Viral Marketing

 —  February 27, 2013 — 4 Comments

A few months ago, we had a discussion about the effectiveness of on-stage announcements during our weekend services. It was the main way that we would push all of our events and upcoming opportunities. But we felt that students just weren’t listening to what we were saying up there and we questioned whether or not it was still the most effective way to communicate to our students. So we took a risk and cut all on-stage announcements and decided that we would only show 1-2 videos announcements per weekend. Of course that meant that the videos went to the big events like summer camp, small group launches, etc., and, unfortunately, left the smaller events without much spotlight.

This was a huge leap of faith and a total departure from what we were used to, but it was a risk worth taking. It forced us to get creative and try new things. So we started playing around with the idea of viral marketing. We studied things like the Invisible Children campaign and looked at the most practical elements we could adopt to our own ministry.

The genius behind viral marketing is that other people are doing the marketing for you. In youth ministry, that means students are pushing your events for you. And the best way to get students to go to things is them knowing that they will have friends there.

Last week, we threw our first event that was pushed solely through the use of social media and by the grace of God, it worked! We didn’t say a word about it during the weekend and our attendance at the event was just as good, if not better, than any event we pushed “the old fashioned way.” I thought I would share a few of the things we learned along the way:

-The Platforms. What social media are students using? For our students, they really like Facebook and they LOVE Instagram. So we focused on those two platforms and formed our strategy around that.

-The Material. The key to viral marketing is having sharable material that is interesting and straightforward. Sharable material works best when the sharer doesn’t have to write an explanation for your videos or graphics, they just have to repost them. For Instagram, we made an attention grabbing graphic with all of the information clearly presented. For Facebook, we made a video that was short, funny, and easy to follow.

-The Network. Viral marketing starts with a few people and branches big. Get as many students as you can to help you start. We went straight to our student leaders and other core students to help us start. A good thing to keep in mind is demographics. Make sure that every school is getting hit and every grade is getting hit.

-The Momentum. Space out your posts and keep a steady stream going from several different users. It can be really easy for viral marketing to lose steam after a day or two because everyone already posted it at once. Don’t let your campaign die early on!

 

How are you marketing your ministry’s events/announcements? What is working for you?

 

Colton [Email||Twitter]

 

I remember a time when I didn’t have an email address, when I had a friend in high school who had Napster and in a good evening where no one picked up the phone  and cut the connection we could download 3 songs and couldn’t believe how fast it was. I remember a time before Facebook and Google and I don’t know if I liked it better but it was definitely different. Working with students today, they have never known a world without the internet, never learned the beauty of using a library card catalog to find a book or fumbled with a microfiche reader. There are so many redeeming and exciting things about the world that we live in now, but I am starting to think that there are some unfortunate side effects that will cause some new challenges that we need to know how to take on.

Case and point: Conflict

In the past few weeks I have had some tough conversations with several students about their life and the road it was leading them down and talked to others about pride, attitude and spiritual arrogance. In both cases ;as kindly and gracefully as I could tell them, neither have not been back to the group since our conversation. I have reached out, called, messaged and apologized for the way the conversation made them feel. As it says in Galatians 4:16 Have I become their enemy for telling them the truth? There seems to be a growing trend for students to not know how to engage with people they disagree with and would rather avoid the conflict and part of the root of this I feel is coming from the fact that:

Students don’t have to put up with anything they don’t like.

Whether its music, TV, or conversations, young people today have the world at their finger tips. If they don’t like the song, they have thousands available to them in seconds. Gone are the days of waiting for the song on the radio to finish or turning it down. Today they don’t have to put up with anyone else’s music because they can bring their own. Have you driven past a school bus of students recently? Its white ear buds from front to back. No more 99 bottles of beer on that wall. They have hundreds of TV channels plus DVRs, Youtube, Hulu, Netflix means that they never really have to watch anything that they don’t have to. Entertainment is on demand so why should people not be the same?

So logically the same expectations of instantly getting what they want enters the realm of relationships. They know what they want, and they know what they don’t. With hundreds of friends on Facebook, the moment that a relationship is not what they want anymore they switch and go find one they better. Sadly this is exactly what is happening when students experience conflict. The modern conveniences of our culture are teaching our students that compromise is not necessary or important. Teenagers can block anyone from my newsfeed whom they disagree with or don’t like. With phone in hand, the moment an event gets remotely boring or uncomfortable they reach for the phone to find something or someone better or at least less awkward than what is in front of them. They can find engaging community online with every area of interest in their life. Friends who they share common interests and  with are only a text or app away, so why would they talk to someone who might not share their thoughts / opinions? That just seems like work.

This is the challenge we are going to engage in, how do we teach students the value of healthy conflict and that you can be friends with people you don’t always agree with?  How can we go make disciples if we are unwilling to engage those whose opinions differ from ours.

In the next 2 weeks I am going to be writing a 6 part series on things we need to teach our students with our lives before we preach to them. I pray is helpful and encouraging to you. Working with students is never easy and this new generation that wants things their way or no way at all is going to be even harder to reach.

-Geoff – Twitter geoffcstewart 



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I love Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I usually find myself on each one of them at some point nearly every day. There’s something great about reading about our friend’s lives 1000′s of miles away or chucking at someone’s pithy observation about life. But what if our Tweets were real?

  • My senior pastor is a jerk sometimes. I want to punch him in the face
  • I’ve been married 10 years, and still don’t have sex figured out
  • I’m pretty sure my whole youth group is filled with “that one kid”
  • The last time I read the Bible was in late 2012
  • I want to quit I want to quit I want to quit
  • Things aren’t good deep inside me, but the outside is as shiny as ever
  • If I could figure out where to dispose the body, I’d take out that parent

Don’t Tweet these! We need to continue to post those stunning sunsets, epic CS Lewis quotes and pictures of our no foam latte. I would die if my real life made it was genuinely Tweeted for the world to see, or pictures of my inner world made it online. But you need to be sharing it somewhere.

You need to have someone who knows the real you, not the brand, image or “always on” youth worker. You need to be able to confess, share, process and pray through the stuff you would never Tweet.

Simple question to kick off the week: is someone reading your real Tweets?

JG

Mike Johnson sent me this link that was fascinating to me – Buzzfeed has a great article for youth workers (and parents) to get the inside scoop on technology and teenagers. As I read it, so much of it was spot on. Here’s an excerpt – head there for the whole article:

INSTAGRAM
Looking at her Instagram feed, I noticed that the vast majority of photos were of people – not beautiful views, objects, or experiences. This is in stark contrast to what the people I follow on Instagram take photos of, and very analogous to the photos that appear in my Facebook Newsfeed.

My takeaway: Facebook was smart to buy Instagram.

SNAPCHAT
My sister maintains that Snapchat is up there with Instagram, in terms of usage amongst her peers. Her exemplary use case was a moment that she captured in the airport of a funny looking man who was snoozing in an awkward position. It’s the type of thing that you want to share with somebody, but it’s insignificance would make it awkward in a text or status update. “It’s a way to connect with friends when you don’t really have anything to say.” Or in my words, if traditional messaging is functional — communicating for a purpose; “What time do you want to meet for the movie?” — Snapchat is the opposite, whatever that is.

My takeaway: Snapchat is a communication tool, seriously.

JG



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Weekend Teaching Series: Instalife (week 2 of 2)
Service Length:
75 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we wrapped up the incredible Instalife series. I Tweeted the other day about how much I had loves this series – for sure it was the most well-received series of the year. Didn’t mean it was soft or light, but the framework of Instagram really helped make it very relevant to their lives. This week we went after pretending and showing off on Instagram, and how pretty soon we start to get great at covering up. I walked students through some principles from Colossians 3 to help students deal with this destructive mindset. Really, really enjoyed this service.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a couple of great Christmas videos I can’t wait to show you. One was the classic “That’s Christmas” and a new video called A Very Colton and Travis Christmas special. We also played Who Wants to Be a Fraction of a Millionaire (Instagram edition). Lots of students involved, lots of laughs.

Music Playlist: He is Alive, Christ in Me, Mary Did You Know, We Are Saved, O Holy Night

Favorite Moment: At the end of the talk I decided to do an extended object lesson on stage where we built the “perfect Instagram” on stage, then deconstructed it to help teach the lesson. One of my favorites, such a powerful image that our students/leaders pulled off to help strengthen the lesson.

Up next: Christmas Services (all-church, 1-off)

I think I am pretty “Hip with the teens” I use social media and guess what, so do they. So here is 5 best practices that I have for myself when I am using Facebook / Twitter / Instagram /

On Being Political – I am Canadian and am often fascinated by the U.S. political system, the parties, the leaders, the “dangling chets”, its all very entertaining. That being said, as a leader and a person of influence, I have to remind myself to be mindful of what we project when it comes to politics. I can’t think of a time that it would be healthy or wise for a Youth Pastor to wade into any sort of heated political discussion with their students / parents as potential audience.  Political views are divisive and division among believers isn’t good for anybody. There is a place to debate but Facebook is probably not that place.

On Being Critical – Last week I wrote about being careful where you criticize, because its confusing to students. Whether explicit or passive aggressive, criticism is not really helpful to your students. Being critical of other Churches, denominations and decisions they make can cause more harm than good for students and friends that don’t understand the issues as well as you. Being educated and informed is important, just be mindful of when, where and with whom you have those conversations.

On Being Sketchy – Always remember your audience, and that video your friend sent you, that awesome Meme or funny cartoon will be seen by your eight grade student and his mom. Avoid innuendo, crudeness and anything that could be taken the wrong way. Save that joke for your next dinner party or just save it you know? One of my leaders recently told me he shared something he found online with his students and I nearly fell off my chair, not because of what he shared with them but that he was unsuspectingly endorsing the website it was from. Be thoughtful about what doors you might accidentally open.

On Being Transparent – If you are going to be on social media, and let people into your living room so-to-speak, give them an accurate picture. If you have kids, make sure that every photo isn’t staged and that people can get an understanding of your daily pursuit of a Christ-like life. The good the bad and the ugly.

On Being a Follower – Follow your people! What I mean is people close to you, your students, leaders, your church members. Not following or connecting with the people you minister too makes Twitter a shout of information more than a catalyst for conversation. Following your people allows you to know what God is doing, in all aspects of their life and allows you to know how you can pray for them or find common ground to connecting. Good leaders are great followers.

Geoff – @geoffcstewart 



Whether you are a youth pastor, parent, teacher, or random person in the mall, you know that teenagers (along with several other age ranges) are addicted to technology in some form or another. It does not help that this is the most plugged in generation with iPhones, iPads, laptops, televisions, Xbox 360, and every other digital screen that you can imagine.

This has caused many people to worry. The death toll for people texting while driving in the last five years is over 16,000 people, families have transformed from Friday nights together to everyone in their own room in the basking glow of their digital device, and many teenagers are showing symptoms of withdrawal from studies that have looked at fasting from technology.

The question is, how can we as a community fight back against tech addictions? We have a few ideas for you below.

  1. Tech-Free Church Services
    What would happen if we fully turned off all tech at church and youth groups for the one hour that we are sitting in the sanctuary? This is not limited to the phones of congregation members, but includes all of the monitors in the lobby promoting the Bible studies or iPad that are used to sign up for missions trips. Retreats that have limited or no phone use (do not read “no phones” as leadership should always have a way to be contacted) can make engaging with teenagers easier.

    Maybe you ease into it and only do one Sunday a month and see the success of it. It may not seem like a long time, but soon you begin to talk to church members that you sit beside. Youth pastors now can preach and know that there is one less distraction in the room. Small group leaders know that they have their group’s undivided attention. Relationships flourish and you begin to forget about that tech.

  2. A Tech-Only Room
    So many families want to know how they can reunite their families back in their homes. Teenage boys are in their room playing Xbox, teen girls are in their rooms on the phone, dad’s in the living room watching television, and mom is on the laptop in the study working.

    One experiment that has seen significant success is a tech only room. It contains the only television in the house, the only place you are allowed to get on computers, and the only place you are allowed on the phone. This can cause an inconvenience at first and does not guarantee that families will even converse fully, but it ensures that you get to see family members while they are home. At the same time, for families that have concern for pornography or too much video game playing, this is easily monitored simply by proximity.

  3. Talk About Rules Before You Have To Enforce Them
    Setting up a culture within a church or school system or implementing rules at home that are established before any issues come up have shown to reduce the risk of anything happening before they should. Let your teenagers know what will happen if they text while driving, install the proper monitoring applications, and consistently check up on them. Let them know that if they break rules on computer and gaming usage or do something that is inappropriate, that they will punished a certain way.

    We are not looking to “punish them with the rules” but instead to protect them from the dangers that tech brings. Know why you are putting rules into place and explain it to teenagers or others so that everyone is on the same page. If there is strong pushback, at least listen to what they have to say, regardless if you plan to take their advice. This will show respect for them and may even give you a better opportunity to speak into your teens’ lives.

    When these rules are established, follow them yourself. Teens have the easy excuse right now of texting while driving because adults do it too. Be a good role model and if need be, enact the punishment upon yourself if you break it. At the same time, a reward for following the rules has shown to promote further positive-viewed behavior.

How have you seen a tech-free environment have a positive outcome?

Jeremy Smith is a youth worker at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Masters of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years — check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.

I just got back from vacation.  It was amazing.  You should have seen it, you would have been quite jealous.  Beach house.  Coffee shops.  Bonfires.  Parks with the family.  Amazing meals. I even got a date with my wife.  I have very little photographic evidence of it, and if you and I were friends on social media sites you would have no reason to believe that my life was any different than the other 51 weeks of the year.  Why in the world would I not post this memorable week to share with some of my most distant friends?  I wanted this one to be for my family and those I talk to.

If your life is anything like mine, then the world of what is ministry and what is not becomes very grey.  And beyond that, I can’t say I really want there to be lines.  God has redeemed all of me, and I don’t want to live public and private lives.  However, as calls come in whenever, emails are answered always, and my family is my best sermon illustration I often feel that those who follow me on instagram know as much if not more about me than my own family.

So I made a decision that I would go radio silent for the week.  I did pretty good at it too! I liked a few photos.  Made a few snarky comments.  Responded to a few emails from those people that either wouldn’t leave me alone or had the power to fire me. For the most part, I disappeared.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I post like a bad Mama Jamma.  If I have something Facebook-worthy it goes up.  Kids sleeping on the floor, it is there.  Awesome youth group night; I’m your man.  And frankly there are many vacations where I want to show others my version of a family enjoying themselves.  So I do live loudly when I can on social media sites.  To that end, my wife continued to post this past week, in fact she became louder on vacation.  That doesn’t mean I am a better Christian (for the most part).  It was a personal decision and a gift that I wanted to give to my family.  They may not have even noticed.  That is fine with me.  I just wanted to be present.  To enjoy all of them and capture the event, not the event so it could be communicated to others.

I think you should do the same.  Not always, and for me this is the exception and not the rule.  For some it may be that you take a break on dates, on Mondays, or when the sun goes down.  I don’t think there is one version that is better than another, however I would strongly encourage you to find those moments in your life that are only for those you call family and for those who are dear friends.  Not to be selfish or exclusive.  Rather to silently say to those around you that they are your “circle”.  They are your “friends”.  They are true “followers” of you and your life.  Without saying no to others, it slowly communicates that you are more than a public figure to your church body and the students you minister to.  You are a dad, a wife, or friend.  All of which you need to do well if you hope to be called a youth worker in five years.

To finish this post it would be fitting to show you a vacation picture, but I didn’t really take any.  I promise to show you my next youth event, latte art, or when my kid puts their clothes on backwards.

Jeff Bachman is a husband for the past 11 years and a father of three amazing kids.  He is the High School Pastor at ROCKHARBOR Church just up the road in Costa Mesa, CA.   He loves emails at jbachman@rockharbor.org, twitter interaction, and of course subscribe to his blog The Until Matters.