What's in this session?

  • The Case Study (1:01)
  • Example #1: The Screenshot (4:33)
  • Example #2: The Slideshow (6:22)
  • Example #3: The Fun Personality (9:36)

Show notes and resources

Free Bonus: Click here to download The iPhone Church Photography Case Study – learn to shoot stunning photos for your church with only your phone

The Transcript

Brad: A couple of months ago I completely changed up what I was posting on social media. The results, well in just 60 short days the number of likes I got per post ballooned by 227%. So in this podcast I’ll share exactly what I did to achieve these results, and offer a trio of specific templates that have been getting huge results. 

Alex: Well hey there, and welcome to Pro Church Tools, the show where in 10 minutes or less you’re gonna get a dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus, when we navigate the biggest communication shift in the last 500 years. I’m your host Alex Mills joined as always by the boss man, Brad Shear. 

Brad: One thing I say about social media a lot Alex, is that you need to be a practitioner. 

Alex: Yes. 

Brad: What does that mean? You can’t deal in theory when it comes to social. You’ve gotta be in the trenches posting, publishing, scheduling, writing, and then evaluating what’s working and what’s not. 

Alex: Yeah. 

Brad: This is something I do all the time, and I wanted to share a very specific outcome that I have been learning very recently within the last 60 days on social. So what I did was, I tracked from July second through July 25th, 21 individual Instagram posts. And what I did was, I looked at the engagement that each was receiving. 

Alex: Of course. 

Brad: So I looked at how much reach each post was getting, how many times the posts were saved by another Instagram user, how many profile clocks, how many comments, how many likes. And to use one metric, each of these 21 posts got an average of 198 likes each through that 21 post period, July second to July 25th. That’s not bad. Then what I did, was I compared that 21 post period to a second 21 post period, this one from August 14th to September 11th. Again 21 individual Instagram posts in that time frame, except these posts earned an average of 450 likes each on average, and that is a 227% increase per post. 

Brad: And I should note, nothing out of the ordinary happened on my Instagram profile in this time. It’s not like I got a ton of new followers. It’s not like any Instagram algorithm shift was announced or anything. All I did was make a simple strategic shift with my content posting strategy on social, what was that? I focused my entirety, every creative ounce of energy I had for social media, on stopping the scroll. This is the social media strategy that we talk about all the time. Stop the scroll. Understanding a user’s behavior on social, and then reverse engineer, how you can get them to stop scrolling. It doesn’t matter how great your message is, if they scroll right on past it. 

Alex: Well it seems like you’ve really hit on something here, because something that you so graciously didn’t mention about those first 21 days is that, what these posts were, were they were our Pro Church daily posts, and I actually wrote the caption for those posts. And so what I would do, is I would take our episode. I’d put it into a caption form, 2200 characters or less. I put a ton of work into these-

Brad: It’s a lot of work-

Alex: I thought I summarized these well. I wanted to take the content from YouTube, bring it to Instagram, show the people they had great photos. And our engagement just wasn’t great, and I didn’t know why. We didn’t know why, and so I’m glad that you kind of took your Instagram account back, and started trying what you did. Because you’ve really hit on something here, and I’m glad that you’re sharing it with everyone. You hit on something here that, although the content was good. We were writing good captions, the stuff we were talking about was great. It just wasn’t convincing enough to stop somebody from scrolling. 

Alex: I personally think I’m scrolling faster than I ever have through social feeds, and it’s driving me a little bit crazy to the point where, I don’t even engage with social feeds as much as I used to, because I’m frustrated with myself with how fast I’m scrolling. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. And so it all boils down to this, we have to be doing something that convinces somebody to stop, and pay attention to what we’re saying, and I think you’ve really found something. 

Brad: Well we did another episode of pro church tools where we talked about three controversial truths about social media. We’ll link that episode in the show notes, and in that we talk about how repeat equals defeat on social. I think the captions Alex was writing were great, but when it came to the visual aesthetics of each post, it was very predictable. 

Alex: Yeah same thing every day-

Brad: Very consistent, very beautiful, but on social visual branding doesn’t matter so much, variance does matter. Unpredictability matters so that you can get people to stop the scroll, repeat equals defeat. So that was the big shift that we made on a macro level, but we also wanted to introduce three specific templates, that I have been going to again and again, that I have found do an exceptional job of stopping the scroll. The first one is, the screenshot. So it’s very simple. You could take a screen shot of pretty much anything-

Alex: Can I just say, I hate this so much? 

Brad: You love it because it’s affective, and Pro Church nation is getting the information they need. 

Alex: I know. 

Brad: Anything short of sin my friend. For Alex, it’s anything short of screenshots. 

Alex: I know it’s painful, but it works.

Brad: The first example was, a tweet screenshot. So I had a tweet from the social platform of Twitter. Took a screenshot of that, and then I posted it on Instagram-

Alex: Why not? 

Brad: And it got 527 likes, and everyone was like, “Man, just such a good message.” And then I got another message from Justin Dee, and he said, “Stop running Instagram.” I said, “I’m just trying to be affective, anything short of sin my friend, my brother in Christ.” Another example, I took a screenshot of an email and then posted that on Instagram, why are you stopping the scroll? Because you’re like, “Wait a minute? Is that an email-”

Alex: This isn’t supposed to be here

Brad: “I thought I was in Instagram.” Got you, now I can share the message. I did this with the Notes app on iOS for when we talked about lowering nucleus prices, and to prove that I’m not crazy, here’s an example from Steven Furdeck. He took a screenshot of his Ever Notes. Looks like he was working on creating a message, and he’s writing down some initial points. It looks like he’s got a couple of audio recordings, probably talking through some initial ideas for this message. It’s a good screenshot, and posted it to Instagram, two great results. That’s the first example screenshot, why does it work? 

Brad: It works because it’s unusual. You’re scrolling through Instagram, you’re seeing a lot of the same thing, and then suddenly you see user interface elements that don’t belong on that platform. And it trips up your mind subconsciously for just a moment to get you to stop, and then you have the opportunity now to share your message with that person, that you got to stop the scroll. All of these always begin with that simple three word phrase, “Stop the scroll.” Template/example number two is the slide show. 

Brad: The Instagram slide show is when you are able to upload multiple photos, or multiple videos, or even a combination of multiple photos and videos. And when this new feature Alex, was first announced, I tested it out a couple of times, and I didn’t see huge engagement. In fact, I noticed a considerable drop in engagement on those types of posts, versus individual image posts. 

Alex: Okay.

Brad: So I stopped doing slideshow posts on Instagram for a while, but in the practice of constantly experimenting, and trying new things, I figured, “Why not give another shot at one of these slideshow posts?” We went out and we talked about this with our Ursa Mini, and we put it inside of an aquarium. We dropped the aquarium in a lake, and we shot some pseudo underwater scenes and clips. We took a photo of me and my brother-in-law, also works at Pro Church Tools, Ryland putting the camera inside the aquarium, in the lake, and then I posted that alongside the finished shot. 

Alex: Right. 

Brad: So it was kind of a before and after. Here’s us putting the camera in the lake, and here’s how that post turned out. How did that Instagram post turn out? As of this screenshot, 1117 likes by far, the most engaged post that I’ve ever gotten. Now, that cannot be solely credited to the slideshow format. But what I love about the Instagram slideshow format, and this is very important is that, it gives you multiple opportunities within a single post to encourage someone to stop the scroll. What I have found, and you may have noticed this, or if you haven’t, start looking for it, Pro Church Nation. 

Brad: If you open Instagram and you scroll past, or even if you engage with a single slide, within a slideshow post, the next time you refresh your feed Instagram is actually likely to show you that same post again, but they’ll show you a different slide in the slideshow. So that way you’ll engage with it again, or if you didn’t engage the first time, you’ll get another shot at it. And this is what I love about the slideshow format, and I continue to experiment with it, especially with this before and after format, because it gives you the opportunity on multiple occasions. I don’t think ever, Instagram is gonna show you the same post multiple times. But if it shows you a different slide within the same post, that’s a technicality that’s a little bit different. Gives you multiple opportunities, multiple ad bats. The more ad bats that you get, the more likely you are to hit the ball. 

Alex: Yeah I think part of the success with the Instagram carousel is that, you get the opportunity to show the progression of an event, or a story. And so if you’re just posting a bunch of photos from your weekend away in a carousel, that’s not going to lend too much engagement. Put that in your stories, that’s where it belongs. But in the case of this, where you show the photo of you guys putting the camera in the aquarium, and then show the finished shots. In my case, if anyone follows me on Instagram, you know I post a lot of photos of coffee, but sometimes what I’ll do is I’ll use the carousel, I’ll post the first photo of the finished drink, but then I’ll use two, or three, or four more photos to tell the story of how that drink came to be. I’ll show the progression of grinding, and then brewing, and what have you. And pairing that with a caption talking about the process, and inviting your followers into the story of that post, seems to lend well to good engagement on those kinds of posts. 

Brad: The final template is what I like to call the “fun personality”. We did two specific posts that stand out to me for this format on Instagram. The first was, an image of the infamous Microsoft word mascot Clippy, and it’s Clippy saying, “It looks like you’re about to use Papyrus in your church’s bulletin. Are you sure you want to do that?” And everyone loved this-

Alex: Oh people love them.

Brad: Because it’s fun, it’s a little bit cheeky, it pokes fun at Papyrus, it’s a little bit nostalgic. “I remember Clippy, he helped me write my essays in the seventh grade.” And the other fun post that we did was, when we were doing the rebrand of Pro Church Daily with the new image, a bunch of people came up with alternative names like, “Bro Church Daily” or “Fro Church Daily”, and they would just change the actual images to give me or Alex a fro. Alex kind of already has one-

Alex: Of course-

Brad: Gave me a new one, and this was something fun, and this got a huge engagement as well. If you think about your church, think about a small group. Is the only thing that’s being talked about these serious spiritual matters? 

Alex: Right. 

Brad: No, think about the staff at your church throughout the week. Is the only thing being discussed, serious church matters? No I’ve been on staff, it might be more dangerous than any other part of the church. The staff can get out of control, and if you think about in the church lobby on a Sunday, even after church ends, before it begins when people are talking, and engaging, and community. Is every single thing people praying over one another? No they’re just catching up with the family. Church has so many fun elements about it, and it’s okay if your social media reflects that as well. If anything, its inconsistent to hide those elements from social-

Alex: That’s true. 

Brad: Because your church is fun. Every church I’ve been to has had fun elements. So if your social is completely serious all the time, that seems like there’s an inconsistency. If you’re looking for more examples of how to stop the scroll, of types of content that will work on social, we just completed a 21 day case study where we followed six churches and pastors that we think are excelling on social media, and we captured every single thing that they published on social across the four major platforms, and we’re gonna give it all to you for free. All you have to do is visit the URL checklist.church, and you can download the case study there. Again checklist.church is the URL to visit. It’ll also be linked in the show notes for this episode. Thanks for watching, thanks for listening, we’ll see you next time.

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