The Future Church - A Church Communications Podcast
Church Media + Communications

E003 - Should You Buy Social Media Followers?

Joanna: James what do you think about people buying followers on their churches social media?

James: Yeah we mentioned in the previous episode that this was controversial but I'm gonna say it's sketchy at best.

Joanna: James what's up with this buying of social media followers? Maybe some people don't even know you can do it.

James: This is something that's been going on for a long time whether you've known about it or not. There's a lot of artist that I've actually you know got caught doing it. Basically what was some of these music artists especially do is there's always this pressure to keep up and make sure you're the you're the next record you're the next amount of views making sure your video gets to at least a million views. And so there are some these artist that have already tens of millions of views and they still will try to buy more because they want to hit that one billion mark on the on views right. And so what you can do is you go onto these sites and they're just they're there click bait farms like they they basically have either algorithms or machines or they have a guy with ten computers and one mouse that's hooked up to the whole thing and he can click through and they let the video play and he's basically every time he's doing it it's happening 10 times across 10 computers. And so it's someone paid basically pennies on the hour to just click and watch your video over and over and over it and it increases the stats on that video.

Joanna: I mean I've even seen these click farms I think they call them in China where I saw it on the news where they literally have thousands of cell phones with this little machine that is like a hand a creepy hand a fake hand that's clicking on things to make it appear like it's coming from a thousand different phones a thousand different users. It's it's just a creepy machine hand in a factory in China that is liking or following that post.

James: So really what it is is to make you look more popular and getting more views than you actually are. And that's really the premise of it. It's all about it's all about just looking better than you are. And so people are doing it and I've seen.

Joanna: It's a strategy because if you have more likes if you have more followers in the algorithms the theory is real followers will find you if you have more fake. If you look like you're like sort of a going concern you've got sort of a critical mass of followers. People are like oh this is a legit business a legit artist I'm going to follow it too.

James: There's a business case for there's a business case for that. If you look at an artist or a business and they only have five views on a video on YouTube you're automatically assume that they're not successful they're not doing things right or they're not legit. But if you log on and let's be honest if you see oh they've got a hundred thousand oh they must be successful. That's the immediate thought that goes to our consumer brain is that if you're going to watch a Youtuber or it's all about credibility so the more views and the more subscribers they have tells to you credibility. And so that's where it's a kickstart for some people. There is plenty of youtube bears or launch all the sudden they've got 25000 subscribers in one day. How did you do that? Unless you were already famous, how do you do that? What they've done is they've bought followers to give them credibility off the hop to try to get people to follow them and sell what they are doing. And it's hard to get over that first initial hump and that's where the temptation comes in for churches especially with Instagram pages. Are you a legitimate church if you've only got 100 hundred followers right? That's that's that's the thing that tempts people. So what have you seen in the church world and even from your own experiences running?You know our churches our churches social accounts, like what's going on with churches?

Joanna: You can see the temptation of it particularly if you have pressure from maybe even your boss to kind of grow numbers and not to deceive them. But you're not trying to deceive them but you might feel the pressure to grow the account to make it look like more legitimate because you're basing your churches social media success quote unquote success off of likes and followers.

James: And that's what people, that's what people are putting demands on right. Like you see it going on on Facebook discussion groups all the time now is how do we get more engaged? How do we get more likes? How do we get more followers? And people are judging success based on worldly terms.

Joanna: They're trying to play a game, they're "gamifying" the world of social media when actually the purpose of using any tool in the church is to go and make disciples. So we don't want to go and make disciples out of bots coming from the factory in China. We want to make disciples of real human beings who are in our own community and and that we're impacting. And so for example if I think some people are measuring their success wrong just even in in likes like oh we're we're a church of 500 people and 200 people like our Facebook page. Actually you've probably fully saturated the market at that point. What I mean is if there's 500 people in your church half of those people are children who don't have Facebook accounts or or don't use Facebook anymore because they're kids and kids don't like facebook anymore. And seniors in your church may or may not use Facebook. So if you have 200 people who are following and engaging in your communication through Facebook that's probably an accurate reflection on the size of your current congregation. It may be only like five people outside of your own church congregation at that point would have any interest in following your page because they don't they aren't part of the church community. A.

James: And It's easy to get sucked into comparing right like comparing yourself to church down the road or mega church. You know you know a state over right. It's very easy to look and say wow this one church has a million followers we need to try to do what they're doing but that's not realistic right? You Have to take a hard look in the mirror and say we're a church of 500 people. Our goal should be 300 followers or 200 likes on Facebook. That is success to us. Like if you're constantly comparing you're never gonna be satisfied it's classic. Yeah the grass is always greener on the other side you're always comparing to someone better than you and that's that's a trap that even you know in churches we we preach and talk about like not falling into the trap and yet I do see so many church communicators really try struggling to try to compare themselves to someone else and wondering why they're not measuring up like so-and-so got 10 comments on theirs how come I'm only getting to I mean my biggest question in those situations and I I always have to like hold my back but hold back from commenting on Facebook and say Why do you care? Like why do you care that you only got two comments like is that all that matters is that people commented like "heart love this" like what. Like what. What is what is the point in that. "Prayer hands emoji". Yes it's it's gratifying to get a post that has lots of engaging lots of likes it's one shares and or someone like lots of people commenting on it it is great to have that but if that is what you're trying to achieve every single day maybe you're not doing the other parts of your job that are also really important if you're sitting there trying to gameify social media to get more comments. You probably have also 30 other tasks and need to get done that day.

Joanna: Now that said we can in another episode talk more we can we could probably spend a whole week talking about how to get more engagement how to meaningfully engage with the people we want to engage with not the bots from China. The real engagement with real people in our own communities that we're trying to reach disciple or do evangelism through. But that said when it comes down to it with this buying of followers buying of likes at the end it's where will it end. That if you buy followers and suddenly it looks like your Instagram page has 5000 followers that looks like oh OK. There's like something happening here. But then people go into the pictures and they see that only 25 people like the picture they see that there's 5000 followers. Twenty five people liking a picture they know if they're savvy they know that that doesn't. Those numbers don't add up. So then you have to start buying likes on your posts to match the number of followers on your page. And it just the lie grows from there. And so I would just caution anyone in church world to avoid it. I think if there's a business case for it but in church world we do things differently.

James: Absolutely, and at start of the episode I said sketchy at best. And as churches you need to hold yourself to a higher standard just because it's OK in the business world still doesn't mean it's OK in the church world. And I mean that's something I struggle with as being a church person working in church communications stuff as well as running a business. That kind of intersects is you have to pick. Are you a business first? Or are you a Christian first? And I have a model that we always church choose church over business. And so when it comes to buying things like that for me for my own accounts I always say no. Even though it is really tempting and I have sought I've sat there and thought about it and you have to kind of pick integrity over you know short bursts of success that aren't real. They're just. And the only reason why you're doing it is to like show off that you're successful. And that's that's a trap.

Joanna: So if people want to see the real James Adams the real work that you do where can people find you?

James: You can find us on Instagram at visualmediachurch and you can visit us at and you can kind of see you what we're doing for real.

Joanna: Yeah. And me, Im at Joanna LaFleur on Instagram or for articles videos about church communications. The next episode we're gonna be talking about Snapchat. Should people use it? We'll talk about it next episode.