Today’s episode is a special treat!
Kenny sat down with digital innovation and all around nice guy, Nils Smith, to talk about a new shift on a the social media paradigm that’s virtually mind-blowing.
This interview is packed with new and powerful insights and up-to-date news on tactics and strategies on making your church service more interesting and engaging.
Ever heard of an Augmented Reality VR Church Service? Tune in to find out more about what Nils and Kenny are dreaming up these days.
KENNY: Hey everybody. Kenny Jahng here again with the Church Butler Lunch and Learn. This is where we bring in super handsome experts for you to learn and soak up so much goodness and genuine truth from. Today, we got another, just a really good friend of mine, but the handsomest New Yorker that I know, Nils Smith. Welcome today!
NILS: Kenny, thanks for having me and thanks for the compliment. I am glad to be your handsomest friend!
KENNY: So, where are you? You’re sporting the nifty earpods, a little bit….trying to show that you’re higher on the social pecking order than we are with these corded things. But you’re also hanging out in some co-working facilities today, right?
NILS: I am hanging out, here, inside – by my neighborhood. It’s right where I live. So, I just walk over here sometimes when the kids get too noisy and I won’t be able to work at home, then this is my office away from home.
KENNY: I’ve got memberships in a couple of co-working places because of the community and interaction with other people, right? Things happened randomly so, it’s good to get out and talk, right? Just like what we’re doing today. Today, I want to bring you on with our Lunch and Learn session just to talk quickly about a local trip that we actually did. We did meet up recently in New York city, the center of the world, right? In Times Square, we met up. We walked over to a place right by the Empire State Building. There’s a great new place called VR World NYC. Why don’t you tell us a little bit what that place is all about?
NILS: It’s a new place. My wife actually saw it, right on 34th Street on her way to work. So, it’s the largest virtual reality experience in the world. They got about 50 stations almost like little living rooms set up around the space. And some of them are virtual video games, some of them are like theaters where you can watch a little short film. I started to experience a rap music video. And then others are almost like augmented reality experiences where I ran a grocery store. I pick up goods and check people out. It’s a really interesting, different experience showed a variety of what can be done with virtual reality in this new space.
KENNY: Yes, it’s the largest installation of VR in North America, right?
NILS: It’s what they claimed. I mean, it’s three floors. It’s massive experience. It’s almost like you’re in a like night club, arcade, really, really interesting space.
KENNY: To me, it felt like we took the red pill and went into the dark alleyway. It really felt interesting to be in that space. But, yes. It was three floors. It was at $40 a day and it covers unlimited usage of the 50 different installations that they have. I love that there’s a whole row of racing car experiences upstairs. I love the bow and arrow. It was a VR experience that I did. I think you did, too, where you are sitting in a village and you got this bow staff and then you got this ring on the other controller, and you’re literally pulling the bow and arrow to shoot intruders coming into your village which was actually quite stressful and sweaty after the third level because they’re coming at you in 360. You fought front, back, sideways and there’s no discontinuity. It’s literally as if I am sitting here and people are attacking me from behind. You didn’t have to switch screens. You didn’t have to switch views. You literally, physically just turn. What was your favorite game or experience there?
NILS: Yes, I did the same just like what you just said. I did the archery game which was really interesting. It literally felt like I was there and I had to continually look in all directions. I was immersed into the space. I was able to be on top of the castle and I was shooting people in all different directions within a minute or two. Genuinely, I almost forgot it wasn’t real even though it was animated. It wasn’t even a physical place. And then, I got to do a flying game. I was laying in this moving table. I was flying a spaceship. Such an interesting experience. Every time I do virtual reality, it’s just gets a little better, a little cooler. Yes, it was really a lot of fun.
KENNY: They had this fully, wrapped-around immersive goggles for most of them. And they’re actually different equipment. Some of them I think had Samsung written on top of it, right?
NILS: Yes, Samsung VR gear which is basically a Samsung whatever phone 7, in the phone, you know, and the little headset. I think you can get those headsets for a hundred bucks if you’re a Samsung user. It’s a really good virtual reality experience. Now, the best live experience is the Oculus Rift that Facebook now owns and puts out just from a quality standpoint. And I got to do it, while Facebook does live coverage, I got to do their Facebook spaces. And I video-conferenced you while I was in this virtual reality world.
KENNY: From outerspace, yeah? You were from outerspace.
NILS: From outerspace, yes. It’s such a fascinating world. It moves so quickly and honestly it’s a lot of fun.
KENNY: I have Google cardboards, VR goggles at home which you can slip in your phone and download a slew of apps today. And that experience is pretty real. But these goggles were amazing. It was better than iMax. It was completely seamless. You literally did not see the edge of the glasses at all. Your vision was the same vision being replaced on a digital screen. It’s mind blowing.
I am excited, both of us being church online pastors before in that space, what it could do for church online and visitors in particular. Are you excited as I am about that potential?
NILS: Oh yes. I think there are so many different purposes that you can use 360 video for and coming back to FA, our Facebook stats, our algorithm shows that many people are captivated by these 360 videos in the news feed. We want people to create more. There are not enough 360 video out there. So they gave it to everyone literally, here are our 360 cameras for you to use.
KENNY: Lucky guys.
NILS: I actually didn’t get to have one because I have a live demo to visit and I am still kicking myself for it. But, it’s fascinating to see how they are trying to get you to use it. As you do it, I think you can capture worship service, you can do a tour of your facility, almost like “Here’s what it’s going to be like to visit our church”. You know you literally walk into the front doors in the worship center and somebody can almost feel like, ‘that’s what it’s going to be like to go there.’ Or you could do a walk-through around your office or here’s what it’s like to have a small group. There are endless opportunities in how you can utilize this technology or this new video experience. Where video currently is a rectangular shape and you picture an image into that. It’s now all directions which creates complications as we always known it. But, it encourages even greater opportunities the way we ever known as well. It’s really just such a fascinating technology. If you’re in church, you could choose to look at the pastor, you could choose to to look at the screen, you could choose to look at the person behind you or next to you. You choose your experience and that’s really an interesting opportunity where if you’re watching church online currently, you choose to experience what the camera guy or the producer chooses because they’re picking what camera you’re looking through. They’re picking what angle it is. And so, it’s really a fascinating medium that I am so excited about.
KENNY: I think two things happened. One, is it’s going to increase the ability for you to share with visitors, who are not in your church, what actually goes on in your Sunday worship services or any other meetings or any other events. But, two, I think it puts the pressure on churches and ministries to start thinking about your service experientially for the right reasons because people are… I don’t want to say that we are pondering to the consumeristic approach to choosing a church but when visitors are coming sitting in a row, they are looking around. They are actually looking and choosing their own view to pay attention to things that you may not want to pay attention to and all those things weigh in their decision to, are they going to come back? So, if you are able to really pay attention to aesthetically and experientially for that video experience, I think it’s something that’s a boom to many churches who are struggling to come visit them for the first time. That’s the number one thing, right? Churches don’t understand that people have baggage with what they think church experience is all about. This is just going to help out. I think tours are another great thing. Again, getting rid of that black hole of what they think a church is like is the number one thing that these things can help with.
NILS: Kenny, I got my 360 camera right here. This is simple and it’s got one button. I turned it on. You can see the light’s on. In a matter of seconds, I just hit this button and I am now recording a 360 video of our conversation right now. Somebody watching this can watch it in any direction they want. I can hook it into my phone. It’s got this little clip so I can hook this to my phone. I can be doing 360 live. I can just simply upload it to Facebook, to Youtube. It really is that easy. It doesn’t require a bunch of cameras or much equipment.
KENNY: So, that’s literally easier than a Go-Pro. Go-Pros are not that easy. It has all these buttons and stuff like that.
NILS: And you have to hook it on your computer. You know, the Go-Pro doesn’t really, I guess you need to upload it to the WiFi but, it is. It’s easy. I got a Go-Pro but I use this more than I use my Go-pro because it’s honestly just so easy. It’s so small it fits into my pocket so easily, so I just take it with me on the go when I am doing something so, it’s a lot of fun. It only costs $200. While that’s not cheap, it’s affordable. The barrier entry into this space. If you have an iPhone, you can afford $200 for camera which most ministries, it can be a struggle for some, but most can. Like if you’re a youth pastor and you’re in the space, I think the creativity that teenagers will come up with an opportunity on this. I just can’t wait to see what people can do. This is cutting edge technology. But, it’s also very affordable to anybody. It’s not that complicated.
KENNY: Again, it’s one of those things, if you’re paying attention to social media. Right now, Facebook is privileging, it is prioritizing video, and on top of that it is prioritizing Facebook live, I can only imagine basically what you told me from the FA conference is that they are going to privilege 360 video in their algorithm. Is that right, Nils?
NILS: Absolutely. What they will say is they don’t really privilege anything in their algorithm now, but we all know that’s not true. But, what they say is video specifically, 50% of content in Facebook is now video. 50% of our content uploaded is now video, because people are engaging more in video as we see in our algorithm. And they said 360 video is beyond video on an engagement perspective. So, we want more video, we want more 360 video, go and create more video. So, we have seen the shift. Facebook live made it really easy to do video, so we didn’t have to think about recording, editing and uploading. It’s more of just do it now. Just push a button and they really simplify that process. We’ve seen a little downgrade in the algorithm. But, I think what Facebook live was a year ago, we’re going to see 360 video over the next year, kind of have the same level of engagement.
KENNY: So, that’s a super secret tip on how to get super engagement. Everyone’s struggling, “How do I get my post to be seen by people outside of my church or people that don’t follow me, the friends and family of the people that follow me.” Facebook live has been that solution for 2017. But, I think 2017, 2018, you’re right. You just invest in one of these. It’s basically, you don’t need to pay for advertising almost upfront because the reach is going to pay for itself upfront.
NILS: Chick-Fil-A is such a great marketing company. I am a big fan of Chick-Fil-A. My brother owns a Chick-Fil-A. They did this thing on cowzvr.com. They literally gave out Google cardboard boxes, to people in their store. Every store has a hundred boxes and they gave them away. Just put your phone in there, go to the website and you can watch this cow VR video. It’s such a great campaign. I think about churches basically doing a, you know, FirstBaptistEasterVR.com. And you literally have this, “Come to our Easter or Christmas Service” opportunity to that. As you’re doing rehearsals, record that in 360, watch it and do an invitation. I think that’s a really creative and unique way you can catch people’s attention. It has a viral opportunities. You know, “Hey, turn the cameras this way”. When I think about Easter, go on a virtual Easter Egg Hunt, see how many purple eggs you can find. You can watch the video over and over again. Looking for 17 purple eggs in the video. See if you can find them all. I think there are just so many fun, creative, engaging opportunities on this medium, that we can’t even thought of yet.
KENNY: The Easter Egg Hunt. You’re not only handsome, you’re a genius, Nils. Thank you so much for sitting down and sharing our experiences and thoughts about VR. There’s so much more to be done on this topic and I am sure, augmented realities are a whole other Pandora’s box that I’m sure we’re going to see over the next 12 months. We’ll have to catch up again and just chew the fat on this topic. Thank you so much. I love hanging out with you Nils. share your wisdom and your foresight in this area of innovation. Before we leave, just quickly, if anyone wants to get in touch with you directly and learn more about what you do, what’s the best way for people to do that?
NILS: They can go to my website. NilsSmith.com, or @nilssmith to me on Twitter. That’s the best way to contact me directly.
KENNY: Before you go, I’ll just make this plug. Everyone thinks that Twitter is dying. Do you check Twitter every day? Are you still on Twitter?
NILS: I am still on Twitter. I check it everyday. But, I am way more engaged in Facebook and Instagram than I am on Twitter. So, I don’t think Twitter is dying. I think Twitter is niching just like Snapchat and Pinterest have niched. It’s a different kind of niche because I think it’s a news stream. So, yes, I am still on Twitter. That’s why I am directly engaged, the way you can tag somebody in the system but, yes. It’s interesting where it’s developing. I am pretty excited though. I think we’ll soon see resurgence on Twitter. I am not that engaged now to be honest.
KENNY: Twitter is the same thing for me. It’s the best way, it’s the easiest way. Each one has its own purposes and so to reach out new connections and finding people, that’s a place you can reach me @KennyJahng or you can reach Nils, @NilsSmith on Twitter. Thank you so much for hanging out with us today on the Lunch and Learn. As always leave your comments here. Let us know what other topics you’re interested in because we’ll cover them and serve you here on Church Butler, Lunch and Learn. Thanks folks!