Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division
Traditional marketing and evangelism takes a linear approach, starting with attracting “leads” and eventually aiming to convert people into members. While this strategy worked for a long time, the world has changed dramatically in the past few decades. It no longer makes sense, nor is it effective, to group people together into one-size fits all categories and then take a cookie-cutter approach to encouraging spiritual conversion. In addition, the assumptions we make about people groups can often be misleading or even harmful. Therefore, we must fundamentally change the way we approach evangelism.
Understanding Modern Audiences
Your average person is just as likely to have moved several times, as to have continuously lived in the community they were born, surrounded by a homogeneous collective of people who share the same culture and life experiences. The "simple life" has given way to something more complicated, and, perhaps, messy. But even for those who have never changed their geographical location, people are now globally connected through social media in ways that were unheard of just 20 years ago. What this means is that we now live in a world of intersecting cultures or communities. These cultures are potentially endless in variety, but we’ll unpack a few in the next section on target audiences.
The concept of cultural empathy is well known in the physical mission field. Evangelism experts know that the best way to reach a community or people group is to empower a member of that community to evangelize to their own. Or at the very least, speak the language of the people and show sensitivity and respect to their cultural paradigms. Non-native members of a culture group must sincerely seek to understand the community and reach them where they are in a way that is relevant. We have forgotten this principle when it comes to online evangelism and online communities. While digital evangelism or discipleship is a new concept for the Church, we can remember and apply tried and true bits of wisdom previously uncovered by experienced evangelists and geographically focused missionaries. Digital tools are a way to magnify the reach and impact of traditional and friendship evangelism, not necessarily replacing it. Digital platforms allow us to scale up our efforts in a low-cost way.
The apostle Paul admonishes us to “become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NASB 1977). To accomplish this in modern society, our definition of culture needs to be expanded. Many now find themselves between cultures and functioning in multiple online and offline communities simultaneously. The old marketing strategies of putting people in target groups based on a few identifying factors is no longer reflective of reality.
People no longer fit into neat categories based on surface-level descriptors such as location, race, gender, language, and interests. We must connect with audiences on a deeper level based on unifying needs and core values that transcend standard marketing categorizations. Digital tools can enable us to understand the drivers behind the actions, beliefs, concerns, needs, and values of larger groups, better positioning us to serve them in a relevant way. If we can do this, our audiences will be loyal to our Church brand, because we resonate with them at the core of their worldview. We’ll unpack how to better reach, understand, and effectively communicate with target audiences in the next few sections of this guide.
To reach younger generations, we must take an integrated and holistic approach that considers the complexities of modern life and relationships. The components of the traditional model are not dead. Many of these steps are still in play; we just have more resources to reach and interact with people in ways that are relevant to their unique situation. Digital communications is a means to amplify our messages and spiritually feed people seven days a week. In other words, the linear model has given way to a multi-faceted process that can start and stop at various points, with many key entry and engagement points. When we take a holistic approach to understanding our audiences better and use this knowledge strategically to combine traditional with digital strategies, we can fish 24/7 in a much larger pond.
The kingdom of God is an all-day, every-day pursuit. His church should be the same online as offline. After all, church is not a program to watch, but a people to be. Success should not be measured by counting people in a building, but, rather, by whether or not we’re building a kingdom.
Digital Evangelism Modified Funnel
Another marketing concept we can use to understand the modern process of evangelism is a funnel, where every person is channeled toward the goal which traditionally has been “become a member.” While people can enter and engage at different levels of the funnel in multiple ways, movement toward (and beyond) this goal is the basic principle of the funnel model. Every single transition involves an ask, either implied or explicit. With every reduction in the funnel size, there is an implied exit of people. Every person has the option of moving forward down the chain, living at a stage for a period of time, or deciding to leave the process altogether. We must give easy calls-to-action and lead participants in a way that makes moving to the next step a no-brainer. Eventually the goal is for members to become active disciples who then become part of the funnel mechanism as content creators, distributors, or engagers as talked about in section 3. This is why this modified funnel fans back out at the base and loops back around. The foundation of this marketing paradigm is built on continuous discipleship and integrated strategies, utilizing a wide range of evangelistic strategies.
The Modern Seeker’s Journey
To help us better understand how the modern world of analog and digital experiences interact to move someone through their spiritual journey, we can consider a systems-thinking tool called journey loops.
“Systems thinking is a holistic approach to analysis that focuses on the way that a system’s constituent parts interrelate and how systems work over time and within the context of larger systems. The systems thinking approach contrasts with traditional analysis, which studies systems by breaking them down into their separate elements… According to systems thinking, system behavior results from the effects of reinforcing and balancing processes” (Margaret Rouse, Techtarget.com). A system is a group of distinct elements that are interrelated and organized to achieve a common purpose or goal.
These steps or loops do not necessarily go in order. A seeker can start at any point, skip sections, leap from loop to loop, and even backtrack. Each loop and experience feeds back into the other steps in the process to help reinforce the journey. I personally started in the “Think” (Consideration) loop, then the “Care” (Relationship/Service) loop and then visited a local church as part of the “Do” (Visit/Engage) loop. This causal loop system is not a perfect representation of the process, but it helps visualize what is actually happening in a complex system or, in this case, journey.
In today’s world where people are turning to the internet for answers, the first two parts of the journey are primarily spent in the digital space. Based on the person’s situation, they may or may not transition to an in-person experience, though that is always the one of the goals of this process. However, it’s important to recognize that experiences in the “Care” and “Stay” loops are just as relevant in the digital space. Therefore, we must seek to find ways to extend the Church experience online, because the in-person experience may not always be possible, at least in the short-term.
How the Modern Seeker’s Journey fits into the Digital Discipleship and Evangelism Model
Reflecting back on the Digital Discipleship and Evangelism model, we can see how the three roles or types of digital evangelists can work together to help guide a seeker through a journey of spiritual growth.
Distributors help push out content and messages to help initiate the “See” (Awareness) step and can also function within the “Ministry and Discipleship” loop, using digital tools and technologies to share content within their sphere of digital influence, which, in turn, contributes greatly to the “Research and Discovery” stage.
The role of content creators is to package the gospel message and teachings of Jesus into various digital-friendly formats, such as: video, blogs, images, podcasts, etc. The resulting content is vital to the growth and decision-making of a seeker within the “Research and Discovery” loop. This content, combined with the role of engagers, can serve as a catalyst to move a seeker to the “Do” (Visit/Engage) and “Stay” (Become a Member) steps.
Engagers are empathic individuals within an organization, or operating independently, who engage in online conversations for the purpose of building meaningful relationships, better understanding needs, and determining meaningful ways to serve others in the community. The engager role spans across multiple touchpoints in the modern seeker’s journey and plays a vital role in moving a person towards taking an action and, ultimately, to a faith-based commitment. Social media provides a unique opportunity for long-term member care that can enhance and strengthen the relationships your ministry cultivates with members and the community. We know that connection and relationships is what builds a strong faith community and keeps people in the Church. To that end, engagers are vital to the “Loyalty and Personal Connections” loop as well as the “Do” (Visit/Engage) step and even an integral part of securing a seeker’s long-term desire to “Stay” (Become a Member) of a faith community.
Every opportunity to connect is an opportunity to advance the kingdom of God. Our digital voice may be the only opportunity a seeker has to see Christ’s love demonstrated in their life. We as a Church should strive to create connections and take a comprehensive approach to facilitating the seeker experience, treating people online as if we’re talking with them face-to-face. Their online interactions with you should make them want to experience your faith/mission in person. Then, when they to come for that onsite experience, it should be a continuation of the positive relationship that has been built with them online. There should not be a disconnect between how a person is nurtured in the pews and how they are treated online, or vice-versa.
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division
I am often asked if digital communications can really make a global impact when only around 42% (as of June 2019) of the world’s population is on social media. This question always reminds me of one of my first campaigns for the Church.
In the summer of 2016, I worked with “Your Best Pathway to Health” to help create community awareness for the free mega-health clinic that was coming to Beckley, WV, the heart of Appalachia. A quick search in Facebook Ads manager revealed that around 200K people within 50 miles of the convention center where the clinic would take place, were on Facebook. With a small budget of $200, I started a community awareness ad campaign targeted at those living within driving distance of Beckley. This digital effort was part of a larger multi-channel campaign that included newspaper ads, 30K+ hand-out flyers, and other traditional media.
Can We Really Reach Those People?
It is said that “familiarity breeds contempt” or, at least, presumptuous behavior. Soon after launching the campaign, I received a call from a long-time friend who felt very strongly that I was out of line to use Church funds for this digital campaign, and that I was out of touch with the realities of this community. After all, “this was Appalachia, and those people don’t even have running water and electricity.” After two hours of conversation, I still call her friend, because this was a teaching and learning moment. I had an opportunity to share the potential this technology offers for our mission, as well as gain a better understanding of the cultural paradigm I was up against (in terms of encouraging the Church to embrace digital strategies and the perceptions that may result). What she didn’t know was that I made a decision based on data and not assumptions about the “least of these.” In fact, she didn’t know that I had been raised in the same economic class she felt I was so disconnected from.
I asked her one simple question: do you know someone who is not on social media? She said yes. I followed up with something like, “If you saw an online advertisement about free medical treatment with no strings attached, and you knew they needed help, would you tell them?” Without hesitation, she responded, “Of course!” One question and response summarized my strategy.
What I had done was make a strategic decision to activate the sharing power of the 200K people who were online and, most likely, connected to others in the community who were not on social media. It’s human nature to share a good thing when we see it, especially with those we care about who need the services offered.
According to an extensive study conducted by the New York Times, 94% of people share content online because “they feel the content will improve the lives” of others. This act of sharing goes beyond the digital space.
“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him” (John 4:28-30, New International Version).
However, my ten years of digital marketing experience was entirely secular. I had never done an advertising campaign for a church project before, and consequently prayed a lot in the weeks leading up to the clinic. When the event began I was overjoyed at the testimonies of people who said their family member, friend, or neighbor saw an ad online and told them to come. According to the exit surveys, social media outperformed all the traditional advertising, and was second only to referral by friend or family member. Based on the anecdotal testimonies, word-of-mouth (friend/family) was also largely driven by the social media campaign. Click here to learn more about this case study in community awareness.
Social media is the modern School of Tyrannus, a place where the ancient Ephesians gathered to engage with new ideas, pass the time, share thoughts, and participate in discussions. Paul spoke at the School of Tyrannus in Greece for two years (Acts 19:8-9), essentially getting the gospel to go viral in his day. (A podcast about Paul’s influence at the School of Tyrannus by Dee Casper, Brand Evangelist, ARTV, can be found HERE).
“This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10, New American Standard Bible)
Paul stayed in one place, and yet his teachings spread. How did this happen?
Ephesus was an important port for trade and commerce (like the internet), attracting people from all over the Roman Empire. People would come and hear what he had to say, go home, and tell others what they’d learned. In today’s terminology, they hit “Like” and “Share” on social media, and their friends and family were exposed to Paul’s teachings of the gospel. Social media has the potential to do this on a much larger scale. By reaching the connected, we can reach the unreachable.
In other words, if approximately 42% of the world’s population is on social media, it’s highly likely that they know the other 58% of the world or know someone who is connected to someone who is not on social media. You get the idea.
What starts in the digital space, isn’t confined to the digital space.
We must put our assumptions about those people aside (whoever those people might be), and work with who we can reach.
Evangelism experts tell me that the best way to reach a community or people group is to empower a member of that community. Your average person is just as likely to have moved several times, as to have lived and died in the community they were born, surrounded by a homogeneous collective of people who share the same culture and life experiences. The "simple life" has given way to something more complicated, perhaps messy. Even for those who never change their geographical location, they are globally connected to people through social media in ways that were unheard of just twenty years ago. What this means is that we now live in a world of intersecting cultures and communities.
The city of Ephesus experience is now reflected in every major city in the world and online.
I, myself, am a mid-western transplant to the D.C. metropolitan area. There is still no cellphone reception in my home town. My parents access the internet and phone through satellite. Until recently, our roads were unpaved, and my family was on well water. I go home once or twice a year and call my parents regularly (when the satellite phone is working). I had never heard of Adventism until I went to college; now my parents are closely connected to two Adventists (me and my husband). During our conversations and interactions, I share my experiences and new ideas. While my home town is not as remote as some other countries or communities that still exist in the world, the concept is the same. We can reach people online who have migrated to the digitally connected parts of the world. These people probably maintain ties to their home communities in some way, and since they are from that community, they are in the best position to share the gospel within the cultural norms, language, and expectations of those communities. When they visit their friends and family, they can share the gospel just like the ancient citizens of the Roman empire did back in the first century.
This is how we can obtain global impact through digital communications. It’s the same strategy that Paul leveraged, but scaled up by modern technology.
According to Pew Research, the most racially diverse Christian denomination in North America is the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We are truly a global movement that has yet to realize the full potential of modern technologies. Our challenge is not to just reach those who are online, but to also activate the online and offline sharing power of those we connect with. The membership of the Adventist Church is perfectly positioned to reach the around the world to every nation, tribe, people, and tongue with the gospel message.
And for those isolated communities with, assumed, no access to the outside world, give the Holy Spirit a little credit for being able to carry the message the rest of the way.
If the message went global in Paul’s day without the help of modern technology, let’s not assume limitations on the Holy Spirit in our day.
We aren’t expected to accomplish this mission alone, but we are called to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15, NIV). The world now includes the digital space. We need to dream bigger when doing God's work. Can you imagine what would happen if each of us committed to sharing the gospel online for two years? And remember, it's not like we have to physically go somewhere, or even leave the couch for that matter! Who knows where God will lead us when we step out in faith.
The Center for Online Evangelism is a missionary project devoted to developing online mission stations.
When you Google a well-established organization, you’ll find more than just their own website in the search results. You might also see:
To maintain a credible, influential online presence, it pays to expand your SEO strategy beyond your own website.
Any link to your website from a page, file, site, profile, social media account, etc., that is not part of your website itself, is referred to as a backlink.
When backlinks are legitimate, Google regards them as evidence of your influence and credibility, which ultimately benefits your ranking in search engine results, making your organization much easier to find. However, in the recent past, creating a bunch of spammy backlinks was a common “black-hat” SEO trick that organizations used to improve their SEO. Then Google refined its algorithms to better interpret natural language and develop a clearer understanding of search behavior, effectively shutting down these fake backlinks.
These shady backlinks would come from places like websites devoted to posting links to other sites (at a price). They could also come from blog comments, social media posts, duplicate social media accounts, or other places that had nothing to do with your website.
Be warned, fake backlinks will now get your website penalized in search results. This means seekers will have a harder time finding you. If your organization has made this mistake, specific work must be done to remedy the situation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org re: Help, I’m blacklisted.
The Practice of Backlinking: Tread Carefully!
Bottom line: backlinks should be earned, not created.
The reason a genuine, legitimate backlink is so highly regarded by Google is because your content must be considered useful enough and respected enough for another website to link back to your site.
You’ll notice that this SEO guide is full of backlinks to websites and articles we feel are worthwhile in your pursuit of this knowledge. To earn these backlinks, those businesses continually created high-quality content and presented it in a way that we feel is helpful or relevant to our target audience: you, the reader.
Backlinking is a prolific topic within the SEO community forums and blogs, but we recommend saving it as one of the final considerations in your SEO strategy. If you’re focused on building quality content, adhering to SEO best practices, and developing a digital strategy for content distribution, you should end up earning backlinks organically over time. Therefore, it wouldn’t need to be an early item on your SEO to-do list.
That being said, here are some off-site strategies you can use to bolster your backlinks through various brand-building best practices. Consistent activity, conversation, and promotion of quality content can pay off in a big way.
Off-Site Touch Points:
Your social media profiles can show up as search result listings if you keep them active and up to date. Just having open accounts won’t generate much effect, but if your audience engagement is high, Google is more likely to take notice.
NOTE: Even if you don’t foresee much activity happening with certain demographics native to particular platforms, it’s a good idea to set up an official account (reserve your handle) on major social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube. This way, no one can create a profile using your organization’s name and brand, and cause confusion among your audience.
One way to set up an evergreen social media account requiring little upkeep is to fill out the profile as descriptively as possible, then mention where the action is and direct users there. For example, a little-used Facebook page could say, “We’re happy to connect with you! To get up-to-date information, go directly to our blog at [link].” Or, “Thanks for stopping by! To find the latest information about our organization, check our Twitter feed.”
We felt that Pinterest needed to be mentioned separately from other social media platforms. As the popularity of Pinterest continues to grow, many ministry organizations can benefit by creating “pin-worthy” content. These pins can count as backlinks, especially if multiple users are pinning your content.
Consider the opportunities here. Ideas for kids’ Sabbath school, Pathfinder activities, Bible verses, healthy recipes, crafts, church holiday decor, youth events, and more could be very popular on Pinterest boards.
Learn more about creating “pinnable” content.
If you are a brick-and-mortar organization, online directory listings count as an online presence booster. For best practices in creating helpful directory listings, see section VIII on local SEO set up.
Similarly, review sites such as Yelp can show up as search results listings, so you’ll want to carefully manage your accounts and reputation. Refer back to section VIII on local SEO for advice on filling out your profile as well as responding to both positive and negative reviews.
Google no longer puts much weight on guest posts or publishing articles in online magazines. However, this type of backlinking can still be great for brand-building and establishing E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness). In the long run, these efforts do support your SEO progress.
Digital Strategy Specialist and founder of Digital Pew.
There are a ton of social media channels that exist and new ones are sprouting up every day, but the end all be all is the behemoth we know as Facebook and Instagram. Currently, Facebook has roughly 2.06 billion users worldwide, Instagram with approximately 700 million active users every month.
Platforms like YouTube, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter and others have huge user bases as well, but the flexibility and powerful marketing features that Facebook is equipping users with has paved a way for in-house marketers and organization leaders to get their message in front of their audience in the most effective way possible.
Now organizations have an incredible opportunity to help lead out and strategize their non-profit’s online marketing campaigns by becoming better users of Facebook.
This isn't to say that a volunteer can replace the resources or knowledge of an agency - if you want professional results, trust and partner with an agency to help you get there - but rather, for smaller projects, maintaining your online presence and supporting your business or non-profit’s efforts using social media.
Becoming a Facebook Power User also means that you are able to vet the people who you plan on working with and bring your valuable insight to the strategy being developed.
It might take some time, some practice and some studying, but becoming a Facebook Power User is not impossible and with a little bit of sweat equity you can start developing, launching, executing and measuring your own campaigns!
Let's get started - the first step is to...
If you have a website or blog, you need to have your Facebook Pixel setup. Having Facebook Pixel setup on your website or blog is as essential as setting up Google Analytics - it's just a must!
Not only you can see incredible insights on how your audience behaves outside of Facebook, but you can retarget the ones who interact with your content more often.
This is excellent for a number of reasons - that's pretty obvious - but often times business and non-profit marketing leaders will miss this crucial step in their strategy and go months, dare I say, years without having any of this information.
Don't miss this step, setup your Facebook Pixel.
Here is a comprehensive guide on how to do it.
And here is the kind of information you can get from having it live...
Complete this step before going ANY FURTHER! (Just trust me on this)
Explore Your Facebook Page's Insights
By default, Facebook provides Page Administrators (people who own or operate a Facebook Page) a ton of insight into how the page is performing and audience reach at a granular level. With Facebook Page Insights you can not only see how far your Facebook Page reaches, but also when your audience is the most engaged, what kinds of content they like the most and more.
Your Facebook's Page Summary dashboard for example provides a bird's eye view on what is going on with your Facebook page. You can see how many Actions, Page views and Page Likes are happening as well as how far your posts are getting to your audience (Post Reach).
From the insights I can see when my audience is the most active, what post types they are most engaged with, and which of my posts they interacted with the most organically vs. paid.
Even with a quick glance, you can see how powerful looking at this information can be. Making content and posting it without any idea of what your audience is responsive to can result in lost time and energy, not to mention money if you're spending money on content creation.
Discover your Audience using Insights
Knowing your audience is one of the most important things you can know as a leader in your organization. Whether you are looking to nurture your current audience or reach new people to bring them into your organization or get your message in front of them, you need to know them and understand them intimately.
Before I start any campaign, whether social media marketing or not, I always do as much research as I possibly can so I can understand who I am speaking to and what they need to hear.
Using Facebook's Audience Insights tool, you can do just that. Their incredible suite of features allow you to do a deep dive into your audience with powerful information about;
There are literally hundreds of different ways that you can research your audience using Audience Insights - you can even see what pages your audience likes more than others, giving you incredible control of how you market to them.
'Do' use Ad Manager - 'Don't' Boost
Let me clear this up, using Facebook Boost isn't a bad thing and can actually be a great tool. However, that tool is too often a crutch to Facebook Page Admins looking to pump out a quick advertisement to get results or at least the illusion of results.
If you want to launch a Facebook Ad Campaign, start with the Ad Manager, not with boosting a single post.
Boosting a post can have a lot of advantages if your content is performing well, but if you want to have a strategic approach to how you spend your advertising dollars, setting up a Campaign, Ad Set and Advertisement within Ad Manager is your best bet.
First, some basics on boosting...
When you boost you are limited to the audience (unless you are intentional about setting one up) the placements you can use (more about that in the next point) and the content that you can promote.
If you ever boost a post and then look in Ad Manager you will also notice that it is linear once it is setup: Campaign, Ad Set and Ad are all the same thing, a straight shot all the way through.
Click here to learn more about why you shouldn't push the Facebook Boost button.
Edit your Placements
With Facebook Ads you can customize where your advertisements will appear to your end-user.
For example, you can choose to only display your advertisement on your audience's Newsfeed and Sidebar, or even limit it to the 'Audience Network' that Facebook makes available.
You can also exclusively limit your advertisement to Instagram or an Instagram Story even - really there are a ton of different options and customizations available that you can use to get your message in front of your audience.
Placements are often one of the most overlooked customizations that Facebook Ads have available, but can significantly impact how your advertisement appears to your audience and interacts with your brand.
Facebook also recently announced that their Audience Network is expanding and customization options exist for users looking to Exclude Audience Network members or specific categories that they don't want their advertisements appearing on.
Here is a quick breakdown of the different Placement options:
Promote on Instagram
While I say this with a grain of salt, not knowing every single market and industry, the fact still remains for many campaigns - Promoting on Instagram is a must for your campaign, especially if you're using images and video.
I can cite countless examples where I've had the exact same image content on both Instagram and Facebook, and without a doubt Instagram performs much better with a smaller audience than Facebook. Considering that Facebook is becoming increasingly strict with how they show content to their audiences now.
In the example above, we can see an almost 2000% better performance on Instagram when compared to Facebook for the exact same content. It's also worth noting that the Facebook page for this account has 17k+ 'Fans' and on Instagram there are roughly 3k+ followers.
Instagram has about 17% of followers that the Facebook page has, yet it performs astronomically better.
This isn't an uncommon thing - skipping out on Instagram could cost you valuable traffic and engagement if not done correctly.
Measure Performance (Daily)
Something that is often forgotten, even with successful campaigns, is to measure your campaign's success (or failure) on a daily basis, gauging how things are performing.
If you are aware of what is performing well and what isn't, you can improve on the areas that are giving you the most value while changing your strategy or approach on the things that aren't.
Here are some simple questions that you can ask and some basic formulas you can use to see how your posts are performing and how your advertisements are performing (these are subjective based on my experience, so take it with a grain of salt):
Evaluate and Optimize (Repeat)
This is the shortest and most straight-forward point that I can make - constantly watch what you are doing and find ways to do it better.
Use data to drive your decision making but allow your instincts to have their place in the scheme of strategy - your gut feeling shouldn't be entirely discounted and the data will rarely give you 100% of a reason to do something.
Reposted with permission from DigitalPew.
More Resources on Facebook Advertising:
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
In other words, don’t be like Bob and push that button, because you could be limiting your options, wasting your ad dollars, and curtailing your desired results.
It’s tempting. It’s easy. You can push that blue boost button right from your phone, and you imagine that you’re expanding the reach of your post beyond your wildest dreams. Well, you’re not really. Let me explain.
If you’re new to social advertising, boosting a Facebook post is appealing because it’s easy to access and simple to set up. But if you’re on a limited budget and looking to maximize your results within a target audience, boosted posts are not the way to go.
This blog post will discuss why you may end up wasting your precious ad dollars when you boost, the enormous value Facebook Ads offers your ministry through other, more effective campaign objectives and targeting, and the rare situations in which it’s okay to push that boost button.
The Facebook Ads platform is king when it comes to social advertising, and it can be your secret weapon for delivering your message effectively to your target audience. Whether you’re a tiny ministry or a for-profit Fortune 500 company, Facebook’s advertising platform delivers unrivaled value (as of May 2019) in terms of precise targeting, customizable advertising, and affordable buys for any budget. It offers more psycho-demographic information about your audience than any other advertising platform, including but not limited to: interests, behaviors, household income, age, gender, religious or political beliefs, relationship status, occupation, age of children in the home, etc. The possibilities are almost endless. However, the boosting interface (remember that blue boost button?) strips these targeting options down to a minimum and limits your ability to combine and exclude targeting filters.
While boosted posts make advertising easy for the newbie, most of the boost advertising options are purposefully limited. You will not be able to leverage the full power of Facebook Ads targeting with optimized results. Facebook Ads manager offers more than 17 marketing objectives that are not available in the boosting interface. Choosing the right objective for a highly targeted audience produces a winning combination that will stretch your ad dollars while maximizing results. Conversely, boosted posts frequently cast the net too wide for small budgets to create impact among a desired demographic.
To summarize, here are the three reasons to avoided pushing the boost button:
When is it a good idea to click the boost button?
To achieve good results with your social advertising campaigns, you must embrace good advertising practices. That means doing social advertising the right way: through Facebook Business or Ads manager. It is a very user-friendly tool, and the results will make the learning curve worth it. As Christians, this is also embraces good stewardship. We should take the time to learn how to use the tools at our disposal in a way that optimizes the funds we have been blessed with to do God’s work.
To view all of Facebook’s targeting options, check out this useful infographic from Wordstream.
Principal and designer for Types & Symbols.
The Conflict Beautiful was a crowdfunding project to create a new, heirloom-quality, NKJV edition of Ellen G. White’s Conflict of the Ages series. We reached our $144,000 funding goal on November 15, with a total of $153,330 in pledges, and since then we’ve been managing fulfillment logistics, overseeing editorial changes, refining design details, and working with the printer. It has been a tremendous joy for us to be able to work on this project, and we are humbled that so many people supported it. We’re humbled even further that, in spite of our inexperience with raising money, we were able to meet such a high goal.
This was our very first crowdfunding campaign as a studio, and the first time any of us had worked to raise this much money. While we went into it with a strategy and certain amount of preparation, we learned a lot throughout the process that we’d like to share.
Our primary strategy was to design something so beautiful and meaningful that it could sell itself. While we didn’t necessarily expect the project to go viral within Adventist circles, we did think it might be possible, and that if the project was worth doing at all, it would be because it was exciting to enough people, and not just ourselves.
And by enough people, we mean about 1,000 people. The minimum print run required to get these printed at the quality we wanted was 1,000 sets, and it seemed to us that it was possible that there were at least 1,000 other Adventists who both appreciated these books and appreciated good design. If we could just find that many people willing to order a single set, we would reach our goal.
We should note here, for those unfamiliar with Types & Symbols, that we are a design studio dedicated to creating beautiful Adventist experiences for the church and its members. We often work with clients to help them establish brand identities, design websites, design publications, or produce promotional material for marketing campaigns. In most of those cases, we are working with established audiences, or helping fulfill a larger marketing strategy developed by an internal team. We are professional designers, not (yet) marketers, so we had very little direct experience with promoting a project of this scale.
With that said, we knew we would need much more than just a beautifully designed project, so before launching the campaign, we got in touch with a number of Adventist leaders to get their input and feedback. We also knew that we needed to launch with some kind of existing base, so we also started to build a mailing list in the months and weeks before launch, through purchasing print and digital ads, and exhibiting at events. In meeting with people, both leaders and lay-people, we heard a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, and it buoyed our hopes that this project might come to life.
Finally, once the campaign was live, we knew that we would need to continue building awareness, so we also prepared various design and video materials so that we could maintain a steady stream of promotional posts throughout the campaign.
And then we launched the project.
Except for the concern around money, we realized that we could have, and still had the opportunity, to provide greater clarity about why this edition was unique, how it wouldn’t exist without pledges made in advance, and how to go through the process of pledging itself.
In response to the slowing growth, and some of the reasons we were hearing, we got more more advice and began tweaking our approach. We adjusted our promotional messaging, updated the campaign page for clarity, and added in a few higher level pledge options. And we prayed, a lot.
As it turned out, we ended up receiving a significant amount of our pledges from the higher-level pledge amounts, contributed by a small group of very generous individuals. That, paired with an increase in single-set pledges during the final few days, allowed us to reach our goal, and what a relief and encouragement that was!
What we learned:
1. Crowdfunding is not commonly understood
We knew that not everyone would be familiar with Kickstarter, but we had assumed there would be enough familiarity with the concept of crowdfunding. Because of this, we didn’t make a point of clearly explaining how it worked—preferring instead to make posts the focused on the value of the project. After speaking with people, we realized that we certainly should have provided more education about how Kickstarter worked. We spoke with a lot of people who had heard about the project, or seen the video, and quite a few of them said things to the effect of “I’d love to get a set once they’re available!” We would then explain that they might never be available unless people preorder. A lot of our early ads, both print and digital, had been subtle and minimal, with aspirational messaging like “coming soon”, and at the end our messaging started to approach more desperate and overt, like “coming never!—unless you go to Kickstarter and make a pledge/pre-order right now!!!”
2. There is no silver bullet
Another thing we learned, or, better stated, was reinforced for us, is that reaching a broad swath of Adventists is very difficult to do. While a number of publications have a wide reach, there are so many things competing for people’s attention, even within the Adventist Church, that it is really easy for people to ignore all of them.
We ran print ads, social media ads, exhibited at events, were interviewed for different publications, had other organizations share the project on their own feeds, and in total these were all the different entities that included some mention of the project:
We completed the campaign with 419 backers, with many backers choosing to back more than one set. The total number of sets purchased through Kickstarter was 880.
Ultimately though, a significant percentage of our funding was the result of personal connections, and the personal connections of those personal connections. This doesn’t necessarily suggest to us that we should invest less in advertising with the above entities for future projects (multiple exposures are always valuable), but perhaps that we should invest more in developing and cultivating these smaller, more passionate audiences.
3. Building an Audience is key
Related to the above, we realized that could have done a better job at building an audience ahead of time. As a studio, we’re not actually very active on social media, and we don’t currently produce much content, so when it came time to reach out to our existing audience of followers, we didn’t really have an audience. In creating this project, we’ve certainly built one. Our mailing list gained nearly 800 subscribers which we’ll be able to reach out to in the future (and helps get us close to 1,000 true fans). We’re also thinking about ways to provide more ongoing value so that, when it comes time to launch another project, there is even more familiarity with our studio, the quality of work that we do, and what we value.
4. Timing matters
We realized partway through the campaign that we could have benefitted from launching at a less fraught time. This is more of a suspicion than anything we can measure, but we launched our project around the same time that a lot of concern was starting to be felt in North America (our target market) around conversations at GC Annual Council as well as NAD YEM. The news cycle during this time moved a bit more quickly than it tends to at other times during the year, and we realized that write-ups and links about our project were getting buried pretty quickly. For a marketing campaign that relies on more traditional forms of media, paying attention to the news cycle is important.
What we will do differently on the next project:
Something we learned from our discussions with people who have engaged in fundraising before is that it is valuable to build in commitments before launching, so that we launch with a certain amount already promised, or ‘in the bucket’. It’s possible that having such a large goal as we did caused some individuals to think that it wasn’t worth pledging because it seemed like such an impossible goal for them to make a difference to.
On that note, we arrived at the figure of $144,000 because it was close to what we needed to cover the cost of production, and it seemed like a fun detail, even though it involved rounding down a bit. A lot of people who saw the project also thought it was fun, but we also heard a lot of questions like “but how much do you actually need?”, so in the future we’ll pick less clever numbers, and try to be more explicit about why we need whatever amount we need.
Another thing we would do differently for future projects is adjusting how we handle the crowdfunding. Some of the major benefits of Kickstarter (discoverability) don’t matter as much for the nature of the products that we create, or for the audience that we create them for. Furthermore, we discovered after committing to Kickstarter that their options for calculating and handling international shipping were very limited, which in effect reduced the reach of our project.
Finally, there were a small number of individuals who’s advice and support had a disproportionate impact on the success of the project, and for our next project we will get them involved much, much sooner.
What’s next for Types & Symbols?
We have a lot of ideas for future projects, but for the meantime we’re staying focused on finishing up work on The Conflict Beautiful and serving our existing clients. If you didn’t have a chance to back the project, we’re still accepting preorders for the full set at theconflictbeautiful.com.
Digital Strategist for Advent Digital Marketing. Advent Digital Marketing provides digital marketing services to business owners and organizations that want to take a professional approach to online marketing.
Let's begin with an overview of marketing fundamentals.
Promoting your product, service, ministry or organization starts with identifying the target audience you are trying to reach, understanding their behavior, and then determining the message you want to communicate to them.
Once this is accomplished, you’ll need to figure out the best promotional channel(s) to reach your audience and communicate your message. When it comes to choosing which channel/platform to use for your promotional campaign, the most important factor for consideration is the size of YOUR audience that is investing their ATTENTION on a channel. If you have a large audience on a channel (such as email or Twitter) but they are not spending much time on it or ignore promotional content, then it will not be an effective channel for communicating your message.
The size of the desired target audience and quality of time spent on a platform or channel varies greatly depending on the demographic.
The most important question to ask yourself when trying to figure this out is: “Where does my target audience give their attention?”
Here are a few more pointers to help you work through this:
Whether you decide to take the time to learn how to use these valuable tools on your own or hire a professional, know that every strong digital campaign starts with a strong foundation of research on your target audience.
Watch my video below to learn how to use these research tools:
The Center for Online Evangelism is a missionary project devoted to developing online mission stations.
The Billboard Analogy
Imagine your church was given a huge billboard on Highway 401, North America’s busiest highway, carrying about 420,000 vehicles per day. (That means A LOT of people would see your sign.)
Your billboard invites people to a special program at your church. But suddenly, you’re told that you have to pay for the days you want your billboard to be unveiled.
You have two choices:
Hopefully, you would pay to unveil the billboard. Why? Because when it comes to letting people know of Jesus Christ, every penny is worth it.
Why consider digital ads?
Let’s face it – most of the world’s population is online.
Today, the question is no longer whether Seventh-day Adventists should have an online presence, but rather, how do we increase our presence? What can we do to be more effective at sharing the Gospel online?
Digital ads, specifically Facebook ads, are like that billboard on Ontario’s busy highway.
1 billion people log on to Facebook every day.
This number includes people in the area around your church who you want to reach.
Isn’t it enough to have a Facebook page?
To strengthen our online efforts, churches and ministries have Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter accounts, create YouTube channels, and use other methods of digital promotion. If your church or ministry has a social media platform, kudos to you!
But it’s not enough.
Remember the billboard analogy? The billboard is up but no one will see it unless you pay for the tarp to be removed.
According to the Digital Marketing Institute, organic reach is “the number of people who have seen your post through unpaid distribution.” Going back to our billboard scenario, organic reach represents the number of people who intentionally leave their cars, climb up the billboard. and peak under the covering.
We can no longer count on the organic reach of Facebook posts. If you don’t put money behind your ad or posts, less than 2% of people who follow your page will see your content.
What are Facebook ads?
Facebook ads are paid promotional material that targets a specific audience in the effort to let more people know about your church or ministry’s programs or services.
These can be:
More practically, if your church is offering a Bible-based financial help seminar, an after-school program for kids, or they’re giving out winter coats to needy families, should these be advertised on social media?
Almost 20% of people think not!
In a recent poll, 81% agreed that we should be advertising on social media platforms while the remaining 19% thought not, for varying reasons.
What do you think?
As you mull over this, remember the church has been “advertising” for as long as it has existed. However, the methods are constantly evolving.
Your church is already advertising if:
If your church is still printing flyers to give out to your community, consider the words of one CEO:
Some…believe that an attractive flyer mailed out to countless, untargeted recipients will bring results. Unfortunately, this is just one way to kill lots of trees, waste plenty of expensive ink and give the post office your hard earned money without getting any kind of return. Even the best-designed flyer won’t be very effective at producing a response, especially if sent to cold, untargeted [individuals].
What’s the purpose of “advertising” your ministry online?
If you sense a twitch in your spirit because the words “Gospel” and “advertising” are used in the same sentence, that’s understandable. Besides, we don’t ever want to convey the idea that Salvation is a product for sale.
When we promote or advertise, we extend an invitation to those online to be a part of something bigger. For digital disciples or ministry workers, our reason for promoting what we do has eternal value.
Digital disciples (those who share the Gospel online) recognize their responsibility to let others know of the saving grace of Christ.
We share the Gospel in various ways (preaching, health classes, education, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, defending the defenseless, etc.). When we’re planning an event, we want to find the most effective way to get the news out.
The purpose of advertising is to:
With 2 billion people using Facebook every month, you are guaranteed to reach someone in your target audience.
What should the church be advertising?
“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15 NIV).
So it should be with what the church offers. We want as many people as possible to know.
More people need to be made aware of what the church offers. Online ads have the possibility of giving the world a better idea of who we are.
When a product or service is worth it, creators focus on how they can use all the methods available to them to promote something they believe is useful to consumers. Knowing how useful our ministries are (online and offline) will push us to work feverishly to use as many tools as possible to reach more souls.
How do Facebook ads work? Now that we’ve established why online ads are important, let’s get to how to actually create Facebook ads.
HubSpot recommends keeping these things in mind when creating ads on Facebook:
Create a Facebook ad in 7 steps:
So, should you advertise on Facebook?
Effective advertising on Facebook increases the chance for more people to learn about your church or ministry. While we promote the church to those in the community, we shouldn’t neglect those who are seeking for truth online.
However, it is critical that churches and ministries remember that it is NOT ads (digital or otherwise) that win souls. The Holy Spirit wins souls.
“There is a necessity, it is true, for expending money judiciously in advertising the meetings, and in carrying forward the work solidly. Yet the strength of every worker will be found to lie, not in these outward agencies, but in trustful dependence upon God, in earnest prayer to Him for help, in obedience to His Word” — Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 110. (1909)
By promoting your church or ministry activities or programs online, you let more people in on something life-transforming.
Has your church or ministry used Facebook ads? What worked for you and what didn’t? Tell us below!
Reposted with permission from centerforonlineevangelism.org.
Facebook Advertising Resources:
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division
Social media can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. For most Adventist entities, social media manager is just one of many hats an employee might wear. If you happen to be a full-time digital strategist, you’re likely managing multiple campaigns and projects at once. Regardless of your level of expertise, there never seems to be enough time in the day to accomplish everything you need to do in order to stay on top of the ever-growing evangelistic influence of social media. Over the years, I’ve learned to streamline my approach in order to tackle a large workload.
Here are my top three tried and true time-saving tips for developing your content or campaign strategy:
1.) Schedule your content in batches – Scheduling your content (and ads) in advance helps you focus on big picture items without the urgency of consistent posting. Plan out regular content in advance and make time to schedule it in monthly or bi-weekly chunks. Then you can focus your attention on engagement, community building, data analysis, strategic planning, and other projects. This also empowers you to be more proactive in your digital strategy, as opposed to reactive.
For example: If you’re running four digital campaign strategies (for different brands) at once, keeping up with the continual need for content is easily managed with this technique. It takes me one to three hours, depending on the campaign, to plan, write, and schedule the posts for a month across multiple platforms for each campaign. If you carve out time each week to focus on just one of the four campaigns, that’s between one and three focused hours a week spent scheduling content. Then your social media posts are taken care of for each campaign on a rolling basis, allowing you to stay on top of performance analytics and enabling you to better evaluate and optimize your strategy. This also frees you up to respond quickly to comments or address any unexpected issues or changes.
2.) Create evergreen content or repurpose posts – Just because you posted a piece of content once doesn’t mean your entire audience has seen it or had the time to react. Remember the “Rule of 7” states that a person must see a message at least seven times before they take action. Consequently, it’s a good idea to use one post multiple times to ensure greater exposure. For an awareness campaign like #enditnowNAD, we had two solid testimonies on why greater awareness and education is needed for pastors, church leaders, educators, and anyone working with children to effectively identify and report abuse. Over the course of a six-month campaign, we scheduled each testimony three times, with slightly different wording and images, and at different times of day and days of the week, to reach different groups of people. Each time, the content was well received. It was a long campaign, and we did this with much of the educational content that we were sharing on our various channels. We invested our time into creating compelling posts, strong resources, and images that could be used multiple times to reinforce our mission instead of constantly seeking to create new original content. New content was weaved in as it became available, but by using this technique, we were able to guarantee a consistent posting schedule.
For event-specific campaigns, you can leverage this technique to build urgency towards deadlines. For example, as the last day for an early-bird registration approaches, you can rework the same message and call-to-action using key buzzwords to attract attention.
Fellow digital missionaries, I hope you found these time-saving tips helpful. Be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear what other ways you save time or streamline your efforts.
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division
If you’re like me, you’ve hit a creative roadblock at some point. Doesn’t matter if you’re a pastor, Christian vlogger, or a digital disciple, we have all run out of content ideas and sat staring at our laptops at some point. As digital missionaries, we want to create relevant content, but may not always be sure what people are searching for online. Our purpose is to meet the needs of people in the digital space, and luckily, the inspiration we need lies in tools many of us use every day. If we’re strategic and intentional with the content we create, we can provide people with the answers and connection they are looking for online.
We've said this before: people are Googling for God, and it’s still very true.
Each year there are millions of Google searches for answers to questions like:
There is a great need for our message of hope. Additionally, many people are hurting, entertaining suicidal thoughts, or feel there is no hope for their situation. They turn to the internet for companionship, understanding, information, anonymity, and more. It’s easier for them to pour out their heartfelt searching to Google or on social media than it is to talk to a friend, neighbor, co-worker, or family member. Consequently, this is where we, as disciples, need to cast our net. To do that, we need to use the kind of spiritual food the fish are looking to feed on.
Here is our easy tip for a wealth of content ideas:
Find content, write content, and curate content related to top Google searches. Frame your posts to pique curiosity and answer people’s questions, addressing their deepest longings. You can get top search data from any search engine, YouTube, and other social media trend tracking sites. Try it. Start typing in a question and let the search engine auto-finish. The top results represent the most popular search queries. In other words, you will see what large numbers of people are searching for online. It gives you a sneak peek into their needs, worries, nagging questions, and often hidden longings.
These trends allow us to predict what topics audiences may find interesting, and we can use this predictability to speak to the masses in a relevant way. When we make content that speaks to the spiritual needs of people and seeks to address their deepest longings, we can change lives through digital evangelism.