s great! You should come!”. Of course, if people feel that way (I hope they feel that way about your church!) then of course include it in some way. But people should focus their reviews on one or two aspects of the church that have been most meaningful to them. And be specific! Have people found their Bible study to be especially meaningful? Encourage them to share what they think made it so. If you’re the one organizing this function, it would be good to circulate around and see if people need any help. Again, the purpose is for people to share what they really feel about their church and why it is a special place.
If you (and a few people from your congregation) would be up for it, you could even consider creating video testimonials from people at your church, and posting them as Youtube videos on your church website!
An interesting by-product of doing is that you might find out that some people aren’t happy with how things are going at your church. This would be a great chance to enter into dialogue with them about what needs of theirs aren’t being met or how their feelings might have been hurt. You can then determine if there is something the church can do to address those needs or mend those hurt feelings.
What are your ideas for making an online review party at your church fun and successful? Tell us in the comments below.