Bart Blair: [00:00:04] Hey, welcome to Missional Marketing Church Growth Interviews Podcast. My name is Bart Blair, and I’m here with my friend, Jason Hamrock. Hey, Jason.
Jason Hamrock: [00:00:12] Hey, Bart. How are you doing today?
Bart Blair: [00:00:14] I’m doing OK. You know, sometimes when you start podcasts like this, there’s always that awkward moment at the beginning where you’re like your brain’s moving faster than your mouth or your mouth is moving faster than your brain. Yeah…
Jason Hamrock: [00:00:26] Was that was just a moment
Bart Blair: [00:00:28] That was just one of those moments. And it’s funny because there’s one of those moments in this podcast that, this interview that we’re introducing today, I did the same thing when we started. It is like I started talking and all of the sudden, I have no idea what I’m doing here. I know what I’m doing, but I don’t know what I’m saying. I’m rarely at a loss for words, but every once in a while it happens.
Jason Hamrock: [00:00:48] Bart is a pastor for all your listeners, so for Bart to be at a loss for words is a moment. I mean, that’s something like we should mark that as a date because that doesn’t happen around here.
Bart Blair: [00:00:58] Mark it on the calendar. I try not to be, I try not to be the first one to speak in meetings. I had a leader, I had a leader in my corporate life years ago, I was in my twenties, and he was a guy that I really looked up to. He was like three or four levels in the company above me, and I had started to be included in some really important meetings, organizationally. And I remember him walking up to me, his name is Scott, and I remember Scott coming up to me after the meeting and saying, Bart, I’m going to give you a little bit of helpful business advice. You should choose to be the last one to talk in a meeting, instead of always needing to be the first one to talk in a meeting, that was advice I never forgot. The problem with that is that when I’m hosting a podcast, I’m usually the first one that has to talk and I’m not always sure what I’m going to say. So anyway, that was really good advice, and I’ve really tried to, I’ve tried really hard to implement that advice. So, Scott, thanks for the advice, you’re probably not listening to this podcast, but in case you are, it’s something I haven’t forgotten, it was twenty years ago, more than twenty years ago.
Jason Hamrock: [00:02:02] It’s good advice to be slow to speak and quick to listen, that’s just always my motto.
Bart Blair: [00:02:07] That’s in the Bible or something, isn’t it?
Jason Hamrock: [00:02:10] Something, I think so.
Bart Blair: [00:02:11] Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s good stuff. Hey, Jason, I want to remind all of our listeners, our friends online, to rate and review our podcast wherever you listen to it. So if you’re listening on Apple podcast or on Google, we haven’t been on Spotify, but we’ve figured that out I think, and I think pretty soon it’s going to be on Spotify. So maybe if you’re listening to this like a few weeks in the future, perhaps you’re listening on Spotify, if you watch the videos on YouTube like, and rate, and review, and share. Share this stuff, there’s some fantastic stuff, great guests that we’ve had on. They are smarter than we are, which is what makes it fun to be able to have some of these people on our podcast, and today is no exception.
Bart Blair: [00:03:00] I’m going to introduce our guest in just a moment, but I want to let you share a little bit about what your thoughts are on this interview that we’re going to be sharing today.
Jason Hamrock: [00:03:06] I’m really excited for you to hear this, church. It’s something that we talk about at Missional Marketing with all of the churches we work for, we talk about this all the time, and that is content, content, content, content. It is incredibly important for you to be creating content, and then not only creating it, leveraging it. So here’s half that bottle, like the first part of it, creating the content. You may not realize is church, but you guys are creating content all the time, you just need to know where to look for it. Right? The best spot to look for that would be this past Sunday, your pastor preached phenomenal content. The second part of that knows how to leverage that content, and how can you do that to get the most squeeze out of that juice? Like, what does that look like? Right? Today’s podcast, we’re going to dive deep into that, so much so that we’re going to go to part two, because this is a phenomenal conversation. I’m super passionate about it because there are so many people that need to be reached in Google, and you can be reaching them if you do these things the right way. And so Chris is going to go deep into that, I’m really excited for you to hear about it. Bart, why don’t you introduce him.
Bart Blair: [00:04:23] Yes, our guest is Chris Martin, who is the content marketing editor for Moody Publishers. He’s only been at Moody for a relatively short time, he was at Lifeway for a number of years prior to joining the team at Moody. He has worked with some phenomenal leaders like Ed Stetzer, and Eric Geiger, and a number of other really, really phenomenal leaders. His expertise in content marketing, especially as it relates to blogging and social media is really…I’ve not talked to as many people who I felt this confident about taking his counsel as I did with Chris, like, the guy really knows his stuff. And so churches, as you’re listening to this, you’re going to have to really think creatively to figure out how to implement some of the strategies and the things that he lays out here as it relates to sermon content and social media. As churches, we have to find ways to make those things work better together. We tend to use social media and kind of this lane by itself, and we don’t always leverage it for maximum impact. While we have this incredible content that our pastors are creating every single week, and we’re not leveraging that to the degree to which we should and we could. So, this conversation is rich with information, I didn’t get to half the questions that I really wanted to ask Chris. So we did talk about scheduling him again to come on for another episode, so we can do another deep dive and talk about some things like email and some other things that I think will be really valuable for our churches.
Bart Blair: [00:06:08] But Chris has a podcast, he’s going to share a little bit about that. He’s got a blog that he writes, I’ve been reading his content and listening to the podcast, it’s fantastic, we’ll link to that in the show notes here. But I think we’ve talked enough, I’m no longer at a loss for words, but I should probably stop. So I’m going to transition now to our awesome interview with Chris Martin from Moody’s Publishers.
Bart Blair: [00:00:02] All right, recording in progress, all right, I’m going to pause for a second, then I’ll get kicked off.
Bart Blair: [00:00:09] Chris Martin, it is so glad to have you on the podcast today, I’ve been looking forward to this for the last few weeks since we got it scheduled. And I’m even more excited just after the last few minutes, you sharing a little bit of your background that we didn’t even know coming into this, so thanks for hanging out with us today.
Chris Martin: [00:00:27] Yeah, sure, man. Glad to be here.
Bart Blair: [00:00:31] Chris, I’m going to guess, well, I’m hopeful that people recognize your name, not as the lead singer of Coldplay. Isn’t the lead singer of Coldplay named Chris Martin.
Chris Martin: [00:00:40] Yes.
Bart Blair: [00:00:40] Do people mistake you for him very often?
Chris Martin: [00:00:42] Always, always, usually because of my stunning good looks before they even know my name, so actually…
Bart Blair: [00:00:48] All right, very good. Hey, so we’re just now getting to know you, I’m sure that our listeners would love to know more about you, you have a very fascinating story. So why don’t you just start us off today by just sharing your story, and how you got to what you’re doing today? There’s a lot of stuff in there, s fill in the details.
Chris Martin: [00:01:06] Yeah, I’ll try to do this as briefly as I can, because it is a bit of a long story. I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is in the far northeastern corner of Indiana, about an hour south of Michigan and 15 minutes west of Ohio. My wife and I both grew up there in Fort Wayne, we met in middle school, we were friends throughout high school, we both went to Taylor University for undergraduate degrees. Which is a small Christian liberal arts school about an hour south of Fort Wayne, similar to Wheaton, or a Union University, or something like that, if you’re not aware of that kind of concept.
Chris Martin: [00:01:38] We both attended Taylor University, I earned a biblical literature degree as my undergraduate degree. And while I was there, took a lot of communications classes, and was originally an education major, actually. And I ended up doing some marketing work for a student who started a marketing company while he was a student at Taylor because I could write, and they needed some writing help for writing copy for blogs, for SEO purposes, or whatever. And having grown up, you know, in the 90s and early 2000s with a computer in my home, my dad worked for IBM growing up, so I was on the computer and tinkering around the Internet far earlier than I’m going to let my daughter be doing so I think. So, I grew up kind of very much as the typical digital native, and interacting on the Internet, and learning social media. In fact, I got to Taylor on a scholarship because I wrote a blog throughout high school that earned me a scholarship because they were kind of impressed by it, I guess. So, writing, and online writing, and online content creation were always kind of part of my story, more as a hobby than anything.
Chris Martin: [00:02:38] And then when I was at Taylor, I started working for this marketing company and doing a lot of copywriting, and learning how to run social media for organizations, like professionally, I’d done it for my own stuff, but had never done it for an organization. So I was doing some stuff for Ralph Lauren, and Fellows Moving Boxes, and just these random companies who probably didn’t know they were hiring college students. But I was making great money from my dorm room, and it was easier than working at the local cafeteria or McDonald’s or something like that so, I did that all through college.
Chris Martin: [00:03:07] When my wife and I graduated, we got married two weeks after graduation and we were looking for a place for me to go to seminary, and for us to work and, you know, start our careers off. I found that they were looking for someone to help with social media at Lifeway Christian Resources, which I’d never really heard of, only vaguely in passing as like they ran some bookstores at conferences I’d been to, but I didn’t grow up around any Lifeway bookstores or anything like that. And so I saw that Ed Stetzer, who was a writer and thinker that I had read his blog all through college, was hiring someone to run his social media. And I was like, well, looking at the job description, I can meet the requirements on paper. They’re probably not looking for a twenty-two-year-old kid right out of college, but hey, we’re not finding any great other job prospects. My wife and I were actually living in a camper at a Christian campground for the first three months of our marriage, in Michigan, where a bunch of our friends were working. And they were just kind of giving us this camper, we had none of our wedding gifts, you know, none of that. we were just living in this camper on a Christian campground for the summer while we try to figure out where we were going in the fall. And I was like, well, we haven’t had really great job prospects in Louisville or Chicago, so, well, I’ll just put my resume in at this place and they’re probably not going to call me back. I didn’t even tell my wife because I was so, it was such a long shot. Long story short, I probably should have told my wife because they got back to me right away and said, hey, we really want to talk. And I eventually made it to Lifeway running retting Ed Stetzer’s social media and helping to edit blogs and all that kind of stuff.
Chris Martin: [00:04:32] So that was my first job at Lifeway that brought us to Nashville, which I had never been to before, before I interviewed at Lifeway. We moved to Nashville in 2013, I worked until about 2016 for Ed, when he went off to Wheaton College to do what he’s doing there now. And when I was there, I helped build the blog and social media platform of Eric Geiger, who’s a pastor in California now. And he was just the Vice President at Lifeway at the time, kind of overseeing all of their books and Bible studies, but really the main portion of Lifeway’s business is what Eric was overseeing. And he wrote a lot on Christian leadership in the business world, and the local church, and in the home. And so my friend Trayvon Wax and I, we coached Eric on how to be a more efficient content creator on the Internet, how to create better blog content in a shorter period of time, and then how to promote that effectively online. And we really helped him kind of have an explosion of content, like we went from writing one piece a week to five, and went from getting 15 thousand page views a month to about 70000 page views a month.
Chris Martin: [00:05:33] And they said, hey, you know, Stetzer’s leaving, you might go Pastor, or if we can convince you, maybe you can stay here and coach authors on how to develop their online content in the same way you’ve helped Eric. And I said, man, that sounds great. And so I stuck around it Lifeway from starting in 2016 after Ed moved on, and I was coaching up to 20 to 24 authors at any given time on how to develop a relationship with their readers in between book launches or events and things like that. Because a lot of authors are good at promoting their books, or promoting their events, often because marketing people who work for the publisher that they’re working with are helping them. But a lot of authors, to their credit, frankly, don’t spend a lot of time on social media in between book launches because they’re busy writing or speaking or just living life. And so my job was to kind of help them create helpful online content in between their product launches, or their events, so, that they would maintain a relationship with their readers when they weren’t launching a product. Which would not only help them launch their next product but what would help them deepen their relationship to their readers and do ministry online. Because I think it was kind of, at the time, I was sort of saying I think it’s kind of incumbent upon you with the gifts you have to steward those gifts in the digital space, I don’t think you get to just ignore that. And so I really enjoyed that job, I could have done that job for the rest of my life, it’s my favorite job I’ve ever had. I mean, I really like the one I’m doing now, but it was so fun. I just got to work with authors, and it was like I loved it because they all had tremendous gifts that they could exercise offline very effectively, but when it came to exercising them online, they felt a little like their hands were tied behind their back. Like they didn’t really know how to, how do my gifts of writing a book or writing a Bible study, how does that translate to Twitter or Instagram or podcasting? And I know that part, and so I got to use the gifts God has given me and understanding how online content strategy works, and make the most of the gifts God has given them in their offline, you know, Bible study, or book writing, or speaking engagements, that kind of stuff. So I loved it, it was really, really fun.
Chris Martin: [00:07:46] I did that for a couple of years, and then, I did a couple of things simultaneously, I’ll just summarize my last two or three years of Lifeway. I was overseeing all of social media strategy, so eventually, they said, hey, what you’re doing with authors is really good, but we’ve realized that we need some more social media strategy, and online content strategy cohesion, across our organization. Lifeway, at the time, was a very large organization with still all of their bookstores open, 170 bookstores, etc. And they said we could use some better kind of synergy in our digital marketing, and social media online content, across the organization. Would you kind of help be that linchpin to bring all of our various and different manifestations of online content, kind of help us all start running in the same direction? And so I spent the last three years or so that I was at Lifeway, from roughly 2017-2018 to 2020 in September when I left, leading online content strategy, specifically in the area of like social media, and like blogger, or our long-form content. So I oversaw about 60 social media managers, they were marketing specialists who were doing a lot more than just social media management. But I would meet with all 60 of them in a given month, I had many, many meetings, and would meet with them and try to coach them on how to do social media more effectively. Because some of them were good at it, and some of them would they would admit it was not second nature to them, that was the hardest part of their job. You know, maybe they are good at marketing, but they weren’t very good at social and digital content beyond their emails or vice versa. And so, I would meet with and lead about 60 social media managers who oversaw roughly two hundred social media accounts, and part of my job was to…One of the first things I did, is I said we need to reduce the number of accounts we have going on here. So that’s the last thing I did at Lifeway.
Chris Martin: [00:09:38] In September of 2020, I decided to leave Lifeway and join Moody Publishers. Moody Publishers is a Christian publisher like Crossway, like Lifeway where B&H is the book publisher of Lifeway, based out of Chicago. Obviously, associated with Moody Bible Institute, which is a large, among the larger Christian Bible colleges. It’s not a Christian liberal arts school like Taylor, it’s more focused on biblical education missions, etc…So Moody Bible Institute is the larger organization, within Moody Bible Institute you have the institute which is the school, you have Moody Radio which is the largest non-music Christian radio station and network of stations in the country, and then Moody Publishers which is a book publisher. They publish a number of great authors, Trillia Newbell, Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages, is published through Moody Publishers, and so a lot of great books coming out of Moody Publishers. And so, I joined them in a content marketing editor role, which is a role they also created. I’ve worked in a lot of jobs over time that were created for me, which I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But this job, they interviewed me for a different job and said we really like you for the job you interviewed for, but we also really like you for this job that we’ve been wanting to create, but we haven’t been able to find the…
Bart Blair: [00:10:59] Oh, we lost him. Fros.
Chris Martin: [00:11:05] Make publishing.
Bart Blair: [00:11:08] Hey, Chris, you’re breaking up on this here. Hang on a sec. OK. Chris, are you there?
Chris Martin: [00:11:24] Ok, I’m back, I don’t know what happened, I saw freezing, sorry.
Bart Blair: [00:11:29] Yeah, you
Chris Martin: [00:11:29] Froze. What did you we can we can edit that. What did. Yeah. What did you last hear me say.
Bart Blair: [00:11:34] Why don’t you go back to. They wanted to hire me for a position they wanted to create.
Chris Martin: [00:11:41] Ok, I was interviewing for another position at Moody Publishers and they said you’re really great for the position you’ve interviewed for, but what about this position we’ve been wanting to create but haven’t been able to find the best person for it? And I said, you know, that sounds really fun. And so I hopped into what they call Content Marketing Editor. So I assumed the publishing team at Moody, and help make the decisions for what we’re going to publish or not publish on pub the board, which is traditionally what it’s called, pub board, at these publishers. So, I sit on that team, and then also I help with content marketing or online digital content efforts at Moody. They have an entire team on the marketing team proper that does that, but I sit on the publishing team with like one foot in publishing and one foot in marketing. Which is exactly kind of how my brain works, which is why I love this role that I get to do.
Chris Martin: [00:12:33] And the biggest project I’m working on, which I’ll kind of tease here with you guys is, I’m working on this website, I’m not going to reveal the name yet because that would be letting the cat out of the bag. But later this year, in September, hopefully, I’m working with a really great web design agency, who has designed a number of the best Christian websites around, to create a really rich resource library of content that will encourage biblical literacy for people at all stages of their walks with Christ. So, if you were to Google something today, like why did Jesus have to die, or what does the Bible say about marriage, or a lot of these common questions that people Google, whether they’re non-Christians or their pastors, a lot of people Google these sorts of things. Many of the websites that will come up when you Google such things, maybe they are trustworthy, but you’ve never heard of this organization or this website. Like who runs Bible Study Tools, or Got Questions, or so many of these common sites that pop up.
Bart Blair: [00:13:38] Wikipedia.
Chris Martin: [00:13:39] Right. Right.
Bart Blair: [00:13:40] Wikipedia is almost always on the top.
Chris Martin: [00:13:42] Exactly, and I genuinely think Google is one of the most vital mission fields we have available to us today. And so given the mission of Moody Bible Institute to encourage biblical literacy among students, and among the world through the radio programs, and through publishing, we decided let’s create a content hub on the Internet. And look, for good and for ill, for positive and negative, everything I do, I’m bent on world domination. OK? So, that’s good and bad, but I’m like insatiably competitive, like with myself. Like I set really hard goals, and I try to meet them with myself in all things, whether it’s like fitness, or reading or writing, or projects like this. And so like if you, I want this site we’re creating to be the top result in Google for some of the most common questions people are Googling regarding Christianity and the Scriptures, sometime in my in the rest of my career. I plan to do this for the rest of my life, who knows if that will happen or not. But I hope that when we launch this site, and over time, we can create a resource that whether you’re a non-Christian who’s maybe trying to look for something that’s disproving Christianity, or you’re a pastor just looking for some resources to kind of accompany or sermon on Sunday, that we can create a resource that’s devoted to help people learn about the Bible, engage with the Bible, and love the Bible more, and the God of the Bible, specifically. And so that’s kind of the foundation of the site.
Bart Blair: [00:15:09] Chris, I want to double-click on that for just a second, you bring up an interesting point. The conversations that Jason and I have with churches on a pretty regular basis is Google, ‘who is Jesus’, and see what websites come up. And obviously, you’re going to, you’re eventually going to have world domination on that space, but in the meantime, until you get there, Jason and I are trying to get churches to work on creating more and better content for their websites, SEO rich content because we’d love to see people landing on more church websites. We think, we believe, I mean, as great as schools like Moody are, that the local church is ultimately, it’s the local authority on Jesus and the spiritual questions. So, why don’t you break down, and maybe try to put it in the context of understanding who our listeners are, executive pastors, church communications directors, you’re going to create a content hub that you plan to dominate in Google search. What are the things that you have to do from a technical standpoint, what do you have to do to dominate that space? What do you have to do to show up in Google’s Google searches?
Chris Martin: [00:16:24] Well, I’m intimidated to answer this question in front of you guys because it sounds like you’re the experts. So, I’m relearning SEO as we get this site ready to launch, now, I know that the organization we’re working with is baking in a number of tools that will help us from a technical standpoint, make sure that SEO stuff happens. So I know that the organization we’re working with, who I don’t want to name because, you know, they haven’t publicly named they’re working with us either. But I know that they, that search at the top of their mind. And I know from conversations, part of the reason we decided to work with them, is because they bake tools into the websites, that they create from scratch, to help with search specifically. And so I know that tools are important in technical aspects of how you build out your WordPress site, or whatever other kind of build you’re going to build, but making sure you have the correct tools in place is important.
Chris Martin: [00:17:19] What I’ve found, because like I said, I’ve been doing a lot of research on SEO. Back when I used to create content in 2010, 11, 12, I was sure that when I looked up new SEO guidelines, or new SEO trends, in the last six months or so, that I was going to find something dramatically different than what I saw in 2010 through 2012. And I was surprised, honestly, by how similar the strategy is from 2010-12, compared to today. I thought surely there was some new way to, not game the system, but a new way to play the SEO game. And frankly, what I found, what I found and I could be wrong, so you guys seem to be the experts, you can correct me here, is that it’s a lot less about gaming the system and a lot more about creating content that people want. And so where keyword padding and all these other kinds of strategies used to be more popular, and you used to figure out ways to trick Google to float your site to the top in ways that were maybe less than savvy and less and sort of.
Jason Hamrock: [00:18:20] More black hat.
Chris Martin: [00:18:20] Yeah, more black hat and sort of shady. Today, you can’t really trick Google as easily as you used to be able to. And it’s a lot more about headings, and titles, and making sure that you organize your content in effective ways. Rather, which I’m all about, like, I’ve been about that for a long time, is back when I was working with authors more from a user experience perspective, like, it serves your readers if you organize your content effectively. And what I, kind of the perspective I’ve come away with is, just treat Google like it’s a reader, because it is, I mean, when it comes down to it. So I would say to any pastors or communications folks listening, I mean, do your research because there are like H3 headings, making sure that like some certain technical aspects of your content are organized correctly is really important. But it’s a lot more about creating a lot of content that people want to engage with than it is about tips and tricks. And what I found, and this is more in social media, but I think you guys would probably agree that this applies to SEO as well, when you get obsessed with like tips, and tricks, and like the little tweaks, that is more often to me a sign of someone who’s being lazy than it is a sign of someone who’s trying to do the work. Little tweaks, and making sure you have the right stuff in your titles, and your headings, and organizing your content so that Google can read it and float it to the top effectively is important. Like those little tips and tricks, as you might call them, are really good. But when it comes down to it, you’ve just got to sit down and create content, you’ve just gotta. Like at some point, we can talk strategy all day, but eventually, you’re going to have to start creating thousands of words of content and hundreds of pieces of content, otherwise, your tips and tricks don’t really matter.
Jason Hamrock: [00:20:08] So let me…Yeah, you’re exactly right, that’s right. I mean, and the thing is, church, you guys are creating that content every week, you’re just not optimizing it the right way.
Chris Martin: [00:20:18] Yeah
Jason Hamrock: [00:20:18] And it makes all the difference in Google. So, Chris, when you were doing that with like Eric, like you’re, you know, he’s creating content, so he’s the guy that’s pushing this stuff out. How are you, or what were you doing, to take it and put it into social for people to absorb and digest? Like, well, what did that look like? What would you do?
Chris Martin: [00:20:39] Sure. So to go from end to end, because I think what we did in order to get Eric to create content is incredibly important as well. So so Eric was like, I’m writing one piece a week, guys, there’s no way I could be creating five pieces of content a week. Like, and I mean, in a sense, I agreed because I was helping, like, handhold him through that one piece of content a week. And to get him to five, at first I was like, I don’t know how we’re going to do this. And so what we did, is we said, OK, well, one piece a week on Wednesdays will be submitted by other teams within Lifeway, that’ll be like we’re going to feature Lifeway Resource. His blog was run by Lifeway on Lifeway dollars, he wanted to make sure that he’s pushing people to Lifeway resources and content. So I said Wednesday is taken care of, Friday is like a curated links post to some of the best content he’s read throughout the week. He would send me those links, I’d organize them in a document into WordPress, and we’d share those links on Friday. So really, what we had is three original pieces of content a week, so make that 12 pieces a month. Once a month, usually around like the first week of the month, or sometimes the last week of the month, looking forward to the month, Trevan and I would go to lunch with Eric, and often at Saint Añejo’s in Nashville’s wonderful Mexican place, we go over Guauc. I’d come with roughly 15 to 20 blog post ideas, titles, I’d come with titles. I’m really good at titling blog content, that’s like one of my, like, weird things. I’d come with like 15 to 20 blog post titles of things that I could see him writing based on meetings I’d been in with him, where he would talk about some leadership principles, or books I knew he was reading, that he would also often have some of his people who work for him reading, things that I had read in books that he had written, or I’d go to some of his, like, top blog content from the last month or two and say, oh, is there another angle we can do on this topic on Three Ways You Know That You’re Meeting Should Have Been An Email. Is there a way that we can do, three ways, you know, your email should have been a meeting. You know, I’d like kind of pitch other angles. So I’d come with, like, a menu of 20 different ideas, he would go through at lunch with this document I printed out and like X through or circle ones that he liked or didn’t like, and we’d settle on 12 for the month. And then we just kind of like talk about it as conversation fodder over lunch, and it would allow him to think through a lot of this content that wasn’t out of left field for him, again because I was pulling it from things I’d heard him say in meetings or whatever, you know, I’d listen. I’d be always, this is something a piece of advice for people listening, if part of your responsibility is content creation for your church or your ministry organization, you have to look at the world through the lens of content creation. Like everything, whether you’re reading a book, listening to a sermon, listening to a podcast, everything you hear should be heard or read through the lens of how can I turn this into a piece of content for myself, like from my own angle. And so we were kind of turning Eric into that, eventually, like toward the end, we weren’t even having to pitch ideas to him, like he was coming up with ideas on his own because we kind of trained him how to be a content creator.
Chris Martin: [00:23:46] To your question more pointedly on social media. So, Eric, I never wrote a word of content for Eric. Eric would write all of his content, deliver it to me. I would load into WordPress, find a relevant image, and usually, he was working off of a title I already came up with. Oh, and here’s a, so the reason the menu that I gave him was so important is, because when he would sit down on a Friday afternoon for two hours, instead of like piddling around and work…Because the most terrifying thing to any blogger, whether you’re a professional author or not, is sitting down in front of a blank WordPress screen not knowing where to start, like, that’s incredibly terrifying. But he would sit down in front of his WordPress screen on a Friday afternoon, which is when he did most of his writing, and he would have a list of 12 different ideas that he already approved that he knows he likes. And he would just pick one, bang out a blog post in 30 minutes, because if he already knew what he was going to write and it was something kind of based on something you said in a meeting last Friday, well, he can bang out 700 words in 30 minutes on that no problem. And so that made his content creation much more efficient, which is the only way he was able to create more than he was before.
Chris Martin: [00:24:51] But the fact that he saw more blog posts page views when he was creating more content is not a coincidence, so creating more content is incredibly important. How that translated to social media is, I think our social media, honestly, I think our social media strategy is fine, it would not work as well today. But back then we were basically, on every day, we had a new piece of blog post, which was Monday through Friday. The entire day would be on Twitter, which is his most, he got his most engagement on Twitter most of the time until Facebook Live came out, and that was huge, we did a really good job on Facebook Live, which we can talk about in a minute. But Twitter is where he got his most engagement, so Twitter, we would just post like six or eight tweets to the same blog posts all day. Now, I would not advise that today, but back in 2014, 15, 16, that was working just fine, like we were getting tons of hits from Twitter. And then Facebook, we would just post once or twice. Usually what I would do is I would post the new post in the morning, and an archived post in the evening, and not post the same thing back to back on Facebook, because at the time the Facebook algorithm was penalizing you if you posted the same thing back to back. So, and then eventually we did Facebook Live when Facebook Live came out, that is, in my opinion, really what made the blog explode, because we did a really good job with Facebook Live. But yeah. so that kind of thing.
Jason Hamrock: [00:26:16] Yeah. Yeah. You said something that’s really important for our listeners, often churches create content and it’s meant to be preached to their congregation on some given Sunday. But what they don’t do is they don’t take the appropriate steps to create it for content to be consumed by people outside their church in settings like how-tos or something like that, they don’t work in a way. And that’s what you’re saying, like you got Eric thinking, oh, no, don’t think about as you preach to people, but more like how do you let somebody absorb content? Is that correct?
Chris Martin: [00:26:52] Yeah, yeah. Like if I were, which I don’t run content strategy at a church. But if I were running content strategy at a church, I would, like, take the sermon on Sunday, and I would have like a, if your pastor runs off a manuscript, I mean attaching that as a PDF or whatever is always very helpful. But I would figure out how many pieces of blog posts, like bloggy content, whether it’s like listicles, or like easily consumable bullet pointy he kind of bloggy pieces of content can we pull out of this one cornerstone piece of content that is the sermon. So could each point be its own post throughout the week that we could create? That’s more tailored, wordsmith it, organize it in such a way that it’s consumable by a broader audience. Rather than just like copy-pasting the entire transcript or the manuscript into your WordPress, I mean, that’s fine, like including that stuff can be helpful, but I think, yeah, right, at a minimum is exactly right. But I think if you can kind of chip off a bunch of pebbles of content from that cornerstone, it can be really helpful to have, like you said, content that’s, you take something that’s created for an offline audience specifically, I mean through covid I guess it was an online audience as well. But you’ve created a piece of content that was for a specific audience that’s really long form, probably 30 to 60 minutes or whatever, and now how can you reform and repurpose that content into something that’s more consumable in a way that people prefer to consume content on the Internet? Because that’s like, one of the biggest mistakes I see on social media all the time on a smaller scale than what we’re talking about, [inaudible] is when the strategy that is either because of overwork or just straight laziness, where people create the same piece of content for every social media platform and don’t tailor it either to what the platform needs, like Instagram is much more image-heavy than Twitter, obviously, so like making sure your content is tailored to Instagram is really important. Or most people have a platform preference, so even like, you know, First Baptist Church, Nashville, I’m not calling them out, First Baptist Church wherever you live, or whatever church you’re in. My church is called City Church, so let’s just use City Church. City Church Instagram content may not be consumed by the same people who consume City Church Twitter content, and the content should be adapted as a result. And the same goes for your church and every piece of content you create, adapt it appropriately, I think is really important.
Bart Blair: [00:29:24] So in that context, the purpose of social media, I want to kind of peel back this layer again. So you were working with Eric, you’re working with Ed Stetzer, you’re working with authors who are creating content that is intended to be consumed on a website, right, it’s posted, published on a website. What’s the role of social media as it relates to that content?
Chris Martin: [00:29:51] Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think, depending on the audience and the creator, social media will be one of the primary ways people come to see that that content exists. So I’ve joked before that, like, if you write a blog post and it’s like it could be one of the most profound blog posts anyone’s ever read if you don’t social that content appropriately, it may as well not exist. Like if you don’t get that content out on social media in an appropriate way for your audience, nobody will find it. Now, obviously, Google can and in that kind of thing, but that often takes time and a good bit of attention or cross-linking and all that. And so I think for us, like for when I was running Social for those guys, social media was our primary source of traffic. Eventually, I think for Stetzer, search engine traffic started to get more close to even with search traffic. But especially, like, if you’re creating content that is timely in any manner, social is much more important than search in terms of timeliness. For instance, [inaudible] when I was at Lifeway, I created a website called Lifeway Voices toward the end of my time there, and the whole point was, let’s create a website where Lifeway authors can comment on current events and cultural issues that were going on at the time. And I said, well, social media has to be our number one priority in terms of marketing this content, like getting this content out into the world, because social media is where people go to interact with ideas based on current events and cultural issues. And so I got a significant marketing budget that I just dumped into Facebook, and that’s how we got a significant amount of attention to our website because we had no email list. Now, I could use other email lists within Lifeway, but I had no dedicated email list for this new site that we created back in 2017. And so I had to rely on Facebook, I had to rely on Facebook Ads to get into audiences who didn’t know who we were or what we were doing. And we would boost our content to audiences that we think would be interested based on whatever the content was, or what the issue was we were talking about, or things like that.
Jason Hamrock: [00:32:13] That makes sense. OK, I was just going to ask, so if I’m a church and you’re curating this content that was preached on Sunday, and throughout the week you’re taking it and you’re doing multiple blog posts from it, and you’re pushing it on the social. You’re actually boosting it, or doing a paid campaign to drive traffic, not only to see that but then drive them back to the blog post. That was your strategy?
Chris Martin: [00:32:37] Yeah, in part. I think especially, when you’re starting out like Facebook, man, we could talk Facebook’s strategy for like all afternoon, but more and more like there’s never been a harder time to start a Facebook strategy, like a Facebook content strategy. It’s not, people will say Facebook is pay to play, and like you have to pay in order to get any attention. I think that’s only true if your content’s really bad. I do think that that paying is important, now, I don’t think it’s the only way that you can get attention and reach on Facebook, but I do think it is a good strategy. And I think especially as you’re getting started, paying is very important. So for anyone who’s unaware, I mean, the reason I think Facebook… Facebook is my least favorite social media platform in existence for a number of reasons, but it’s the most important for most people listening to this podcast, probably. When I say Facebook, I do mean Facebook and Instagram, because in terms of content and ad boosting and things like that, it’s kind of the same thing from a strategy standpoint. So you have to spend money on Facebook a lot of times when you’re getting started because it’s like kindling in getting a fire going. You can start a fire without kindling, it’s just a lot harder and a lot more work and takes a lot more time, but spending twenty, like when I’m advising authors, especially those who don’t have big marketing budgets or whatever, I’m like, man, if you can just spend 20 bucks a week. What I did at Lifeway when I was running their Facebook page, because, in addition to overseeing all those social media managers, I was the one actually creating content for the main Lifeway Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I oversaw the woman who did that. And when I kind of took over the Lifeway Facebook page, it was virtually dead, it had over 300,000 followers and likes, but the engagement was almost non-existent because the person who had been running it beforehand was largely posting promos to events, coupons for things in the store, and that stuff just doesn’t get engagement on Facebook because Facebook actively suppresses that promotional kind of content and people just don’t like that kind of stuff. And so what I did, is I did two really important things. One, I started creating Bible verse share squares is what I call them, I don’t know what everyone else calls them. You know, you see them on Instagram or Facebook all the time, these square images, often with a nice background or whatever, with a Bible verse superimposed over the top of them. And we were launching a new Bible version at Lifeway at the time, the Christian Standard Bible, and so it was kind of a nice like we can promote this new Bible version and create social media content that’s aesthetically pleasing.
Bart Blair: [00:35:24] Froze again. Wait for it. There you are. And Ribbeck.
[00:35:42] Can hear us.
Bart Blair: [00:35:44] No, I don’t think he can. That’s weird.
Chris Martin: [00:35:47] I’m back, I’m back. Sorry that you’re back. Whenever this happens, it’s like my my headphones disconnect. So I also have to, like, reconnect. I don’t know what’s going on. This never happens. I’m so sorry.
Bart Blair: [00:35:58] Ok, let’s back up to launching it. You’re launching a new version of the Bible and creating square shares.
Chris Martin: [00:36:04] Share squares.
Chris Martin: [00:36:07] So, OK, so we were launching a new version of the Bible, the Christian Standard Bible, and we were looking for better organic Facebook content at the same time, like content people would actually like to see on their Facebook feed. And so I said, well, what if we start creating this Bible verse share squares, these, you see on Instagram or Facebook all the time, the square images with the nice aesthetic background and a Bible verse to encourage people. And I said we don’t have any room in our Facebook calendar right now really, I don’t want to bump any of our content out, so let’s just run them at midnight every night and see what happens, just as like a test. So we started running Bible verse share squares at midnight a few years ago at Lifeway, and they were our most engaged piece of content immediately, like hundreds of likes, dozens of comments, and shares, and all that. And it was like, holy cow, this the best engagement we’ve gotten on content in years. And so it became like I had a graphic designer, I paid a graphic designer to create three hundred and sixty five of these things to run every day of the year. And what happened was, what we did from there is that content, what that did in the Facebook algorithm and its mind I guess you could say, is that started to make our page feel relevant again in terms of the algorithm, so it started delivering other pieces, like everyone who is engaging with that content was getting other pieces of our content that they hadn’t been receiving before. And so it was kind of, if you will allow me to use this crass term, it was like the gateway drug back into our Facebook page for a lot of people. Like people love to see Bible verse share squares, so they would engage with those, and then they’d get our posts the next morning on this new women’s event we were doing, or this new book we are launching, or whatever else. But if we wouldn’t have introduced that new piece of content that people actually like, Facebook would have never thought to serve that next piece of content up to them.
Chris Martin: [00:37:55] At the same time, a similar thing we introduced was boosting of content, rather than just promotions of events or books or etc. So I established a budget of like three hundred dollars a week or something like that, and every Friday I would go back and find our two best posts from the last week, like best performing, like best engagement, that weren’t Bible verse share squares, that were other ones. And I would boost those to posts that were organic originally, you know, maybe they had 30 comments and 20 shares or whatever and like, ok, these are our best two posts from through the week, let’s boost them to relevant audiences for the next seven days, and the next Friday we’ll do it again. And what that content did then, obviously, was it got us into people’s feeds through the paid avenue, but it was content that was…Because they already, they had already performed well organically, it was content that I knew was interesting to people. And what I learned through that, and I guess Church’s listening could take this is, this is a point I had down to talk about later for one of your other questions you asked, Bart, but one of the most important things anyone can do on social media strategy that I think is too often overlooked, is to care much more about what your audience and what your followers are interested in than what you are interested in as a church, or an organization, or whatever else. Because when it comes down to it, you’re competing as a church, or as a Christian organization, whoever you are listening to, your competition on social media is with the biggest entertainment giants in the world because you’re competing for attention. So Budweiser is famous for saying that their primary competitor is not Miller Lite or whatever else, it’s water because they’re competing for throat volume. Netflix has said their biggest competitor is not HBO Max, or Hulu, Netflix’s biggest competitor is sleep because they’re competing for time. Churches and ministry organizations who I consult with regularly are kind of flabbergasted by the idea that they’re competing with YouTube, and some of the most active Instagram influencers out there, or TikTok these days, or whatever else. But you are, so churches listening, ministry organizations listening, you have to create content that your people actually want to read or watch, not just that you think is interesting. Now, it’s important for you to post your announcement about your big summer blast to get together coming up, or your fall men’s retreat, or like notifying people of those things that you’re excited about, that’s all good. That’s like, that stuff’s important, but it should be a significantly small portion of the content from a social media strategy perspective and from an online content strategy perspective. If all you ever do is use social media as a virtual bulletin board, people are going to tune you out like they tune out all the other stuff that’s a virtual bulletin board on social media. [inaudible] Exactly, and Facebook will recognize it, and then you’re content to just get suppressed because Facebook wants to deliver. Like, here’s how Facebook works, is Facebook wants to make money, which is…
Bart Blair: [00:41:13] Really, really, are you sure about that?
Chris Martin: [00:41:18] And hey, look, in our free capitalist democracy, that is a totally legitimate reason for business to exist. So Facebook wants to make money, the primary way they make money is by delivering, is by keeping people on the platform. The way they keep people on the platform is by delivering content that’s most interesting to people. And if your Facebook page, church, or ministry organization, is delivering content that based on the engagement metrics is not interesting to people, they’re going to make your content appear less frequently than other Facebook pages that are demonstrating their content is more interesting to people. And so whatever you can do as a church to create content that your followers actually are interested in, the better off your social media strategy will be. I’m not saying you need to, like, start posting cat videos like goofy cat videos or whatever, funniest home videos kind of stuff. But if there’s a big, you know, kind of current event issue going on in your city that, you know, people in your church are interested in and are concerned about, create content around that in as much as it affects your church and it is important, not just some random thing about an event that six months away that you want to let people know is happening. So anyway, that’s a little bit of a rant, but Facebook’s strategy is super important in that regard. And knowing how Facebook works and knowing that what your audience cares about is more important than anything, I think is really important.
Jason Hamrock: [00:42:43] Well, I’m going to just go one layer deeper, because a lot of people will look at social media and say it’s evil, everything on there is evil, and it’s filling the minds, and they have an agenda, and all that kind of stuff. And my answer to them is going, well, then if it was built for evil, you need to put good into it, you need to put light into it, you need to fill it with biblical things, things that are going to point them to God, and that’s how you combat that. And you have to, like your to your point, you have to be creative and strategic about what you put on there, not just post something because you’ve got this event coming up in two days. And boy, what you just said there I think churches take to heart because not only absorb what Chris just said but implement it because you’ve got to have some kind of a strategy. We get asked all the time, you know, can you help us create a strategy? I mean, what you just said, that’s it.
Chris Martin: [00:43:44] Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, like, I do a bit of like social media and digital content consulting with folks, churches, authors, that kind of thing. And like I said earlier, I can start, like, when I enter into a consulting relationship with someone, I’ll say, you know, I don’t get anyone under a contract, I’m like, I’m here for six weeks, six months, six years, however long you need my help, I’m happy to help you. But one of the most common obstacles I run into with folks that I consult is we’ll talk strategy for four months, you know, we’ll have four meetings and talk strategy for four hours. And then in month five, maybe we’ll get together and I’ll say, hey, we talked strategy, we got you a content plan, we talked about how you’re going to post to Facebook twice a day for five days a week or whatever, and so has been going? And they’ll say, well, we just didn’t get around to it. And that’s where the most common problem I run into is someone who’s done kind of content marketing consulting with churches over the years, and with pastors, et cetera, is folks just don’t want to do the work. You’ve got to do the work, you can talk strategy until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t create content, it doesn’t matter. And so, you can pull all the right levers and do all the tips and tricks on Facebook or whatever else, but if you aren’t creating the content, if you’re creating two pieces of Facebook content every week, it doesn’t matter what levers you pull, it’s just not going to make a dent.
Bart Blair: [00:45:04] Well, Chris, we’ve got to wrap up because we’re out of time. I wasn’t joking, I have a whole lot of questions. I have questions about email that we’re not even going to get into here, because as a content marketer, and I know because I get your emails, emails are also a big part of our content distribution. And we’re going to schedule another conversation to kind of pick up on this and talk about some other things. Before we sign off here, I would, I’ve mentioned your podcast and I’ve mentioned your email, why don’t you just take a second to share with our listeners the content that you’re creating, how they can learn more about what you’re doing, how they can follow you online and connect with you if they want to connect with you?
Chris Martin: [00:45:51] Sure. So, I’m on a podcast called Social Qs where we talk about just all kinds of social media questions, both related to culture and also strategy, a lot of what we talked about here. We’re taking a summer break because we all, like all three of us who host the podcast, have a lot going on this summer, so…But you can find it anywhere you find podcasts, Social Qs as in like the letter Q as in questions. But then I write a twice-weekly newsletter called, sometimes three times weekly newsletter called, Terms of Service through Substack, you can find it at https://www.termsofservice.social. I have a book coming out called Terms of Service with B&H publishing in February. And there, I do a little bit of strategy there, but most of my writing there is more on the kind of the big picture, social media culture, what social media doing to us and how is it affecting us in ways maybe we don’t realize. So I do a good bit of like introspection, and let’s pay attention to how social media is changing how we live because I think a lot of times we just don’t pay attention to that kind of stuff, so, that’s where I do a good bit of that writing. You can find me on social media Twitter I’m @ChrisMartin17, I’m currently exercising a bit of a healthy, more healthy relationship with Twitter, so if you try to DM me or anything there, I probably don’t see it. But I’m on LinkedIn, or wherever else, and you can find me on those places as well.
Bart Blair: [00:47:08] Awesome. Chris, thanks a ton for hanging out with us today. I’m following you, I’m learning a lot from the stuff that you guys are creating from your podcast, it’s awesome. We’ll link to those, all that stuff, in our show notes here. And again, thanks for hanging out with us today.
Chris Martin: [00:47:23] Sure. Sure. Thanks, guys. Talk to you soon.