Katie Allred: Welcome to The Church Communications Podcast. I’m Katie Allred and today I’m so excited. I’m joined by a special guest, Aaron Rountree. Aaron works for Vive… Or actually founded Vive Media in San Diego, California. And I’m so excited because Vive does some really cool work with churches, but also they have a really awesome Instagram game. And so we’re going to really jump today into how do we use Instagram? How do we use social media really well for churches? I think it’s so important today, especially as the coronavirus has happened and all this stuff that we talk about, how can we do social media really well? So Aaron, thank you for joining me today.
Aaron Rountree: I just want to say thanks for everything you guys do. I was still working at church, but before doing Vive and all that stuff, I was a Church Communications director and that Facebook group saved my butt more times than I can count. And it’s a great spot to ask people questions and all that good stuff. So I just want to say thanks to you, and I know Kenny does a lot as well. You two have just been slaying it and it’s an inspiration to see as getting into this space and helping churches, seeing what you guys do and look to you guys as inspiration for serving the local church. So thank you for having me on and thank you for all that you do.
Katie Allred: Well, thank you. That warms my heart. We definitely didn’t get in it for… I don’t know, the school street cred, but it’s been amazing to see what God has done in the lives of churches because of a Facebook group. So thank you for that.
Aaron Rountree: A hundred percent.
Katie Allred: So I guess my first question is, who is Vive? What is Vive? What do you do? Why do you do it?
Aaron Rountree: It started off a little bit random. Almost a little over a year ago, I was working at a large multisite in San Diego, a bunch of campuses and all that stuff, managing a big team and all the things that seem really great, and then it ended up where all of our team got let go. So that was a huge big shock, some leadership shifts and stuff like that. So it was not a great time, but out of that, that team and I really started talking about what did it look like to serve local church? We came from a world where budget wasn’t too big of an issue for us. So I know some churches are cringing right now as I say that, but we were able to purchase stock photos all the time, hire someone or anything like that. So we realized that a lot of churches actually don’t have the ability to do that. We came from [crosstalk 00:02:32].
Katie Allred: Oh, man. This sounds just like our story. This is how Church Comm was built too, I was at a heavily resourced church and I was like, I feel like I know a lot and I’m able to know a lot because I have the opportunity to be of being able to afford time or research, not just [crosstalk 00:02:52] afford stuff, but be able to afford the time to do it and do it well. Anyway, continue. [crosstalk 00:02:59] Sorry. I was just like, that’s cool.
Aaron Rountree: [crosstalk 00:03:01] hired to manage that stuff for you where you’re not the single point of contact for everything. That was a real big thing that I didn’t realize was such a blessing being in that position. So one thing we really came out of that was, what’s the biggest pain points in churches and what’s the most expensive pain points. Obviously we can’t build you a church for free. If we could, we would. But one of the things that kept popping up was unlimited church graphics. So there’s some great services out there, they’re awesome. Some of them are good friends of mine, but we were looking at the prices and the prices were just pretty expensive for a church that maybe only has a hundred people. So we wanted to provide a service that was affordable. You couldn’t hire necessarily someone part time to even do it.
Aaron Rountree: So that’s how it all started. We wanted provide unlimited church graphics for churches and for pastors to utilize at an affordable rate where they could afford that and have really unlimited stuff. So unlimited revisions, projects, the whole deal and higher quality than maybe what they were producing. We had a large team of designers that were out of work and we wanted to, A, find a place for them to work because they still wanted to be a part of the church world, and all that stuff, but also provide that resource to churches around us. So we found a really affordable way for us internally to scale that and make it affordable for churches to purchase. So that’s how it all got started. Halfway through that, we got some questions about Instagram and marketing so we started taking on some churches and helping with consulting and coaching and then also managing some churches social media.
Aaron Rountree: And then once that started, we realized that our social media was really bad. So if you scroll back in our Instagram feed, probably at the beginning, a year ago, it’s really bad. Inconsistent posting, it wasn’t great. So we felt like, “Hey, we probably should focus in on our Instagram account and really resource through that channel.” So we took some time, really developed a plan and then put it into action. So when all the coronavirus stuff hit, we took a break, we had an influx of churches who we started serving and then we revamped it up again and came out with a new strategy for Instagram. So our main thing is unlimited church graphics, but we also do coaching consulting as well with churches.
Katie Allred: Let’s just get into the meat of it. All right. So we’ve given the elevator pitch, let’s get into the meat of what we’re talking about today. So I think the question I have, what should the church be doing right now on Instagram or social media as a whole, whatever you want to answer that you aren’t seeing?
Aaron Rountree: I think the biggest thing is we’re seeing a lot of people going on Instagram live and Facebook live, which is awesome. I think that’s a huge win, but it-
Katie Allred: They should have been doing that three years ago. [crosstalk 00:05:43] I’m like, “If your church just got on Facebook live, you’re behind quite a bit, like five years at least.” Keep going.
Aaron Rountree: The thing where it falls short though, is there’s no one in the comments and there’s no one following up. So it’s great, it’s awesome, a hundred percent I think you should be on Facebook live, Instagram live, all the lives you should be doing, but where it falls short is there’s no followup to the comments, there’s no one liking the comments, replying to the comments, and that engagement drops immediately after the live. So what you’ll see is if you look through some Facebook’s, if you go on your Facebook page and just search ‘church’ and then just pick five churches, probably two of the churches out of that five are actually responding and posting other content throughout the week. [crosstalk 00:06:28].
Katie Allred: If you had a first time guest at your church on Sunday morning, you would expect that somebody would go out of their way to talk to a person, right? You would have a greeter specifically assigned to find people who are new and talk to them and have a conversation.
Aaron Rountree: A hundred percent.
Katie Allred: So why are we not doing that via social media? I think that people think, “Oh, it’s so different.” Or, “We have to do that?” And I’m like, “No,” it’s exactly the same as in person. Think about what you would do in person and do it more intentionally online. There should be a first guest follow up email drip campaign. There should be somebody reaching out messaging each person, not from the church profile, but from a person’s profile. I think it’s so important that it’s a person, not the church.
Katie Allred: It feels like such a faceless entity when it’s a church messaging you. But when you say Aaron’s messaging me, I’m like, “Oh, well, Aaron, that’s so nice.” “God, Aaron seems like a nice guy… Da, da, da, da, da.” It’s just completely different. It changes the way people see it and view it and follow up with them. And two, if you give somebody a first time guest gift or whatever, you can still do that via social media or online. And we’ve got to start doing that because I don’t think we’re getting back in the church building for another year. And so figure out a way, to figure out… I don’t know, how to send a swag box or something like that. Send a $5 Starbucks gift card. You could still do the things that you were doing. It’s not like it has to be uber expensive, send a mug or whatever or [crosstalk 00:08:16] take it to their house to drop it.
Aaron Rountree: Yeah. Whatever they want.
Katie Allred: Yeah. I completely agree. We’ve got to work on followup. We’ve got to figure out how can we engage people and actually, I don’t know, see them through and encouraged them to come again next week. How do we get them involved into a small group online? All of these things still matter. Online it’s just different.
Aaron Rountree: Yeah. And I think that’s the biggest thing. You said it. It’s great that when you comment back as your church and all that stuff, that’s awesome. Don’t stop doing that. But when it’s just that, you’re not going to get any engagement or responses because it’s like a faceless entity. If Target responds to you, you feel special. But at the same time, you don’t know if an actual person or is that a robot or what’s going on. But when Target responds to you and says, “Hey, this is from Josh,” or whoever, that feels more personal because I’m relating with someone. So one thing that we’ve seen a lot of churches start to do, and we’ve helped implement some systems, like you said, create a system where it’s repeatable and then also you don’t have to get super creative.
Aaron Rountree: You could just write out five phrases that you give to your online hosts and say, Hey, copy and paste this when someone says, “Hey, I’m new here.” Or, “Hey, I’m from San Diego.” You can come back, “Hey, where in San Diego are you from? Do you want me to get you connected with a live group?” It doesn’t have to be super complicated. That’s one of the big things that we’ve been seeing, is really engaging in the comments, liking, replying, tagging someone in the comments, something that might seem a little annoying, but most people don’t realize is that you can’t really see everyone’s comments on a Facebook live. Friends of friends see their comments. So when someone says, “Hey @ so-and-so, so good that you’re watching,” it’s because your friends are friends with them. It doesn’t mean that you’re tagging and everyone sees it. So one thing that’s easy you can do is just jump in the comments, say, “Hey, @Josh, so good that you’re joining us today.”
Aaron Rountree: Instantly start that conversation because if you’re a greeter on your porch at church, you’d be starting that conversation anyways. So why wouldn’t you repeat that online? And like you said, online isn’t going anywhere. If after all this ends and if it doesn’t or whatever that looks like, if you stopped doing online, I think you missed the point of doing online church and the whole reason for it. So that’s really the biggest thing we’ve seen is engagement has dropped significantly over the past couple of weeks because everyone’s doing all their time and effort into lives, and not really spending time in that one-on-one community with people on their Facebook lives or even on the midweek stuff, just a photo or a text post or anything like that.
Katie Allred: So what are some ways that churches can connect with people that most churches aren’t doing?
Aaron Rountree: One thing that we found that works really well is setting up a… It’s not an auto response, but a pre-written little statement that you send to anyone who follows you that’s new. Again, the key is to not make it spammy, so don’t say, “Hey, like my stuff and buy this thing.” X, Y, and Z. [crosstalk 00:00:11:07].
Katie Allred: Are you talking about on Instagram DMS or something?
Aaron Rountree: Yeah, on Instagram DMS. So one thing-
Katie Allred: Yeah, because I know Facebook doesn’t allow you to do that.
Aaron Rountree: Yeah, but Instagram DMS is a great option to do that. And what you can do is you can put your form in there for someone, or you could put it to where, “Hey, check our services.” But the key is making sure it’s shown that it’s from someone, not just your church. So, “Hey so-and-so, thanks so much for following us. We want to stay connected with you. Here’s a link.” Put that link in there, make sure it shows a preview and then say, “Hey, it’s from Susie Q. She’s one of our hospitality volunteers.” Sign it at the very bottom of that message to show it’s a real person. That’s been really effective and you’ll see engagement grow on your posts too when that happens, because they feel like, “Oh, they reached out, made a connection with me. Not just sent me some spammy posts to fill out a connection card to get my information and email address.”
Aaron Rountree: So that’s one way that we’ve seen that really has been working for a lot of churches we’ve worked with. And even my home church, we’ve started doing that as well, and we’ve seen a lot of growth from it, especially in the engagement of our comments and our likes and stuff.
Katie Allred: No, that’s a great strategy for sure because I think a lot of churches just miss out on the fact that they need to… I think we’ve said this whole time, just follow up. Make a plan for what followup looks like online. We make a plan for that in person. Most churches have just now figured out how to do streaming, which is good. I know I said earlier if you’re five years, you’re five years… And now you’re all feeling terrible and stupid. Here’s the thing, that’s great. I am so glad, so proud of you for getting to this point. Let’s take the next step and engage the user, engage the person because behind each user is a human being that wants to… First off, they made the effort to find you. And so let’s make the effort to find them, and help them find Jesus. So I think we just have to think of it a little differently. Change up the way we think about how we do church. How crazy is that? What a wild time.
Aaron Rountree: Well, it’s being intentional too. If you hear [inaudible 00:13:25], “Hey, I’m going to start doing an Instagram DM to every new follower,” that’s great. You’re being intentional about it, and then also are you being nimble to say, “Hey, so we’re going to have three or four different phrases and we’re going to actually have real life volunteers run this. We’re not just going to sit behind our Instagram account and then create a fake user,” that’s like [inaudible 00:13:44] who’s not really a volunteer at your church that you’re just tagging. Be intentional to connect to people that are in your church already to reach out to the new people attending your church through online and being really nimble in the sense of, Hey, Instagram tomorrow might take away our ability to direct message and that could change. So what are you going to do next to connect with your people that’s not through direct messages?
Aaron Rountree: Like you said, Facebook doesn’t allow it. So what are you doing through Facebook that helps you connect with people because they’re real people. They’re not just someone who just hopped on to watch a service and leave. They actually want connection. They would have never jumped on if they didn’t want connection. So being intentional with that connection is super important.
Katie Allred: Yeah. I love it. Love it Aaron. I completely agree. All right. So I know that you have a special offer that you want to give people if they want to get involved with Vive Media. I highly recommend that you reach out to Vive if you’ve got questions or if you are wanting to do more graphics social media for your church, I think Aaron can really hook you up. So here’s the offer. He’s offered all churches that are interested in unlimited, unlimited, right?
Aaron Rountree: Yep. A hundred percent.
Katie Allred: So whatever you want created. You want a baptism certificate, he is hooking you up. Membership brochure, got it. Unlimited church graphics, 50% off their first month if you will send a DM on Instagram and mention The Church Communications podcast. So that’s very specific instructions. I really love it because you too can give people instructions in your podcast, in your live stream on church. So this is a great example of how you can tell people to do something and you will follow up. Again-
Aaron Rountree: That’s the thing. We want to create a relationship too. It’s a great offer. [inaudible 00:15:25] It’s all good. We’re a business too, but we want to create a relationship and you should be doing that in your live stream as well. Sending it to our URL is fine and good, we could have posted a URL and had that, but there’s something about when you create a relationship and that direct message, whether you sign up for it or not, I don’t care if you do. That’s awesome if you do. If you don’t, great. We talked and we got to create a relationship. That’s what’s so important about this online world that we’re living in now, is creating relationships and being intentional with them.
Katie Allred: Ask Aaron some questions while you’re there. So if you go on Instagram, what’s your Instagram handle, Aaron?
Aaron Rountree: So you can message myself @aaron_rountree, no D and whenever this posts I’ll put it in the comments as well so you can see it. And then also @vivemedia.co you can message either of those and we’ll get you hooked up and taken care of. And if you have any questions at all, Hey, I just want to talk about communications, marketing, Instagram, Facebook, whatever, I’d love to chat and help you out and just get to know you. That’s a big thing that we’re talking about in this new world of being online, Zoom meetings, not necessarily being able to go to a coffee shop and talk, but we can still hop on a Zoom call and chat and get to know each other and get connected that way.
Katie Allred: So Vive Media, it’s @vivemedia on Instagram, right?
Aaron Rountree: Yeah.
Katie Allred: Dot co.
Aaron Rountree: @vivemedia.co.
Katie Allred: Dot co. Very important, or you can go to their website, vivemedia.co. So I want to make sure everybody has all the options in case they want to get a hold of you. So @vive, V-I-V-E. Not vibe. Vive-
Aaron Rountree: Vive.
Katie Allred: … Media.co. And if you DM them on Instagram, they will give you 50% off your first month.
Aaron Rountree: Yep.
Katie Allred: All right. Well, this was a very short podcast, but I also feel like it was jam packed with really great, really easy, actionable information. So I hope that it helps your church today. And thank you so much, Aaron, for being here. I appreciate you. And I hope that this information helps your church grow. And I am praying for you. Here for you. Can’t wait to see what God’s going to do in your church this year. And thank you so much for being here and subscribe to our podcast. Give us a review if you like. Appreciate it. Thanks.