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The Top 7 Reasons Everyone Ignores The Online Content You Produce

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So all of a sudden you’re online like you’ve never been before.

And now there’s a long road ahead. While no one knows exactly where all of this lands post-pandemic, the future looks more digital than ever.

It’s almost certain that the future holds more remote teams and ministry, more people looking for spiritual solutions online, and more people choosing digital church as an option or as their preferred option.

Plus, the shift is well underway to take the focus off Sunday and place it firmly into a church’s online presence 7 days a week.

Which means you’ll be producing digital content for a long time to come.

Right now, church leaders are throwing a lot of digital spaghetti at the wall. For the most part that’s great, because eventually you’ll see what sticks and what doesn’t.

It’s also helpful to get some guiding principles that can help you discern the kind of content that will help people and as a result, get noticed online.

Knowing what works is a little more tricky than figuring out what doesn’t work.

So, to save you some time, here are seven things that don’t work, seven reasons that, if you keep doing them, make people ignore the online content you produce.

While no one knows exactly where all of this lands post-pandemic, the future looks more digital than ever. Click To Tweet

1. You Focus on The Number of Views and Ignore Engagement

Attendance is like crack to pastors, and the number of views are the new attendance.

Over the last month, I’ve heard a lot of pastors boasting about how many streams, views and likes they’ve gotten on their videos, services or posts.

And for sure, I am deeply encouraged that half of all churches are seeing digital attendance growth over their former physical attendance numbers. That’s amazing, and I’m the last one to throw shade on that or deconstruct the numbers so they end up meaning nothing (I wrote a post about the 300% rise in growing church attendance here.)

But one sure way to get diminishing views over time is to focus on views.

In the same way church leaders who used to focus on attendance patterns only saw declining attendance, church leaders who only focus on views will see declining numbers of views.

In the same way church leaders who used to focus on attendance patterns only saw declining attendance, church leaders who only focus on views will see declining numbers of views. Click To Tweet

Don’t get me wrong. Views matter because people matter, but views are way less valuable than engagement.

In the physical church, people engaged the mission when they got involved in the mission. They started serving, giving, practicing personal spiritual disciplines, inviting their friends and engaging this faith they were exploring or embracing.

In the new digital church, engagement is still the key.

Some ideas:

  • Get your viewers to leave comments.
  • Have your team respond to comments to build relationships.
  • Get viewers to fill out a digital welcome card and follow up with them personally.
  • Invite people to make a faith decision and follow up with them personally.
  • Capture email addresses and build a more personal relationship.
  • Challenge people to do something in response to the message, not just watch something on their screens.

The goal of online ministry should be to help viewers become engagers.

Viewers will eventually walk away. And in the process, you become easier to ignore than ever. Just think of any blog post or article you’ve clicked on to scan quickly and never to return again. In fact, you don’t even remember what site you were on.  You got what you needed for five seconds and moved on.

Engagers are for more likely to return and dig deep.

So in your next meeting, focus less on the number of views you got an instead focus on how to get viewers to become engagers.

The goal of online ministry should be to help viewers become engagers. Click To Tweet

2. You Say Predictable Things In A Predictable Way

So let’s say you have something of value to say.

It still doesn’t mean people will engage it.

The internet is populated with well-meaning leaders who have meaningful things to say, but they say them in a boring way.

I had a conversation with an editor a few years ago who appreciated my content, and I asked him why. He told me something I’ll never forget: “You say familiar things in an unfamiliar way.”

I don’t always do that, but he’s correct: I try. It’s intentional.

The internet is populated with well-meaning leaders who have meaningful things to say, but they say them in a boring way. Click To Tweet

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked over to an article online I think is going to help me, and click off seconds later because everything the author wrote seems cliche and predictable.

Let’s say the post is called “5 Keys To Building a Winning Team.”

Here’s the boring way to headline the post:

  1. Be Committed
  2. Build Trust
  3. Cooperate
  4. Empower Your Team
  5. Contribute

I know, you’re already asleep.

It sounds like every vanilla seminar delivered in a beige room you’ve ever been to.  The fact that content might be helpful is irrelevant if the messaging anesthetizes you.

The fact that content might be helpful is irrelevant if the messaging anesthetizes you. Click To Tweet

The key is to same the same thing in a far less predictable way.

Try this instead:

  1. Demonstrate Radical Commitment
  2. Kill Distrust
  3. Challenge Selfish Behaviour
  4. Build Leaders, Not Doers
  5. Get Off Your Butt

While this may not be perfect, it surprises you. Which makes you want to read. Which increases engagement and actually helps your audience learn.

The challenge of course is that most of us don’t have truly unique things to say. I write on leadership. Hardly an unpopulated space. I also preach, which means I’m trying to say things that have been said millions of times over thousands of years, and it’s unfaithful to change the message.

But if you think about messaging for faith, saying ‘love more’ or ‘be kind’ or ‘repent’ hardly engages people’s hearts and mind.

If you want to get more traction online, say familiar things in an unfamiliar way.

If you want to get more traction online, say familiar things in an unfamiliar way. Click To Tweet

3. You Talk About Yourself A Lot

Here’s another way to get people to ignore you online: Talk about yourself a lot.

Sure, people want to know you and taking them behind the scenes into your life is a great idea from time to time. When it comes to online video, personal is the new polished.

When it comes to online video, personal is the new polished. Click To Tweet

But….I have to tell myself this every day: nobody cares about me.

No, that’s not some weird therapy thing, it’s just true.

Nobody cares about me.

Nobody cares about you.

People care about themselves. 

The top mistake I see church leaders and other leaders make on social media is they talk about themselves and their church ad naseum.

You know what you should be talking about?

Your viewers/ listeners/readers.

Which is why I start almost every blog post/email/message with the word ‘you’ in the first line. Consider for a second how this post opened: so all of a sudden you’re online like you’ve never been before.

Dissect that a little further:

First of all, it was about you (not me).

Second, it names a challenge you’re facing. Maybe you said something to yourself like: Oh my goodness. I AM online all the time now. He gets it. He gets me. 

Third, it makes a subtle promise that this might help you, because it named a problem and included you.

I could have said “Hey leaders, people read my content a million times a month and I’ve been writing for decades so let me give you some tips” and you would have thought “this guys’s a totally self-absorbed, arrogant little train wreck” (which in my bad moments, I am).

All this time I hear leaders saying:

Hey X Church, this weekend I’m going to be talking about…

We have this exciting new event coming up…

We’re behind on our budget…

I have an amazing opportunity…

It’s better to start for the listener/reader’s point of you.

So maybe open with something like:

Maybe you’re wondering what God is doing in the middle of the Coronavirus crisis?

If you’ve ever wondered how to meet new people…

Any chance you’re asking how you can make a difference right now when there’s so much need…

If you’ve watched Tiger King three times and everything else on Netflix, then….

The way to get into the hearts of the people you’re speaking to is to get into their heads. If you can name what people are struggling with, they’ll trust you to provide an answer.

The way to get into the hearts of the people you're speaking to is to get into their heads. If you can name what people are struggling with, they'll trust you to provide an answer. Click To Tweet

4. You Offer No Real Value

Posting for the sake of posting doesn’t really help anyone.

Value doesn’t have to be serious.

You can post something funny, something interesting or something different. And of course you can offer something practical, profound, inspirational or helpful.

Just make sure that you post things people will be grateful they saw, heard or learned from.

Even though your content is free, people paid with their time, something that unlike money, they can never get back.

If you end up wasting their time, you become an easy unfollow.

There’s a lot of noise online. Value cuts through the noise.

Even though your content is free, people paid with their time, something that unlike money, they can never get back. Click To Tweet

5. You Keep Ignoring Your Email List

I talk about this regularly and routinely get dismissed, but I’ll try it again.

Don’t ignore your email list.

Email isn’t sexy, interesting and doesn’t get a lot of attention online, but if you want to actually connect with people email is one of your best strategies.

Why am I so passionate about email?

Email is one of the few things NOT controlled by an algorithm these days (unlike all social, which is completely algorithmic and beyond your control).

Men, who tend to be less active on social media, open and read emails.

Email is a great format for writing short, helpful copy that links to anything you want to link to.

I have open rates in the last few weeks of 30-33% on a list of 61K leaders. Sub-lists push a 70% open rate. Social doesn’t come close to touching those numbers.

But go ahead and keep posting to Instagram for 13 likes.

Your email list is where the real connection is, and, as indicated above, it can push to your social, videos blogs and other helpful content.

Email isn't sexy, interesting and doesn't get a lot of attention online, but if you want to actually connect with people email is one of your best strategies. Click To Tweet

6. You Get So Worried About Making It Perfect You Never Post Anything

If you really want to get ignored online, worry about whether your post is good enough. Again and again.

Obsess over whether your content is beautiful enough, smart enough, well-designed enough or well-edited enough to post.

I know so many people who talk about launching a podcast but say they don’t have the right gear, or the right guests, or the right website, or the right show art.

I also know a lot of leaders who have great ideas but can tell you 75 reasons why they can’t execute on any of them right now because they still need to work on it.

If you really want to get ignored online, worry about whether your post is good enough. Again and again. Click To Tweet

Have an artistic streak that demands things be great?

As Steve Jobs used to say, real artists ship. He’s right.

Still scared your ideas aren’t good enough or polished enough?

Honestly, just stop reading this post and go download Seth Godin’s Ship It Journal. It’s free. Print it off. Fill it out.

Then ship your work.

Perfectionism is the enemy of progress.

Perfectionism is the enemy of progress. Click To Tweet

7. You Try to Be Someone Else

You have leaders you admire. Leaders who you think are better than you, funnier than you, more gifted than you, more articulate than you.

Same.

The problem with trying to like them is you have a very short shelf life. You’ll spend all your days trying to be someone you’re not because, well, you’re scared your voice isn’t good enough.

The other problem with trying to be someone else is it’s exhausting. You burn so much more energy trying to manufacture an appearance or voice or style that honestly, just doesn’t flow from within you.

So you won’t last.

This is a long game. A very long game. As in this is probably the future. That’s a long time.

I don’t always like everything I write or everything I shoot or the way things come out, but it’s me.

And that means every day, as inadequate as that feels some time, I get to roll out of bed and bring the message that’s been building inside of me to people.

And if you do that enough, over time, you get better at it.

If you need some inspiration, just go back and read some posts from 2013 on my blog. They’re here if you dig. Some are okay. Some, well, not so much.

But it was a start. And it was me.

Whether Oscar Wilde actually said it or not, this quote is still apt: Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.

It’s also decent theology.

After all these years, this quote is still apt: 'Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.' It's also decent theology. Click To Tweet

Don’t Let the Crisis Overwhelm You. Access My New Course for Free. 

I get it. You’re scared. These are deeply uncertain times. 

As hard as it is to admit, it’s just really hard to know how to lead in times like these.

While no one has all the answers, there is help and a strategy that can guide you, and I’d love to come alongside you.

To that end, I’ve got a brand new online, on-demand course, called How To Lead Through Crisisthat can help you lead your team, your church and yourself through the massive disruption.

The course is the gift from me and my team to you and leaders everywhere. In light of everything that’s going on, we decided to make it available 100% free.

Inside How To Lead Through Crisis, you’ll learn how to: 

  • Cultivate a non-anxious presence that inspires confidence and trust.
  • Care for yourself so the crisis doesn’t break you.
  • Master the art of fast-paced, clear decision making. 
  • Gather and interpret the most reliable data that will advance your mission
  • Advance digitally to scale past physical barriers and grow your outreach.
  • Lead your team and congregation remotely

While no one has all the answers in a crisis this big, in the course, I share the mindsets, habits, tools and strategies that I believe will help you lead through crisis to get you and the people you lead to a new (and better) future. 

Join the 6000 leaders who have claimed their place in the course for free.

You can enroll and get instant access for you and your team here.

Crisis Blog Series and the Future Church

I also have a free blog post series on the current global crisis and how the church can respond:

Crisis Leadership, Christian Leadership and the Corona Virus

How to Lead Through Rapid, Unexpected Change

8 Ways to Lead in the New Digital Default Church

5 Ways The Current Crisis is Accelerating The Arrival of the Future Church

My Top 7 Rules for Leading a Digital Team

3 Simple Ways To Make Sure You Don’t Break In the Crisis

8 Early Tips for Producing Digital Content During the Current Crisis

Why Motivation Alone Won’t Get Your People (Or You) Through This Crisis

The Three Kinds of Leaders You See In A Crisis

5 Predictions About the Future Church While Everything’s Unknown

5 Quick Things That Can Make a Long Term Difference During Your First Digital Easter

Half of All Churches Are Instantly Growing. Here’s Why And Here’s What To Do.

Hope this helps you and your team lead well in a very challenging season.

What Are You Seeing?

Naturally, all of these points are trying to help you lead well with your content. Thanks for putting up with the fun voicing for the post.

What makes you ignore content?

What makes you read it? Scroll down and leave a comment

So all of a sudden you're online like you've never been before. How do you get your content noticed? Well, here are the 7 best ways to get it ignored.

29 Comments

  1. Carrie on May 8, 2020 at 8:10 am

    This is fantastic.
    Quick question though–you mention “sub-lists” in the section about not ignoring email. What are sub-lists?

  2. Dave Hess on April 28, 2020 at 2:19 pm

    “The fact that content might be helpful is irrelevant if the messaging anesthetizes you.” Wow. I’m challenged. Thank you! 🙂

  3. Nathan Futrell on April 20, 2020 at 9:06 am

    Love this article! One quick question: In response to point #3 – I’ve heard using “We” often in teaching helps promote a sense of connectedness, any thoughts on that in comparison? In the world of psychology, starting difficult statements with “you” can lend to a more defensive reaction, whereas “we” promotes cooperation.

  4. Nick Henderson n on April 19, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    Absolutely resonated with your point in regard to not posting content unless it’s “perfect.” It’s a trap I fall into consistently.

  5. Craig Walker on April 17, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Carey, I just shared the link with a few hundred entrepreneurs. I’ve read this post. Re-read it. Wrote a post and compared it to what you shared. And I’m going to read it again. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  6. Jannie on April 17, 2020 at 3:09 am

    Awesome. Good suggestions. As a pastor and ministry leader, I am frustrated with the engadgement I have with my own screen. I do not see the response of the people in front of me, the phone falls of the bush it’s balancing on when recording messages, etc… But thanks for the new ideas.

  7. Larry Holland on April 16, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    Great post. I love the way you write…bite-sized, energy-filled nuggets that connect to paint a picture. What puts me to sleep: a long post (implying too much minutiae). Brief points made with energy promote life and productivity.

  8. Gena on April 16, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    I think we must also be careful about not overdoing the content either. I’ve noticed as I speak with others who have more online history, that views/engagement may be down because people are virtually overwhelmed. When you are faced with your children’s school, your work, your ministry, your world going completely online… it is a lot. Then when your church/ministry are offering too much, too often, people are overwhelmed and disengage. I’ve found even for myself I’m longing for less screen time. I’m not online as much as I used to be & even not watching TV for entertainment. I want a break from “media” and grasping for real life engagement over virtual.

  9. Walt Swaim on April 16, 2020 at 9:11 am

    On the email part I am not sure, we use email blasts and our media coordinator makes incredible graphics and is young and knows how to communicate so well – yet the open rate is low and have been trained over recent years to keep using it well but with social media flash responses not to major on email – too much of it, and few are read sincerely. As far as speaking I constantly try to retool and refresh how I speak, yet I know I am nearing 60 and looking at stats online the age range is confirming what I have been told….you only reach those 10 years older and younger than you. In other words, no matter how much I make sure my delivery is timely and effective (been at this for 35 years) I still will not reach younger audiences. That has been very depressing (not to spite older folks, just feel the decline for my effectiveness to reach all ages has hit and it’s something you just can’t help – especially in our small church atmosphere and overchurched area we live in). Still, this has been helpful and am grateful. I have also bought and gone thro the break 200 course – yet our church is aging and getting sicker and less involved along the way, I am aging, and we are not reaching younger couples even as we once were and remain at 60-70 and sliding slightly backwards. We march on though. Forgive the whining post, LOL. Keep up the great service to the Lord Carey.

  10. Victoria C. Sebastian on April 15, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    Thank you Carey as a 70 year old woman pastor I feel like I’m in the cutting edge of things, never have I imagined a digital church congregation & leaders. Thank you for suggesting digital engagement during our online celebrations. We will implement this the soonest. God bless you more!

  11. Elizabeth Peters on April 15, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    Great post – very inspiring!

  12. Mark on April 15, 2020 at 11:54 am

    If you do not focus on applicability to real life, people will skip over it. What can I do/accomplish when I have no power? If you produce content that only leaders can implement, then you have excluded all the people not in leadership. Now, if you produce something and you tell people in advance that the content is directed towards leaders, that is different. Now, some of us not in leadership might listen anyway and then see if any leaders we know listened to it and tried to implement it.

    Longer is worse unless you want to be ignored or are delivering an academic lecture.

  13. David Nelson on April 15, 2020 at 11:30 am

    Excellent posting Carey — Thankfully, we don’t do many of these already. My one question; “What recommendations do you have about deepening our engagement with our congregation?”

  14. Martha Munizzi on April 15, 2020 at 11:21 am

    Thank you Carey! Great article!! I appreciate your content so much. It always seem to come right on time!

  15. Jon Price on April 15, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Fantastic post Carey! So important right now as there’s so much content out there fighting for attention. I don’t want to be accused of taking the most important message in the world and making it boring. I’ll be passing this along to our team.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 15, 2020 at 1:39 pm

      Love it Jon!

  16. Josh on April 15, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Carey, thanks for posting this. I needed this right now. I’m planning a podcast and I’ve done nothing more than research and freak out because of all the excuses you listed above. Thanks for encouraging me, and reminding me that showing up is better than nothing.

    • David Nelson on April 15, 2020 at 11:31 am

      We are new to the online environment — and we just jumped in and didn’t let perfection get in the way of just getting engaged. We also critique the service/content to make it better. Keep going and God bless.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 15, 2020 at 1:40 pm

      So glad to help. Hope the podcast goes well!

      Always think of your audience first.

  17. Pastor Norma Tilton on April 15, 2020 at 10:29 am

    Carey, thanks for posting this very helpful article. I’ve been preaching on-line for a while now but recently began sharing brief exhortations, which is a whole new experience. I will definitely use this info as I share on-line today. God bless YOU and the work of your hands and give you HIS heart and mind.

  18. Marc Buwalda on April 15, 2020 at 10:05 am

    Thank you, Carey! This was exactly what I needed to read today. Thanks for such a practical AND philosophical article. Very encouraging. Thank you for your ministry!

  19. Mike Kildal on April 15, 2020 at 9:56 am

    Some content just fits better into what we need today…We needed this today.

    I have shared this on our staff development page. We are all creating stuff…and it all needs to become more effective.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 15, 2020 at 1:40 pm

      So glad Mike!

  20. Rob on April 15, 2020 at 9:32 am

    Great write up. I have realized recently that I have been trying to be someone else. Modeling myself after people I admire so much so that I was not trying to connect with being my authentic self. And it shows. Now I’m trying to let all that go with authenticity as my goal and letting go of the polished or perfected. Which for me meant starting to comprise my thoughts and try to speak with a language of the heart” instead of rigorously editing a script that I would read verbatim. You have given me a lot to think about. Thank you.

  21. Connie Hale Duncan on April 15, 2020 at 9:28 am

    One of the best articles I have read !
    Giving a sermon message on line is new to me and to be honest I have been struggling with it.
    Your article has given me insight into how to present a message. It was so helpful!
    Thanks Carey
    Connie Hale-Duncan

  22. Craig Walker on April 15, 2020 at 9:28 am

    Carey, as always, this is spot on. I have launched my online ministry after retiring as a pastor and I needed to hear what you shared. Thanks a thousand times.
    P. S. I often repost your material for my audience in social. Sometimes it is better to share your stuff than mine. But when I do post my stuff, it is mine. Thanks. 😁

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 15, 2020 at 1:41 pm

      Love it Craig!

      Keep it up. Your people need you!

  23. Chuck Congram on April 15, 2020 at 8:36 am

    Carey- Excellent, helpful and practical insights once again!! Thanks!!

  24. Grant Gubser on April 15, 2020 at 8:30 am

    This is great, thanks Carey! For #7, I thought you were going to say something different that could end up being #8? TRY TO BLESS SOMEONE ELSE.

    Do you know a great leader you could bless/promote? Link to that person and give them attention. When people see you don’t just want to suck all the attention towards yourself but are willing to quote or link to another great leader, they will want to come back to you to find out who else you know…

    Always spot on, thanks again for the post!

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