Content is King, but Apps are Ace!
We all know great content is the basis of many of our online ministries, but it’s easier said than done. Many sites stumble on the content treadmill not keeping up to date with new posts, or pushing out vasts amounts of mediocre content that gain little traction. I’ve been wondering about this problem and thought I’d share few insights and challenges.
The Content Dilemma
When you’re in the business of bringing about change to communities or impacting people with a message of hope, media is of course very powerful. But such change takes a long time, and is often the product of a slow process of challenging perceptions, opinions and behaviours. All of which is often delivered in bite sized “content”.
Be it dramas, infomercials, vox pops or just blogging an alternative world view it takes time and often a huge volume of content to see a tangible (positive) change take place. That in turn takes a huge amount of creativity and inspiration, not to mention compelling motivation and stammina to keep plodding along the “here today gone tomorrow” content treadmill.
From our experience the challenges to overcome are:
- Skilled and talented individuals who can create valued content in the right format.
- A deep understanding of your audience (or users, online) in order to remain focussed on them and relevant to them.
- Creating content that provokes, informs and engages people with Truth and challenges them in thought and actions, yet without driving them away in droves.
And yet as Christians we’ve been using such “content” our whole lives as our guide, our instructor, encourager and our hope.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. http://bible.us/2tim3.16.esv
Back to the Bible
I’m not so much suggesting we simply quote scripture as our content strategy, but rather suggesting we step back and consider have we over complicated our content, watered it down or not been bold enough in our approach?
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. http://bible.us/heb4.12.esv
Less is more
A lot of time and effort has gone into web strategies that really mimic their broadcasting ancestry. Pumping out content with a Christian message or values, this time on a website rather than a radio station or TV show. The only real shift we’ve taken on board, is that New Media and the internet has given an emphasis on instant feedback and a closed loop with our audiences, along with the far of hope we may, just once, get a viral hit.
While there is certainly a place for a Christian voice in all parts of the world, unless this strategy is really well resourced and done at a level that sits alongside the countless other professional media outlets, I fear it has little impact or relevance.
My suggestion here? Rather than jump on a treadmill and churn out content to fill up an oversized website week in week out, focus purely on timely, well crafted, high quality content that will last longer and go further than the humble blog post.
Think video. Think a handful a year. Think deeper more powerful messages.
Ideas into Actions – are Apps the key?
In many projects the desire is to see positive change in the communities we reach. We work in hard places, and long to see tangible changes. Justice, equality, forgiveness, tolerance. Seeing positives attitudes to Christ, growth of local churches or perhaps just better understanding of life’s difficulties and how to handle them.
Here’s a hypothetical situation, a community where doors are closed and neighbours don’t communicate, there is a real lack of hospitality and openness.
The content solution would create a site that talks about the value of hospitality, presents a few stories or dramas on great things that happen when people open up, share or have a meal together. Over time someone in that community as a consumer of the sites content may eventually start to wonder and have their views changed, they may ask a few questions in the comments or forum and hopefully would seek out why this hospitality thing is so great.
Now consider apps. Apps in their broadest sense (be it functional websites, tailored webapps or native mobile apps), are action centric. They are about getting things done, performing a task or enabling a service to happen.
The app solution to this project may therefore look something like CouchSurfing. For those not familiar with the app and service, it allows you to sign up and make your Couch (or bed) available to anyone in the network and drop by for a free night while they’re travelling. Travellers can sign up and find free places to stay all over the world.
One could argue that CouchSurfing has done more for increasing hospitality and generosity of people to passing strangers than any other project, service, content or even Church has done in the past.
Rather than using content to persuade people overtime that hospitality is a good thing, CouchSurfing gives people a quick, easy and free way to try it out instantly. It put the tools in peoples hands to help them do something they otherwise would not have been able to do.
Apps like this also do something else, they base themselves on the premise that as a crowd, humans are innately good. I wonder how much our theology taints our ability to think like this or to stop and consider the opportunities to do these types things?
Consider your strategy in light of the desired outcome.
Finally, I want to leave some provoking questions to help you think broader about your web strategy.
Do you really have the talent and capacity to develop a compelling content strategy?
Do you have faith that the Word of God can do far more than your own words?
Are there better digital tools to achieve your desired outcome?