On January 13, 2022, the Spanish Department began a new initiative in the online Work in the Spanish language. In response to feedback from members in Guatemala, Mr. Cristian Orrego, pastor of Living Church of God congregations in Mexico and Guatemala and manager of the Spanish Department in Charlotte, and his wife Carmen, International Programs Analyst and assistant to her husband and Mr. Mario Hernandez, moved forward with the idea of uploading Tomorrow’s World and Living Church of God videos directly to Facebook, and not just to the Tomorrow’s World YouTube channel. The results of these “native-to-Facebook uploads” have been greater than expected, and Mr. and Mrs. Orrego were happy to discuss them.
A Profitable Suggestion
The suggestion for this project came during a trip to Guatemala in January, when they met with members from three congregations for combined services in the city of Antigua. While there, members asked about the possibility of using Facebook as a platform for sharing videos with brethren in South and Central America. “We never publish the telecast on Facebook,” Mr. Orrego said. “[They] asked about this. The conditions in Latin America are different. Internet use can be very expensive—data is expensive, and people don’t want to use a lot of data on their phones. However, in most countries in Latin America, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Peru, Facebook is free.” The Orregos had not realized that Internet service providers in many of these countries cover the cost of Facebook data as an incentive for people to increase their Internet involvement, and Mr. Orrego said that the idea looked very promising. They lost no time in moving it forward! Mr. Orrego continued, “Our idea was first to upload videos to Facebook so members could see them without having to use data. But, when we did it, we noticed that it had a huge impact over the same material on YouTube.”
Mrs. Orrego was able to share some of the data from the first Tomorrow’s World telecast they uploaded—“The Day of the Lord in Bible Prophecy”—which was in the second week of January. She related that the usual response rate to such material on YouTube was somewhere between 1,000–2,000 “likes,” but that the first Facebook upload garnered 17,000 “likes” and a great deal of other engagement besides! She was overwhelmed.
“I could not stop answering comments—and that’s when we knew something was up. Ever since that video, we have posted weekly, every Thursday. The response has been good, but two others—‘The Dangerous Times of the Gentiles’ and ‘Jeremiah’s Message for the British and American Peoples’—have gathered responses similar to the first,” meaning tens of thousands of “likes” and shares, along with thousands of comments each, compared to a fraction of those numbers for most other materials shared previously. While the response rates for our materials had been decent, these telecasts have dramatically increased engagement on the Spanish-language Facebook page compared to before the Orregos began uploading telecasts. This has helped the Facebook page overall, while also suggesting other open doors, as explained later in this article.
Mr. Orrego said, “It is true that many of the views are not just three-second views—the good thing is that, because of these video uploads, our Facebook page was resurrected. It went from several hundred to over 189,000 followers over the weeks. The line was going up and up and up.”
Mr. Mike DeSimone, manager of digital media and the television department, was able to elaborate on this meaningful engagement, adding more perspective. “When a video gets results like this, it’s wonderful—these are meaningful numbers, and the engagement is multiple times more than ‘normal.’… From January 16 to March 12, there was definitely an increase of activity on the El Mundo de Mañana website by approximately 75 percent, in large part due to these Facebook posts. In fact, the amount coming specifically from Facebook was four to five times higher during this time than the average of previous months.” Mr. DeSimone then added this interesting statistic: “The top five videos that have been posted since mid-January on the Spanish Facebook page have over twenty-five million minutes viewed, and the engagement on these native Facebook videos [likes, comments, and shares] dwarfs other types of posts, [such as] just sharing a YouTube video on Facebook. And as Mr. Orrego mentioned, these posts have positively impacted our Spanish Facebook followers. In fact, the ‘followers’ for the first quarter of 2022 are up 230,673 percent [not a misprint!] above the previous quarter. This is exciting! Let’s continue to pray for God’s blessing on the Work overall.”
And, when an initiative garners such unexpected results, the potential to use it to further the preaching of the Gospel should not be—and has not been—overlooked!
A New Avenue
Although the initial plan was simply to make Church materials like telecasts and sermons more readily available to members living in Latin America, these results have truly been inspiring. In addition to the effort to make livestreaming possible for members to attend virtual services on a private Facebook page, the Spanish Department is also working on another idea, as Mr. Orrego discussed: “We want to do, maybe in a month, a virtual Tomorrow’s World Presentation on prophecy, by Mr. Mario Hernandez, with invitations announced several weeks prior to the event. We want to announce it on Facebook and see, by response, how many people are interested…. People like prophecy [alluding to the success of the Spanish telecasts], and Mr. Hernandez has taught a lot about prophecy. The idea [is] to lead more people to the Church websites and to want to know more about the Church and its literature. If it works, depending on the impact, we may be able to do more, maybe every month or every other month. And we’ll try to give people notice several weeks ahead of time, to know what to expect.”
The initiative has great potential, especially considering the cost benefits. The Orregos pointed out that, by using a popular social media platform like Facebook for these various projects, the Work does not pay for advertising, despite the impressive response rates. This, of course, has the potential to bring the goals of a small department serving an immense area more fully within reach.
Let’s be praying for even more open doors as God’s Work in the Spanish language pushes forward!