People are on social media… a lot.
I’ll prove it to you. If you have an iPhone, go to “Screen Time” and see how much time you spent on social media last week. The average is seven hours. That’s more time than people spend in church and small groups combined. So that should tell you what a huge opportunity we have in reaching people with the gospel in this space.
One way to get more people to your church livestream is to make content that, first and foremost, is valuable or interesting to the viewer.
You could make short invitation videos that position the livestream as a great way for a person to dip their toes into church. Or think of how your sermon is going to solve a problem in your listeners’ lives and make that the key drawcard. Or get someone to share the story of their first time at church and how Jesus changed them.
Whatever you do, keep the viewer top of mind when making the video. Keep it short (less than a minute). Start strong and connect to the viewer in the first sentence. And, most important of all, make sure there is a clear invite to watch your livestream and tell them where to do it.
The next step is to get the video in front of as many people in your local community as you can. There are two great ways to do this.
First, post the video to Instagram as a Reel or an IGTV. Then, after you post it, share it to your own “story” and ask your followers to share it in their stories. This will get your video shown to the friends and family of people at church. Posting as Reel or IGTV is important because these autoplay when shared in a story. This then lets you show an advertisement to the people who saw some of your invitation.
Why is this important? Well, that brings us to the second way to get your video out. There’s some detail but stay with it – it’s worth the effort!
Go to “Ads Manager” on Facebook and make an ad with your video invitation. When you make your campaign choose “Video Views” as your objective. Then, in the “ad set”, you choose your audience. You can target people in your local area as well as people who viewed at least three seconds of the video you posted to Instagram (you’ll need to create a “custom audience” in Ads Manager to do this).
Showing ads to people who have viewed your videos is great because it’s more likely they’ll be willing to watch more and even tune in to your livestream.
How many people are watching?
So, you’ve got people coming to your livestream. Great. But now you need to know if they’re staying long enough to hear the Bible message about Jesus.
Each live streaming platform (Facebook, Youtube, etc) has its own way of showing live video analytics. If you get stuck you can always do a Google search to find a step-by-step guide. Here’s how it works for Facebook:
- head over to the Creator Studio
- look at the number of highest concurrent viewers
- look at how many total people watched for at least three seconds, and how many watched for at least a minute
Attention span is a precious commodity online, so while three seconds might seem a ridiculously short amount of time, people who watch for at least three seconds of your stream have a proven interest in what you have to say. However, if you have a huge drop-off between three seconds and a minute, then you have work to do.
How to make your livestream more engaging?
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but church services were not designed for livestreaming. They just don’t work well. With an in-person service, you have the benefit of people sitting in their seats. Online, however, people are far more easily distracted. That doesn’t mean you should abandon your church service format. Just update it!
Here are some ideas:
1. Reduce your sermon length by 20 per cent. It may kill you to not go deep in your sermons but, in this environment, you might just have to lighten the load for a time. Pray to God that he brings us back to in-person as soon as possible.
2. Create short segments. Long, uninterrupted segments can lose people. So keep your segments short, change them often, and don’t be afraid to try new things.
3. Have two MCs. One MC is kinda boring online. Find two people with good banter and get them to have a conversation together.
4. Tell stories. People love stories. They’re engaging. So get your MCs to have fun, light-hearted conversations about their week or something they both find interesting.
5. Ask questions. Ask your church questions and get them to answer in the comments of the livestream. This will help them feel part of the conversation.
6. Offer a Q&A. A great way to get people to stick around is to give them a reason. If they know they can ask questions – and they need to stick around to the end to hear the answers – they’re much more likely to stay engaged for longer.
Zac Masters runs Social Church and is the Head of Social Media at EV Church on the Central Coast. You can download his free eBook for more ways to use Instagram to attract and make disciples.