The above question brings with it a certain complexity. For this reason, there is no such simple and superficial answer that completely satisfies it—even more so when we understand the concept of communication in organizations. It is something that goes far beyond the production of videos, posts on social networks, or publication of text on portals or blogs.
The current communication process requires new knowledge about human behavior. This is especially true of your consumer trends. There is a need to seek a clearer understanding of how technology helps drive decisions for content consumption.
Audiences and Online Platforms
How do audiences react to what they see, hear, and read? We need to understand the profile of digital communication consumption, specifically in a context of environments with online platforms controlled by large corporations. Many of them have very clear interests to target.
Communication researcher Daniel Reis Silva analyzed how people today are influenced in the consumption of content by the logic of digital platforms. He sees a certain increase in the vulnerability of these audiences because of this dynamic.
The expert explains it is necessary to better understand how people make their decisions in this environment. “Abandoning simple ideas about empowered and omnipotent audiences, the great challenge for researchers dealing with organizational communication and public relations in the digital environment must be to expand the understanding of how the platform ecosystem impacts and shapes asymmetries of power and vulnerabilities for audiences.”
Digital Consumption Trends
In short, it is necessary to understand how people think in order to assess how their digital consumption takes place, including evaluating the business logic behind it. This is extremely important, even more so for churches. The communication of religious organizations must take into account parameters such as the time of digital exposure, the different types of content, and the way in which it is consumed (multi-screen), among other aspects.
A recent Comscore report released interesting data about digital consumption. We are talking, in the case of Brazil, of a universe of more than 131 million people connected. And on average, per user per day, they spend three hours and thirty-eight minutes online. The evaluation showed, for example, that the categories with the greatest reach in consumer preference worldwide are: services (85.4 percent of total consumers), news and information (77.8 percent), social media (77.7 percent), and entertainment (75 percent). At the same time, the cut of this analysis indicates that entertainment represented 43 percent of the total engagement of digital consumers in 2021.
Another data set present in the report points out that in Brazil, digital influencers account for almost 64 percent of the total engagement of people in 2021. The brands of organizations, on the other hand, accounted for 36 percent of the total engagement.
This means people are more likely to engage with defended content or be motivated by the speech and attitude of people who, to a greater or lesser extent, appear as references in the digital environment in the most different areas.
Which Way Should Churches Go?
Comscore provides the complete survey, and there, it is possible to identify several other aspects of digital consumption behavior. However, some trends will impact the way churches and religious organizations in general communicate with their audiences. You can think of at least five:
- Entertainment grows in digital consumption—Christian denominations such as the Seventh-day Adventist Church are preoccupied with preaching the gospel. More efficient communication will consider the need for biblical content to be present. And this needs to happen in a contextualized way, especially with materials designed for those who identify more with the entertainment platform (films, comics, games, etc.).
- Influencers are very relevant to audiences—Today, there is no room to undervalue the role digital influencers play in an organization's communication. They help shape thinking about religion, faith, and theology on the part of many young people, teenagers, and children. Strategies need to be developed to maintain productive contact with those who speak to millions in a language very different from that used by traditional brands.
- It is necessary to measure how people consume and react to information—The preaching of the gospel, the central point of Adventist mission, for example, needs to make sense to people. Through the action of Espírito Santo, constantly understanding how stakeholders, or audiences in general, react to content is no longer optional. This requires continuous assessment of digital indicators and direct dialogues with people, as well as the development of a keen ability to listen on the part of the churches, especially to children, adolescents, and young people.
- The relationship with those looking for the church in the digital environment is essential—In times of simultaneous connections on multiple screens and platforms, it is essential to serve people in real time. The church needs to listen and talk to people where they are. Anxieties, doubts, prayer requests, Bible study—all these deserve more attention. It's part of the digital conversation that needs to be deepened. No contact should be overlooked.
- Language that is accessible to all and conveys authenticity, coherence, and transparency—The main premise of communication is that the message is relevant to the public. The accessible language of a church or any other organization means conveying something that can be understood and not necessarily proceed with a simplification that weakens the content of the message. It is not possible to exhaust the concepts of authenticity, coherence, and transparency in this article, but they are important assets for those who want to be considered worthy of credibility.
SILVA, Reis Daniel. Públicos, plataformas e algoritmos: tensões e vulnerabilidades na sociedade contemporânea. In: DREYER, Bianca, RAPOSO, João e TERRA, Carolina. Comunicação organizacional – práticas, desafios e perspectivas digitais, Summus Editorial, 2021: São Paulo.