I Embraced Digital Marketing, So Can You

Earlier I wrote about how I had to overcome my insecurity around what I see as a lack of success in social media marketing. I figured that today I would balance that out by telling you about something I did that was actually successful.

Each spring, your church’s youth ministry hosts a Good Friday celebration that is open to the entire community. We encourage the members of our church to come out, and we also reach out to the neighborhood and other churches in the city. In years past, attendance for this event has ranged from a low of around thirty to a high of 120. Three years ago we spent a good chunk of change on fancy print fliers. I forget how many we got, but I believe it was in the thousands. It was plenty more than we could distribute, and I still have a stack of them.

A lot has changed since 2012. I now lead our youth ministry as a volunteer, not as a staff member. This adds a level of complexity to doing the same type of promotional work for an event. To be honest, I also didn’t do as good a job this year of developing a core group of student volunteers that would distribute the fliers. However, the state of our ministry isn’t all that’s changed.

social media-02
This was our basic design for the event.

From 2012 to 2015 the power of social media has grown and our ability to use it to our advantage has grown right along with it. What we soon discovered is that we didn’t really need to invest tons of time and resources into producing and distributing print advertisement. Once we designed some simple graphics for the event, we just became super obnoxious about posting it everywhere. This wasn’t done haphazardly, though. Although I do wish we had a more thought out strategy, we did do some deliberate things that I believe helped us get the word out effectively.

Facebook Event

Whenever we have a major event, such as our Good Friday Celebration, we create an event page through our youth ministry Facebook page. There are several advantages to using Facebook’s events feature:

  • It creates a single online space for information about the event. Instead of just sharing the details in a status, there’s an actual web page for the event that includes updates, times, locations, and any other important information that you choose to share.
  • It gives you a direct link to guests. Every person you invite receives an invitation in their Facebook notifications. Everyone can see when a guest confirms their attendance, helping you build momentum for the event. One way people know an event will be good is when they see lots of people associated with it.
  • It helps you mobilize your team. By having an event page, you can hold the members of your team accountable to invite their friends.
  • It increases your visibility. With a status update only a small percentage of your friends will see the event information. With an event page, everyone who you invite gets a notification.
  • It gives your event credibility. We always use our youth ministry page to make event pages. The host is listed as the name of your youth ministry, not “Kevin Lockett.” This way it’s clear to our invited guests that the event is hosted by an established organization and is legitimate.
  • It maintains contact with invited guests. Changes to the details of the event and a reminder close to the time of the event are pushed to each guests notifications. These may even pop up as notifications on their phone, depending on each user’s personal settings.

Instagram

Our youth ministry also has its own Instagram account. We developed an event graphic specifically for Instagram (large text and a square image – remember, all Instagram images are square, and users can’t “zoom in”). We posted this on Instagram and would often tag students and adult volunteers, which encouraged them to repost the image.

Local Press

We didn’t have a budget to buy advertisement in area newspapers, but you don’t always need money to get exposure for events. We simply took advantage of the free community calendars in our area and submitted our event details.

Constant, borderline obnoxious posting

Screenshot_2015-07-04-09-16-24As the event drew closer, I warned my friends and family that they were about to get a deluge of Good Friday posts, and then I followed through on that promise. I posted at least once a day about the event. I’m sure this annoyed some people, but looking back I realize a few things:

  • My target audience understood why I was doing it. So often in the local Christian community, people say, “I would have gone, but I didn’t know you were having it,” or “I forgot that was tonight.” I wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of the event.
  • Not everyone saw every post. One of the mistakes we often make is in thinking that all of our friends or followers actually see the things we post. One great feature of Facebook pages is the analytic data they provide, including the number of individuals who have seen a particular post. If I post something on Tuesday morning, but I have a friend who doesn’t get on Facebook until Wednesday afternoon, there’s a chance he will never see my post. Even if I post about an event every day for 14 days straight, some people may only see that post fiver or six times. From our ministry’s Facebook page, I could see that only a small percentage of our followers actually saw a particular post.
  • During the week leading up to the event, I overlayed the image I was posting with a countdown. Instead of just repeating the same post over and over, I made it (I hope) anticipatory and exciting.

The Success

How do I know all of this worked? For starters, I cried multiple times that night. I was basically a walking ball of emotion because I had no idea how many people were going to show up and we had an awesome turnout. Also, the students and adult volunteers did an amazing job with the event. They did such a good job that by the time the doors opened, there was nothing for me to do. I stood at the door greeting guests as they arrived. One of my best friends, who is also one of our volunteers was there as well, and we were both stunned by how may people we didn’t know were showing up. Friends of students were there. Other churches were there. It was amazing and it taught me that we are truly in a new era of outreach.

Overall the only print advertising that we did was one text-only announcement in our church’s monthly bulletin.

Mistakes

There are still a few things I would do differently, and I’ll list them so that you can avoid the same mistakes:

  • Have an strategy – not an idea, but one that you actually write down and share with your team
  • Focus on SEO – it seems kind of old school, but maybe we would have had 300 people if more people were stumbling over our event on Google
  • Start early on getting press coverage
  • Collect data from guests – we should have walked away from that event with a crazy contact list and lots of info on why people showed up, but we missed the opportunity

Keep these thoughts in mind and save some trees.