I think you can relate when I say I “felt” technology accelerate in the last two years. And it seems to be happening in every facet of life, from the return of the QR Codes for restaurant menus, highly customizable online church services to the growth the cryptocurrency.
 
Part of this fast-paced growth, I’m sure, lies in the fact that we have come to grips with the fact that the pandemic challenges we thought would go away haven’t completely gone away.
 
And they have accelerated the new cultural behavior shifts and the technology that helps fuel people’s desire to connect in a safe and personal way.
 
So what does that mean to nonprofits and churches?
 
Here are my top five predictions on how digital engagement will change for those of us who work with volunteer organizations.

  1. Organic posts are going to become even less effective. 

We have seen a decrease in the effectiveness of organic posts on most social platforms. Some estimate that as low as 7% of those who follow our accounts see our posts. And that trend will continue in this new year. The trend began when social platforms decided that you had to pay to play. If you want your post seen by more people, you should pay to have it boosted.
 
With reporting now being more difficult than before, social platforms will continue to make paid posts the only ones to reach your audience. 

  1. Direct messages will become the gateway to engaging new members, volunteers, and donors.

 More people are reaching out via direct message instead of a contact form or email. Nonprofits that are using DMs as a well to create engagement are seeing good results.
 
I love WhatsApp because you can direct message, group chat, and you have a phone numbers as well. Once someone reaches out via a DM, you can reply freely and directly.

  1. Privacy issues are going to continue to dominate the marketing landscape. 

 GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act, and OS14 and 15 ushered in a new wave of privacy protection and permission-based marketing, making it nearly impossible to retarget people who opted out of tracking. And a lot of us have—95% of us according to some studies.
The other 5% are most likely marketers like me who click on “yes” when prompted.
 
The implications are enormous: if you want people to continue to engage with your organization or content, you have to have a great product. Gone are the days that you create a lot of mediocre content just to be found by organic searches. In this new anonymous world, your content has to deliver real value before someone will allow you to engage with them.

  1. Digital experiences are going to become more streamlined for church services and events.

You might have heard of the metaverse, a combination of visual reality, blockchain, and complete ownership of one’s digital footprint. (Watch for a post on the metaverse and its implication for your organization coming soon). While online experiences for church services and events already exist, the new experience will be more engaging.
 
Think attending a virtual event with others actually “sitting” next to you to participate in an immersive way. At this point, VR goggles are the way these experiences happen. Instead of a thumbnail avatar on a chat room, you will be able to virtually walk into a venue and engage with people live as if you would in a physical setting.
 
This is not science fiction. It’s already happening. Augmented reality concerts, meetings, and even church service already exist and becoming more streamlined every day.

  1. Growing your list is still by far the most critical strategy.  

 The only way to gain any ground in the digital space is to own your list. In a world where people can engage anonymously, social platforms charge you to engage with those who follow your organization, your best bet is creating and growing your list.
 
Email marketing is as strong as ever—text and direct messaging work even better than email.
 
But regardless, you need to grow your list. Period. Otherwise, you build your entire communication strategy on platforms you don’t own and could lose all of it overnight.
 
I have seen clients and friends lose hundreds of thousands of followers when their accounts were shut down for “violating our community guidelines” with no further explanation or recourse.
 
Don’t build your house on someone else’s land.
 
As you look for new ways to engage new people keep this list in mind and always test your assumptions. In the digital realm, change is happening at an extremely fast pace.
 

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