That Christian Vlogger: Case Study of a Video Missionary Part 2 – How He Grew His Channel from 0 to 65,000 Followers
Digital Missionary, That Christian Vlogger.
How I grew my Channel from 0 - 65,000 followers
Let’s assume that you’re convinced about digital missions. In fact, let’s say that you’re ready to start a YouTube channel for your ministry, church, or as an individual! The question is, how do you grow an audience? Great content needs to be seen to impact the lives of your intended audience. Let me walk you through five key steps.
Step #1 - Commit to an upload schedule.
Perhaps the most important thing to realize is that growing an audience takes time. Over the last three years I have created over 350 videos. Some of those videos have been seen by tens if not hundreds of thousands of viewers, while some have fallen flat with just a few hundred.
The main reason why you want to commit to an upload schedule is because you learn so much more when you create so much more. Many people expect to release one perfect video and create an audience from that one video. Now, while I do not doubt the power of a viral video, you can never really create a deep and meaningful community off of one video.
When I first started my YouTube channel, I made a promise to myself that I would upload one video per week without fail (it turns out that I actually uploaded 100 videos that year). I am a firm believer that done is better than perfect. So many people get paralysis by analysis simply because they want to create the perfect piece of content.
News flash: your first videos will suck. That’s ok. Everyone’s first videos are terrible. The point isn’t that you create perfect content, but that you perfect the art of creating better content. With each video, you should improve on the one before.
For the purposes of YouTube, I suggest a minimum of one upload per week. If you have the additional bandwidth and skills to do more, that's great, but not necessary. One video per week will suffice.
Step #2 - Do your homework.
Now that you have committed to creating 52 videos in this upcoming year, the next question you should ask yourself is, what kind of content should you create? This is a key question for your ministry, and I go in-depth on this topic in the “How to Start a Video Ministry” course.
The TL;DR version is this. Find questions that people are searching for on the internet and create content specifically designed to answer those questions. Utilize tools like VidIQ or Google keywords and the YouTube search engine to know what popular questions people are asking.
Ideally, you want to find the sweet spot between super competitive searches and questions that no one is asking. If you target phrases that are too competitive, your voice will be crowded out and your videos will fall short. Conversely, if you target niche questions with near to zero search traffic, you may eliminate your potential viewers while eliminating potential competition.
One helpful exercise that I did when I first started was a broad search on YouTube of some of the more commonly watched videos in the Christian niche and I created a spreadsheet of what people seemed to respond to most.
To start, I suggest targeting questions or phrases that have on average 10,000-100,000 monthly searches on Google. Any more than 100,000 monthly views and competition is too fierce. Any less than 10,000 and you’re very likely to not garner attention at all.
Step #3 - Study analytics.
Once you have created an initial library of content (say, a dozen or so videos), it’s time to start studying your numbers and learning from your analytics. You can learn quite a bit of information from the numbers that YouTube provides.
Pro-tip: Some important metrics to take notice of are total views, minutes watched, and viewer retention.
The first two are pretty straight forward. Total number of views and minutes watched per video are obvious indications of what type of content is resonating with your growing audience. If you notice clear trends on which type of content is getting attention, dive deeper into that subject and create more content around it.
For example, if your video on “How to Study the Bible” has noticeably higher engagement over any other type of content, consider creating content around a related topic. Examples could include, “Which Bible translation is best?” “Where should I start when studying the Bible?” and “5 Bible Verses to Help with Stress.” The goal with creating families of content is to allow a potential viewer to binge watch three to four videos at a time. If you only have one video on an important subject, they can’t do this.
Viewer retention is arguably the most overlooked metric for most YouTube content creators. The longer you can keep someone on YouTube, the more favorably you will be treated by the YouTube algorithm. The simple fact of the matter is that not everyone watches the entirety of your video.
Consider the “Average percentage viewed” metric. A healthy benchmark to shoot for is above 50 percent.
You’ll notice in the picture that at no point are there significant drops in viewer retention. This is a healthy sign that the video you created was valuable to your audience and has done a reasonable job in addressing the question.
If you ever see sharp declines in audience retention, this is a great time for you to pull a lesson from it. Consider this picture:
You can see a sharp drop from 100 percent to about 60 percent retention within the first 60 seconds of this video. Perhaps my audience was not interested in the subject, maybe I did a poor job of introducing the content in an engaging way, or, most likely out of all the explanations: I took too long to get to the content. Studying your viewer retention can help you change your approach and delivery of your content.
Step #4 - Engage in community.
It is absolutely crucial that you do not look at your YouTube channel as a one-way street. Too often we view the YouTube platform as a digital portfolio of our content. This is a misguided approach that will limit your potential for meaningful impact. You should regularly be asking your audience questions, encouraging them to share their thoughts in the comments, and intentionally trying to build relationships off platform.
A rule of thumb: every single piece of content that you create should invite conversation. The most obvious application of this is to actually ask your audience a question in each video. Encourage them to share what stood out to them, challenge what you presented, to both agree or disagree with you and to let you know why. Appropriate discourse and debate are hallmarks to a healthy online community.
Trolls: Create enough content and you will inevitably encounter trolls. Internet trolls are people who start quarrels or aim to upset people on the internet with the exact purpose of distracting and sowing discord by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community. The goal for the troll is to amuse themselves by provoking viewers to display emotional responses and by leading the community down rabbit holes.
There are a few ways you can handle internet trolls. All have merits and drawbacks.
For more guidance on assessing your response, download a helpful infographic.
Step #5 - Take risks.
I am a firm believer that you should constantly be reinventing yourself. There is a major difference between 10 years of experience and one year of experience repeated 10 times. Experiment with different styles of content, different approaches, and even subjects that challenge both you and the audience.
One series of videos that I continually take risks are on the issue of the LGBT community. I have done eight total videos on the subject of homosexuality in the Church. Each time I have invited an openly gay Christian friend as a guest to the channel. The videos were not centered around debate, but around empathy. My hope was to humanize the “other side” so that we could talk to each other instead of past each other.
As you can imagine, there was a significant cost to this series. In total, I have lost over 700 hard earned subscribers from this series of videos. If you look on the graph below, you can clearly see when these videos were initially released.
However, while I had lost a major number of subscribers in the short term, I still believe that this was a healthy choice overall. The type of channel that I’m creating is one where controversial topics can be discussed. I, personally, am hoping to create a space where people can wrestle with their faith and ask the difficult questions that churches often avoid.
My audience may not always end up agreeing with my particular stance on any number of topics, but they know that I will always treat the subject and my guests with grace, compassion, and love. This posture of humility and of an open heart invites a very particular type of viewer and has created a heavily engaged community willing to journey through life together with me.
Digital Missionary, That Christian Vlogger.
When it comes to reaching millennials, social media is a necessity, not a luxury.
With only 2 in 10 millennials considering regular church attendance important, it just makes sense to meet young people where they are, and in 2018, that’s online.
Millennials spend on average 18+ hours per day behind a screen consuming movies, podcasts, social media, and playing video games. If you think that’s crazy, consider this: when I shared this statistic at Andrew’s University, over 50% of the seminarians I asked said that this was an accurate representation of their day.
As a church, our first response has been to point out the inherent dangers in online media, and rightfully so. However, if we have any desire to reach the unchurched or those who have left the faith, running away from social media is no longer an option. As Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” Rather than running away from social media, I believe God is calling us to run toward it, not as mindless consumers and gullible sheep, but as digital missionaries.
The digital missionary recognizes that “…Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13, NIV). But as Paul said, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15, ESV). The digital missionary is a faithful Christian who is committed to taking the gospel to the world, whether that means selling books door-to-door, hopping on a plane to a third-world country, sharing their testimony on Sabbath afternoon, or creating videos on YouTube.
So here are 5 of the most important tips that I’ve learned in my three years as a digital missionary:
Tip 1: Assume no one will ever come to your church.
When most begin thinking about digital evangelism, one of the first questions is, “How do we get them to come to church?” Respectfully, I think this is the wrong question to ask. After all, the mission given to us by Jesus was to make disciples, not to grow our local church. Stop treating Facebook or Instagram simply as advertising platforms for weekend services or midweek socials. Instead, ask yourself this: If the only teaching or discipling that my viewer receives comes from my online ministry, how would their walk with God look? Would their love for Jesus be increased? Would they be challenged? Would their faith grow? By taking the “disinterested benevolence” approach, always serving and never expecting, God will place us directly in the path of those who need it most. Sometimes that means our ministry will reach the shut-ins and disabled, the persecuted Christian living in a Muslim country (true story), or someone like Brook.
Paradoxically, by making this assumption, people do show up at church. In fact, this past month Helen dragged her husband and all four of her kids to church when she found out that I would be speaking at a local Adventist church only 2.5 hours away. She may not be baptized yet, but as someone who has been convinced of the seventh-day Sabbath, Helen is doing the hard work of wrestling through these difficult questions. Thankfully, she doesn’t have to do this on her own.
Tip 2: Numbers matter, but not in the way that you think.
As a digital missionary it’s easy to believe two lies when it comes to “numbers.” On the one hand it’s easy to get proud when a video “goes viral” and the subscribers start rolling in. Conversely, it’s easy to get discouraged and think it’s not worth the effort when only a dozen people watch a video that took you five or six hours to create. In the same way that God values the small local church of a dozen members and the mega church with tens or hundreds of thousands of members equally, the same is true for the online video. It doesn’t matter if your video gets millions of views or dozens; God values it the same. After all, what matters to God most is the impact on the individual. It can be so easy to forget this simple fact, leading us to start interpreting views as a simple metric instead of what it really represents: actual real-life human beings who have taken the time to watch your content.
No Bible worker would for a moment feel ashamed when only a dozen people showed up to their Bible study. No pastor would ever consider the many hours in sermon prep a waste if he only got to preach to 50 or 100 people. The same should be true for digital missionaries. Why? Because each view isn’t actually a view. It’s a person
Tip 3: Teach what your viewers are looking for, not what you’re interested in.
One of the most overlooked facts about YouTube is that it is the second largest search engine in the world. In fact, every month, YouTube sees over 3 billion searches! “How-to” videos are growing 70% each year. We know this intuitively. After all, what do we do when we need to learn how to change a tire? We YouTube it! Need to learn how to tie a tie? YouTube it! Trying to learn how to install a piece of software on our computer…YouTube it! The same is true for spiritual questions. Over 100,000 people every single month are searching for answers to questions like, “Is God Real?” “What happens after death?” “What is Faith?” and even…“What is a Seventh Day Adventist?”
Instead of uploading an hour-long debate on who the King of the North is from Daniel 11, try targeting what people are actively searching for. Here’s a pro-tip on how to discover what people are looking for online. Open up YouTube on an “incognito tab” on Chrome (if you don’t know how to do this, ask a 13-year-old in your church). By doing this, you won’t allow your personal search history to influence the auto-complete in the search bar. Start typing phrases like, “What does the Bible…” “Does God…” and “Why does God?”
Pay close attention to what shows up. YouTube is telling you that these are the most commonly typed questions by YouTube viewers from all across the world! This is where you should start when creating online content.
P.S. Use free tools like VID IQ, Google Ad Words, or Tube Buddy to get more in-depth information on specific questions many people are searching for.
Tip 4: Remember, community matters most!
Most of your viewers will be casual viewers: those who watch one or two videos only to wander to some other part of the internet. Don’t be discouraged by this. Jesus mentioned that there would be different soils each time we try to plant seed. Don’t be easily discouraged when it seems like your audience is highly transient in nature. If you are consistent in creating quality content, never “grow weary of doing good.” The promise is that, “in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, ESV).
Building deep community takes time. This is true of digital missions and IRL (in real life) ministry. People may visit your church dozens of times before they truly engage with the community and get involved through service. When I first started my online ministry, I asked myself how I would define “success” if I were planting a church. After 12 months, would an engaged community of 50 people be success? 100? 1000? Apply this same long-term mentality to building an online community. Don’t get impatient.
Other than creating consistent, quality content, there are many more things that you can do to build community. Respond to every single comment. Yes, all of them. Every comment is an opportunity to build community. Think of every comment as a real interaction (because that’s what it is). How would you respond if someone had something complimentary or critical to say to you after church? What would you do when a visitor had a question to ask the pastoral team? Respond to every single comment. Even the haters. Some of the most meaningful interactions that I have had online actually have come from people who were initially, “haters.” When fellow YouTuber, “The Raging Atheist,” made a very colorfully worded and angry video focused on attacking my channel (http://bit.ly/2NVbTrU - sensitive ears beware), instead of getting defensive, I tried to reach out.
Two more VERY colorful videos and several months later, “The Raging Atheist” not only considers me a friend but is actively encouraging his atheist subscribers to go and subscribe to my channel. To hear the full story, check out the Restore podcast by Javier Diaz.
Make it a practice to reach out to your viewers. Connect with them on other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Ask them questions. Offer to video chat or call them when they have questions. Respond to every email as if they were a person knocking on your church door, and over time you will build a deep and meaningful community.
Tip 5: Prayer is not enough. Educate yourself and collaborate with others.
Don’t get me wrong. Prayer is not only important, it is necessary. Any success that we will have in ministry, digital or otherwise comes as a direct response to prayer. But a digital missionary must combine it with an active effort to be informed and competent. Social media platforms change about as often as Apple releases new iPhones. As such, it’s important to continually invest in education and mentorship.
I’m writing this case study having just gotten back from Las Vegas. No, I wasn’t trying to make it big at the casinos. Instead, I had just invested three days with some of the industry’s leading experts on social media marketing.
Side note: many of the most proficient experts in social media are fellow believers seizing the power of social media for kingdom growth!
Over the last three years, I have spent over $10,000 on online courses, coaching, books, conferences, and mentorship. Now, I realize that not everyone is in the position to invest this type of money, but there are so many free resources available to help equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to succeed as a digital missionary (thanks to the NAD for partnering with me to create a FREE course on how to start a video ministry.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful things about digital missions is that social media actually rewards collaboration instead of competition. Whether you are looking to launch a YouTube channel, podcast, blog, or Instagram account, there is much to be gained from partnering with like-mission-minded people. Connect with other digital missionaries. Learn from their experiences, both the successes and failures. Seek to bolster and support their efforts with the heart of a servant.
Here are some examples of fellow Adventist missionaries & resources:
P.S., if you’re still doubtful that digital mission work really makes a difference, this is Michael Troyonasky. He became a Seventh-day Adventist because of a YouTube video. Yes, it makes a difference.
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.
Creator, editor, and social media manager of Humans of Adventism.
You are Adventism.
I recently had the opportunity to speak at a large communication conference. As I stood before a room of film workers, bloggers, internet personalities, and communications students, I couldn’t help but reflect on how I’d gotten there. I am not a pastor. I am not an employee of the church at all. I don’t have a degree in communications, and I’ve never been employed, despite my best efforts, in the fields represented at this conference. Yet, there I stood, speaking as a humble authority on digital evangelism. How?
Two-and-a-half years ago I graduated from the College of Charleston. I had miraculously been given the opportunity to speak to my classmates and their gathered families, an enormous crowd of people who had no idea who I was. I was not the valedictorian, I’d never worked in student government, and yet again I had managed to land myself on a platform with relatively little tangible merit. On paper, there was no reason to have me speak at my own graduation. Even the professors who knew me well wondered at how this had happened. But it did.
While I’ll never know all the intricate aspects of how the events in my life come to be, I’ve learned that many of us have been believing a lie. We often think that titles and money determine our ability to impact the world. To some degree, that’s true. Pastors are invited to speak at evangelistic series far more often than anyone else, business managers handle a large amount of responsibility in the countless companies across America, and celebrities can dramatically shift consumers toward or against the products we buy. But in my experience these aren’t the only ways to impact the world.
Early in 2017 I went public with a storytelling Facebook page called “Humans of Adventism.” The mechanics were simple, mostly because my resources were incredibly limited. I had no money, no big names backing the page, and very little ability to do anything outside of what I could manage from my cell phone. I had an idea, and I had my phone. From my work truck I began to conduct interviews. I started with the people I knew--other writers and students, even a few family members. From there I began exploring deeper into the Adventists I found on social media and reaching out to them for their stories. It turned out most people didn’t really care about my qualifications at all, they cared about what I was doing and the effect it was having on the world. The Humans of Adventism community now consists of over 4,000 members and is growing more quickly than ever.
I don’t know who made this phrase up, but it’s stuck with me since I heard it.
God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies those he calls.
It’s true. We can own our faith. We can define what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist. It’s a scary responsibility, but God has also given us so much freedom here. He led me to speak to my fellow graduates, then on to present at the Society of Adventist Communicators conference, among other things. He didn’t make me wait for titles, and I would guess this is true for the rest of us, too. Maybe we’re holding ourselves back. Maybe we already have permission.
Is God calling you to realize a digital ministry idea? What's holding you back?
Kaleb Eisele is the Social Media Director for the Orangeburg Seventh-day Adventist Church. Humans of Adventism is an independent storytelling platform that shares the lives and perspectives of Seventh-day Adventists. It is entirely funded by its readers. You can sponsor Humans of Adventism for as little as $5/month by visiting patreon.com/adventisthumans, or by purchasing an “Adventist Human” shirt from teespring.com/adventisthuman.
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
Digital Bible Worker: Sample Position Description
A sample of what a job description could look like for local churches and conferences looking to hire a Bible worker to lead online evangelistic campaigns. Feel free to adapt to your specific needs, and HR requirements. View this template as a type of menu to guide you in the creation of a position that makes sense for your organization’s structure. These positions can be adapted for paid or volunteer workers based on the level of commitment and budget.
The Digital Bible Worker will implement a comprehensive, multi-channel digital evangelism strategy designed to meet the spiritual and social needs of the 18–35 year old, collegiate, career-focused, single or married adult seekers (may include other target audiences based on the goals of the conference or church) in the local community. While engagement and relationship building will start in the digital space, the intent is to bring the target audience to an in-person experience. Ultimately, the goal of this position is to coach young people towards a relationship with Jesus and involvement in the local church—empowering them to also be effective digital disciples.
Objectives and Responsibilities:
Essential Job Functions:
Education and Experience:
Other Recommended Items of Consideration for This Type of Position:
Background Check: highly recommended
Employment is contingent upon successfully passing the background check and online training through www.verifiedvolunteers.com.
Bible workers are considered mandatory reporters, and by extension, digital evangelists or digital bible workers are considered mandatory reporters.
Position Wage Class: Exempt (salaried)
Same as Local Bible Worker. Please refer to the NAD Remuneration Wage Scale located on www.nadadventist.org under Treasury Resources. Page 10 of the NAD Remuneration document provides the range for a Bible Instructor (also known to the local church as Bible Worker) Range = 75% to 95% of the voted remuneration factor.
Limitations and Disclaimers: edit based on your organization’s HR guidelines.
The statements found in this job description are general in nature. The information above is not exhaustive and should not be construed as such. Digital Evangelism is an emerging field and many organizations have requested guidance regarding altering existing job descriptions or creating entirely new ones. This is merely meant to be a template for churches and conferences to reference. You are welcome to adapt as needed to meet your organization’s specific needs. The contents of this sample position description may be changed at the discretion of the organization and/or Supervisor at any time.
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
Assistant Director of Women's Ministries for the North American Division
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, bullies were confined to school hours and playgrounds. As a “funny” but quiet girl in a very small town, I found myself the subject of laughter and bullying more often than I care to remember. But I always knew that at the end of the day, I could go home. Home was my sanctuary, full of books that stretched my imagination to faraway lands, and loving parents who encouraged my “peculiarities.”
Times have changed. Kids are connected 24/7 and have the potential to have their entire lives recorded and documented online: the good, the bad, and the humiliating. They’re not only connected to their friends via texting, social media, and email; they are also reachable by their bullies, anywhere, anytime.
In my day, girls would whisper behind your back, write mean things on scraps of paper and stuff them into your locker, or just obviously exclude you. Yes, it hurt, but it also shaped my character, my compassion for others, and my sense of fairness. It drove me out of my small town to go to college, explore the world, and find a new life full of “funny girls” just like me. I don’t remember the nasty words spoken by mean-spirited children. In a strange way, I can thank my bullies for helping me become who I am today. But the digital world has ushered in a new type of bullying, one that is far more damaging than school yard pranks and being made to feel like you don’t belong.
Cyberbullies can make a self-conscious child or teenager’s life a living nightmare. They can be dogged constantly with mean, spiteful, malicious messages that tear apart their self-worth and identity—and everyone else can see it too. Children can easily begin struggling with suicidal thoughts caused by an endless barrage of insults sent to them right under your nose.
As a teen, I remember jumping into the lake where my family lived and my top came off; I ended up hiding under the deck until one of the neighbors was kind enough to fetch it for me. Everyone had a good laugh and teased me a bit, but by the next week it was over and forgotten. Fast forward to today: something similarly embarrassing happens but this time someone snaps a picture and texts it immediately to all of their friends and sends it out on Snapchat for others to take screenshots and share. In a matter of minutes, the moment is immortalized. This has happened many times—someone snaps an embarrassing picture on Friday, and by Monday the entire school knows. The victim is mocked, shamed, and humiliated again and again and again. It never ends, and the reach keeps expanding. The victim may feel the only way out is to take his or her own life.
What can we do? Morally, as Christians, we should have a no tolerance policy on bullying of any kind. As youth leaders, parents, and teachers, we need to recognize the signs and know how to handle these situations when they appear. Being part of a church does not make anyone immune, but together we can make it a safe place for our youth.
The North American Division is dedicated to preventing abuse of any kind. Consequently, it has launched the enditnownorthamerica.org campaign to provide education and resources to church leaders, educators, and members.
Erica Jones, Assistant Director of Women’s Ministries will now share some practical tips and resources for identifying and addressing cyberbullying.
As a parent or youth leader, one of the most important things you can do to protect your kids is to be aware of any significant changes to their mood and attitudes. Be aware of common warning signs:
Kids need to feel that they have a safe space to talk to a trusted adult. Ask them open-ended questions about school and friends. If you see a change, don’t ignore it or chalk it up to them being “moody teenagers.” Ask–don’t assume! Kids and teens want to know that someone cares enough to ask why they don’t seem themselves.
Additional resources on cyberbullying:
Marketing specialist and founder of @PraisePix, an Instagram ministry with over 23K followers.
A lot of ministries and churches worldwide are now beginning to understand the impact and reach of connecting with people online. If you have adopted this macro mindset, this is one of the most practical pieces of content to help your ministry post effectively on Instagram and grow your following. It’s important to understand that each social media platform is different. Whether you are just beginning on Instagram and looking for ways to be more active, or if you have already built a following and would like to see it grow, this information will bring you value. We will begin with two basic rules and then go into detail
about specific step by step tactics every ministry should be doing.
Figure out your goal. One of the biggest questions that you will have to ask yourself and the members of your ministry is: what are we trying to accomplish and who are we trying to reach? Maybe you are a local church simply wanting to update your members and surrounding community on upcoming events or programs. Or maybe you are a youth and young adults ministry hoping to reach more teens and millennials online. The reason why this is so important is because many times when speaking with churches or ministries looking to get more active on social media, their immediate response to this question is “we want to reach everyone.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with that answer (in fact it’s amazing!), however it is much more effective to become a part of an online community when you have specified what that community is.
Build a community. This is the most important and critical aspect that many accounts overlook on Instagram. There is a difference between building a community and having a following. This is the reason why you will find pages on Instagram that have thousands of followers and only receive a small amount of likes and comments per post. On the reverse, that’s also why you can find accounts with 700 followers which have very high engagement. Whether you have 500 followers or 5,000 followers, it is so important to interact with your community.
The truth is, the best way to grow on social media is to be to social. Reply to comments, say thank you, say hello and ask people where they are from etc. People will feel a deeper connection to your ministry and it’s message when your account feels less like a brand, and more like meaningful human interaction.
When someone follows your page, they are voluntarily giving you their attention. Be mindful and considerate of the great gift of their time.
Content: Before we get into the specific practices to help any ministry expand their reach on Instagram, your content will play a major role in how people interact with your posts. If you can post everyday, the better. Here are some tips on what kind of content you can easily put together in a matter of minutes if you run out of pictures or videos from your events to post, or if you’re not sure what to post consistently.
Unsplash is an amazing resource of stock images available to download and use for any creative or commercial project for free. Once you find an image, add any quotes or Bible verses relating to your ministry with a wide variety of apps available on the Apple and Google App stores which allow you to add
text on photos at no cost. Now you have content to post. Then what?
Hashtags: Step #1 is finding the best Hashtags to follow and post on Instagram. For this article, we will be using the examples of ministries focused on Ending Poverty and Refugees. Spend about 30 seconds scrolling through the top 9 posts of each hashtag suggested by Instagram and engage with the community you aspire to become a part of.
If your goal is to reach more people on Instagram who will value and engage with your content, take some time out everyday (10-20 minutes) to actively post and interact. Whether this is liking an image, asking questions, replying to comments or sending direct messages, every action counts. I always try to remember that there are real people behind the phone screens and computers who are being affected by our online activity.
Instagram Stories. Instagram stories and live videos are a powerful way to reach your followers. If your ministry has a separate website, blog, or link that leads to a more in depth article, long length video, or landing page that you would like your followers to visit, Instagram stories are a great way to let people know what you have going on. Make sure to include text letting your followers know to click on the link in your bio. If you have a larger following, Instagram will give you the option to connect a link to your story. That way you can inform your followers to “swipe up” and it will lead them directly to the link you
attached to the story. See example below:
Instagram Live. Instagram live is a great way for ministries to engage and connect in real time with their followers. It’s a great way to allow the followers who couldn’t make it to some of the events you’ve hosted to stay updated with what’s going on, and still feel a part of the community. It’s also a great tool to simply say hello to the people who took the time to open your live stream.
Instagram launched a collaborative live tool which allows two people to go live at one time from different locations. This gives a new opportunity to have conversations that matter and answer questions that people have in your community and give them a word of encouragement.
We hope this post answered some of your questions about Instagram! Keep up the good work Digital Evangelists!
Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart; as working for the LORD, not for men: Colossians 3:23
Marketing specialist and founder of @PraisePix, an Instagram ministry with over 23K followers.
HOW IT STARTED
Growing up in the Adventist church, I had become privy to the privilege of the Gospel but found myself struggling to tap into its power. Three years ago, I graduated from Southwestern Adventist University and was a wide-eyed dreamer ready to change the world. Less than a year into my first job, I became disillusioned about life and my positivity “Petered out” as I started to question whether I could make an impact. To be totally transparent I still do, but thank God for His never ending grace and reassurance. I rededicated my life in service to Jesus Christ and on January 1, 2017 PraisePix was created.
At this current date by the grace of God, PraisePix has over 23,000 online followers, averaging 2,500 daily engagements, 430 weekly comments and over 250,000 monthly impressions. My professional background is in digital marketing, and below I’ve happily given away all the detailed creative strategies that were used to grow the page from zero within a little over a year.
To God be the glory.
CREATING THE CONTENT
One of the most important things when it comes to growing an online community at scale is creating quality consistent content. If you have little to no experience on Photoshop, there are still numerous amounts of apps available on most smartphones that allow anyone to add text to photos. If you are
looking for great pictures to use, there are thousands of stock images available online at no cost under the creative commons licence. This provides an amazing opportunity for small or large churches looking to get more active on social media and need more content to post on their pages. As much as you can, try to update your pages a few times a week. On PraisePix, I upload new content at least 3 times a day.
Below is an example of a $10 Instagram ad that was executed from PraisePix to targeted Christian social media users from the ages of 13-65 globally. Here is the digital data:
In most cases, when you’re starting an online ministry you will be working with a tight budget and that’s okay. Hashtags on Instagram are a simple and effective way to introduce a wider audience to your page.
For example, the hashtag #faith, #love, and #hope are searched and engaged with online over 450 times daily.
COMMUNITY AND VALUE
Once your page is up and running, spend time as often as you can to be a part of the community. Whether you have 100 followers or 10,000, treat every person who’s chosen to follow your page with Christ like
love. Reply to comments, respond to direct messages, like and share other content that inspires you and create innovative ways to bring spiritual value to people in need of hope.
Every Wednesday morning on PraisePix, we have a community prayer where we encourage thousands of our followers to leave prayer requests in the comment section for 24 hours and lift up each other’s petitions to Christ. This is a unique way to have people praying for one other all over the world and build relationships with our community online.
Be still and know that I am God.
One of the new initiatives we began on PraisePix is providing daily devotions to people online who are seeking to build deeper and more meaningful relationships with Christ. The link in our bio allows anyone to voluntarily sign up using their email address for daily inspirational messages. If you are a Christian writer, blogger, vlogger, or content creator, please contact me if you would like to get involved in this new online ministry. It will be a blessing!
God has given each one of us an enormous opportunity to spread the gospel online through social media. Facebook recently released data revealing over 2 billion active monthly users on their platform. People from all over the world are in desperate need of the hope and peace that comes from knowing and believing in the grace of our resurrected Savior. In March, PraisePix reached over 100,000 worldwide engagements and below is a detailed list of the top countries and cities reached in numerical order as reported by Sprout Social:
Knowing your audience and understanding who you are trying to reach plays an important role in creating the type of content that should be allocated to reach them effectively. The figure below shows the percentages of age groups viewing the content on PraisePix and an average of daily engagements:
Jesus said, 'And Surely I am with you always, even to the very end.'
THE GREAT COMMISSION
If you have experienced the humbling joy of receiving salvation, you understand the price that Jesus paid for our freedom from sin. By committing our time to the cause of Christ, we never know how one image online can reach someone in the moment when they need it the most. Matthew 18:19 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Psalms 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!”
Through faith, action, and Biblical principles, I believe we can reach as many people as God allows to awaken their faith and let others know that Jesus is coming again!
Center for Online Evangelism
The Center for Online Evangelism is a missionary project devoted to developing online mission stations.
Someone online just expressed interest in studying the Bible with you! Here’s how to make sure you’re prepared.
Reposted with permission from centerforonlineevangelism.org.
Jamie Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them. —Ecclesiastes 1:9-11
I recently read Pendulum: How Past Generations Shape Our Present and Predict Our Future, by Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew, and found myself stunned by its insights into the drivers behind the collective shifts in society. These shifts impact communication and often drive technology and social change. I recommend that, to better understand how to communicate more effectively to our audiences and fulfill their needs, you not only read and study this book, but also invest the time in reading Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe. Good communication is when we speak so that our audience can hear. As a religious organization, we should be using digital technologies to fulfill our audiences’ needs, but to do that, we must first understand what those needs are, their unspoken expectations, and the forces for change that influence a generation.
Generation Z and the Millennials have been leaving the church at alarming rates; could it be that we simply don’t understand them? We know that people of any given cultural or people group are always the best suited to reach that group. I contend that the same is true with generations. Now, empowering and training members of the youth to reach their own does not permit us to abdicate our function as guides and mentors. We too must seek to understand and cultivate these relationships if we are to bridge the gap and secure the future of the church in North America and the salvation of souls. Pendulum provides an analysis of the current shifts in society and their impact on marketing, technology, and communication. Our department tested these principles, creating a case study focused on communicating with teens, and the results were surprising–and exciting. Even if you don’t have time to read the 200-page book, what follows is a summary of what you need to know to understand and utilize these communication techniques. We’ll also share an example of a test campaign targeted at teens.
Pendulum takes Strauss and Howe’s four “generations” (Idealist, Reactive, Civic, Adaptive) and reduces it to two generations covering forty years that oscillate between the individuality, freedom, uniqueness, and potential of “Me” (peaked in 1983) to the collective “We” working together for the common good, fixing society’s greatest problems, and rejecting the pretense for authenticity and transparency. Sound familiar? According to this model, we are currently in the upswing of the “We” that should reach its zenith in 2023. Both are always present in society, but shifts in dominance occur. Optimal balance is found between the two extremes, and either extreme has negative consequences.
The main point is that group behavior is predictable, and we can use this predictability to speak to the masses in a relevant way.
There will always be exceptions, and as the authors point out:
For deeper insights into the pros and cons of each swing of the “pendulum”, read the book.
To communicate, we must ask, “What is driving the actions and attitudes of the group?”
Then determine how your mission and message fits or can be positioned into this paradigm.
Figure: 2.3 Values and beliefs that motivate society in “WE” and “ME” cycles (Williams 17)
Drivers of a “WE” vs. drivers of a “ME”