At the time of Easter 2015, Champions Centre was still learning a lot about effective social media usage. Back then, they were mostly just creating some events they could invite people to on Facebook and sharing a lot of their promo videos.
Jen Mueller did, however, try something new to encourage people to invite their friends. They wanted to highlight people who did and perhaps inspire others to do the same. So they created an “I invited” campaign. They created stickers that looked like the “I voted” ones. Then they asked people to wear the sticker and tell the story of someone they invited to attend Easter with them. The goal was to see those stories and re-post them from the church account.
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This is Ty. We found him at the tents after service this weekend wearing his #iInvited sticker proudly. He's been inviting a coworker for over a year. This past week she asked if she could come to church. Not only did she come, but she brought her 3 year old son, AND gave her heart to the Lord! God is good. Who will you invite this #Easter?
Unfortunately, it just didn’t pick up like they wanted it to. They had a few stories here and there from the past, but there was a certain awkward element to it that probably stood in the way of it becoming a viral sensation. Even Jen, when she went to post her own story, felt awkward doing it. She had invited one of her high school friends she saw when she was out shopping. But she felt weird posting a photo of herself and telling her story.
In hindsight, Jen’s glad they tried the experiment, even though it didn’t work out exactly as she had hoped.
Since then, they’ve changed their approach a bit. Stories have always been a huge win for them on social media, but now they’re changing the way they’re telling them. They now focus on collecting stories before and after the service, then posting photos on social media with the person’s story attached as the caption. They’ve found these are great posts that grab a lot of engagement. People love to see themselves or to be able to relate to someone’s story of life-change that happened through Champions Centre.
They have a “story collectors” team that they created this last year. It’s a team of 8 to 10 people (volunteers) who are devoted to gathering stories on the weekends. It’s a really organic thing. They simply approach people and ask them how they started coming to Champions Centre. They’ve found people are normally quite open and willing to share. The story collectors document the story. Then, if it makes sense, they’ll follow up later for a video testimony or for a more in-depth interview. Their pastor often uses these stories in his messages.
They pair the team up with photographers so they can get an on-the-spot picture to add to the story. They also use these for blogs and magazine articles.
When Jen initially created this team, these are the types of things she was looking for in people to join:
- Good writers – people with a flair for journalism who like to write and tell stories.
- People outgoing enough to approach strangers and ask them questions.
They already had this opportunity available for volunteer writers who could write for their magazine and blog posts. They just expanded the opportunities to become a weekend project.
They don’t give the team anything special – no badge, no shirt. It’s an organic thing. It’s just a friendly approach: “Hey, I’m a volunteer here. Can I ask you a couple of questions?”
They’ve found this is a great way to foster community and engagement through social media. It becomes less about promotion to their own people – since it’s their own people who mostly follow them on social media – and it has become more about the connection of those who call Champions Centre their home.