In social media, we need to define success for our church. There has to be some form of accountability and stewardship for the time and effort we spend every week posting, responding and interacting. Otherwise, how would we know whether we were being effective or not?
But far too many churches are measuring social media effectiveness the wrong way. They have over-simplified the approach and measure the effectiveness of the relationships they are building on one thing – what I like to call “butts in seats”.
Now, I’m not against getting new visitors or doing it through social media. What I am against is this notion that every action we take on social media should be driving towards that goal, and if it doesn’t, that we won’t take action on social media.
This type of thinking is putting the cart before the horse. They are acting like someone who proposes marriage on the first date.
What these people forget is that social media is a relationship platform first and foremost. That means relationships will begin and grow on social media, often times without you seeing any direct return for weeks and months. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But churches with a church-focused instead of an others-focused mentality will never win on social media.
So if success on social isn’t just about “butts in seats”, how should you be measuring success on social media?
Social Return on Investment
Many churches start the conversation about social media (especially with things like social advertisements) with a discussion about ROI, or return on investment. Their theory is that if they spend money on social media, they should be able to see a direct return in the number of visitors to their church that weekend.
This thought is then propagated by crazy success stories like you’ve probably heard of churches that blew up in attendance because of Facebook Ads or other tactics they tried on social media.
But behind that story lies another question – if those churches could just blow up by running some Facebook Ads, why aren’t their more stories of sustained growth from Facebook Ads? Why don’t we see those some churches on Outreach’s list of the fastest growing churches?
The problem with measuring ROI on Social Media
The ROI of social media is relationships, plain and simple. But how do you measure that ROI?
The pure definition of ROI is very simple.
ROI = (Gain from the Investment – Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment
If we put that in human terms and apply the same definition to relationships, the formula becomes this:
Relationship ROI = (What I can get from you – What it costs me) / What it costs me
What? That’s the definition of using people.
Yes, you can invest in a relationship. But you cannot measure relationship ROI. The focus is completely wrong.
People are not an item on a balance sheet. They cannot be measured like a transaction. There’s no faster way to tank your church’s effectiveness than to think of people that way.
So what do you do to measure success on social media? If we can’t measure ROI, what can we measure?
The New Way of Thinking
The only way human relationships can be measured is by measuring the by-product of the relationship.
So if you want to make your relationship better, what do you focus on? The signals that tell you that the relationship is improving.
And what is the by-product of a good social media relationship? Likes, comments, shares, video views, and yes, eventually new visitors to your church. But none of these things tell the whole story. After all, they are just the by-product of the relationship itself, not the actual measure of the strength of the relationship.
There is no way to give the relationship a numeric score. You could never say, “My relationship is a 5 and I want to get to a 7.” You can’t drop “relationship pounds” the way you can drop pounds on a scale.
What you can do, though, is look at signs that your relationship is improving. In a romantic relationship, that would be things like looking at the number of fights you are having. You can look at the gestures of love being made. But a relationship cannot be quantified in exact numbers – it’s a relationship after all.
What to Measure on Social Media
Ok, but we have to quantify our efforts somehow. Otherwise, how would we know what is being effective and what isn’t?
Fair point. And before you lose all hope, yes, you can measure your efforts on social. It just shouldn’t get measured like a transaction.
Measure the by-product of the relationship, and then work to see an increase in that. Here are a few things that you should be keeping an eye on:
- Social media likes and follows
Why social likes and follows? Because it says that they like what you have to say and they want to hear from you again. This is a huge signal that you’ve done a great job taking that initial step in the relationship.
- Post engagement
Engagement isn’t the bottom line for social media, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction – especially when it comes to comments and shares. Think of it this way – the more work an action takes to perform, the more valuable it is as a relationship indicator. Be sure and continue the relationship though by commenting back and engaging with those people.
- Long video views
Some social media platforms count a video view after 3 seconds, but that doesn’t say anything other than the person stopped scrolling for a couple of seconds. If you have video views of 30 seconds or longer, though, you’ve at least piqued their interest and given them something to think about.
- People Reached
This is only on the list because without continually reaching more people, you can’t build new relationships.
As with any of these stats, they don’t tell the whole story. And optimizing your social accounts for only the stats is never a great way to operate – this leads to things like click-bait and other scammy tactics.
However, if you start viewing the stats as a by-product of the relationships being built, it will frame your social media interactions correctly and you’ll be more effective in the long run.
Ministry is and always has been relational in nature. And that’s the same way we should think about social media. So if you are looking to build your follower base on social, stop measuring ROI and start giving to your social media relationships!