During the SCBO's Conference call this morning, Dean Fulks, a pastor in Columbus, was asked how they counted viewership on their Facebook Live worship service. He raised a caution that anyone that scrolled by the screen during the service was counted as a viewer. He said that they only counted viewers that had spent at least three seconds.
That got me wondering. How many are you counting as viewers? Do you multiply the number by three per view to get at Households? What about members of one household that watched on tablets, smartphones, laptops, and on their TV's? Do you go live or playback a recorded service? Those metrics are all different.
Stephen Jennings at Clough Pike and Tyler Freeman at Sonrise Church helped me this afternoon understand a few things to pass along to you:
1. FB Live seems to be the most common way to stream your church's worship service. You want to look for "Through Play." These folks watched the whole service. These are the "real numbers" and get at more than Viewers who might have been scrolling through. And remember, FB Live typically goes just to members of your church who have "liked" your church's FB page. Only when they Share your service on their own feed can your church show up in their friends' FB feed. All you'll see is how many Shared and not who actually watched the service.
2. You can BOOST your service on FB Live for only $10 per week. This gets people viewing your service who are more than just your regular church members. Boosting your FB Live feed will let it stay online for three days; five days for $20. Boosting your FB Live feed will let you choose demographics like parts of town and age group priorities. Where the $10 boost might expose you to 2,500 FB users, a $20 boost goes up to about 7,000 FB users. When they're looking at videos, then your video will show up next and they may choose to watch it. Encourage comments. Some churches hear things like, "This church is in my community and I didn't even know it."
3. When you record your service in advance and then play it at your normal worship service time, you want to track "Clicks to Play." Viewers literally have to hit the arrow to start the worship service. This is available as an option on FB Live and YouTube. There is an advantage to having a smoother worship experience, equalizing audio, and permitting editing of the sermon for either time or mistakes.
4. Know your families. Look at your numbers and think about your church's demographics. Are they families with teens watching separately on several devices? Are Mom and Dad holding their wiggly kids in their laps and occasionally changing diapers as they watch? Or are they Empty Nesters glued to the screen as a couple? This helps you know how to come up with a general count of people watching at one time each week.
5. Yes -- many new people really are watching at least some of the church services online. Tracking is different than engaging. Tracking those numbers when the COVID-19 mitigation efforts are relieved is worth the effort to "boost" and track. However, providing incentives to sign "guest registries" online can be worth it. Will you send them a free Bible? Will you make a contribution to a food pantry in their honor? Will you have someone available to call 24/7 for counseling or prayer? What works as an incentive to engage with your social media can nurture a budding relationship. Now's the time to experiment!
Finally, some churches are investing in new video gear to maintain their social media presence. Just be sure that the numbers of viewers that you're encountering are real and not just those who are scrolling on, leaving a digital "1" in their fast-moving wake. Look toward the day when a viewer becomes an active follower of Jesus, quite possibly because you took the time to engage those viewing your church's worship service back during those "sheltering in place" days.
--Mark Snowden serves as Director of Missional Leadership, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association (AMS, DOM)