Sure, Facebook is huge! But here in the US, Facebook growth is fairly flat. It is great for keeping up with the people and brands you are familiar with. You might even get introduced to something new from something a friend shares. What it isn’t built for is showing you new things; not new ideas or brands or even products. Even their advertising is all based on targeting you with things based on current interests. Facebook wants to show you what you already know and keep you comfortable.If you want new content, you have to go somewhere else. If you want to learn something, you need a different platform. You are a brand and you want to reach more people receptive to new ideas?
You need to be on YouTube.
We need to be on YouTube!
YouTube is still growing. YouTube is actually the second most popular Search Engine in the US, processing more search requests than anyone but (parent company) Google.
It reaches more people in the US between the ages of 18-34 than any cable network. Billions of hours of video are watched every single month, available on 200 million smartphones in the US alone.
And Unitarian Universalism isn’t well represented.
Sure, you can watch a lot of UU sermons. But if you don’t know who we are, why would you look for them? There are some great videos making statements about what we believe, but they aren’t the conversational, engaging style that creates a following; they are ads, not invitations. We can do better. We can do better.
Why isn’t Facebook Enough?
Firstly, we’ve reached a plateau on Facebook. The I Am UU page now has more followers than the Church of the Larger Fellowship. We have more than 1/3 the followers of UU World. Most UUs on Facebook have seen our page and already chosen to follow it or not.
The majority of Facebook users in the US are over 35 years of age. Our own reach on Facebook is predominantly people over age 45. As people age, they are less likely to be eager to try new things. They aren’t as open to adding new labels to their identity. That’s not to say that our outreach to them is any less important, suddenly, but we can do more for the world and for Unitarian Universalism by also reaching younger people.
If we want to see a vibrant and healthy Liberal Religion after our next 50 years, we need to reach young adults and even teens. They are the future, not just of our faith but of the world. These are people more often looking for community and identity. YouTube is where we can reach them.
YouTube reaches over 70 million young adults, aged 18-34, in a given month. It is the preferred outlet for commentary and breaking news among millennials. They spend, on average, 40 minutes watching videos each time they log in.
Does YouTube Outreach Work?
YouTube is widely recognized as a great place to reach new people. It is a major recruiting tool for corporations, colleges, government agencies, as well as both legitimate religions and cults!
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints “Mormon.org” channel has 248,000 subscribers and millions of views in the last year. ICE has been pretty happy with their recruiting based on videos and ads. YouTube was a huge success for ISIL, attracting young people from all over the world.
You may notice that none of those are groups that Unitarian Universalism is allied with. Honestly, there are far fewer of what I would consider to be positive, liberal influences on YouTube than there are conservative, restrictive, confrontational channels. There are some incredible welcoming and encouraging communities, but they stand out almost as much for their rarity as the quality of their content. And even the wingnuts, cult leaders, and conservative propaganda channels are outnumbered by music videos, sketch comedy bits, and video game play-throughs.
How About Some Examples We Can Follow?
The image above is from YouTube star Hanna Hart, showing a meeting she had at the White House, along with fellow YouTube sensation Tyler Oakley.
Hanna also encourages fans to meet up locally at “Have a Hart” events, where they sort food at food banks, help build houses, or clean up parks and streams. She has turned her modest celebrity into a force for good in the world. Again, this is possible because her fans are engaged and feel accepted and included in her work.
In January 2007 two brothers, John and Hank Green, started a project to really talk to each other, and chose YouTube as their medium. Every week, each brother made a video addressed to the other, talking about current events and occasionally performing songs and stunts for one another. Because these videos were personal and addressed the viewer directly, it was easy for people to connect with the brothers, even viewers not named Hank or John. They gained a big following which has become a small but diverse media company in the last 7 years.
This is a perfect template for how good, regular content can be powerful. It can get you a booking at Carnegie Hall, an invite to the White House, or even your dream job. The Green Brothers have chartered a charity to “Decrease World Suck“, which raised over $789,000 of charity last year through give-aways and telethon-style vlogging. Good is already being done. We’ve featured quotes and videos from both Green brothers on the I Am UU Facebook page.
John and Hank Green, mentioned above, each got to speak to President Obama after separate State of the Union addresses, asking questions that their community brought up. These are people who have built communities and who now wield influence. They created this by connecting with their audience and using their reach to educate, encourage, and empower people. Via YouTube.
What Could We Do With a Channel Grounded in UU Principles?
Think of what we could do if we started a channel with this goal in mind: reaching people, inspiring them to be their personal best, and promoting our Principles. If we had a few UU themed programs that posted regular updates, made a personal connection, and were entertaining, we could build new communities centered on our Principles. If we had several of these, we could create a stream of enriching and informative entertainment that makes the world a better place. I believe that there is a need, and that we have the ability to fill it. It will take dedication, and it will require support from a range of people, including simple financial backing to launch them and a small team that combines technical knowledge with personalities and missional evangelical thinkers who are willing to be out in front on these projects. If the talent is willing, will you support their work?
What ideas do you have? What could you give?
The I Am UU project is in a good place to start making videos and creating this kind of community. We already have a great following on Facebook, and we can use that to get ahead on YouTube. What we need are a few new pieces of equipment and the time to bring it all together. Equipment takes money, as does time, sadly. We are asking you all to buy an hour or two of my time so that I can brush up on the software, write the material, and edit it all together for the first dozen videos.
There is good reason to believe that if we can get our YouTube channel going, it will attract more giving; YouTube viewers are much more used to supporting their favorite creators directly than are Facebook users. We just need your help to get there!
Please consider supporting the bold new effort to spread our values to a platform where people are open to considering new ideas. There are people on YouTube looking for hope and encouragement. Don’t we owe it to them to be where they are, telling them they are worthy and valuable?
That’s what I feel the next step for the I Am UU project is, and we’ve made it really easy to be part of it: