Reach, Views, and Clicks (How to Interpret Video and Social Media Data)
Online has become a significant part of church life. What do all the numbers mean and how can they help develop our ministry?
There is a diversity of online experience between churches across Britain. From those who have been live streaming and evangelising through paid-for Facebook advertising for years, to those who have moved online out of necessity during the pandemic and wouldn’t know where to start with Instagram.
One of the benefits of lockdown ministry has been to force many of us to figure out how online ministry works best in our own contexts and to consider how it can continue even as coronavirus restrictions lift. I’ve written before about how we can make the most of what we’ve learnt during the pandemic for future ministry.
Once your online ministry is up and running it is important to keep evaluating so you can discern how effective your efforts are and make the most of the time spent on it. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (other platforms are available but I’ll focus on these four here) provide evaluation tools for you but, as with Google Analytics for your website, the myriad of numbers can be as much a hindrance as a help.
Here are some insights to help you on the way to understanding what all the terms mean, and how the numbers can help you decide which areas to continue to pursue in your church ministry.
When it comes to video, I’m going to focus on YouTube but the terminology will be pretty similar wherever you upload.
On YouTube, you can view statistics to cover your whole channel in YouTube Studio by selecting ‘Analytics’ on the left-hand menu. You can also see video specific data by selecting ‘Analytics’ on the individual video page.
These statistics are pretty much the same for live video too – as many Sunday services might be – but be aware that the count may change during the 24 hours after your video is broadcast as YouTube verifies the views to ensure they aren’t counted double.
You can learn more about YouTube analytics on the Google Support website, but here is a summary below.
This measurement is defined by YouTube as “The number of legitimate views for your channels or videos.” However, what exactly counts as a “legitimate view” isn’t very clear.
To a certain point, you will just need to trust YouTube, but it’s thought that a legitimate view is when a video is viewed intentionally and for a total of 30 seconds or more. This definition is different for videos on Facebook (three seconds counts as a view) and Twitter (simply a click counts as a view).
When you view your YouTube Analytics, it will show you your video’s view count against the average for your channel, which is a helpful way of benchmarking yourself. However, bear in mind that a 90 minute Sunday service and a three-minute interview video will likely give skewed results in one way or another, so they can’t always be compared directly.
Under ‘Audience’ you can see the number of ‘Unique viewers’ which measures how many individuals have watched the video. This will be lower than the number of views – this covers people who watch the video multiple times.
This is an interesting graph to see exactly when people turned off your video. Please don’t be discouraged to see the negative looking graph each time – every video on YouTube tails off in the same way!
The graph can tell you, however, if there is a particular part that causes people to lose interest and switch off. Or for how long people are engaged from the start. Noticing a pattern with when people stop watching your videos can help you decide what parts need to be thought-about to try and engage with people better.
When your thumbnail is seen by someone for at least one second, an impression is made. This might happen on a search result, on the recommended videos sections, or on saved playlists.
The impressions click-through rate counts how often an impression led to someone clicking on the thumbnail to watch the video. A lower click-through rate could suggest your thumbnail designs need a rethink – to be more engaging, eye-catching, or persuasive.
One thing YouTube cannot know is how many people are watching a video at the same time. It may well be that your church service is watched by multiple people on YouTube, which would only count as one ‘view’ or ‘viewer’, so this isn’t an exact science.
Views are counted by IP address which means that views on devices using the same internet network will also count as a single person (unless the views are at a significant time apart).
The best way to know how effective your YouTube videos are for your church is to ask them! A survey to ask how helpful it is, how often the videos are watched, or what can be improved will always be more helpful than the data alone.
Facebook is the most used social media platform by far, so I’ll focus on that for the following section. The next most used is Instagram, which I’ll mention, and many pastors and churches use Twitter too so there will be a mention there too.
You can access statistics directly from the platforms themselves (although there are other services you can pay for to help interpret this data too):
- Facebook: Select ‘Insights’ on the left menu of your page’s profile or on the ‘Business Suite’ app. Find out more.
- Instagram: Although there are limited insights by using Facebook’s Creator Studio (https://business.facebook.com/creatorstudio?tab=instagram_insights_activity) the best way is to use the Instagram app and tap the ‘Insights’ button on the profile page. Find out more.
- Twitter: Although you can see statistics for individual tweets on the Twitter app, the best way to access Twitter Analytics is on your browser. Find out more.
These terms work broadly across the majority of social media platforms. And again, the best way to know what to use and how is to ask your audience: how would they prefer to receive messages from the church, and what would make it easiest for them to share the content with their friends and family?
The number of Likes or Followers measures how many people/businesses have signed up to receive social media posts from you.
However, this doesn’t mean that they will necessarily see everything you share. It will depend on the time of day/week that they are signed in and when you post, and importantly it will depend on the various algorithms that social media platforms use.
As a rule, you can expect only a small percentage of your Followers to see each post you share. Two ways around this are:
- Use some funds from your budget to pay for your post to be promoted further. These platforms are only free to use because of these paid-for posts, so they will encourage you to spend money in any way they can. Spending money is a sure-fire way of reaching more people – whether your Followers or not (see Mike Judge’s article for more on this).
- ‘Favourites’ are people or pages that appear higher up the News Feed on Facebook – you could intentionally ask your audience to change their ‘Follow Settings’ (select the three dots on your profile page) and set your page as a ‘Favourite’ to enable them to see your posts more often. This could be done online or in-person during a church service.
The reach of a post measures how many individual people saw it. If one person saw your post multiple times, it would count as one person reached.
This is helpful to understand how many people you are reaching with your posts, especially when measured over time (to see any audience increase/decrease) and to compare whether different types of post (link, photo, video etc.) perform better or worse.
An impression is a time when your post appears on someone’s screen. This could be when shared by you or shared/retweeted by someone else.
You can expect impressions to be higher than reach since an individual person might see your post multiple times, creating multiple impressions.
Again, this is helpful to give an overall feel for how often your posts are seen, and to compare different types and time periods.
Your posts could be seen ten million times, but unless there is engagement they will have little lasting impact. So, engagements and interactions are important to aim for and to measure.
An engagement or interaction could look like a comment, a ‘like’ or ‘reaction’, a share, a follow, a retweet, or a link click (more on that next). These actions show how much your post is engaging with your audience and, therefore, attracting them into a conversation and relationship with your church.
This is a great measurement of how effective your posts are and can be compared by the ‘engagement rate’: the number of engagements divided by the number of impressions. So a post with 300 impressions that has 30 engagements would have a 10% engagement rate.
Facebook in particular will give you an ‘engaged users’ number if you export the data from Insights, which shows how many individuals engaged with your post.
Depending on what you want to achieve, link clicks could be one of the most important measurements available.
Impressions and engagements might mean that people are noticing you but Facebook and Instagram posts alone can only do so much. Getting people on to your website is a great goal because you can go much deeper with what you want to say on your website, and you can also allow them to explore more of what you are about.
Your social media is like the window to your shop: your posts inspire and raise awareness but should aim to attract people into the shop, which is your website, and where they can move into deeper fellowship.
If you have the goal of bringing people onto your website, link clicks will be the statistic you should look out for to help know how effective your effort are.
If you need to discuss more or have any questions, please get in touch and I’d love to help!