Counting Worship Attendance in a Virtual World and More
Counting virtual attendance is much different than counting worship attendance in a facility. There are numbers to track for different reasons than “attendance” and there are numbers to report. It also depends on which platform or platforms you are using. It is worth your effort to track your “attendance” and your “reach.”
ZOOM attendance. Count the literal number of attendees. There is a list of participants that will give you the names and number of individual devices in use. You might have 2 people watching on one screen so be sure to count them both. Ask attendees to participate by saying hello and where they are from when they arrive. You might invite people to use the chat to list prayer requests or praises, which will also help you capture names. Pastors, have a church volunteer help you with attendance. You can focus on the service and they can count the people.
FACEBOOK LIVE: There are several numbers worth tracking for different purposes. They do not all equate to “attendance.” The best number to count for “attendance” is the total number of unique individuals who share, comment and/or like. Note, it is not the simple addition of these numbers as one person might “like,” “comment” and “share” it. You have to look at the names.
“Views” does NOT equate to attendance for the purposes of MCC reports or for your best attendance records as someone might “view” the live feed or replay for 1 minute. That’s browsing not attending. Views can vary widely based on the Facebook algorithm and the post’s position in the news feed. For example, the more comments your post has the more it shows up in the news feed so the more “views” it will receive.
Views should be kept as an indicator of your “reach.” Are you growing the number of people the church/service/live feed reaches? Track your “views” two times: immediately at the end of your live stream and again at the end of one week. This will give you the number of people who viewed it live and the number who caught the replay. This might tell you if the number of people “viewing” the live event is growing or whether your larger “reach” is through replay. It might say something about the timing of your live event. Notice the correlation to the number of comments and the topic. This is invaluable feedback for pastors!
Engagement is our goal. We want to catch the interest of someone who is browsing and views a minute or 2 of a service. We want to capture their interest to listen longer. We want to move them to engagement and choose to like, comment or share. For your own purposes, track the number of “likes” (including hearts) and track the number of “comments” and the number of “shares.” These reactions reflect levels of engagement. A “like” is the easiest. It takes more involvement to write a comment. The highest level of engagement is choosing to share the post on your own page. These are important metrics in a virtual world but they do not equate to traditional church worship attendance.
YouTube Live: Again, count the number of “views” immediately after the live stream and at the end of one week. The attendance is the first number while the second measures your reach. You might check the detailed metrics and set a standard for yourself of only counting people who watch for a set minimum length of time. If you post a recorded service at a set advertised time rather than a live stream, count the views as above. If you post a recorded service at varying times, set a standard length of time such as 24 hours from the post to count the views. Setting a standard that is followed is key. While YouTube also allows for comments, these are not as widely used as Facebook comments.
How do you follow up on virtual attenders?
On Zoom, consider asking people to “register” for the virtual service rather than publishing the link. Once they register, people will get the link and password. This adds to your security and allows you to capture their name, email address even physical address and phone if you wish just as if you had passed visitor cards or attendance registers. You now have contact information with which to follow up on attendees.
On Facebook, click on the icon/name of the person who likes, comments or shares your feed. If they are not already a “friend” of your (personal) page or have “liked” your church page you can friend them or send them a request to like your page. You can message them with a “thanks for attending.” You have the ability to do virtual follow-up or pastoral care (from the prayer requests) with all these contacts. It is important to “like” or give a “heart” on any comments on FB so that people know you have read their comment. It furthers the engagement relationship.
On YouTube, you don’t know who viewed your service unless they left a comment. This is something you might consider in choosing your platform. YouTube is most helpful for posting your video live stream or recording in order to build your channel and link to your website. This is a great repository for your services. Be sure to title them (sermon title for example rather than just the date and church name) as these are searchable.
You might want to specifically watch for your members and past attendees in this virtual world. Tracking attendance by name will let you know if you are missing reaching people who previously were active in the congregation. Noting the names of returning virtual participants, especially those in your own area, are your prospective new members to connect to local ministries. This is the advent of determining what constitutes a Virtual Member and developing ways to spiritually develop and engage these people in ministry! More on this to come!