The Influence of Social Media Influencers

Bryan Haley

With the creation of social media, influencers have become a nuance that the church should capitalize on. How is your church engaging its people to influence their friends and neighbors?

Show Notes

Summary

As church leaders (and even as church members), we have influence. We get to choose how to use that influence. Let's be intentional about that influence.

Transcript

Jeanette:

Social media is the key to any quality church communication strategy. How your church utilizes its social media platform can be a great way to connect and engage with your congregation, neighborhood, and community at large. What can you do differently in your social media strategy? What lessons can we learn from secular social media influencers? Let's talk about the influence of social media, and influencers on today's episode.

Bryan:

Hey, church communicator, welcome to the Church Juice podcast. I'm Bryan Haley, the producer of Church Juice, and I'm joined as always by my co-host, Jeanette Yates. We are here energizing church communications.

Jeanette:

That's right. And today we're talking about the influence of social media influencers. After all, we're all part of this culture online. So how can we be a part of the culture while impacting the church and the community?

Bryan:

Yeah, I think that's a good question. So I think today what I wanted to do, knowing Jeanette kind of what you do in your role at Text In Church, and the role that you have online, too, in social media, I think you're one of the best people to talk to about social media influencing. So why don't we just spend a minute talking about what is an influencer on social media? Where does that come from? What is this even all about?

Jeanette:

So the idea of being an influencer on social media is after people have a certain following number, amount of people that are following and engaging with their platforms, they are considered influencers. And that is because as people are engaging with them online, just like we always have, people pay attention to who they're watching on TV, or on TikTok, or on Instagram, and we're influenced by those people. So an influencer is someone who harnesses that by partnering with a brand, or a company to do what we call influencer marketing, which is sharing about that brand, or product with their audience. It can be a paid partnership in some cases, but other times it's like, hey, I used this product. I shared it on social media one time. I tagged the company. They saw I used it. They reached out to me, and now I am officially an ambassador, but I'm influencing other people.

Bryan:

An affiliate.

Jeanette:

Right. An affiliate, something like that. So that's really what it is in the marketing space. There's a lot of different, like we said, levels of it, brand ambassador, affiliate, official partner, things like that, but the gist is the online personality, or person has some influence with their audience, and companies want to harness that influence.

Bryan:

Right, and what's interesting, too, I think is even just at a very baseline, there are studies that show, like, 80, or even up to 90% of consumers are more likely to purchase something if they get recommended by a friend. So word of mouth influencing makes a huge difference in how we as consumers purchase, and our purchasing habits, and just our mentality as a consumer. So when we take that and move it even to an online influence, I think that's kind of where we're going. And there's a long history of this too, right?

Jeanette:

Right.

Bryan:

It's not just the social media age. We were talking before we started recording and I kind of looked it up a little bit, but one of the first even product placements in a movie was the movie E.T. back in the '80s. And the Reese's Pieces were kind of the very first big product placement. And so that was just a way for the company and for the movie to partner together in advertising and different things. And because of that partnership, I'm sure sales exploded and we'd have to look that up, but there's a long history of this, right?

Jeanette:

And I just thought of another product placement one, Back to the Future.

Bryan:

True. The DeLorean in itself, right?

Jeanette:

Right, but he orders a Pepsi Free.

Bryan:

True.

Jeanette:

And the guy is like, well, I'm going to give you a Pepsi, but you're going to have to pay for it.

Bryan:

True, yeah.

Jeanette:

There's that kind of stuff, but I love that you said, like, this is not new, and even influencer marketing isn't just for celebrities. Like you talked about this idea of word of mouth. It's not bad that we want to take people's word for something. My dad has run his own company for over 30 years now, my brother and sister and I were talking about this. When social media came out he didn't understand it and want to do it necessarily. We're getting him on board slowly, but he's been able to stay in business for this long because of word of mouth.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

So what we're talking about in the social media space with this influencer marketing is those people that just told other people about my dad's business were saying, "Hey, I have used his business. It did what I needed it to do. You should give him a call." Now what we're doing is taking that into the online space. So that's what influencer marketing is in that sense. In that case, it was like a non-paid partnership.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

But now you see a lot of companies will be like, if you recommend us to somebody, and they let us know that you sent them we'll give you 5% off that is a form of.

Bryan:

Some sort of kickback.

Jeanette:

Yeah.

Bryan:

So let's pivot for a second, or just pivot the conversation a little bit. We talked about influencer marketing, but how does that relate to the church?

Jeanette:

Oh, Bryan, take a seat, sit back and relax. I have a lot to say on this because when we talk about like, oh, we're going to use influencer marketing in the church, it sounds a little, do we really want to do that? Do we want to have a partnership with somebody? And that just sounds a little too secular, too businessy, but I want to talk about this idea of what influencer marketing looks like when we look through the lens of the church. So something's changed.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

Because things from a church perspective, things from a church worldview are different that's true.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

But I think there's some things that we can take from this idea of influencer marketing. So before we got in here, I was talking about this idea of when we boil it down to its core, influencer marketing is having someone share their experience with a product or service. So let's just stop right there. When we look at it from the church space, what we're saying is encouraging members who are using, maybe we don't want to say using, because we don't use the church, but we engage with the church. We experience the church. We connect to the Holy Spirit. We connect to the community of our church. When we are doing that as church members then as a church leader we can say, "I see that you're active. I see that you're engaged in our community. I see that you're active in this ministry that we're doing. Can you share your experience with other people?"

Bryan:

Right, and there's also a saying, I've heard it attributed to Rick Warren, but I've never actually seen this actual quote, but, basically, what's celebrated is repeated, right?

Jeanette:

Yes.

Bryan:

So if we, as a church, celebrate something that's happening, often it's repeated.

Jeanette:

Right.

Bryan:

If we, as individuals celebrate what God is doing in our lives through the church, then it's going to be repeated because people get excited about that so it becomes more habitual.

Jeanette:

Right, and I think, too, one of the things that we hope, and this is always I have grown up in the church, I have been to countless sermons and there's always, like, once you've experienced the love of God, once you've experienced how much good this ministry is doing, you can't help but share it.

Bryan:

Right, absolutely.

Jeanette:

Like there's this idea that you can't help but share it. So when we're talking about encouraging our members to be, quote, influencers, hopefully, they are having an experience, or have had an experience that they can't help but share. And a lot of times we think about this, like, share your testimony. Share about the time right before you're baptized. And that is an important testimony and there's a place for that, but there's also, like, share about how being in this small group has positively impacted your life. Share about when the church came alongside you in a time of crisis, or share about how getting involved, volunteering, turned into something important for you.

Bryan:

Or even just how volunteering and serving in the church impacts your life.

Jeanette:

Right.

Bryan:

Like that's key and that's critical, too. And I think that's worth sharing as well.

Jeanette:

As I was talking about this, I'm like, there's the share about when you accepted Christ, very important, and share about your financial stewardship. Those two times that we hear about that we hear testimony a lot of times in church, but I think there can be an ongoing encouragement of sharing stories, and not only make a video one time to share inside a church service.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

But also how can we equip and facilitate our members to do this on social media because that's ultimately what we're talking about.

Bryan:

Right, for sure.

Jeanette:

Is how do we take that beyond the church walls and share on social media so that we are amplifying the mission and the method, the vision of our church, and what it means. And so we talk about church marketing being another word for outreach, which is true, but in this context when we're talking about sharing our experiences that we've had in church on social media we're talking about sharing your personal connection. And it's more about that evangelism piece. I'm going to tell you about not just about the time that I found Jesus, but about how that works in my life on a regular basis.

Bryan:

Right. In the last episode we talked about with Julianne, we talked about how outreach and marketing are kind of synonymous. And really this is just a more personalized level of that, right? Like it's still outreach, it's still marketing, but it's on a personal level. It's more personalized as word of mouth. It's more like you're using the word evangelism, which is just kind of a personal relationship that's involved in it.

Jeanette:

Right.

Bryan:

So it's really all the same it's just different levels of it. And I remember talking with Jason, what was that like a year ago? Something like that.

Jeanette:

At least.

Bryan:

And we talked about omni-channel marketing. So when we think about outreach and how our church is utilizing different streams to evangelize to the community, I think, influencer marketing is one of those avenues. And so are some of the other tools that we've talked about, too. We can't put all of our eggs in one basket because not everything is going to reach the people that we're trying to reach with the gospel. So we need to find avenues that have great return on what we're putting in there. And so having people share their testimony, share what they're excited about, share how the church is influencing me on a personal level that's a great way to get people involved, but also to connect with the community. So I think there's a lot of great ways to do it. I think my main question that I don't know that I've seen strategized super well is how do we capitalize on social media influencing in the church? Like how do we create a strategy for that?

Jeanette:

Right. So I think there's a couple of things to consider. I think at your very basic level, what I tried to do when I was working at my church was I knew which ones of our members were on social media a lot. Some that never get on there. And then there's some that are on there all the time. And then those people tended to also be the people that were very involved in our church. And so one of the things I did was I just reached out to them and I said, "Hey, I'm so thankful that you interact with our page, and in our Facebook groups. I would love to ask you to be an ambassador for our church online."

Jeanette:

And for that basic thing, I was just like, when something is shared on our page, or in our groups, I would love for you to give it a like. If it's something that you would like to share, share it. If you would like to comment on it, comment on it. I never wanted it to be like, I need you to do all these things, but I would explain to them why that was helpful. Even if you say the comment is I'm so excited about this, or I went last year and it was awesome. They're already doing that, but you're just explaining.

Bryan:

You can be missional with it.

Jeanette:

Yeah, like this matters and it helps amplify the message.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

Some churches are doing that, and they actually have a little Facebook group with all their social ambassadors in it. And then they'll be like, Hey guys, we're getting ready to launch this campaign. And there's going to be this series of videos that are coming, or whatever. And they kind of let them know other churches are it's more informal, but people will scroll through and like whatever without any intention. So if you pull them in and rally them and tell them why it's important, they're going to be like, oh, yeah, this really does matter. And that brings me to my second point, whether we're talking about those numbers, that you've just rallied as your ambassadors, or really any member that's using social media at all. I think it's really important for us to equip them to understand what their presence on social media means.

Bryan:

Yeah. That's really good.

Jeanette:

Because we're very good at saying your life is your testimony, right? The way you live, the way you treat your family, the way you interact with people at work, that is how people see and know who Jesus is, right?

Bryan:

Absolutely, yeah.

Jeanette:

But we don't really do that about social media as much, or as consistently.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

One thing that's different about the secular influencer marketing, and the church influencer space that we're talking about is to be an influencer for a brand, you got to be kind of fancy pants. You got to have a certain number of followers, especially, if it's a paid partnership kind of thing, but the great thing is about being an influencer in the church is we are all influencers for our church.

Bryan:

We all have a circle of influence.

Jeanette:

We all have a sphere of influence and that can be 50 people. And it can be 10,000 people. I don't know. I don't know how many friends you can have on Facebook. I don't know. So I think just reminding people, or maybe they don't even know. I mean, honestly, a lot of it is not they've forgotten, it's that they don't know what the possibilities are that are there, the opportunities that are there. I think if we, as churches can speak into that, this is not about, and I don't know if I'm stepping on toes, but this is not about sharing a daily Bible verse. It's not just about that. If you do that, I probably like it because I love a good daily Bible verse, but that's not evangelism. That's just sharing a Bible verse. Now, if you shared a Bible verse and told me why you were sharing it that goes a step further. Does that make sense?

Bryan:

Absolutely.

Jeanette:

And so I think what we have to do is say it's important to share about the church dinner on the grounds. It's important to share about vision Sunday coming up, like, please share that post when we do that, but also to your sphere of influence, to the people who follow you because they like you, at least enough to follow you.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

They're either really great friends, or people that care about what's going on in your life, tell them what's going on in your life.

Bryan:

You have to be personal.

Jeanette:

I think that's what I would love to see more from church leaders is like, okay, this is a strategy, but it's more than that. It's let's disciple our members. Let's do some discipleship around this. Teach, encourage and equip so that it's not awkward just like when you're training someone in evangelism there's a training.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

You become more comfortable telling your story. You become more comfortable with interacting with people around you. And I think that is something that we miss online, or that we're not there yet sometimes online.

Bryan:

Yeah, I think that's good. And I think if I had to guess, I would say over the next couple of years we would see this idea of online influence growing. Hopefully, COVID kind of accelerates that a little bit, but I think it's just kind of an evolution. We spent a lot of time growing up talking about what evangelism is. I can even remember going door to door still.

Jeanette:

Right.

Bryan:

Things like that. How do we find new tools? Social media is one of those tools. We're not talking about fire festival, or something crazy like that, that you're trying to be an influencer on, but your everyday life matters. And that's what people want to see. That's what they care about. So when you tie that back to your Christian testimony, or your connection to your local church that's huge. And that's where I think we need to be more purposeful, more intentional about how we train people to evangelize, too.

Jeanette:

Well. And like for me, when I started using social media as a tool to communicate with others, I made an intentional effort to think about the people who are following me some of them are following me because they met me through my mentoring of them during their eating disorder recovery. I know they're following me because of that. Okay?

Bryan:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

So I am going to intentionally pay attention to what I post not wanting to do anything that even unintentionally might make them stumble. Does that make sense?

Bryan:

Absolutely, right.

Jeanette:

So there are certain things I don't post, not because it's bad in general, but for my audience, it might cause them to stumble. Does that make sense? So as I continue to move into more of the church space, I kind of expanded that. So now I have people that follow me because of communications. I still have some of those original people were with me still. I have some people following me because I'm a caregiver of my mother, and I even have people, I will say, some of my most ardent fans on social media I know do not believe in Jesus. They are atheist, or humanist, or whatever, but they follow me because they're still there. I have an influence on them, but I also have to be careful that when I post I'm posting something from my own experience, but not in a way that is going to cause anybody to stumble, or turn away.

Jeanette:

And so that's the harder part is how do I share about my relationship with Christ without turning away someone who is still listening, even though they know I'm a Christian, they're still there. I want them to stay. So how can I share this experience in a way that's meaningful to me, that is honest about my relationship with Christ, but is also meaningful to them that has taken years to do.

Jeanette:

And that's something that church leaders can work toward, and people, us as individuals can work toward, but I think at the very minimum, if we're just having people becoming more comfortable with sharing their honest and truthful experience about their relationship with God, it doesn't mean that everything you share has to have Bible verses attached, or has to be about a church event, but I will share, I have a local coffee shop is my favorite place. I've met people from there. We all follow each other. I share about my coffee shop and all the yummy things they have there. And that doesn't have anything to do with anything, but it does show I'm an active member of my community. It shares things about me and guess what? They also see that I post daily about that I'm reading through the Bible, or whatever.

Bryan:

So, we talk a lot about kind of on a church level knowing your audience. And I think this is just kind of a more direct effect of that. You need to know who your audience is on Facebook, or on Twitter, on Instagram, whatever it is, you need to know who's following you, who's your friend. How do you speak to them? How do you not speak to them? I think that's important. So as we wrap up, give me one sentence, key takeaway about social media influencing in the church.

Jeanette:

One sentence. You guys, this is putting a cap on me. The one thing I want to say about social media influencing is that you do have influence on social media. We as a church, we as church leaders, we as church members, we have influence, and we get to choose how to use that influence. And what I encourage people to do is be intentional about that.

Bryan:

That's awesome.

Jeanette:

Is that good?

Bryan:

I think that's great.

Jeanette:

He didn't tell me he was going to do that ahead of time, guys. I just had to come up with that.

Bryan:

No, I think that's great. I think, I totally agree. I believe that we need to be more conscious, more intentional about doing that. And I know even in this conversation today, I've been challenged on a personal level to think through more about what I post, or what I don't post, and who I'm posting to, just to think about that more, and how do I connect it back to my testimony more directly, I think, is really important. So I think there's some good keys that we've talked about today. There's a lot of talk about social media influencer, about social media and outreach, and all of that. As a listener, I hope this is challenging and encouraging to you. Anything you want to add at the last minute here?

Jeanette:

Well, I just will say that this is one of my favorite things to talk about. And so I know you're probably going to say this as part of our closing, but I would love to carry on this conversation in the Facebook group.

Bryan:

For sure.

Jeanette:

I want to have more conversations about this. And, whereas, I do think a lot of this is organic and people just have to kind of learn to share. I do think there can be some strategy for church leaders, communications directors, and pastors to come up with some sort of process for equipping their members. So I would love to continue that conversation over in our Facebook group. Was it okay for me to plug that?

Bryan:

Absolutely, and like Jeanette was just saying, we love being able to talk with church communicators from really across the globe. And we believe that every church and every communicator story is unique and valuable, and social media plays an important part in that. This week, we will continue today's discussion in our Church Juice's Insiders Facebook group, so join us. You can join the Insiders group, as well as today's show notes, and a discussion guide for leading your own team talk by going to churchjuice.com/podcast.

Jeanette:

Church Juice's podcast is a listener-supported production of ReFrame Ministries, a family of programs designed to help you see your whole life reframed by God's gospel story. Church Juice is produced by Bryan Haley, with post-production by audio engineer, Nate Morris in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information about Church Juice, visit churchjuice.com. For more information on ReFrame Ministries and our family of programs, visit reframeministries.org.