In the past I wasn’t all that keen on spending on digital advertising for the average church. These days I’ve softened that stance quite a bit. I’m still a huge fan of creating hyper-local content and resources for the people you are trying to reach as well as creating resources your members can leverage in their personal evangelism; however, most social media and search platforms have been making it increasingly difficult for churches to obtain any significant reach without getting a paid boost here and there. That’s why I’m telling churches to budget to advertise on digital platforms this year.
Why your church needs to advertise
Aside from the fact that changes to algorithms on platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Google search do make it harder to have reach or even just be found. It can be even harder to be found by the right people you are trying to reach. For example, if the majority of views/likes on a post about youth group are by people over the age of 30, then your message is probably not making it to the people you want to see it. This is where advertising becomes powerful: you can create an advertisement that is targeted at your audience. Similarly, you can retarget people who show a bit of interest in your church with some very cheap advertising options.
What to advertise
Now, most people immediately think “ooh, so I’ll put up an ad for Sunday service”… eh… you certainly can do that, but it’s probably not your most impactful use of advertising expenditure. I tend to think of the following as the most impactful spends:
Community outreach events
have a harvest festival? You need an ad! Have a special Christmas service? You need an ad! Good Friday service? You guessed it… ad!
The most impactful ad you can do for your church is a testimonial. If you aren’t collecting video testimonials on the regular, then your church is missing out! Has a couple healed their marriage? How about a person who has gone from angry to kind and gentle? Stories are one of the easiest ways to connect. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful forms of social proof.
Does your church do Alpha? How about a parenting course? Maybe you have a course on caring for the elderly? Courses are a great entry point for people to connect with your church.
if your church does a podcast, and it can be on pretty much anything as long as it’s focusing on something local like local business owners, local leadership, local history, whatever… if you have a podcast that’s about interesting local things then you should drive some traffic to it to gain a followership boost because it will put your church as the sponsor of the podcast in front of more and more people in your community.
Yep, while I think it’s low on the list in terms of effectiveness, you can advertise your church service. You really should try to drill it down and incorporate some testimonial in the service advertisement, but some churches do have some success advertising their service.
Where to advertise
There are several places you can advertise, here’s a few of the more popular starting points:
Google AdWords is pretty great when it comes to advertising to people who are looking for a church or event to attend, but it’s getting more and more expensive to advertise if there are others vying for your keywords in your area. If you end up advertising via Google AdWords, I’d focus on retargeting and on long tail keywords if you go down the Google AdWords rabbit hole. You might also want to limit the times you advertise to only during your livestream or something like that.
Social media is free because the product being sold is the people using it. That’s incredibly powerful for us a church leaders because it means that if we have been called to reach a particular people group in our area, we can drill down our advertising to those people. Have a college and early career age ministry? Yep, you can try and drill that advertising down to people 18~28 years of age. Called to reach gym rats… easy-peasy, set your ad for people who have an interest in fitness. Quick word of warning here: this is not meant to narrow down racial or ethnic demographics and it’s highly unethical to do so.
If you have a church in the USA then using Gloo can make a lot of sense. Gloo funnels people who click ads from Christian campaigns like “He Gets Us” into SMS contact with your church. It’s not a bad place to start as Gloo and the campaigns are still covered by donors at this point, but I wouldn’t rest on my laurels expecting Gloo to always deliver. At some point though you should also be producing your own advertising copy and running advertising campaigns specific to your church and its events.
How to measure your advertising effectiveness
There are a few ways to measure how effective your ads are, and while attribution is a topic for an article its own, here’s an overview of what’s available:
The platform you create your advertisement on will have some tools to measure effectiveness. If you are only dealing with a single platform then their tools might be enough; however, they won’t necessarily give you the entire picture. For example, you might have someone click an add, not act immediately, and later go direct to someplace like your website to interact.
Google Analytics can be used to tell how many people go from clicking an ad to taking an action. Again, it’s not always great at attribution when someone gets impacted by the ad and does act on the ad, but only much later. It still tends to be a pretty core piece of technology for figuring out how people find your church website though.
HubSpot is my personal favorite. You’ll see some of the mega churches out there leveraging HubSpot alongside their Church Management Systems to understand how people are interacting with the advertisements and resources they are creating. The discounts for nonprofits are pretty good, but it does take a certain level of expertise to understand how HubSpot works and get it all integrated into your church’s workflows.
Advertising is a great and relatively cost-effective way of making people in your community aware of your church so it’s time to set aside some budget for digital advertising. Next week we’ll drill down a bit on how to take your first steps into digital advertising.