Reach more people online with YouTube and social media advertising.
In this webinar, we were joined by Dr. Hiram Rester to discuss what he learned from his own research on video advertising. He broke apart key elements and practical tips so that you can start creating your own video content today. You’ll learn how to record better videos and understand the main principles you need to follow to ensure your content is effective and engaging.
And for those of you who don’t have time to edit your own videos or manage ads, SermonView’s new YouTube advertising program is designed to increase your exposure in your own community. We’ll edit your videos, add text in the lower third, and upload your content to YouTube. We’ll also set up your campaign and carefully manage it to make sure you’re effectively reaching people online.
This is next-generation digital evangelism that builds credibility for you and your church through valuable content and resources. Above you’ll find the recording and here is the transcript of our conversation with Dr. Hiram Rester.
Larry: Welcome everybody, to today’s Webinar, “How to Create Engaging Video Ads”. To begin, I just want to say something about innovation.
At SermonView Evangelism Marketing, we used to be all about innovation. That’s what we cared about. But it didn’t take us long after we started the company 18 years ago, we realized that the goal was not innovation. The goal is effectiveness. If innovation does not actually help us be more effective, then that innovation is actually hindering, not helping. Today we’re focused on effectiveness over innovation. And over the last 18 years, we’ve written hundreds of newsletters and blog posts. We’ve done webinars and podcasts, and we’ve always focused on effectiveness, and today is actually the first time that we’re going to be talking with someone about something that’s really cutting edge. But the reason we’re doing it is because there’s data that is demonstrating effectiveness here. I really believe today that YouTube advertising is going to have a significant role in the future of evangelism marketing. So that’s why we’re kind of breaking one of our rules, and we’re talking about something truly innovative, but we’re doing it because I think that there are opportunities to be even more effective in our evangelism marketing using YouTube.
Today I’m talking with Dr. Hiram Rester. He’s the pastor of the Columbia Adventist Church in Columbia, Missouri, and is also an evangelist who’s conducted over 100 series over the course of his career. He recently earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Andrews University. And some of what we’re going to be talking about, he learned while working on his dissertation. He’s also the author of the cover story in the June 2023 issue of Ministry Magazine entitled, “Social Media Ad Base Video Outreach”. Hiram, welcome.
Hiram: I’m glad to be with you.
Larry: I don’t want to oversell this, but I do believe that Dr. Rester’s dissertation is one of those generational ideas that has the potential to shift how we do evangelism marketing. In fact, Hiram, as I’ve been working on my own PhD in strategic media, your dissertation has already had a big influence on the direction of my own research. I’ve already written two papers just in the last few months that cite your dissertation, and this semester, I’m working on my third and fourth research projects that are actually driven by your work. So this has been really impactful for me personally and for us here at Sermonview.
First of all, Hiram, tell us the problem that you were trying to solve here.
Hiram: Well, the problem is simple: Over the last couple of decades, especially the last number of years, we’ve faced diminishing returns when it comes to getting a crowd at our evangelistic meetings. Direct mail has not worked as well as it once did. We’ve gone from maybe preaching to crowds of 100 or more visitors, sometimes 200 or more visitors, to preaching to a couple of dozen people, if even that. This is particularly an issue when it comes to reaching the younger crowd. And so what do we do to get people out to meetings? What do we do to connect with folks? And what do we do especially to connect with the younger audience?
Larry: Okay, so in a nutshell, kind of give us the big picture of what you did with YouTube advertising.
Hiram: Well, what we wanted to do is take some concise videos because research shows that Millennials and Gen Z (our young adults today) prefer to receive their content, the information they gain as they interact with the world, via concise videos. So, we began to develop some concise videos that would be general gospel presentations and some teasers for Bible prophecy, and we wanted to put them on YouTube. We actually tried various forms of social media: YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. We ended up landing on YouTube as by far being the most effective in our research. And what we did is we boosted those videos as paid ads in our geographical location. And that was really what made the difference for us: the paid ads in our local area.
Larry: So I want to clarify something here. A lot of YouTube experts talk about things that you need to do to build your subscriber base, but that’s not what you’re talking about here.
Hiram: No, I am not really concerned with a subscriber base at all. With a subscriber base—let’s say you get, I don’t know, maybe 100,000 or 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, which we’ve got Adventist personalities that have that much and more—the challenge that you then find is they’re scattered around the planet. And when you get ready to do a live and local event, you may be lucky to find one or two in your local area. And so this bypasses that entirely where we used paid ads to put our content in front of folks within 20 miles of our church.
Larry: So instead of trying to build an audience, you’re just buying the audience that’s geographically located right near your church in your community.
Hiram: Yes, precisely.
Larry: Okay, so you did some testing, you did this testing as part of your dissertation. What were the results of this test?
Hiram: We started out primarily on Facebook and Instagram, and also put some stuff on TikTok and YouTube. Initially, we discovered that the views on Facebook were doing the best for us. And so we invested tons of money into Facebook “through plays”. It was about $30,800 we put into videos on Facebook. (We spent the kind of money on this that would be spent on a major evangelistic meeting to experiment and try to find what’s going to work.) Well, we initially eliminated Instagram as well as TikTok. And so we also eliminated YouTube because the videos that we were using were the “suggested next video feature” for them to click and watch, and it was costing more than twice as much as a view on Facebook. So we abandoned that. But then when we got near the end of our project, just a couple of months before the opening night of our live series that we were going to invite folks to, we came across some extra funding and as we looked at what to do, we decided to go back and experiment with YouTube again. And this time we used what’s termed as “skippable ads” the ones that play at the beginning of a YouTube video that you could skip after 5 seconds or they sometimes play in the middle of your video that you can skip after 5 seconds, or you can let play and that’s choosing to watch that ad.
When we experimented with those that’s when it really took off. We began to see views for half the rate on YouTube as what it was costing us on Facebook. In addition to that, the views were twice as long. A view on Facebook is called a “through play” (a Facebook term) and that’s 15 seconds. But a view on YouTube isn’t even counted as a view unless it hits 30 seconds or more (unless it’s the entirety of the video and let’s say it’s a 23-second video and they watch the whole thing, they’ll count it). And so as we did this advertising, we ended up with over 800,000 views in our area between Facebook and YouTube and that exceeds our local population by about five times, so we were definitely getting some views and by many folks, lots of views. And so then we did our evangelistic series. When we started our meetings we ended up with about 111 people, guests that came to the series. We did survey cards, (registration cards with a survey on them to find out what had brought people out to the meetings) and about a third of the folks that filled out cards didn’t do the survey portion which that’s pretty normal I think. Of the ones that did, we had about 40 folks out from the handbills and about 25 folks out from the videos. And so interestingly enough, most of the ones that came out from the videos were from YouTube and so that was our crowd base. It was the first time we had ever done anything, in our cultural setting, for advertising that had brought out a crowd that was not direct mail and so that was quite encouraging.
Larry: Talk to me about the demographics, what type of people came from this advertising?
Hiram: That’s what’s interesting. Out of the 25 folks, 13 were Millennials or Gen Z. In other words, the majority of folk that came out from the videos were younger than me, the speaker. It’s the only advertising we’ve ever done in our Adventist evangelistic advertising, in our personal 100 or so full message meetings we’ve done, where a substantial group was young adults. The majority in this case were young adults that came out.
Larry: Tell me about the demographics of the viewers that you saw on YouTube.
Hiram: So on Facebook, unless we set it specifically to show it to a younger audience, it automatically showed it to senior citizens because they’re cheaper to reach. However, on YouTube, without having to set any parameters, roughly 74% of the audience was between the ages of 18 and 44. Now I’m 46, so about 74% of the audience on YouTube, with no specific parameters, just automatically fell younger than me. And then we also found that it’s about 65% male, at least in our video viewing, and about 35% female. In religious information, that’s very interesting because you show up at church and the church is full of who? The ladies, right? It was very interesting to us that with YouTube we’re reaching a majority male audience, at least with our videos.
Larry: You did Facebook, you did direct mail, and you also did YouTube. And the result of this was a younger audience that was primarily coming from YouTube.
Hiram: Yes. In fact, the direct mail brought mostly an older audience, and the videos brought mostly a younger audience.
And then when we got down to the end of the series, we had 13 decisions for baptism. I inadvertently entered an extra experiment into this meeting that I kicked myself over and over for. We decided to live-stream the series at the last minute. I know Livestream does a lot of good and it’s great for the shut-ins, but we ended up with, instead of people continuing to be part of our live audience, staying home and watching, and it affected our meetings. In fact, we suspect that that was even more the case with the people we had reached with video advertising because they’re already used to staying home and watching YouTube, apparently. And so we normally would have had a larger group of decisions in a meeting of this size. But anyway, when we got down to the end, we had 13 decisions the last weekend for baptism and to join the church. Of those 13 decisions, four were from the handbills, four were from previous church contact, pre-work, et cetera, and four were from YouTube, and one was from Facebook.
Larry: Okay, so you had four decisions for baptism from people that came from the direct mail campaign, and you had four decisions for baptism that came from YouTube. How much did you spend on each of those?
Hiram: We spent $21,000 on our handbills and we spent $17,000 on YouTube. Interestingly enough, the four that came from the handbills, three were from the same family. So if that one handbill hadn’t been delivered, if the post office had messed up on that one address, it would have been a tough series on that side of the advertising!
Larry: So that ultimate metric of decisions for baptism, you had a lower cost per decision from the YouTube advertising than you did from the direct mail.
Hiram: Yes. Now, one thing I will add is if you put the Facebook advertising and the YouTube advertising together, that would not be the case because Facebook just ended up being a total bomb for us. But when you factor in YouTube head-to-head with the handbills, the end result in decisions for baptism, YouTube outperformed it based on a cost-benefit analysis.
Larry: I want to kind of go down a side road and talk about our experience briefly. I want to talk about direct mail specifically, and as Hiram and I were talking before, he’s like, “I don’t want to really disrespect direct mail because it has a place and because SermonView does direct mail”… but here’s the bottom line: first of all, direct mail still had an impact, but it’s expensive. It’s the only way to guarantee that someone in every home has an opportunity to respond to your message. But it’s expensive. And ultimately, we’re a marketing company. We don’t care about direct mail. We don’t care about social media. We don’t care about YouTube. We care about effectiveness. And if YouTube is more effective than direct mail, and in the end, we end up shifting a lot of the dollars over to online marketing, we’re okay with that. We want to do what’s most effective. Here’s the thing with direct mail: There was a study done in 2004 that found that 96% of postal customers checked their mail every single day. We just did our own study earlier this year that found 40% of postal customers no longer check their mail more than once a week.
We went from 4% not checking the mail every day to 40% now checking it once a week or less. And that’s a huge impact! And when you look at the younger demographics, that number is even higher. So the post office has also made a change in some of their delivery commitments. So now instead of a three-day window at the local post office, it’s a four-day window. And the sectional facility used to have a two-day window that now has a four-day window. So you add three days there, and we’re seeing delays with the logistics of getting the mail shipped out to that sectional facility. And then people don’t check their mail every day. Suddenly you need to be getting that mailpiece out at least a week earlier than before and maybe even a week and a half earlier. And now you’ve diluted some of the effectiveness because it’s not this hit all at once in mailboxes. It gets spread out as people are checking it. Those are things that are just societal changes and cultural changes that explain why direct mail doesn’t have the same level of effectiveness as it used to.
You told me about something through this experiment. It raised your profile in the local community and has given you opportunities for divine appointments that have been really unexpected. Tell me more about that.
Hiram: Oh, my! I’ve never seen anything like this as a pastor before. We do evangelistic meetings (though I did travel in Evangelism for a number of years, I’ve actually been a settled pastor longer than I was on the road in Evangelism). And so you’d send out the flyers in the mail, and once the flyers have gone out, once the dates for the seminar have passed or the series has passed, I didn’t really see much benefit. Sometimes people would attend and they say, “Oh, I saw your flyer last time and wanted to come”. So there was that. But I never got recognized in town from the handbill ever. Well, from the videos, it happens all the time! The bus boy at Olive Garden, someone random at the grocery store, a guy at the gas station, at my daughter’s soccer game. A guy’s like, “Hey, are you the fellow on YouTube sharing the Bible prophecy videos?” I go into Chipotle to grab some lunch and a guy comes up: “Man, I was going to attend that series you were doing, the one you were on YouTube about. Are those recorded anywhere or are you going to do it again? I want to be there.”
Then, you know, I’m at a smoothie place, and the young man that’s bringing out the smoothie, he’s like, “Are you on YouTube doing the Bible videos? I accepted Christ. I gave my heart to the Lord. Because of your Bible videos on YouTube.” I’ve never had an impact like this as an Adventist pastor in the community, like from these videos! And so our church leadership now sees this as more of an investment for the future as we’re running these videos, as compared with other forms of advertising, which seems to lose most of their effectiveness, if not all of their effectiveness the moment the dates are passed.
Larry: I want to talk about the early days of It Is Written, when George Vanderman, before he even started the It Is Written television program, was an evangelist working for the GC Ministerial Department. And this was the early 1950s. TV had just come on the scene. Bill Fagel was starting Faith for Today with some dramatic vignettes. There were others, The Quiet Hour was just getting started on television. But he was an evangelist, and he decided to try something. He created 30-minute films. There were actually a total of 30 half-an-hour films that he created. Before he would go into a city, he would buy airtime on the local TV stations and play these evangelistic films for several months prior to actually showing up. And the results were astonishing, the number of people that were coming out. One of the first tests was in Bakersfield. I ran across a Recorder article from 1956 that talked about this in Bakersfield. They ran these films on TV for about three months prior to the evangelistic series. And they had like 200 baptisms, which even back then was an astonishingly high number. I’m not sure that the brethren at the GC got the right idea from it because they decided, “Hey, you know what? It’s planting the seeds of Bible prophecy, the three angels’ message is getting planted. We need to do this national TV program so that way all the evangelists can take advantage of it.”
But I think part of the power of this was it was George Vanderman on the screen, and then George Vanderman shows up in town. And that was a really expensive proposition in the 1950s. Today, you’re able to do that in your own community for just a few thousand dollars. For the amount that you spend on a direct mail campaign doing this, getting on YouTube, you’re reaching a younger demographic. People are actually seeing you. They feel like they’re getting to know you a little bit. And when they get invited to come out to the meetings, it just reduces the friction for them to go, “Yeah, I want to go out there”. So this is taking a very old thing that was proven with It Is Written and George Vanerman in the very early days, and now applying it in 2023 in a really effective way. And this is why I’m so excited, Hiram, about what you’ve done: it’s taking something that we know has worked, but finding a new way and new media to be able to do it today. I’m so excited about the potential here.
Hiram: Oh, I can tell that you are. And I have a couple of thoughts. I remember when you told me about that, I was unaware that George Vanderman had done that. And that’s awesome. And yet back then, there would have been, what, three TV stations probably, but society has changed. Where are you going to get everyone? I guarantee you that you’re getting more people on YouTube right now than you are the 100 and something channels available spread across cable television, satellite TV, et cetera, these days. And so you’ve got a place where they’re funneling in, and then using concise videos. Now technology, all the wonders of technology, and our interaction with it have caused young adults these days, the “digital natives”, you could say, to be to the point that they have a fairly short attention span for non-entertainment. I want to emphasize non-entertainment. They’ll still watch a three-hour-long entertaining movie. But with non-entertainment, they have a very short attention span in most cases (unless they’re already really interested in something). And so that’s why we focus our videos now instead of 30-minute programs, we do 30 to 90-second videos. That tends to be what’s working best according to the research for young adults today.
Larry: Let’s talk about some mechanics. Let’s do some training to help the pastors be able to do this. When you and I have talked about this, there are basically three areas that need to be considered for doing this. And it actually falls into the categories of traditional video or television production. You’ve got pre-production, production, and post-production. Pre-production is writing your script, and planning for your actual shoot. Then production is the actual recording of it. And then post-production is all the editing and everything like that. So in this context we’re talking about, the first category is defining your video content, deciding what the content is going to be how you’re going to approach it, and that type of thing. Then how to record your videos (we’re going to talk about that in a little bit more detail). Then the post-production is where the editing, adding the lower thirds, the audio mixing, rendering, and uploading it to YouTube and all that. We’re going to talk about a service that SermonView offers to handle all that technical post-production stuff.
So let’s take this in this order: Let’s talk about content first. When you did content, what did you say? You said 30 to 90-second videos. Were you recording your Sabbath morning sermons or taking a snip from the sermon or what was this content? Where did it come from?
Hiram: We wanted to do targeted special content for the YouTube audience. And so we wanted good general gospel-focused material as well as, since we were doing a Bible prophecy series, things that would hopefully build an interest in Bible prophecy because we wanted to advertise and do the meetings in a way that was congruent between the two. And so we did gospel presentations. One we stole from, I believe HMS Richards years ago. It’s been around a while called, “The Four Things God Doesn’t Know”.
Larry: Can you give us an example of what that would sound like?
Hiram: So on a skippable ad for YouTube, you have 5 seconds and then they can skip. So you have 5 seconds they have to watch. And then if you can hook them in that time, they’re going to watch most of your video. And this one is one that has a view rate where folks watch the entire video about 60% of the time. So about 60% of the people chose not to skip it. And so here’s how it would start:
“Did you know there are four things even God doesn’t know?” Well, there you go. What do you mean by what God doesn’t know? And for those of you that you’re wondering what that is, it’s really simple:
1. He doesn’t know a sin He doesn’t hate.
2. He doesn’t know a sinner He doesn’t love.
3. He doesn’t know anything else He could do to save you.
4. He doesn’t know a better time than right now.
And so that ended up being about a 23-second video with a 60% view rate and just a great little nugget that has worked in the community and put us forward as people who are focused on Jesus and the Gospel and that was powerful.
For another one that we did, we got a SermonView picture (we purchased it properly through your graphics program) and we put it up and we were going to talk about Bible prophecy. Just curious how it would go. Some of them we did, we didn’t think they would work, but they did. And some of them we didn’t think work, didn’t. But some of them we thought would do really good. Well, they didn’t pan out. So here’s one that did really great: put up an image of that antichrist beast, that ugly beast, and it simply said, “Check out this picture of this artist’s depiction of the antichrist beast of Revelation 13 in Bible prophecy.” Well, I don’t know, I guess a lot of folks haven’t seen it. There was a lot of interest in that. That one also had about a 60% view rate and it ended up being about a 90-second video that explained and talked about beasts and prophecy just a little bit, and it just kind of planted some seeds and got some attention. And then we did things on “The Daily Walk”, how to have victory in our life as Christians. I did one on “Signs of the Times: Why is the world going crazy?” That kind of stuff.
Larry: Okay, so these are evangelistic or personal growth types of topics that are going to catch people’s attention and actually provide some value to their lives.
Hiram: Yeah, certainly that’s what we’re looking for ultimately, when it comes to things like YouTube and the online world, the social media world, people are interested in seeing more of what adds value. The whole idea was we didn’t want to just start a week before the evangelistic series, just advertising, “Come to this meeting, come to this meeting, come to this meeting!” We wanted to spend several weeks adding valuable content for people so that when a meeting came, they would go, “Okay, I got to go see this!” And so that was kind of what was behind our approach.
Larry: Okay, so that’s the content. Let’s talk about how to record these videos. So let’s start with preparation. Did you actually write out this script and then use, like, a teleprompter? How did you do this?
Hiram: I experimented with teleprompters and written scripts, and it was pitiful. It was absolutely pitiful. The people who read the news on teleprompters go to school for years to get good at that. When I say pitiful, you can tell most of the time when people are reading that they’re reading. And so I learned a method that is actually taught by some Hollywood actors that do a training program. I bought it and I went through it. It was put together for entrepreneurs who want to do video stuff to promote their businesses. So I said, it’s going to overlap. I got that, went through it, and learned to basically—talk about all the high-tech stuff we have—get a sticky note. That’s right, a yellow sticky note, and write bullet points on the sticky note. And we’re only talking about a 30 to 90-second video anyway, right? I mean, I’m talking right now without notes, you talk to people on the phone without notes, you don’t need a lot of notes if you can relax and talk about your content. But you do kind of need prompts for where you’re going. And so that’s what the bullet points were for. I would basically think, and put bullet points down for what I wanted to cover on my video and then I’d go on a walk and I would just preach to the woods, preach to the houses. I say “preach” but I’m just actually, in a conversational tone, working through that material until the point that I can sit down in front of the camera, and within three takes, I can hit a good one. It’s called the three-take method. If you can’t nail it in three takes, you didn’t prepare enough. It’s better to go back and spend more time preparing than to have these frustrating recording situations and then have a bunch of video that has to be overly edited to piece things together. And then when we got ready to film the video, we took that sticky note and put it right under the lens of the camera and it became the teleprompter.
Larry: All right, tell me about the camera that you used.
Hiram: I used an iPhone 7 because my iPhone 14 had too much stuff on it. An iPhone Seven. I mean, it was in the drawer and hadn’t been used in like three years and it was still better than (unless you wanted to spend really good money) a lot of cameras that you’d go buy at Best Buy these days. And by the way, a lot of the stuff you’re seeing on Facebook, on YouTube, on Instagram, it’s smartphones these days. You can certainly spend all the money you want on recording equipment, but you can do phenomenally good videos on almost any smartphone these days.
Larry: I just saw a thing in one of my classes. There have been a number of Hollywood feature films that have been shot 100% on an iPhone using the iPhone camera.
Hiram: Wow. I believe it.
Larry: And what you’re talking about is using the back-facing lens, not the front-facing one. This is a better-quality camera. And so you would set it on a tripod or whatever and just put the sticky note right underneath it and record?
Hiram: Yeah, because if you didn’t, I’m on my phone right now, so I can see you and I can see me. Well, the problem is the lens is over there, but I keep looking here at the screen because that’s where I see you and me. And so it’s going to constantly show you not really looking right into the camera if you have the picture where you can see it. It’s better to frame it up and then look right into the lens of the camera. Put your sticky note right under it and it’s not just a sheet of paper, it’s a sticky note – it’ll stick right to it (talk about high tech, huh?). Then what you want to do is, as you’re doing the video, imagine you’re talking to a friend. You don’t have to have notes and you don’t have to start and stop 100 times when you’re talking to a friend on the phone. Imagine as you look directly into the lens, through the lens, that lens is a window and your good friend is on the other side there and you’re just talking to a good friend. So go over your material, do three takes, take the best one, use that one, and you’ll be set. That works really good.
Larry: I actually have a degree in video production, and mass media from Walla Walla University. (Shout out to my friends in the communication field!) There are four things when it comes to recording that you need to be paying attention to: one is the camera. Two is how are you going to keep that camera steady? (So how are you going to mount that? Is there going to be any camera movement or things like that, but sticking it on a tripod or some way of fixing it so that it’s solid.) The third thing is your lighting. (How are you lighting the subject?) And then the fourth is the audio.
So we’ve talked about the camera. Tell me about how you mount the camera when you record.
Hiram: I picked up a little tripod, you can get them for about $30. And it’s spring-loaded. You just hold it open, put the phone in there and it holds it. You kind of frame up the shot and you’re good to go. And so that’s what we did for that. It’s worked very effectively. You really don’t need camera movement for something like this. A 30 to 90-second video, a still image with you talking, that’s all you need.
Larry: And as we’ve been experimenting since your dissertation came out, we worked with one pastor who did his video walking, and he was literally just holding it out. The difficulty was there was a lot of shaking that was going on. I’ve tried using a selfie stick walking around and even then it shakes. The best that I’ve seen is just stick it on a tripod, no movement. Record into that and call it good.
Hiram: Yeah, and that works great. You can get a gimbal thing that takes some of the motion out for the selfie sticks and all. I’ve seen those used with good success. One thing you got, if the camera is shaking all around while you’re holding it like this, you’re certainly coming across as authentic. That at least counts for something, but your sound is probably your other big issue. We did several of our videos just like I’m doing now, without a microphone. However, if dogs start barking or a vehicle drives by and you’re by the road, you get this background noise. You want good video, but studies have shown people are more tolerant of imperfections in your video than they are in your audio. Your audio needs to be good. And so we ended up looking on Amazon, looking at lots of reviews, and got a mic that we could use, and that helped with the quality of our videos. I think you may share some options on that.
Larry: Yeah, I’ve got two mics that we’ve been using. [Links to products at the end.] One is just in a little case and it clips on the end of the iPhone. It’s got a windscreen on it, but you would just clip it on the end and you’re good to go. And the quality there is pretty good, certainly better than the internal mic. But the issue there is it’s kind of a shotgun, so it’s picking up all the noise behind you as well as your voice. Did you try something like that?
Hiram: Yeah, we used one like that. And if you just want to make sure you’re picked up better and there’s no background noise, that’s great. If you are out near a road and an 18-wheeler truck drives by, a mic like that can just kill you. But there are settings where it’s very good inside mostly, I would say.
Larry: And that mic that I just mentioned is about $60, highly reviewed. The other mic that I’ve been using more recently for videos is a wireless mic and this plugs into the bottom of my phone and then I’ve got a lapel mic that I can just clip on. The quality of this is really good. I think this cost me about $120 and it actually includes two different mic packs. So you could do an interview with somebody or that type of thing.
Larry: Let’s talk about lighting. What did you do for lighting?
Hiram: I mostly use natural lighting. Mornings and evenings are really good. When you can get good shade throughout the day it can often be lit pretty well. Even inside a lot of times you can open up windows and such and get some pretty good lighting. I will say that most of the cameras in this day and age are so good that they’re very forgiving on lighting. Is lighting still important? Yes. Is it as critical an issue as maybe back when you were at Walla Walla? I don’t think that it is, because the cameras are so much more forgiving. But you don’t want to get silhouetted. You don’t want to have a bunch of bright light behind you and it silhouettes you and that kind of thing. But you don’t want harsh lighting either, so you don’t want to be out in direct sunlight. Typically that’s in the middle of the day that’s not going to do good for you. If you set up your phone and you start doing a video, typically I’ll just do like a few seconds of whatever, and then look at it to see how it looks. If it looks good, then you’re good, and if it doesn’t, then keep experimenting, you’ll get it.
Larry: I had to shoot a video for one of my classes a couple of weeks ago and I planned to do it outside, so I was going to wait until evening when you have that golden hour, it looks really good. And then it got overcast and I could see that it was clearing up. So I had like about a half-an-hour window here where it was overcast. And so I ran outside and did it. The great thing about overcast light is that it’s really diffused, so you don’t have those harsh shadows. It ended up looking good.
Something else I heard somebody say once, if you take a car phone mount that you stick to your windshield, you can stick it at eye level on your sliding glass doors out back if you’ve got those. Or if you have a big window, bay window, or something like that, stick it at eye level. And now all that natural light that’s washing in is going to light you really well. And if you’re using the camera on the back of the phone, there are ways that you can actually reduce the depth of field. So the background behind you is more out of focus. On the newer cameras you can do that then it doesn’t matter what’s behind you, you’re well-lit. This is a really simple method, it costs $15 or $20 or something less.
Hiram: I love it. That’s a great one.
Larry: Now talk to me about energy. You said something interesting to me in a previous conversation. When you talk, can you just talk as if you’re talking to a friend? How’s that?
Hiram: You need to amp it up just a little bit. We tend not to be as vibrant on camera as we think we are. One of the things that is good to do, especially when you’re practicing, is push yourself out of your comfort zone (which by definition means you’re doing it in a way in which you’re uncomfortable). And then as you kind of settle back, hopefully, you’ve raised your energy a little bit. Some of us, especially on camera, need to up the energy a little bit. Sometimes rehearsing might feel a little unnatural, but come on, when you learned how to drive a vehicle, which you do so naturally now, did you not feel totally out of control the first time you started down a hill at about 35 miles an hour? I mean, practice makes things develop. Have you ever played golf? I’m not a good golfer. I don’t have the patience for golf. I go about three holes real serious, and I just start knocking the fire out of them. That’s my personality, right? But learning how to hold a golf club, I mean, talk about something that, when you first learn, feels totally unnatural. But then as you continue to do it, it becomes natural. You may need to add a little bit of energy to catch an online audience, especially a younger audience at first. And it may push you out of your comfort zone to do so, but it’s well worth the effort. And what doesn’t maybe feel natural at first will come along in time.
Larry: I found that if I don’t have the biggest smile possible while I’m recording a video, (if it doesn’t feel like a fake big smile) then it doesn’t look like a natural smile. It just looks like a little bit of a smirk. And it’s really interesting how, yeah, the camera zaps some of that energy. What you think is projecting a nice natural energy, comes across without as much energy as you think.
Hiram: And you’re not going to hold the young audience on YouTube today with that. You don’t have to be standing on your head shouting, over the top. In fact, that doesn’t come across as genuine. You’re looking for authenticity, that is what they’re looking for. And you, having a little more energy than you might normally have, that’s not going to come across as inauthentic. You’ve got to be somewhere between too much energy and too little energy. You need to have a “Goldilocks” video: not too hot, not too cold, just right.
Larry: And that takes practice. In order to find that line, you have to cross it. And this is something that you can experiment with while you’re recording. Go over the top and you may find that that’s the sweet spot where you feel like you’re over the top, but just try it and see how it looks.
Hiram: Yeah, but don’t be afraid to get started. Don’t let this intimidate you. Get some videos done. Put them out there, and see how they do. One of the things about YouTube is it will show you how well people are viewing. You can see when you run the ads where people are dropping off and how quickly. Another thing we did was we put together a committee in the church where we would review videos that didn’t do well to try to understand why we call them “Autopsy of a Dead Video”. And so in the Autopsy of a Dead video, we’re looking and go, “Oh, around 12 seconds, almost everybody left what was happening right before that?” And then we took some of the videos, some of them we didn’t even rerecord, we just edited and they went from duds to studs in the way that they performed. So experiment. Learn to be catchy at the beginning. Sometimes we would do what we thought was a catchy introduction, and before we got to the meat and potatoes, everyone was gone. And if we just trimmed off what we thought was a great introduction and went right into the meat and potatoes, we held them. And so just start doing it, experiment with it, and you’ll find some stuff that works really well. I know you will because we have.
Larry: I want to actually show a couple of these videos. We’ve talked now about the content and we’ve talked about the recording. I want to show two of your videos. And these are available at StudyRevelation.com if you want to go take a look at them. Here’s one:
[One of Hiram’s videos:]
“I’ve heard people say they don’t go to church because there are too many hypocrites there. Well, where else do you want the hypocrites to be? We go to the grocery store and guess what? There are hypocrites. We go out to eat. There are hypocrites at restaurants and sporting events. Yeah, the hypocrites are there, too. You don’t let the hypocrites keep you away from anywhere else. Don’t let them keep you away from church.”
Larry: That’s one, and I love this one as well:
[Another one of Hiram’s videos]
“I invite you to consider four ways to fix your spouse. Number one, quit trying to fix your spouse. The only person you can fix is you, and you can’t even do that on your own. The Bible says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. Number two, don’t fixate on your own needs: focus on the needs of your spouse. ‘It’s more blessed to give than to receive’. Number three, communicate with kindness. Proverbs says ‘a soft answer turns away anger’. And number four, the best way to fix your spouse is to fix your spouse’s spouse.”
Larry: All right, so you got a hook at the beginning, you have interesting content that adds value to people’s lives. The lighting is good. The audio is good. Yeah, this is what we’re talking about!
Hiram: Well, we put a lot of thought into them. Again, they don’t all have to be prophetic. A lot of it has to do with what you’re building toward. But I will add this: Whether you’re building toward a Bible prophecy seminar or a community event: the general Christian ones, like the “Four Things God Doesn’t Know”, “Hypocrites at Church”, “Four Ways to Fix Your Spouse”, this is still good for any audience because it shows that you’re adding value to people’s lives. It shows that you’re gospel-centered, that you believe in the Bible, and that you believe in Jesus. The importance of those things can’t be overemphasized.
Larry: All right, so we’ve talked about pre-production, we’ve talked about the type of content that you want, we’ve also talked about production: the recording, and some of the things related to that. I want to talk about a new service that Sermonview is offering where we will work with you to put your videos online.
So you write the content, you record it, and then we take care of all the technical details after that. You send us your three raw takes and we’ll edit it. We’ll add the lower third, we’ll add other graphics, we’ll render the video, we’ll take care of the audio, we’ll create the thumbnail, we upload it to YouTube, we set up all the advertising, we do all that stuff. And part of the cost of this annual program includes an advertising spend. And we have three different levels that I want to share with you, depending on how active you want to be. And there are a couple of reasons why we want to do it for a year. One is that it takes time to practice and get good at this. And we don’t want to be working with someone and a month or two in have them just go, “I can’t do this anymore.” Pushing through that discomfort is going to be an important piece of it. But the second thing is having these ads running year-round is actually building that foundation for ministry and increasing your visibility. And it gives you these opportunities through divine appointments to do ministry in your community.
So we’ve got three levels: if you do one video per month, that’s the small package, the cost is $5,000 for the year, and that will get you between 30,000 and 50,000 views over the course of the year. (Based on the cost per view that Hiram has seen.) You can do two videos per month for $9,000 for the year. That will get you somewhere between 50,000 and 75,000 views during the year. Or we can work with you to do four videos a month, basically one per week, the cost for that is $15,000 for the year. This will get you about 80,000 to 120,000 views over the course of the year.
We provide feedback for each video that you send us so you can improve your own skills over the course of the year. With each video, we actually give you one thing to work on for the next one. Maybe it is something like “You need to get a better mic so that the audio is better.” or “Let’s work on the lighting this time around to see if we can get light your face a little bit better”. So we give you that feedback, we edit the video, we add the lower thirds and the other graphics, we render the video, we handle balancing the audio, we create the thumbnail, upload it to YouTube—we set up all the advertising.
We’re also compiling content ideas from Hiram and others who want to participate to help you jumpstart developing your own content. If you’re willing to contribute your own work to this collection, then we’ll give you access to all these ideas as part of SermonView’s YouTube service. You can learn more at EvangelismMarketing.com/YouTube.
Let’s go over some questions. The first question is, “Do I need to create my own YouTube channel?”
Hiram: For the purpose of the advertising, I recommend that you do. I also recommend as a pastor that you have your own. The question then comes, should my church have a YouTube channel or should I? Well, maybe both should. My church has one and I have one. But what’s going to happen is, as pastors, we tend to move in a few years. The next pastor usually does not do the same outreach as the previous pastor or use the same stuff. And if as a pastor, you’re only on the church’s account, you may have to just start fresh again. And so I recommend you have your own channel for this.
Larry: Let’s talk about the “skippable” ads, why those are preferred, and could you do “non-skippable” ads?
Hiram: The first thing we did on YouTube is we use the ads where it recommends “the next one to view”, it’s up at the top right there on YouTube. And it’s suggesting that you click on it to watch it. It does label it that it’s an ad. And we’re doing some of those right now, but we have found that those cost two to three times more than the skippable ad. It just wasn’t cost-effective.
Another thing is the volume. You’re stuck with only the number of people who would choose to click on that video in a day. Well, you might show it to everybody in town, and only a few click on it. In fact, the view rate is very low on those, whereas with the five-second skippable ad, you’ve got 5 seconds whether they want to watch it or not, that you’ve got to get their attention and to make a connection and to hook them to watch the whole thing. And look, I was skeptical of a skippable ad. So much so that when we first experimented, we went with the other format and we eliminated YouTube entirely from our research based on the cost of the other method.
It was only, and I believe it was a God thing, that we had that windfall of some extra evangelistic advertising money come through with a couple of months left, that we circled back and even tried skippable ads and it turned out to be the bread and butter that worked for us. So try the others, it’s certainly a good thing to try. But for the number of views you get, the impact that it’s going to have, right now the five-second skippable ads, I don’t believe can be beaten.
Larry: Yeah, and there’s another reason, an economic reason to do these five-second skippable ads, and that is as an advertiser, you don’t get charged for a view until they watch 30 seconds. So if they skip after 5 seconds, you don’t get charged for that ad. If they watch 25 seconds, you don’t get charged for that ad. It’s not until they actually watch 30 seconds. So your audience is self-selecting whether they’re interested in this content or not. So if you hook them and get them to the 30 seconds, well now that’s a valuable view to you and that’s when you get charged for it. And I don’t think either one of us knew before, part of the reason why YouTube is so powerful: Google is the number one search engine in the world. The number two search engine is actually YouTube. There are tons of people who just go straight to YouTube and search for content. Then when they look at it, if you bought that ad in front of that content, then boom, you’re right in front of them.
Next question: “Can we use the content that Hiram used in his videos, such as ‘The Four Ways to Fix Your Spouse’, et cetera?”
Hiram: Yes, you can copy anything that I’ve done, just don’t copy it verbatim. Put together your little sticky note, walk up and down your own driveway, get your own way to say it, and then do it. The thing is, I’ve learned in ministry, that my creativity increases when I give away the ideas God gives me. And I believe my creativity diminishes when I try to keep it to myself. You are welcome to it if it’s something that blesses you, that you think is worth building upon, by all means, take and use it. And by the way, with this approach, I might not be so ready to say “yes” to that if I were focusing like some YouTubers are. I’m glad to have subscribers all over the place, but that isn’t my focus. My focus is within 20 miles of the Columbia Seventh-day Adventist Church in Columbia, Missouri. You doing one that’s almost identical to mine, 500 miles from here, that’s not going to affect my audience. If I was trying to develop a channel with 2 million followers around the world, I might not want folks using stuff similar to mine.
But one of the things about Adventist evangelism is we’ve always borrowed heavily from each other. And that’s the tradition I come from. You’re certainly welcome to use anything that I have and go and make it better. What needs to happen is you need to steal it from me, and then when you make it better, I’m going to steal it back.
Larry: If you want to see the 30 scripts, they’re actually in an appendix to the dissertation, which, if you go to Andrews University, search for Hiram Rester, his dissertation will come up. It’s a very long and complicated academic-sounding title, but it’s the only dissertation by Hiram Rester.
Someone is asking, “How often are you posting to YouTube?” Or how often let’s rephrase this. “How often are you changing the content on the ads?”
Hiram: Boy, I don’t have a set amount. Right now I’ve got several ads running at the same time. I just have the frequency settings, which this gets more advanced than most of you are going to want to fool with, but I have mine set so the frequency won’t give them an impression more than three times on a video in a day, and then it won’t let them view that same video more than once a week. And so if they’ve watched it all the way through, it’s not going to show it to them again for seven days, but it will show them one of my other ones. So they might watch seven or eight of my videos right now in a week, but they’re not going to watch the same video more than once a week. But this is so new, we’re experimenting with it. We don’t know for sure what works best. That’s one of the reasons I’m excited that SermonView is getting this out there and getting pastors to do it, because we need more experimentation to know what is working best.
Larry: We have the low package, the $5,000, where it’s like one new piece of content per month, but I think really the sweet spot is the twice-a-month option, where you’re putting new content out every other week. If you wanted to do more that’s why we also have the larger package.
We have a question specifically about that service, “What are the lengths of the videos that SermonView will help with?” We want to limit these to 90 seconds. Did you tell me that you saw a precipitous drop-off between 75 and 90 seconds, so you ended up keeping it below 75 seconds? (Maybe that was somebody else who told me that.)
Hiram: It’s according to the video and the content, and if they believe that, the last thing you tell them is going to be the most important, they’re more likely to stick around. And several factors like that. Mine are typically 30 to 90 seconds, even as short as 23 seconds. But the shorter the better. I mean, 45 seconds to a minute really seems to be a better sweet spot. Here’s a philosophical thing, at least in my mind. If I can get them to watch the whole video and not click to leave it, I want them to do that because I don’t want them mentally clicking to leave what I’m doing if I can help it. I want to quit before they start wishing and I had quit. So it seems like it should be around 30 to 45 seconds a minute. I do intentionally do some longer videos because I have content that I want to get out, and I’m willing to take that risk that more of them are going to leave for the ones that do stay by and watch the longer content.
One thing I wanted to circle back to is when you talked about how many videos to run. See the thing is also let’s say you do one every two weeks or do one a month, well, by the time you get nine months into this, you’ve got several videos you could bring back. Several of the videos I’m running now are ones that I recorded in my doctoral dissertation and I’m just using them again. Have you ever noticed on TV a major corporation will have an advertisement and they run it to the point it just about drives you nuts and then it disappears and then nine months later it starts again? So you can bring them back. And so then when you first start, you’re only going to have one video, so you’re only going to run one. But when you get further down the road and now you have a library of videos, then it starts to get fun at that point.
Larry: So the service that I described from SermonView is a year-long program. There are 2 reasons why we do a year-long program. Again, the two things are it takes time for you to get better at doing the videos yourself, and the second thing is it becomes like a foundation for ministry in your community.
We have been doing some experiments with specific event marketing. We’re going to be working with an evangelist to do a sequence of videos that will run like eight to twelve weeks before he shows up in a town. So this is basically the “George Vandeman model” and we don’t have data on that yet, but that is one thing that we’re going to do. So we have someone here asking, “Do you have video advertising packages that fit and draw people into a specific event or to a specific evangelist?” If you have a speaker coming, you want that speaker to be getting to airtime. If it’s you as the pastor, you need to be the one being on camera because it’s about increasing your visibility and just people being comfortable with you. They recognize you, they see you. The social characteristics of “celebrity”, there’s some really interesting research on that. You have no idea who Tom Hanks actually is as a person, but you know who he is and you think you know who he is because of all of his visibility, as an example. It’s using the way that God wired our brains to be a foundation for ministry in your community.
Hiram: It wasn’t something that was on my radar or something I’d ever really put any thought into whatsoever before I did this, but there are worldwide celebrities, there are national celebrities and there are local celebrities like your newscasters and stuff locally. Well, all of a sudden I’m getting, I mean, I’ve had people act totally weird toward me now because they act like they’re around a celebrity and I’m like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m just a guy, let’s just calm down here.” But there is that aspect. Do you want that? Well, when you’re advertising for a meeting, if folks already know who you are and you have that little bit of “local celebrity”, it remains to be seen, but I believe over the next few years as we continue to do this locally, that we’re going to see our meetings grow.
Hiram: One of the things I saw was throughout the year one of the things we plan to do is like when we do different things, anything that I’m going to be assisting with, even if it’s like a health class, I can be like the host of it and introduce the doctor that’s going to speak. And that kind of thing is we’re going to use it to invite folks out to those things. Another thing that we have done is we’ve done stuff around Thanksgiving and Christmas on the theme. There are people who will watch a concise video, especially if you have something kind of catchy that’ll watch it around Christmas time or watch it around Thanksgiving so you can hop onto those seasonal things. So even if you’re promoting a live event, this is great if you’re wanting to get community awareness of your church and you as a pastor for future ministry context. This is phenomenal. At least it has been for us.
Larry: That’s awesome. I have a question about the SermonView service. “Are the prices for these videos just for the video or is there an extra charge for how large of an audience it reaches?” These three packages include ad spend, so it includes carving out part of what you’re paying us is money specifically to spend on advertising. Now, if you wanted to do like the small package and you wanted to boost your ad spend, we could certainly do that. But the larger the package, the more money is carved out for the ad spend as well. And that’s why we think you should be able to be able to get 30,000 to 50,000 views. That’s based on the cost-per-view that we’re seeing that we think the amount of budget that we’re talking about, we can get you about that many views.
Larry: Another question: “You mentioned TikTok. What’s been your experience with TikTok?”
Hiram: You know, with my Doctor of Ministry program being completed now, it goes back several years. TikTok was more in its infancy and as we experimented with it, we did put videos on TikTok, but we were not able to access their advertising features at that point for local geographic. I believe they’ve got that going now, but it’s the new kid on the block. I mean, it’s dominant now, it’s come along, but here’s what I’ll say: I think it would probably do about the same as Facebook. Here’s why: Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram are platforms where people go solely for entertainment. For the most part, YouTube has entertainment value, but people aren’t just scrolling every 15 seconds to something new, they’re actually settling down and spending time with some content. You have the same users on these different platforms, people that use YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok – but the viewers on YouTube, the same viewers that are on the others, just when they’re on YouTube, they’re in a mindset to spend some time with what they’re watching. And I think that’s made all the difference.
Larry: I was talking to one pastor who’s built a fairly substantial Instagram following and he said he’s experimented with TikTok. Of course, you need to experiment, you need to try things out, but you want the experimentation based on a reasonable theory, a reasonable hypothesis. Just don’t go out and try stuff willy-nilly. The thing that I don’t like about TikTok for this purpose is that there is research on TikTok that there’s kind of a trance-like zone out where you’re watching a 15-second video and you’re not really paying attention, you’re just kind of in this zone. And I don’t think that an ad appearing in that environment is actually going to break through that trance as well as, like you say when someone’s on YouTube, they’re expecting something more educational. And the data show that certainly, YouTube is doing better than Facebook and Instagram. We’re not planning any time in the near future to experiment with TikTok for that reason.
Okay, the last question is, “What are your thoughts on the background of the videos?” So when I looked at the various videos on your page, it looked like they were in different locations. What’s your thinking there?
Hiram: I love a good outdoor setting. It’s easy, you don’t have to put time into building a studio. You don’t have to think of exactly what you’re going to have behind you. I like a good outdoor setting. It’s not conducive all the time. It’s not conducive in the dead of winter, at least in some locations, to be able to do that. But if you can get an outdoor setting, otherwise, a simple setting. If you’ve got a setting where you can just blur your background, it doesn’t really matter too much what your background is. You do need to make sure you stand out from it though. Like, I’ll show you something you don’t want. Look how close my jacket is to the tan wall behind me. That’s not good. But if I scrunch down a little bit, and I’ve got this dark couch that outlines me. So you want to look at what you’re wearing and how that fits with your background so you don’t blend into your background too much. I wouldn’t let this work for one of those videos. But anyway, yeah, nature can be great if you can get in nature without too many background sounds.
Larry: Okay, as we wrap up Hiram, give us some words of encouragement. What are some words of encouragement you can offer us?
Hiram: Do it. Just do it! Get started. How do you do a video? Well, do a video. Don’t spend all this time analyzing. As Adventists, we tend to be over-educated and under-experienced in actually doing things. Do it! Record a video, and then record another one. Get up in the morning, record a video, and don’t sit around and think about it to the point that you become absolutely, totally paralyzed. Do it! You’re going to reach people in your community that you’re not going to reach any other way. There is nothing else I can do where I’m preaching while I’m sleeping right now. I take a day off, and I’m preaching to people on YouTube. I go to Union College 5 hours away to move my daughter into her new house for senior year, and I’m still back in Columbia, Missouri, preaching to people on YouTube. It’s reaching people I wouldn’t otherwise get in front of, and it works when I’m not. Boy, I feel so much better about taking time off now since I’m still working when I’m off. It’s great!
Larry: Awesome. Well, that’s our webinar today. I want to thank Dr. Harm Rester for joining us and sharing what he’s learned about YouTube advertising. We are seeing some very positive results from this platform and I truly believe that YouTube is going to be a cornerstone to effective evangelism marketing in the future.
If you’d like to learn more about how Sermonview can help you with YouTube, you can visit EvangelismMarketing.com/YouTube. If you are planning to work with us for an upcoming Bridge event or Reaping series, this is a great way to build your online presence leading up to the event dates. You can also talk to one of our campaign managers by calling us at 800-525-5791.
Wireless lapel mic: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08HTZQBDC
Lightning shotgun mic: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B010W6W8OW
Windshield/glass door suction clamp: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07QRS5VPR