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Entries in social media (17)

Wednesday
Feb222012

Day 17: The Buzz is Gone--Now What?

I remember last month like it was yesterday.  I would get all goose bumpy when I posted a Tweet and my world rocked when someone "liked" a Facebook comment. Yeah, I miss those days.  Now, a new tweet is nothing special. I can post a Facebook status in my semi-awake state in the morning before I go to work and can post a pin on Pinterest in between making dinner and falling asleep watching the evening news. My tweetdeck chirps, and I don't even care--I don't know the person chirping at me anyway.  My voyage toward social media competence now reminds me of that scene in the Chronicles of Narnia when the Dawn Treader runs out of wind and just floats around (I believe that's the part right before they are attacked by bad monster-things). Yep. I have begun to master the tools, but am growing weary.  I still don't have many real friends on Twitter but I continue to get connected to good blogs and identify good trends in my professional work.  The Facebook posts keep scrolling on, whether I pay attention or not. And although I still struggle with who my audience is--my mom, publisher, spammer, former student or future employer--I got 48 birthday wishes from people who at least knew my name. 

As this social experiment evolves, I continue to parse through what is worthwhile and what isn't.  And although I am wondering even more seriously about the ROI of blogging, I am getting into a workable routine of surveying my social media environment and trying to manage some sort of momentum.  And maybe that's what this part of the voyage looks like--surveying and maintaining.  We all know that if there is nothing new--whether it be in our Facebook or Twitter work, we will die.  Well, ok, that might be overstating the metaphor, but if we are too inactive, people will stop paying attention.  But if we are too active, they might forget what we look like at our real job--the one we get paid for. So maybe my lesson for today is that when things get busy and we don't have anything terribly pressing to say, we need to shift into survey and maintain mode--keeping enough wind in the sails to keep us moving so when the next great idea comes, our sails will be ready to go. As I sit in the social media doldrums, I will continue to move.

Sail on, baby, sail on.

Friday
Feb102012

Day 14: Do numbers really matter? Analytics & Twitter tracking

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a blog or Facebook post that you have worked hard on sitting out there, looking lonely and unread.  It is easy to assume that if no one comments, no one is reading. And if no one is reading, it isn't working. But before you conclude this social media experiment was a bomb and throw in your mouse and cancel your blogger account, let me propose a walk into the world of social media analytics. Analytics is all about finding out how well read your websites and posts REALLY are and what kind of virtual splash you may be making even though you can't actually see the ripples.

Before I get too far, I have to admit my naivete in this field.  But, as confusing as all of these tools and numbers are, I have learned one thing--analytics can help you measure your effectiveness and, even more important, focus your effort into the things that are actually working.

The first step in keeping track is to figure out who is watching.  After all, if you know who is paying attention, you can do a better job of focusing your messages for that particular audience. While there are a number of ways to keep track of who is looking at your sites, there seem to be a few tools designed especially for people like me; people who are just getting started.  The one I have fallen in love with is Google analytics.  One of the reasons I like it is because it is free.  It requires that you paste some HTML code into your blog (a little techie but not too bad), and the payoff is really fun.  Unlike my blog site's statistics reports, Google analytics adds a number of pieces of feedback like where the people who read your site live (it gets down to a city by city analysis) and is loaded with colorful graphs and pie charts.  Another helpful aspect is that it measures which keywords people are using to find your material.  Using keywords to your advantage is key (get it--key) to drawing attention to your site.  There are lots of ways to say things, but if you use a few of the right words, you can increase how many people will find you.

A second tool that has been recommended in a number of blogs is HootSuite. I haven't looked into that format too much, but the tool will track not only your blog, but all of your social media.  It is also a nice way to organize your tweets, Facebook posts, web sites, and lots of other tools.  If you have more than one person working on social media, it is a nice way to collaborate and organize what you are doing.  HootSuite can also schedule your tweets or Facebook posts for the week.  So if you want to do a bunch of blogs or tweets on Saturday when you have time, HooteSuite will allow you to schedule the time and date those things will actually appear.

While knowing your audience is important, knowing what they are saying about you is also a good idea.  One of the easiest ways to do that is to track your Twitter "mentions".  My TweetDeck does this beautifully, so that if any tweet shows up with my name or my church's name, I can see it.  Seeing what strangers say doesn't mean I will reply, but it seems pretty important to know what topics resonate with people or what things really tic them off.

So, do numbers really matter? I say yes.  It makes me feel better that just because my blog post looks lonely, doesn't mean it hasn't done it's job. And, as I refine my blogging, tweeting and posting skills, I am getting a better handle on who I am talking to and what is most important to them.  Social media analytics doesn't have to be confined to nerdy statisticians and computer geeks.  With a little work, we can use numbers to make us better at what we do.

Sunday
Feb052012

Day 13: Community on Twitter? Really?

Building community over Twitter is hard. I have been tweeting now for almost half a month (yeah, well when you’re my age, that’s like dog years) and I am still having a hard time seeing community--oh, I've read people who say it's there--but I haven't seen it. In fact, I feel more like an outsider looking into other people’s fun lives. For instance, a couple of tweeters got engaged the other day and announced it on Twitter. It was really cute and as the congratulations came scrolling in (I almost sent one myself) I had to remind myself--I don’t know these people—at all! I am just a lonely follower who found their names on my Twitter recommended list and thought their picture or their screen name looked nice. As lovely as that is, is it community?  Is it the basis for community? Is it a small glimmer of community shining through a glass darkly?

According to David Hansen, blogger and frequent tweeter, Twitter is made up of “a group of stranger-friends” where we “offer one another mutual support and prayer. We mourn together, seek advice together, and rejoice together. I consider this community.” As much as I yearn for that, I simply don’t see it flourishing in my experiences, each made up of 140 characters.  According to Elizabeth Drescher, author of Tweet if you heart Jesus (and also a twitter “friend”), the power of social media is in the social aspect—not the broadcast aspect. It is when we share with others about our days or our thinking that we build the stepping stones of relationship. While that sounds SO compelling, the closest thing to an “interpersonal conversation” I have had is when someone told me I simply didn’t understand how to use Twitter. Those 140 characters cut me like a virtual knife--but at least he talked to me.

David Hansen asks an interesting question: “is being ‘face-to-face’ really the most important common denominator for community?”  After spending countless Sunday mornings talking to people who I know as well as my formless twitter friends, I would have to say "no", relationship-building is clearly the most important part of building community. When you don’t spend time interacting with one another, whether online or face to face, community won’t work. But, my bottom-line problem is that I haven’t figured out how Twitter works as “interaction”. It seems more hopelessly one-way and broadcast-based than Facebook.

So here I am.  Frustrated and skeptical of those who preach the gospel of ministry and love through Twitter. I want to believe. I really do.  I want to be a Twitter cheerleader, an agent of change, a virtual lover of all things new, but after “following” every person I know in real life and trying to “talk” with my new formless Twitter friends who don’t have a clue who I am, I am tired.  So if you happen to read this and DO feel community on Twitter, please talk to me. Tell me what it takes. Tell me what to do before I become a Twitter drop out.

Saturday
Feb042012

Day 12: Pinterest, I get you.

Pinterest. It feels like one more wave I am missing as many of my friends (some older than me) surf this new social media space with passion and skill. Many have secretly shared with me that they have spent entire evenings wandering through this lovely virtual garden of ideas. I’ll be honest, it took me months to figure out where this secret garden was and how to get in.  Once I got in, I have to say, it just looked like a virtual garden mess—weeds, pictures, pins, boards and all.  It seemed like just one more social media spot I have to check every morning so I won’t feel like I'm missing something.  Will it never end? My Lucky Charms are getting soggy already!

It was the day my friend came into my office, once again sharing with me her joy of Pinterest, that I decided to take my own advice, jump in, experiment and not quit as soon as I became overwhelmed.  Since this particular friend is an advanced social media junkie, I asked her to explain.  We pulled up the program and she showed me how to create my own Pinterest boards.  She showed me her boards and the kinds of things she likes to look for.  She showed me how to put the “pin” button on my Internet navigation bar so I can easily “pin” things I like. Then, like a parent pushing a child on a bike with no training wheels for the first time, she shouted “you can do it, Peggy!” and went back to work.

I fooled around for awhile, then found a topic I liked—recipes.  I hate cooking and ran out of good recipes years ago so I started wandering around pretty pictures of food.  Those pictures brought me to lovely recipe sites. I began pinning recipes I could make the next week.  When shopping day came, I just went on my pinterest board and quickly compiled my menu. I also wandered around humor sites and found some great pictures—since visual humor is always easy to share, I pinned a few things that I can put on Facebook later when I don’t have anything particularly fabulous to say. Pinterest; I get it. Am I a Pinterest junkie. No.  Can I ride through the garden without training wheels? Oh, yeah.

So here is my advice—it is the same advice I’ve given before.  Don’t give up. Take baby steps and keep taking them until you find the loveliness in the tool.  Find someone who uses it well and ask them for some pointers. Once we understand the tool, then we can do a better job of choosing what works best for each task. Pinterested? Yes, thank you, I am.



Wednesday
Feb012012

Day 11: Overload, Oversimplification, and Organizing

I knew it was going to happen.  11 days into this experiment and I have become overloaded. I can't keep up. This feeling of having too much to see and do and keep track of has led to a demotivation which has ultimately led me to revert back to a simplistic way of seeing social media as a pure time waster. 

I know, however, that there is more to it.  I totally understand that community takes time and energy to develop and maintain.  Staying on top of issues in my professional field takes proactive searching and reading. The question is--do I have the time and energy to keep up?  The answer is--I need to prioritize.

Ok. I'll be honest. The real problem was that I went back to work today. I have this fabulous job where I get every 4th January off to conduct research (or something that at least sounds kind of academic). But January is done.  It is now nothing more than good tweet memories and exciting livechat experiences. It was fun, but now I have to figure out how to have a job, blog, tweet, Facebook, pin, stack, poke, AND play temple run--oh, yeah--and cook dinner.  What stays and what goes?  What does it really take to stay on top of friendships AND professional reading using my new social media tools?

I am in the midst of developing a morning and afternoon routine.  I glance through Tweetdeck & Facebook each morning, tweeting or connecting with friends.  Then in the afternoon, I go through Tweetdeck again, stopping to link to interesting blogs or commenting on professional topics. I am hoping this schedule wil at least help me keep up with the network I have worked so hard to develop.

My biggest problem is the blog.  A good blog takes a while to research, then another chunk of time to write. Here are some really good ideas from Bridgett at Perideau Designs that I am going to try out.  The best idea is a "blog log" where you can keep track of things to blog about in the future, as well as a place to keep track of helpful links that can be used in those blogs to make them more interesting and credible.

If you are following along with me on a social media journey to competence, let me be the voice of encouragement.  We can do it.  It might be time to pare down and reprioritize, but I am more convinced than ever that social media can minister to people in a way that those social media critics and spectators just can't understand until they see it happen for themselves.

Monday
Jan302012

Day 10: Social Media & the Sabbath

Yesterday was Sunday. I woke up, got out of bed, made my little cappuccino with my new little coffee machine and sat down to check Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, my RSS feeds, and my blog. Then it dawned on me.  It’s Sunday.  Although I am getting my social media life in order so it doesn’t take so much time in the morning, it still resembles work. And, I must embarrassingly say, it often cuts into time that used to be reserved for my quiet time with God. So what do I do with Sunday? My Sabbath? Is it good to take a regular beak from social media? Is that what honors God?  Or maybe honoring God is more about doing some focused connecting to people who are important in my life, using social media. 

Clearly, taking a technology break is a good idea.  We can’t have balance unless we understand how imbalanced our lives are.  That usually requires taking a step back and prayerfully observing and considering the little choices we make every day that either draw us closer or push us further from “loving God with our whole hearts”.  Fasts can highlight what those choices are. Fasts can reacquaint and remind us of the goals we say we have for the technology in our lives.

But there is another way of thinking about this.  In the discussion we had at #chsom about Lent and Social Media, the overwhelming consensus seemed to be that giving up social media for Lent was exactly opposite of what we should do.  Instead, we should be using social media to inspire and remind people of everything Lent stands for.  According to one participant “Tweeting is a discipline” and if we use it wisely, we can reach people’s hearts in an intimate and purposeful way.  This perspective seems so opposite what most people think of as Twitter and, to be honest, it feels a little naïve.  That being said, however, first thing Sunday morning, when I hopped on Twitter, there was 5 messages to “all those pastors out there”, each one encouraging and uplifting.; things like “have a great sermon today” or “enjoy this Sunday God made just for you” or “praying for the connections you will make today”. I can’t tell you how inspiring the sweet tweets were and how much I felt like I was part of the body of Christ.

So, the question still remains---what do we do with social media and Sabbath? The answer is…I'm still not sure.  What I do know is that it is a lot more complicated than simply turning the Tweet off for the day.



Saturday
Jan282012

Day 9: Reading & Organizing

As I am finessing my tweet pals and my keywords, I am finding some blogs and websites that are pretty interesting.  One was from an author whose book I just finished (and really liked). Another was an institute that is doing research in my area of study.  A third was a site with puppy videos. So what do I do with all of this “stuff”?  I could bookmark them all on my Firefox, but that makes the everyday surfing I do even more complicated (and besides, I can’t usually remember what half those sites are after I bookmark them).

The solution to organizing all of the digital “stuff” I am accumulating? Delicious.com. It is described as “the world’s leading social bookmarking service”. The greatest benefit to delicious is that it stores all my “oh, that is cool” places all in one spot.  It also organizes them.  For instance, I have collected a number of potential resources for a class I teach in Computer Mediated Communication.  I also get frequent requests after I speak somewhere for a list of good resources.  Not a problem.  The other benefit to a site like delicious is that it is social.  So if I want to share my class resources with my students or writing resources with interested audiences, all I need to do is send them my delicious link and they can peruse through my collection.

The other benefit that I haven’t quite figured out yet has to do with sharing organizational patterns.  For instance, if my tags are “public” and I tag a site on puppies, I might put it in the file I label “communication strategies”. Other people who tag the same thing can see how I organized the site and may get a whole new perspective on puppy love.  They might also see that I am a like-minded communication person and we can build some sort of virtual relationship.  I also think it is like the geeky habit of looking through other people’s bibliographies for good ideas of what to read.  This time, though, I can take a stealthy perusal through someone’s “collections” or “stacks” to see if there is something new to see. And it’s a lot more fun than looking at boring APA citations.  For instance, I looked under “the evolution of the modern bathroom” and found fun pictures, blog excerpts, and videos of bathrooms throughout history.  I also do a search into social media and church and find the top sites that have been tagged by other delicious users.  I also get a good feeling for what keywords I should be using in my blog posts.

Well, the whole thing is kind of fun—in a weird, geeky, organizing way.  As my social media use is increasingly cluttering my thinking and my workspace, it is so very important to find tools that will help simplify and structure my experiences. Delicious.com and TweetDeck and just 2 of the best things I have found.



Friday
Jan272012

Day 8: Holding my breath & jumping into a Live Chat

Tuesday night I engaged in my first real time social media event—well the first event I didn’t cower in the corner, hoping I wouldn’t hit the wrong button or have someone yell at me for being stupid. No, this was different.  I am determined to experiment and make mistakes during this 30-day challenge so at 9:00EST on Tuesday I joined the discussion of social media in the church with the #chsom group.

The moderator began with a request for introductions. She seemed nice, so I said “hello”—well, not just hello, but “hello” in a spunky, yet sophisticated way.  Before I could start breathing again, 3 different people welcomed me! I must have done that first part right!

The discussion began and, even though I had a hard time keeping up with some of the conversation and didn’t quite understand some of the abbreviations (IRL took me a few minutes), I started learning things.  I learned how to talk fast in 140 characters.  I learned how to retweet. I learned how use # and @.  Sure, I learned a little about social media and lent, but mostly I became more fluent and confident in the language of the Twitter man. Experimenting can pay off.

I think the best part of hopping into a real-time Tweet chat is that I feel like I know some people.  I got to see some personalities and I am feeling more like I am part of the #chsom club. The weird thing is, that as I lay in bed that night, I thought in tweets. My dreams were filled with conversations—all in 140 characters or less. I woke up with ideas for at least 2 or 3 good tweets to put out there.  As I got out of bed, I couldn’t wait to check my tweetdeck to see what my new friends were doing. 

If you are reading these blogs, I would challenge you to go for it.  Hop in and see what it’s like.  No matter what, you will be smarter than when you started.



Thursday
Jan262012

Day 7: One Word: TweetDeck

 

I thought I was in love with Mr. Hashtag. But I have moved on. Sorry #.  My new very best friend is now TweetDeck. Let me share my story.

I have been adding people to follow on Twitter like a crazy woman. I’ve got inspirational preachers who can massage 140 characters like Michelangelo with a tweet brush. I have Ashton Kutcher who shares lovely photos of his life that I love looking at, feeling like I am his close, personal friend. I have social media experts who share blogs and articles of things I tell myself “oh, shoot, I should have written that”. I even have real life friends who I tweet stupid messages to, even though they work in the office 2 doors down.

I’ll be honest. I’m going a little nuts--oh, nuts in a good way. I’m getting kind of hooked on the tweet.  But the problem is I have all these random tweets popping up and it was getting increasingly hard to keep track. Hello TweetDeck.  TweetDeck is “a personal browser for staying in touch”.  More than that, it organizes my tweets.  For instance, I have set up columns for each type of tweet (professional, friends, inspirational)—(FYI, Ashton K. is under “friends”). TweetDeck also helps me track when anyone mentions me or retweets me (I can’t believe I just said that). And the best thing of all, I have it set so that it actually “tweets” like a bird whenever a new tweet comes in.  Today, I listened to chirps all afternoon—best day EVER!!!!!! 

 Clearly, my next challenge is to figure out how to get things done (like my job)  in between tweets. But until I figure that out, I will enjoy my lovely twitterparadise. Thank you TweetDeck. Thank you TweetDeck bird chirps. And thank you Ashton Kutcher.



Tuesday
Jan242012

Day 6: Search Engine Optimization (or getting more than 10 people to read your blog)

Blogging takes a lot of time and I am pretty sure writing 30 blogs in 30 days was not the best idea I’ve ever had.  The question I find myself continually asking is the same one I started with.  Can anyone hear me?  I routinely post each blog link to Facebook & Twitter, but let’ s face it; my friends are busy and my followers live cluttered lives.  Not too many of them actually read my blog.  So how do I get my name out there and get my content read by more than just my mom?

One answer is SEO or search engine optimization.  Now, true SEO is way beyond my novice blog.  I have students who work on SEO and even though I see their mouths moving, I never know exactly what they are saying.  Rookie SEO, however, is all about getting Google to notice. For instance, I Google the exact name of one of my blog posts.  After looking through 10 pages, I quit—Google doesn’t know who I am.  According to the experts, the real key is to get other websites to link to your site.  The better the website, the higher the rank in Google’s algorithm.

Sounds easy, right? All I need is to get Christianity Today to link to my blog, and I should start seeing traffic increase. Oh, wait.  That’s right. Christianity Today doesn’t care about me or my link. So what are other ways to get linked? One way is to leave comments on stories related to your blog or your product.  While comments left all over the web may actually decrease your ranking, it makes sense to comment on the articles or blogs that actually relate.  This accomplishes 2 things.  It will impact your SEO and people will start to notice your name.  One thing I have found is that the community of people who blog & tweet about certain topics is usually a fairly small bunch.  It doesn’t take too long that, with a little work, you can be part of the club. Once you are part of the club, people will link to you because they like you.

According to blogger Susan Gunelius, it is all about writing great content. “If you write great content, people will want to link to it… Get on the radar screen of popular bloggers and websites by leaving comments, writing guest posts, participating in forums, emailing directly, writing articles, and so on. Build relationships with people who write for high quality sites, and the number of quality, incoming links you get to your blog will grow organically over time.”

So that is my task for today.  I am going to find the best articles and the best websites and begin leaving comments. There is a real-time twitter forum tonight on my topic and I am going to suck it up and jump right in.  I am even going to take one of my blogs and re-form it into an article and send it to one of the websites I follow.  With a little work, I hope that by the end of the month, Google will actually know who I am.



Monday
Jan232012

Day 5: What is my Twitter purpose?

As I begin to try and get twitter organized in this 30-day challenge, I am confronted with a nagging question….what, exactly, is the purpose of Twitter?  The question has arisen as I develop a list of people I want to follow.  My hashtag success pointed me toward social media experts like Social Media Insider. However, my students point me toward celebrities like Ashton Kutcher. The “most popular” list pointed me toward inspirational speakers like Rick Warren & Joyce Meyers. And my writing turns me toward people I know in real life in an effort to build community. The problem is, when I begin following all of these people, I am overwhelmed with tweets and more than a little confused by where I should go or what I should be doing in Tweetland. I had hoped to avoid the bigger questions of purpose and strategy until after I was more skilled at the tools. However, it is becoming clear that the tools won’t work unless you figure out why you want to use them.

Apparently, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is trying to finesse the same question.  In a conference in Munich this weekend (as reported by blogger Chris Crum and tweeted by Social Media Insider) Dorsey claimed Twitter is NOT about social connectivity.  Rather it can be characterized in 3 words: “public, real-time and simplicity”.  Apparently Twitter’s greatest success is in real time news-gathering. (And, might I say, Mr. Doresey, Twitter is the least “simple” thing I have done in a LONG time.)

If news gathering was Twitter’s highest calling, then I would have to say, there must be easier ways to accomplish that goal.  I think there is more. According to Twitter user TJ Therrien, the greatest benefit of Twitter is professional networking.  I have to agree with him.  Although the #, @ and links still overwhelm me, I am becoming increasingly educated on current trends and linked with the change leaders in my field (leaders I never knew existed).

However, if professional networking was the sole purpose for tweeting, then what about ministry?  Is it worthwhile for pastors, or any kind of person desiring to share the love of Christ, to use Twitter?  According to blogger Houston_proud, Twitter is more than links to blogs and a bunch of friends sharing what they had for breakfast.  It is about “presence”.  Sharing life’s tidbits helps us to feel like we are present with our friends.  When people need help, Twitter is a real-time way to listen and “be there”.  According to blogger Brian Humek, active use of Twitter has helped him encourage people, help friends with job leads, talk people down from suicide, and "make new friends along the way".  I don't think that getting to this level of Tweeting is easy, and at this point in my journey, I'm not sure it is worthwhile. 

So why worry about purpose?  It shapes how you use Twitter and what you expect from Twitter.  If you expect theological discussions and strong community, you may be disappointed and quit before you find a purpose that actually suits the tool. I think that figuring out how to use Twitter is wrapped up in where you are on the journey and what you want out of this social medium. I’ll end this blog with a chart on Twitter acceptance that I totally resonate with. I'm not sure if I will ever move beyond stage 3.But, of course, this is just day 5--who knows what I will think at the end of the month.



Sunday
Jan222012

Day 4: Failure to launch...Pinterest, Instagram, and the invisible “send” button

Yesterday I shared with you my lovely tweeting successes.  In an effort to communicate authentically and to avoid the appearance that this journey toward social media competency is easy,  I thought it only right to share some of my recent failures as well. They focus on one challenge: “send”.

Failure 1: Instagram.  I noticed some of my Facebook friends are posting modern, trendy-looking pictures.  Yes, they may be pictures of a cup of coffee, or a pumpkin, but they look so artistic.  The answer: Instagram.  Let me tell you, me and my instagram had a fun afternoon.  I took pictures of the dog, of trees, of a squirrel, and, TBH a bunch of pictures of me in the mirror—making different faces.  After all, you never know when you will need a picture of a crabby-looking woman.  Taking Instagram pictures: a success.  Then came the failure.  I tried to figure out how to get these pictures from my iPad to someplace helpful, like a blog post or a Facebook status update.  I went into a few settings pages, hit a few innocuous looking buttons, and before I knew it, a tree popped up on my Facebook page.  Ahhh!!! I didn’t want a tree on Facebook!  Then a horrifying thought crossed my mind.  What if I accidentally sent all those pictures of me in the mirror to 273 of my closest Facebook friends!?  I quickly shut the program down, shuttering at the near-social death experience I had just narrowly escaped.

Then it happened again.

Failure 2:  Pinterest. Everyone seems to be doing it, so I hop on. It was nothing like I expected. I absolutely don’t get it. That is where I got into trouble.  I decide to pin something.  Why not pin my book ReBoot—I like my book. Pinned.  I quickly scroll through a few things and pin some stupid dress, a picture of a dog, and a blog I had never read.  “Well”, I think to my self.  “This is lame. On to the next thing”  Little did I know, that silent send button had once again claimed me as a victim.  There was no official “share” button, no pleasant request, no flashing lights.  But, without my knowledge, my stupid little pins were suddenly public record.  And that wasn’t all.  In my e-mail box I began to get one notification after another that I had new pinterest followers.  “NOoooo!”  I wanted to tell them “Don’t follow ME!  I don’t know what I’m doing!”  I began to philosophize ‘What does this say about followers in this social media world?  what does this say about leaders who randomly hit pin buttons?”  but what I should have asked is “how do these programs decide to “send” my material around the world?”

Here is my lesson. Experimentation with social media is good—you can’t learn if you don’t try things out.  The caution is “beware the silent ‘send’ button”.  Even when you are experimenting, make sure you don’t do anything REALLY embarrassing, because you never know when 273 of your closest friends will get an unintentional glimpse into your social media mistakes.



Saturday
Jan212012

Day 3: Who is Mr. Hashtag and why is he my new very best friend?

Yesterday I tweeted. Thank you. Life is full of little victories and I celebrate mine.  What was even better than the excitement of hitting the tweet button was the introduction to my new very best friend. Mr. Hashtag (or # as I like to call him).  After days of reading through scrolls of tweets with this annoying little # interrupting anything that communicated with a flow, I decided to figure out why Tweeters were out to make reading sentences so difficult. So who is Mr. #? Why is he standing between me and Twitter competency? Well, let me tell you my discovery. # is magic. Pure magic.

I first found my favorite hashtag buried in an article I was reading.  Instead of skipping over the annoying #, I decided that, since I was on a social media journey, I would click on the link. I learned about the hashtag #chsocm.  It is like this happy little community who sit around chatting about social media and the church. Well, I like chatting about social media and the church, and I like being part of a special club, so I decided it was time to suck it up and try something new.  After all, this 30-day challenge is all about diving in and making mistakes. So I made a tweet and stuck a #chsom at the end.

Oh, I can't tell you the excitement I've had in the last 2 days. Because of that little #, people found me.  They retweeted me.  They liked me. I have new "followers", for Pete's sake!  The added benefit is that as I try and sort through which tweeters to follow and which tweeters are too boring or too complicated to follow, my new little very best friend has helped me find and organize the things I'm interested in.

In case you haven't been introduced to my new very best friend, let me formally get you acquainted.  Mr # is officially defined as a symbol "used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages."  I have seen people at conferences use Mr. # to organize everyone's tweets about the conference.  At the time, of course, that was way beyond my twitter expertise.  But now I get it!  I think the most helpful article was this one in the New Yorker.  Susan Orlean talks about the creative way people use hashtags to be sarcastic or as a "muttered-into-a-handkerchief" style-tool. She talks about how to blend them into sentences or how to make them serve as commentary.  Well, I thought to myself, I can be sarcastic. I can have commentary. So, even if I mess up Mr. #, I can just say I was being a creative writer.

Well, my relationship with Mr. # just keeps getting better.  According to the experts, you don't want to put more than 3 in a tweet--that's just showing off.  I found some of the most commonly used hashtags at hashtags.org  So, when I put in #socialmedia and #chsom in one of my tweets, anyone who searches for those keywords, or is one of my new homies at the #chsom club, will find me.

Thank you Mr. #.  You are truly a very good best friend.

Friday
Jan202012

Day 2: Tweet time. Must I?

Today is my Twitter day. I'll be honest...Twitter scares the socks off me. I sent my first twitter message 2 years ago. It was something like "hey, how do you use this thing?"  No one answered. That was my last tweet. Oh, I've gone back a few times.  One time a figured out how to follow people, so I signed up to follow about 40 tweeters. Kind of a mistake.  I was overwhelmed with messages from strangers--most of which I couldn't understand. That's the other problem--no one uses complete sentences.  I see symbols like # and @ and links that ... into nowhere.  And how can people say anything of value in 140 characters--other than "I just had a cup of coffee #help @blahblahblah http://linktonowhere...."

So why worry about Twitter? Why clutter my day? Why learn to speak Twitter instead of Italian (which is a lot sexier)? Unfortunately for me, Twitter is a new way of communicating that probably isn't going away. According to the Huffington Post, Twitter now has 105,779,710 registered users and new users are signing up at the rate of 300,000 per day. But just because everyone else is sharing about the coffee they just drank or the lame thought they just had, doesn't mean I should.  According to Social Media Today, however, "It’s not just about what you are doing and what others are doing. It’s about the world around you and it’s about the community you create within Twitter." That has clear implications for ministry. This is the kind of social media that happens in real-time and in real space.  When people experience an emotion, have a question, need a friend, seek a deeper connection, they probably aren't going to wait around until Sunday morning. They go to the friends they keep in their pocket.  And the thing is, those pocket friends can minister in new and creative ways.  For instance Rick Warren has over 432,000 followers and Joyce Meyer has over 435,000. Somehow, their messages of hope are infiltrating the lives of almost half a million people--one tweet at a time. Well, I don't have that kind of following, but why can't I send a little hope out there too?  I'm not sure what it will take to build a community on Twitter, or what that even looks like, but I guess it is time to figure it out.

So into Twitter I go. First step--what do I say? I think about what I am doing that I can share with the world. I just ate breakfast. No. No one cares. It is cold outside. No. No one cares. The dog just woke up. No.... This is harder than I thought.  I know, I will start with a quote from Pope Benedict XVI.  It is hard to really bomb if I quote the pope. It took me another 20 minutes to get the post whittled down to 140 characters. I hit the "Tweet" button and off it goes.  It wasn't the best thing I've ever done, but I tweeted. Yes, I have overcome my first tweet fear. Twitter, this is your warning...I will conquer you!!!

 

Thursday
Jan192012

Day 1: Social Media Challenge--Can anyone hear me? Anyone?

It is day 1.  It is cold and quiet here in Minnesota and it is cold and quiet in my social media world.  I woke up ready to be the super social media player I know I can be. I posted my first blog. Yeah! My first success! Then I went back and read the blog, quite satisfied with myself.  As I sat there, watching my lovely blog, something became very clear to me. Nothingness. I just spent a long evening crafting a beautiful entry, but if I was lucky, two or three of my friends, and maybe my mom would read it. The question became clear. Was blogging simply my personal form of shouting into the darkness? Would anyone hear?  Would anyone care? It is like if I opened my front door and yelled into the frozen Minnesota woods--yeah, I'm pretty sure there is no one there.  Even the squirrels are too pre-occupied to take notice of what I have to say.  I think the same could be said for my blog.

So, here is my first social media task: let people know I have just blogged something fabulous. I begin by considering the tools I have.  I will start with what I understand. I have a Facebook page and I know how to do a status update.  In fact, if I do say so myself, I have been known to craft a couple of tremendous posts. They don't come around often, but when they do, I know some people fall to their knees, moved by the 3 or 4 sentences I choose to share with each and every one of my Facebook friends.  Yeah, ok, I am a lurker, not a poster.  Sometimes I think about what I could say, but then look at that big empty space under the "update status" button and quickly hit escape, praying I didn't somehow just send some weird link or swear word by accident to all 224 of my closest friends.

I understand that to be an effective social media minister, I have to somehow conquer this fear of Facebook failure.  But, for now, I am going to use Facebook as a megaphone. I already worked really hard on putting together that blog, so I might as well capitalize on that and use it to jump start my new Facebook life.

So, I get the link to my blog. I see my first problem---the link is like 3 pages long.  I spend another 20 minutes looking through my blog program and find a "URL shortcut" process that renames and shortens my link.  Be aware, you probably don't want to make the link too short or mysterious.  According to United Methodist Communications, people on Facebook like to see where they are linking to. I guess not even my friends will completely trust a weird-looking link.

I provide a blurb, add the link and the Facebook post is up! Then I see something that takes my breath away.  Within the first 2 minutes, someone "liked" it! I actually think it would take longer than 2 minutes to read the blog--but that's ok, I'm not complaining. Someone likes me!  Someone actually likes me! Oh, maybe this social life is better than I thought.

Wednesday
Jan182012

30-Day Social Media Challenge: A one month journal of learning to love (or at least not hate) a confusing, abnormal, humiliating, & really frustrating way of communicating

Social media has become a thorn in my flesh, a burr in my saddle, an "F" in my report card of life. I study its effects, I teach about it, I write about it, some people think I am an "expert" in it.  But I have a dirty little secret.  I hate it. What few people know is that I only have 4 names in my cell phone, it takes me hours to come up with a good Facebook status update, and Twitter is just too scary to figure out how to use.

So what is the problem?  After all, life is more than updates, tweets, and pokes. In fact, I wrote a whole book about that topic.  Well, here is where the dissonance comes in.  My colleague and I are examining how churches and pastors can use social media effectively.  In that process, I have run into a number of writers who preach the gospel of social media. For instance, Aaron Marshall, in a presentation entitled "The New Gutenburg" makes a compelling argument that, if we want to be reaching others for Christ, we need to go to where those people are at--whether it is in the ghettos of Los Angeles or the tweets of a co-worker.  Matthew Lee Anderson, in a Christianity Today article, says "When done well, social networking can enhance the fellowship of the church by providing congregants a window into each other's lives. It can mobilize congregants to serve their neighbors and enhance the church's mission by embedding the community of church relationships in the broader community." Even Pope Benedict XVI has articulated the benefits of technological engagement by saying that new media can "facilitate forms of collaboration and greater communion in ways that were unthinkable in the past.”

Yes, I truly believe that social media is good and necessary.  Yet, as I put together a study, articles and presentations that tell pastors exactly how use these new tools, this small voice inside keeps whispering my failings.  I can't tell you how many passionate, frustrated pastors have confided in me that they want to use these tools, they really do, but they just can't figure them out; they don't have the time and, in truth, they find this way of communicating unnatural and uncomfortable. I usually give them some "blah, blah, blah" thing about balance, taking small steps, choose what works for them, but, on the inside, I think "yeah, man! You are SOOO right!"

Well, the time has come. The time has come for me to step out of my confessional, to acknowledge I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to most of these complicated new media tools, to acknowledge I don't even like this way of communicating and to suck it up.  I am going to figure this out.

I invite you to join me on this journey to social media competence.  For 30 days, I have committed to tweeting, posting, blogging, commenting, and everything else I tell people they should do.  Some of it will not be pretty, but if this is what effective ministry looks like for the next generation, then it's time to figure it out. 

Wednesday
Jan182012

"Social Media and the Church" Study: Brief Description

The Problem:

It seems like everyone from Best Buy to Aunt Emma is using Facebook, Twitter, blogs—all sorts of social media.  If that is the case, it seems reasonable to think that churches can use these tools as well. But is a church Facebook page really the same as a Facebook page for Pepsi or Garth Brooks?  There is currently very little data that examines how churches are using social media and what benefits and sacrifices accompany this venture into high-tech ministry.

The Solution:

We know that churches are full of creative and motivated ministers and  communication specialists, each with his or her own stories of success and failure when it comes to social media.  We are hoping to compile those stories to get a better understanding of how US churches are currently using new media in ministry.

The Study:

Dr. Peggy Kendall, a faculty member in the Department of Communication Studies at Bethel University and Kirk Livingston, a free-lance writer and social media marketing expert, in a study that hopes to get a better handle on how churches are using social media.  The first step in this study is a short survey being distributed to churches across the country. The second step is follow up interviews with pastors and communication specialists to better understand underlying principles related to using these new technologies in ministry.

The Benefit:  Once the data is compiled, the findings will be presented at the biennial Converge convention in Washington D.C. in June.  Resources will also be made available that will help churches more effectively use and evaluate their use of social media.

Your Help:  We are asking that you or the person in charge of using social media in church ministry take approximately 15 minutes to complete an online survey.  

The survey can be accessed by clicking HERE


Thank you so much for your help.  If you have any questions concerning this study, please contact Dr. Peggy Kendall at p-kendall@bethel.edu