Have you ever used and interacted with a mobile app such as Facebook, Twitter or even Walgreens? Then chances are then that you know about push notifications. A push notification is a short text message sent to your phone that’s tied to one of your mobile apps (example to your left). Push notifications are increasingly becoming part of the digital marketing mix for many businesses, and your ministry can also utilize this trend to help communicate with your congregation. If your ministry already utilizes a church mobile app, why not use it to push notifications for announcements, pledge goals or even fun pictures from the summer picnic? Before you jump aboard this latest trend, here are some things to note about using push notifications:
Why Use Push Notifications?
So what value do push notifications provide that can’t be achieved through e-mail? According to statistics from Oracle, 68% of users who download an app will opt-in to receive push notifications from that app. Data from more than 10 million push notifications point to a click-thru rate of nearly 40% for users who opt-in to receive these notifications. Just for comparison, most brands generally see a 2% to 5% open rate on e-mails, so you can see that if your members are engaged with your app, you’re more likely to reach them there than with e-mail.
Questions to Consider with Push Notifications
- What’s the best time to send notifications?
Because these are online interactions, check your data to find out the time when your members are most receptive to these notes. Notification metrics should be used whenever available to help inform you of member trends.
- Has your ministry sent a diverse mix of notifications?
If you push notes are only referencing giving or other ‘asks’, then you may find that over time your engagement will fall off as people tune out. To guard against that, send out event reminders, update your members on pledge drives or even preview that Sunday’s special message. A mix of messages will keep members engaged and will keep them from opting out from ‘just another giving ask.’
- Are you cross posting these notifications on other mediums?
One danger in relying too frequently on push notifications is that non app members of your church may not be receiving the same information. This is why it is important to utilize your church management system and cross post this same information on your church website, Facebook page (if you have one) and other non-digital mediums such as your bulletin or announcements board.
Types of Push Notifications
There are many types of push notifications I’ve interacted with related to games, subscriptions and other types of content. For ministries, I would focus on three types of push notifications: alerts, events and announcements.
Alerts are notifications generally sent by your staff although some can auto generated. The gist is that these are notifications which are time sensitive. For example, you may have a church softball game that many were planning to attend but the weather has not cooperated and you now need to send an alert to let everyone know that it’s rained out.
Events reminders are precisely what they say in that they are reminders of an upcoming event. Look at this as an opportunity to motivate your community to participate in your event!
Announcement reminders can be anything you imagine from sending out a giving announcement (“We have met our pledge goal for…”) to congratulating a young couple on the birth of their first child. Announcements are great but be careful not to inundate your congregation with too many of these as spam erodes trust and reduces engagement.
Crafting a Message
So what kind of message should you craft for your notifications? Your messaging space is limited, as is your screen size, so you’ll want to be brief.
One way to get your congregation engaged with the app is to send out your first few messages with important notes and information to establish the significance of the app. Even if you have nothing compelling to note, send push notes to remind your congregation that you have a church website. Finally, be sure to welcome your members to your church and your church’s mobile app with your first message. This is a great best practice that I would also recommend for any new members once your church app has been launched.
Getting beyond the stats on click-thru and our own tendencies to seek the latest and greatest technologies, notifications work well because they are tied in to the most indispensable device today: the smartphone. Simply put, push notifications are timely and impossible to ignore. But be careful as the latter can be a problem if your notifications are irrelevant and bothersome in which case the user will opt out of notifications altogether.
As we alluded to earlier, continue to utilize your entire marketing mix including your website and non-digital platforms such as bulletin boards. This can be especially helpful to your older members who may not feel as comfortable with technology and with using mobile devices. If you really want to drive greater adoption of your app and push notifications, consider offering a class to get everyone (especially our seniors) comfortable and confident with this technology.