So I dare you to come and do a pulse check on your church culture.
Some of you may have participated in the Pilgrimage to Pentecost that happened this year in the 6 weeks leading up to Pentecost 2020. Each week 2 tranches of talks were released, one on Sunday and one on Wednesday. You had to sign into a website portal to gain access to these talks, most of which were in the 20-30 minute range, from a wide range of international speakers, and a diversity of vocations. Each talk had a page with a brief description of the talk and the speaker, the link, and a place to leave comments. Participants left a healthy number of comments, 30 comments seemed to be about average for each talk, and the subset of commentators varied significantly from talk to talk (it wasn’t just the same people leaving the same comments). This is a healthy level of engagement.
Compare this to the final talk of a conference, shared on a religious organisation’s Facebook page, bearing in mind that the organisation would have to have upwards of 400 members. Admittedly the holding image for the video recording was uninspiring, but zero comments, 2 likes and 1 share? That is definitely Not a healthy level of engagement!
On the week after the conference the number of likes on YouTube for the talks were in single digits, and now three weeks later they are in the teens, and only one or two comments. Again, this is a very low level of engagement.
If you have proportionately low levels of engagement on social media for your major events, that means there is something amiss with your organisation’s culture.
If something is good, the natural response is to share it, and to share it with as many people as possible.
So either the event didn’t touch a chord with your people,
or your people are ignorant about social media,
or your people are not alert to the easy ways of promoting a message,
or a combination of all of them.
Organisations that value the means of social communication will automatically include a final note which says, ‘If you found this useful or valuable to you, please like and share this ….(insert type of media)… or leave a comment or subscribe so that you don’t miss out on future content”.
Because people do look at the number of views, reviews, likes and comments before committing themselves to watching something on YouTube, or downloading a game or app, or buying a book.
The next thing to remember is that when you post online content, be it website, Facebook, or anywhere else, the whole world is watching. This means that you need to rethink any member only information, and how things look to an outsider.
For example, doing a lovely 30 countdown to a major event as an encouragement for members to pray and fast for the event is great. But to then have radio silence as the event is happening is not great at all. If you want to make it even worse, barely refer to the event after it concludes. Those outsiders who have been watching your countdown on social media will now be completely baffled as to what all the fuss was about, and as a result will consider unfriending or unfollowing your organisation.
At a minimum you should be inviting online discussion after each talk of your event, and/or posting a brief video clip from each session as a discussion starter.
Do you realise that at secular events and at many religious events, that people choose to live tweet during the event? They do, it is a really good thing to do, and it should be encouraged. Not only because they capture the most important points of a talk/presentation, but because they also provide access for those unable to attend, and because it documents your event. These days it is true, if it didn’t make it to social media, then it didn’t happen (even if it did!).
If you don’t have ‘roving reporters’ sharing the best of your event, then you need to find the people you already have who are capable, training them up, and activating them. It will be harder if the event is online, but just as necessary. Screen shots are easy to produce and package for social media, if you know how. Encourage them to always add text, because an photo/image on its own says ‘we were having a great time, and you missed it’ whereas adding text says ‘we were having a great time, this is why, and I don’t want you to miss out on this part that touched my heart’.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to online events where a registration fee is paid.
The first school says only those who paid should have access. In that case, you need to set up some kind of simple login procedure to give access. Pilgrimage to Pentecost did it with a website link that required email address for access.
The second school of thought sees the registration fees as seed for harvest; the fees enable the event to happen (technical equipment, labour, administration, marketing, talent), but once the event is live and recorded, the expectation is that it gets shared to as many people as possible, so that the maximum number of people benefit.
If it is an event that has the capacity to bring someone closer to Jesus, surely you want to maximize those who experience it (in person and/or via recording).
There are hybrid models, where only the plenary sessions of an event get shared publicly, and the non-plenary sessions get recorded but not put online, and later the recordings get packaged for sale.
Or where a temporary YouTube channel is set up for an online event, permitting people to get to all the sessions in their own time, and re-watch them if desired. For this one, by its very nature, if it is on YouTube and not login protected, then anyone can share it. If the content is good, then such sharing should be encouraged.
Isn’t it better if 650 people or 830 people or 2000 people see the fruits of the hard work and many prayers rather than only the 400 who registered?
Some may object, ‘Why bother paying a registration fee if I can get it for free?’, but most will be happy to pay a registration fee (if it is reasonable and not exorbitant) if it is presented as seed money to get the event possible and happening, and even happier to pay that seed money if there are plans to share the good content of the event as widely as possible, and to enable those who could never afford it to participate.
Here's the pulse check:
*Do you have healthy levels of online engagement for your organisation’s size?
*Do you have reminders somewhere in the content, to like and share if they found it valuable?
*Do you encourage people to leave comments on your online content?
*Do you encourage your people to engage with your online content?
*Do you have enough members online?
*Do you encourage or discourage social media use in your organisation? (not talking about it at all is passive discouragement, talking about social media negatively is active discouragement)
*Are you on social media yourself? (lead by good example)
*Does your online content remember that it isn’t a members only forum?
*Do you promote online discussion after special events?
*Do you have any ‘roving reporters’ or ‘social media natives’?
*If so, have you activated them and given them a vision for this kind of ministry?
*Do you include text with your photos, or do you leave people to guess why you posted them?
*Do you have a plan and a vision for maximizing the number of people who can access your events, your content and your message?
Now is the time to start doing something about it, if you weren't able to answer Yes (honestly, and with evidence to back it up) to just about all of them. A great number of the people you want to reach with the Gospel message are online, but you have to be intentional in your online activities in order to reach them.