Since the inception of Here I Am in the spring of 2020 we continue to listen to churches we serve to develop an app that supports their ongoing ministry. As the world’s largest social media platform, Facebook has become the Goliath of the industry that everyone appears to use. The importance of Facebook and engaging on social media continues to emerge as the world transfers to digital means of interaction and engagement. Over the past 15 years as the platform has grown from a college “hot or not” site, a multitude of new features have been added to best serve its users – including livestreaming, newsfeeds, gaming, group management and a marketplace. As we work with church clients, we continue to address the best way a smartphone app can be used to connect a congregation, and we find that apps like Here I Am and Facebook serve different needs.
To quantify our research and ground our recommendations, the Here I Am team gained access to data on the Facebook insights page from our different client churches. We looked at over 200 posts made from December 1st to January 15th to better understand the impact of Facebook within a church. Our population was composed of thriving, mid-size churches – all located in the Richmond, Virgina area that have between 619 and 774 Facebook followers.
Our primary goal of the study was to understand the impact Facebook has on connecting a congregation. We looked at both reach (defined as how many home feeds a post appeared on) and the engagement for a post (defined as how many people liked/commented or shared a post). With this information, the following key insights were gathered:
1. Facebook has limited reach to the congregation
By excluding livestreamed services, we analyzed the success of informational posts reaching the intended audience of followers of a church page. The informational post includes items like announcing an event, sharing a story from your church, or passing along other information. On average, an information type post only reaches 26% of the followers of the church. This means that only 26% of the people following the church would see the post on their home feed, with uncertainty existing as to how the post was processed as a wide array of posts could exist before or after the church announcement.
Where is the other 74%? While hard to diagnose, it is likely a combination of people who rarely access Facebook and those who have a widely cluttered home feed that squeezes out the church announcement. When trying to effectively share information and stories in a timely manner, other tools with a focused reach are best used.
2. Increasing reach does not lead to engagement
Our second takeaway from this study is that extra reach does not always lead to deeper engagement. One common method to greatly increase the reach of a post is to have users share the post to their feed. We believe the 26% rule holds true here as well – if a “super user” shares a post to their 2500 Facebook friends, then another 600 people likely had the post appear on their feed. With the super user case the reach of a post nearly tripled greatly benefitting the spreading of informational posts. Engagement for informational posts also increased accordingly. However, engagement for longer video posts like Sunday worship events did not increase at nearly the same rate. By having users share with their friends, the reach of the video was 3 times that of an average post but the 1-min views on the video remains the same. Great value exists by increasing the reach of a post – more people are exposed to the Church. However, a deeper approach is needed to fully engage the user into the mission and value of the church.
3. Facebook favors video
One of the most important takeaways that we discovered from our research is that video always drives higher engagement. Our study shows that worship events with videos drive 2.7x more reach and 3.2x more engagement compared to posts with picture or texts. Even within standard information posts, video compared to text or pictures drives 1.6x increased engagement. Once someone spends more time with a post by watching the video, the engagement increases. Live-streamed worship events clearly show how engagement increases as time goes on, and Facebook provides a great tool in this regard. Combined with the live chat and reaction feature, it is a simple way to engage with the congregation.
4. Christmas is king
Our final takeaway proves that even with new digital media, the same observation occurs over many generations – Christmas is king! Posts made from Dec 22-25 had a 3x increase in engagement over other days. Live nativity scenes and the magic of a Christmas Eve candlelight service are always well-loved. While this skewed our data sample somewhat, it does show that Christmas is indeed the most wonderful time of the year.
As Facebook has grown, it has truly revolutionized how people stay connected with organizations they care deeply about. While it can provide many benefits to a church, it is not the best place for rich engagement and easy connectivity. With a dedicated app approach, Here I Am provides a solution to ensure that the congregation receives important messages and are provided with a secure place to interact with one another.