You’re finally starting to run out of reasons to not try influencer marketing for your church (thanks to the last article in this series), but you haven’t actually come up with a good reason for influencer marketing. Good news, everybody! We have three great ways to get started with influencer marketing for churches. One or more of which would be a great fit for your church! But before we jump into that, there are a couple of things we need to talk about.
So you haven’t been setting very good goals and KPIs…
Look, you’re on a limited budget, volunteers are hard to come by, and you just don’t have the time. But here’s the thing… you don’t have time not to be doing the basics in marketing. Is your marketing strategy mostly just “post and pray”? If so, before we even begin an influencer marketing campaign, let’s take a moment and examine your current marketing. I’d hate to have to write you up for not testing, setting KPIs, or something. That kind of thing can go on your permanent record, young man/lady…
Goals Are Good
The first you need to look at is your main goal. Why are you running an influencer marketing campaign?
“But, I don’t want to do an influencer marketing campaign. This whole thing was your idea,” you may be grumbling.
Well, that may be true at the moment, but I hope to persuade you by the end of this article. Plus even if I don’t, we both know that you are very susceptible to peer pressure, but like 5-10 years after whatever it is you’re doing was popular. So eventually you will be doing this. Even if you never do anything like influencer marketing, you should still be auditing whatever communications you are doing and the first step of that is to check your goals.
Why are you on social media? Why do you have a website? Why do you have an email newsletter? Hopefully you have all of these things, but without a reason you’re not going to get very much out of them. The same is true with influencer marketing. Is your goal to increase awareness of your church? Is it to drive attendance to events? Is it to evangelize your community? Different goals require different solutions. Influencer marketing isn’t necessarily suited to all of them and the way that it is implemented will be better suited to the appropriate goals. So when we start talking about influencer marketing methods, don’t just pick whichever sounds easiest. Pick the method that is the best fit for achieving your goals.
KPIs Are The Real Deal
Virtually every term is this article is lousy. Influencer marketing is one of the lamest marketing terms in a long long history of terrible jargon. And the term “KPI” isn’t much better. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. KPI is just the part that you measure. When you talk about fuel economy you talk about miles per gallon. When you talk about baseball you talk about wins above replacement. When you talk about influencer marketing, you need to find the best measurements to help you know if you are achieving your goal or not. And to take that a step further, a great KPI will help you understand why you are succeeding or failing. This last part is equally crucial because it is very possible that you are doing the right thing the wrong way.
Determine Your Budget
You aren’t going to be spending millions on your influencer campaign. You aren’t even going to be spending tens of thousands on your influencer campaign. And, if you are the average church, you probably aren’t even going to be spending hundreds on marketing each month. Clearly your budget is going to be a factor in how your campaign plays out and it is important to clearly determine what your budget is before you overspend. But money is the only asset you need to budget. The three biggest costs in an influencer marketing campaign are money, time, and incentives.
Money is what pays for ads, boosting, and other miscellaneous costs. Often it is a factor in incentives. But the biggest cost in influencer marketing, especially when starting from scratch is going to be time. Like everything else, there is an upfront cost and ongoing costs. The upfront time cost on this is especially large because most churches are going to be learning as they go. There really aren’t very many articles and tutorials (yet) on how churches can be doing this so things that will take a lot of time for your first campaign will take little to no time later on.
But an often overlooked factor is incentivization for your influencers/volunteers. In the corporate world, good influencers will often choose one sponsor over another not based on pay alone but on perks. Church volunteers work similarly but without the pay and usually without the perks. BUT imagine what you could do if your volunteers did feel cared for, appreciated, and like what they were doing was having an impact! Seriously though, incentivizing your volunteers, even if just by giving them free donuts and a thank you note each Sunday morning would go a long way toward ensuring success.
Method #1: Just Using Local Influencers
This is the quickest and easiest method. In fact once word gets out that a church is interested in doing influencer marketing that church will get several requests from local aspiring influencers. I recently ran a small influencer marketing campaign for a small local nonprofit and they had 2 proposals from other influencers later the first day.
If you have your budget, goals, and KPIs already determined, then you can partner with whichever local influencers best fit. But always, always, ALWAYS measure. Don’t just take someone’s word for how well posts performed. Make sure that you have a way to accurately measure what is happening before you begin any partnership.
Also, remember, the biggest struggle that any brand, organization, or church has with influencer marketing is authenticity. Make sure that your influencers are a good fit, not just for your goals and KPIs but for your church’s culture and the message of the Gospel. An influencer that promotes your Easter service in one post and then does a series of bikini shots isn’t going to be a good fit and is a great way to have the plug pulled on your campaign before you even really get started.
Method #2: Empower Your Church’s Current Amplifiers
Remember from social media 101 where you were told to find our church’s social media amplifiers (the people who regularly engage with and share your church’s content), and empower and equip them? Guess what? Amplifier is just another term for micro influencer (note: I don’t make up these terms, I’m just the guy who has to write them all the time).
Get your church’s best and most prolific amplifiers and let them know they are loved, appreciated, and have a genuine impact on the community. Let them know, very clearly, what your goals are, and what role they can play in achieving those goals. Then incentivize them.
The challenge with this is that you will eventually be seeing a diminishing return on investment. If they are previously amplifying your content, then helping them to do more is only going to go so far. Don’t get me wrong, you should still be appreciating and equipping your amplifiers, but one of the benefits of a traditional influencer marketing campaign is that it can reach and engage new audiences. Working with existing amplifiers will most likely mean working with existing audiences. Potentially in a deeper and more meaningful way, but still the same audiences.
Build Your Own Influencer Network
This is our current preferred method. However, it isn’t the best fit for every church and may not even be the best fit for most churches at this time. However, I believe that when used in the right context and with a good setup, it really can be the most effective digital tool for evangelism available.
Building your own influencer network means more than just recruiting and developing influencers. The approach that we prefer is to build an entire content hub targeted toward a community interest. In a college town it would be about the local college. If your town has a prevalent industry then you could discuss industry news. Or it could be based on local demographics such as a particular ethnic group, a common age demographic in your area, etc. In our area, we have a lot of young families moving in. This has long been an effective method of creating content and marketing. Sunday U Magazine is one popular example in the church communications world. We based our content hub on motherhood.
Basically we started a mom blog (but without the essential oils). Then we recruited writers from the area. Some from within our church and others who lived in the area. The basic recruitment pitch is that they write an article for us and they can promote their own site or social media platform in their bio. This means that, at launch, the site has a built in fan base… the writers. Now, that we have the site ready to go, with general content, we promote the church. But the church promotion is within the context of the site. Meaning, there are promotions for VBS, promotions for camp, promotions for MOPS, and parenting classes. Our church has an indoor playground that has been opened up for mom groups and meetups. And a member of staff on hand to invite the moms to various events. And in addition to any promotions on the site, we are incentivizing our writers to share and promote church events on their own social media. This means that they are now influencers among a specific group… local moms. And just to continue the funnel, we have given all of our children’s ministry leaders and volunteers in depth info regarding our small groups so that they can help plugin parents to a group that will best fit them. This means we have a funnel that begins with a mom scrolling through Instagram and ends with every member of the family in community at our church.
This method is a lot of work and we have made mistakes along the way. Learning what works and what doesn’t with a mom website was a big part of the journey. And like the launch of any new ministry or marketing campaign there is always a big amount of traffic right off the bat and then it dies down. But keep working, keep encouraging your volunteers and staff, and it will grow in a meaningful and impactful way.