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?