I was blissfully excited when Google Maps came back to the iPhone.
Like many of you, I’d grown accustomed to a mapping application that included a wealth of battle tested data and POI information; the icing on the cake for me, though, was always Street View. There’s just something comforting about having a visual frame of reference for a coffee shop or restaurant before I venture out to find it.
When Apple Maps came along, I didn’t think it was the travesty that others have made it out to be, but I definitely missed features like Street View and the superior satellite imaging that only Google is able to provide. When Google Maps was finally available again in December, it restored all of the great functionality I was missing, but also brought along a big new feature: an interior “street view” called Business Photos.
It’s not nearly as boring as it sounds! Essentially, whenever someone searches for your business on the web or on their Android/iOS smart phone, they’ll see an info card that includes your business details, a big link to the normal street view, and a huge link to an interior view (see the live example below). Users can then explore your building and get a feel for where to go on Sunday mornings… It’s like a virtual tour on steroids.
So how do you make it happen for your ministry? Thankfully, it’s a lot simpler than I expected it to be (and reasonably priced for what you get). Get started by visiting the Business Photos page on Google and finding a photographer in your region. Depending on your location and the size of your building, you’ll probably pay anywhere from $500-$1500 to have a professional photographer come map the location and take care of all of the Google integration for you.
Is it Worth It?
Even though it may seem like a lot of money for a random project, I think it’s something that will pay dividends for your ministry. For most churches, Google is the number one way people will find you, and giving them a ton of great resources like this makes it that much easier to step out of their comfort zone and bring their family on the weekend.
Even better, Google allows you to embed these virtual tours on your website, which is a great way to spice up your directions page.
I just hit the high notes here, but we’re extremely happy with how our tour turned out. Have questions? Want more details on how the process looks? Let me know in the comments below.