Archives For social media

Here’s a paragraph from a book I’m reading about the power of images in the Roman empire. People were pretty much using images of themselves doing cool stuff (cooler than their neighbours) to establish their own brand. Their own significance. Their own place in the great pecking order of life.

The disintegration of Roman society created individual rivalries and insecurity that led to exaggerated forms of self-promotion even among people who had nothing to gain by it. What began as a traditional agonistic spirit among the aristocracy denigrated into frantic displays of wealth and success. But the scope of opportunity for such display was often still rather limited. P. Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, 15

Sounds a lot like now. Except we have Facebook.

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 4.04.16 PM
Image: A screenshot from Facebook’s “Timeline” page

Using Facebook to glorify something other than yourself and your curated life is pretty hard. Even the links we share about stuff that we’re passionate about tends to be stuff that tries to make us look good. Check out this TechCrunch article that may as well be titled the hypocrisy of our use of the Internet, but is actually titled “Sex is more popular than Jesus on Google” (for some depressing confirmation – try going to google and watching the autocomplete results for “I’m 10 and” and then adding a number until you get to your 50s, 60s, or 70s…).

The TechCrunch article features this series of snippets from a presentation the guy who made buzzfeed (Jonah Peretti) gave at a conference today.

When you look at google searches, he says perhaps unsurprisingly, “sex is more popular than Jesus on google.” Compare the search terms “diet pills” and “Arab spring,” diet pills win. Obviously, this isn’t what Larry and Sergey had in mind when they started Google.

We use Google to search for secret things, to investigate what other people are saying about our deepest darkest secrets, interests and curiosities. Google Image search is filled with pictures of pets doing hilarious things, while Google search serves up results on the great ocean of porn out there on the Web.

Facebook, on the other hand, is a projection of our social relationships and behavior. Together, they generally represent and are a metaphor for the two ways we use the Internet. On Facebook, the same person who is looking at stories involving nude pics, is also looking at and sharing inspiring stories about victims overcoming disabilities and so on, along with politically-motivated stories.

My goal for the next little while is to practice something like the 80/20 rule – where 80 percent of the stuff I post isn’t about me and how great my coffee life is – but about how thankful I am for Jesus, and how thankful I am for other people. And the other 20 percent of stuff is authentically me – not the curated me. I’ll try to be interesting, and not just reflect on my toast (unless it’s a really cool instagram shot of my toast. No wait. That’s doing it again).

Facebook is changing. Again.

The newsfeed is getting more compelling. It’s getting a facelift. The dross is being cut, and that mostly means that pages will suffer because people’s profiles will trump them. Very few people (I’d say “nobody”) join Facebook because they want to follow brands.

Fresh Feeds

Such is the way of Facebook.

They have no business model if they can’t entice people to spend money on advertising, and if they can’t keep users interested and on the site. They’re already losing out to other sites because they’re a little more boring than your average social media platform.

The key to success on Facebook is being interesting. Getting people talking about your brand.

Facebook has this thing called “EdgeRank” – it’s an algorithm they use to decide what gets into newsfeeds and what gets edited out. You’ll see stuff you want to see because Facebook tracks who you interact with, and tracks what other people are interacting with. This doesn’t seem to be changing in the new newsfeed – pictures, check-ins, and video get interacted with (shared, liked, and commented on) more than text. The changes are emphasising what is already popular.

This means, if you’re running a page, there’s more value in multimedia content than text updates.

But the key for pages is as it always has been – producing good content.

I feel like I’ve said this all before. Because I have.

What do these changes mean for your church?

We’ve been thinking about how we use social media as a church as part of thinking about how we use the web. Here’s our Facebook page.

We’re interested in sharing stories, and sharing this sort of multimedia content – at the moment, we’re especially interested in sharing videos.

The key, as far as I’m concerned, to succeeding on social media – and in most PR – is getting other people endorsing your product, talking about you, and pushing your agenda. I’m convinced almost nobody listens to anything that sounds “corporate” or like advertising. But people do listen to other people. Especially other people they trust. The real power and value of social media is in people talking about and sharing things.

Our strategy is to get other people sharing the content we’re created. People who are bought into the idea of using Facebook for Jesus.

These changes mean this is even more important than ever. Because as a page you need people who come to your page, without being hooked, in order to share the content you’re producing.

It works. We’re in pretty early days of our strategy of asking people to share our content (offline as well as online), and it seems to be working. Here are some stats from recent posts on our church page. We were starting from a relatively low base in terms of sharing and views per post, and we have less Facebook likers than we’d like.

On the 31st of December – our last post for last year – a link to our podcast (coincidentally, one I preached) scored 152 “organic” views on Facebook – that’s 152 views where the link made it into the newsfeed of people who already like the page, or where people came to the page.

A month later, on the 30th of January, we posted a promo poster thing to announce the launch of our new 4:30 service, it was shared 10 times, but only liked twice – it scored 141 organic views, and 4 “viral views” – where people saw it beyond the “organic” process, because it showed up in their newsfeed when a friend shared it.

We posted another post card type picture for our big term 1 teaching series “Got Questions” – it was shared 37 times, liked 10 times, but was only seen by 213 people.

We started sharing our vodcast instead of a podcast – and the numbers began a steady increase. A video of our podcast on Hell was viewed 503 times, 356 of those times were “viral”…

A video post featuring a friend of mine from our church wondering if the Bible was anti-gay was shared by 8 people and scored 684 “viral” views. Then, last week, a young woman from our church anonymously shared her testimony as a story on our page, which was shared 6 times and scored 50+ likes and was seen by 1500 “viral” viewers, and 300 organic viewers.

In the same time this was happening – a business I do some social media consulting for spent $200 on advertising on Facebook to reach about 21,000 people a day during the 6 day campaign, and increase likes on the page by 145 people (in a targeted demographic based on a location).

We could start paying for advertising for church – but because I’m a PR type not an advertising type – I’m biased towards not paying and trying to get people talking about our product – the good news about Jesus. I think this fits with our message too. It’s a person-driven message and anybody who becomes a follower of Jesus has their own story of transformation to share. That covers our “content”…

One of the other big markers for communicators/advertisers is the ability to “convert” messages into results. A “conversion” for us, online, is getting someone to church in the real world, or seeing someone come to know Jesus. When it comes to conversations with our friends - the real power of social media rests in the ability of Christians to engage in gospel conversation online that they take offline.

I think our non-paid model is a good long term strategy. It’s a better fit with who we are and what we’re on about.

Getting people to like and share our content has seen our reach on Facebook increase by a multiple of seven. The only way Facebook is going to work for your page – if you’re not going to pay to promote it – in the long term is by encouraging real people to share your content and to discuss it with each other on social media.

If your social media isn’t “social” you’re doing it wrong.

We have a pretty great story to tell. And telling real stories of real transformation – especially our own stories of transformation, offered by Jesus – like the story the girl from Creek Road shared – is something that can work in just about any platform. Social media or otherwise.

The Facebook newsfeed changes mean we need to think about how we’re sharing our message – the media types we use – so pictures and images are in, and text is mostly out. But the method and content is the same – we’re ambassadors for Jesus sharing the good news about what he means for us and can mean for others.

2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Once the church website is up and running, I’ll be putting some more thought into how we use social media. I’m also toying with turning some old blog posts, some other bits and pieces, and my masters project, into a social media ebook.

This is a handy infographic. Because it’s a visual reminder that using the right content on the right platform is important.

framed-visualstorytelling-e1361895487860

Via Churchmag, from M Booth.

If everybody leaves there will be less pictures of cats, and food I don’t care about.

Leaving more room for my photos of coffee…

… and my daughter…

 

…and my wife.

But mostly of coffee…

But seriously. I like Instagram.

Its social networking meets fauxtography nature is perfect for producing the picture content for my coffee blog. Its hashtagability means it’s perfect for pulling together real time user-generated picture content at an event.

Liking Instagram means I want Instagram to survive. Especially now they have great web profiles. Instagram surviving means they have to make money.

How did people think they were going to do that if not through the content that we produce using their app, and store on their databases, with all sorts of great metadata and user generated responses to brands and places. That’s where the value in their service is, so it makes sense that that’s where they’ll try to become profitable.

Instagram says things aren’t as bad as the interwebs made out anyway, and The Verge has a great piece showing what they can and can’t do, legally speaking.

This Funny or Die response is probably my favourite.

I’m expanding my presence on Twitter. Which involves getting more followers. This happened by accident. Deliberate accident.

Lots of expert Twitter types have a policy of following back the people who follow them. And I’ve spent the last couple of days tracking down, and following (like a good stalker), people who do church communications stuff. So when I followed 100 new people, I scored about 25 new followers.

One of the questions I’m trying to figure out when it comes to social media in general, and Twitter in particular, is how you be present on these platforms in a way that points people to Jesus. How do you use these platforms with humility shaped by the cross? This is true for St. Eutychus too, and for Facebook (though I have some thoughts on ways to use Facebook in a gospel-promoting way (linked, for ironic self-promotional purposes)).

twitter crown of thorns

 

Reading through a few thousand Twitter biographies has been an interesting exercise.

Incidentally, one of the reasons I’m doing this is that I’m drinking some of the social media kool-aid (also this Kottke piece) that says Facebook is a weird mish-mash of relationships largely made up by incidental people in your life – former colleagues, school friends, and random acquaintances – which is true, with all the caveats about how I love you very much if you are one of those people… while Twitter is fresh and exciting, and you can follow people you share interests with. So I follow the coffee industry, and its various parts, and personalities, and people keen to see the good news of Jesus presented to as many people as possible, in the best ways possible.

I’ve followed lots of people in the last few days, and there are some pretty useful people saying some pretty useful things out there.

But there are some people who I’ll never follow, because their 160 letter bio – which is what Twitter gives you – is too cringeworthy. I have limits.

I should make a slight qualification at this point – I’m particularly interested in what people choose to feature as “individuals” rather than as “professionals” – professional accounts need to be professional. They’ll have a different set of standards – and a different set of communication priorities. And that’s fine. I’m really interested in what individuals, especially Christian individuals, choose to feature in their bio. Because most of the people I’m following are running what essentially amount to mixed accounts – which deal with their professional interests from a personal perspective, or are in vocational ministry – so professionally Christian – some of these quibbles I’m making in this post will apply more or less directly on a case by case basis.

160 letters isn’t a lot. I’d prefer to err on the side of not using all the characters (you can see my profile here). But here is what my blurb said before I started thinking about this:

Christian. Husband. Father. Blogger. Coffee Blogger. Theological Student. PR Mercenary. Coffee snob. http://thebeanstalker.com  | http://st-eutychus.com

Here’s what I’ve changed it to.

A broken human. Bought by God. Following king Jesus. Trying to love people.
Relentlessly curious | Fixated by words | Pursuing coffee perfection

There’s a long and rambling post I’m writing and editing, and writing and editing, about the perils of being a Christian on social media – with its built in tendencies towards default narcism. I’ll post it, somewhat ironically, when I can finally get it to a point where it doesn’t seem to all be about me.

The biography is an interesting, and fixed, part of who you are on Twitter – even if, as Kottke suggests, you are your last six tweets, the bio provides an interpretive framework for how your tweets are read and understood. It’s a big part of your personal brand – in that it shapes how people who don’t know you outside of Twitter perceive you.

So the Twitter bio presents the best, and worst, of this part of social media. This isn’t a post about the content of your feed – but the bio both frames how people perceive you, and provides some indication of what you’re going to post. You can make everything you post about Jesus, and ruin it with a bio that’s all about how great thou art – not how great he is.

Biographies and about pages are the distilled essence of your presence on social media, more than each individual tweet, or post. They’re designed for self-promotion. They’re the billboard that wins you new followers. Your sales pitch. If there’s ever a time to talk about yourself, in a flattering way, it’s the Twitter bio… and maybe this is a cultural thing – maybe my good, old-fashioned, Australian, tall poppy syndrome kicks in here – but if you have to blow your own trumpet, and beat your own drum, it’s not really a tune I’m all that interested in listening to, or a rhythm that gets me tapping my feet along…

It’s hard to be simultaneously “self-promoting,” in line with the expectations of the medium, and self-effacing, in line with the cross-shaped approach to self that Christians are called to adopt.

How do we take up our cross and follow Jesus in this space? How do we imitate Paul, who resolved to know nothing but Christ, getting rid of the eloquence that would focus attention on himself when his Corinthian audience, who couldn’t separate style from substance, forced him to… as he imitates Jesus?

This is one area where I think Mark Driscoll, channeling Luther, does a stellar job. Here’s his bio:

“A nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody”

What I’ve found is that there are certain common elements to Twitter bios that I’d argue are essentially redundant. And a few elements, when individualised and freshened, that I find really appealing, and I’ll be trying to fit into my bio. I’ll do those first.

5 Elements of a Christian Twitter profile that I like

  1. It starts with Jesus. If Jesus isn’t defining who you are, and one of the things you want people to know about you – then why do I want to read about you?
  2. It humanises. It doesn’t just end with Jesus. That’d be boring – and the sort of pietism that, if reflected in your tweets, is a real turn off (I’m looking at you Piper). I like the idea that Twitter isn’t just about being in a Christian-to-Christian love-in. I like Twitter profiles that show me something of a person’s humanity (I’ll get to some short cut ways of doing this that annoy me below) – and acknowledges human limitations.
  3. It’s humble. This is related to the first two, and it’s a genre subverter. And I love people who pull this off in a bio, it often requires a bit of well thought out self-deprecation. It’s part of the reason I like Driscoll’s bio so much (even if the content of his social media presence can occasionally run counter to that).
  4. It uses humour appropriately. Generally this follows being humble, but it can also be a matter of what you choose to focus on, other than yourself.
  5. It gives some idea what sort of content you’ll be tweeting. This goes two ways – it’s a great tool for you, the tweeter, to give you some sort of editorial policy, but it also means if I follow you on the basis of a common interest you highlight in your bio, I’m not going to be inundated by pictures of your cat.

5 Elements of a Twitter Profile that scare me off

Those are the good. Here are the things that irk me…

  1. It’s all about you. Even if you’re sufficiently self-effacing, if you’re a Christian, and you’re not using this 160 characters to give some account of the hope that you have (even using the label “Christian” is better than nothing), then you’re wasting letters.
  2. It’s all about your idea of your qualities. Calling yourself a “leader” or a “genius,” or a “creative,” or anything better demonstrated than claimed – this stuff always reads, to me, a bit like the lame person who tries to give themselves a nickname to fit in somewhere. Nicknames come when you demonstrate that you fit in, or as part of the process. Leaders lead. They can’t just say “I’m a leader”… Creative people demonstrate creativity.
  3. You waste letters on disclaimers. There’s nothing more boring than reading “ideas my own” or “retweets are not endorsements” in your bio. Boring.
  4. You put faux-interesting expressions of humanity in your bio. It’s not ground breaking to tell people you love coffee, or your family (which is why I cut those bits). Nor, I would argue, is being “into coffee” all that interesting – especially because being “into coffee” is so relative. Do you drink instant four times an hour? (I’m guilty of this one – though I’d argue having a coffee blog means referring to coffee in my profile is indicative of the content I’m going to tweet). It’s another shortcut to interestingness to tell me that you like sports, and you support a particular team – I can’t believe how many people put that in their bio (I’m a Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles fan by the way… and a Man Utd fan). If that’s the tribe you want to claim some sort of allegiance to, then that’s fine.
  5. It’s full of doublespeak/weasel words. I read a bio about optimising such and such through creating synergies and blah blah blah. That’s exactly what I thought. Why would you waste 160 characters on words that either mean nothing, or could be explained in less letters in a way that isn’t just designed to make you look smarter than the other guys.

So. Are these the worst? Or am I missing something? And perhaps more importantly – how do you navigate the minefield that is the narcissism inherent in the system, and the humility inherent in recognising that you’re a broken human following the crucified king? Even posting something like this is fraught with the possibility of being a little self-indulgent, so what’s been helpful?

Warning – if the use of the word “penis” offends you, or the thought of natural bodily functions like “periods” – then don’t read on, though it’s probably too late.

A guy, of course it was a guy, complained to women’s hygiene product maker BodyForm on Facebook because their mystical picture of a happy period didn’t match the reality when he got a girlfriend. His post got more than 90,000 likes.

Here’s what he said:

“Hi , as a man I must ask why you have lied to us for all these years . As a child I watched your advertisements with interest as to how at this wonderful time of the month that the female gets to enjoy so many things ,I felt a little jealous. I mean bike riding , rollercoasters, dancing, parachuting, why couldn’t I get to enjoy this time of joy and ‘blue water’ and wings !! Dam my penis!! Then I got a girlfriend, was so happy and couldn’t wait for this joyous adventurous time of the month to happen …..you lied !! There was no joy , no extreme sports , no blue water spilling over wings and no rocking soundtrack oh no no no. Instead I had to fight against every male urge I had to resist screaming wooaaahhhhh bodddyyyyyyfooorrrmmm bodyformed for youuuuuuu as my lady changed from the loving , gentle, normal skin coloured lady to the little girl from the exorcist with added venom and extra 360 degree head spin. Thanks for setting me up for a fall bodyform , you crafty bugger”

Body Form responded.

We loved Richard’s wicked sense of humour. We are always grateful for input from our users, but his comment was particularly poignant. If Facebook had a “love” button, we’d have clicked it. But it doesn’t. So we’ve made Richard a video instead. Unfortunately Bodyform doesn’t have a CEO. But if it did she’d be called Caroline Williams. And she’d say this.

The advertising company behind the this move, Carat, has explained their rationale…

“Yulia Kretova, brand controller for Bodyform said in a statement: “We found Richard’s post very amusing and wanted to continue the positive dialogue around periods that this generated. Working with the brand for five years, breaking down the taboo around Bodyform and periods has always been a challenge, and I hope that we have started to address this. Carat has created an original and uniquely personalized response, brilliantly PR-ed by Myriad, allowing Bodyform to quickly engage in consumer conversations in a meaningful way.”"

It’s no secret that social media requires respond to criticism with personality – it’s much easier to do this when the criticism is humourous, because everybody wins – the guy who posted the initial complaint gets some attention and a brief moment of internet celebrity, the company comes off showing a human side, and we all get a laugh. Everybody wins.

It’s harder when the criticism is serious and substantial. Getting tone right is important – you don’t want to mock the people who are concerned about a big issue. And it pays to have developed a voice and personality for your online presence before you get hit with a big complaint, so that people can see you’re being consistent and authentic with your brand, and your dealings with customers, not fake.

Body Form smashed this one out of the park, it gives them something to build on, like Old Spice a few years back.

Probably the most helpful thing I’ve read on developing and maintaining a social media personality is the book Likeable, which I reviewed here, and another book, called Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, by Michael Hyatt – that I’ve been meaning to review for a while. This is useful stuff when it comes to responding as a brand, and interacting with people in a way that wins them, and others, to your cause.

But it doesn’t really help when the criticism is nasty, personal, or just down right wrong. All of these are frustrating. All of them happen on the internet with alarming regularity that leaves you despairing about the corporate human intellect. Treating people like they’re dumb, or responding in kind, is a pretty quick way to lose friends and alienate everybody.

This got me thinking about how I deal with criticism. I’ve been struggling with this in recent days – particularly some of the comments here, but I’ve been struggling with it for much longer – because I’m a creature of pride, with a quick tongue (and fingers, when it comes to typing).

It’s easy to talk about dealing with criticism well online – in my experience it’s incredibly difficult to do, especially when you feel like you’ve been involved in the criticism personally. I tend to write passive aggressive posts here, and try to respond to comments in a gentle way while gritting my teeth and wanting to reach through the screen and throttle the person who has dared to attack me, sometimes the anger and hurt comes through – but this is not the way. Responding with actual love and concern for the person you’re responding to is a better way.

I should keep these Proverbs in mind when I’m responding to people:

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger – Proverbs 15:1

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel- Proverbs 15:18

This bit from James 1…

19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

And this great bit from Romans 12…

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I’ve got to admit – part of me enjoys the idea that by responding in love you make the person who is attacking you feel uncomfortable, and in some way you’ve got to imagine the guy who wrote that post to Bodyform, while enjoying the response, feeling a little uncomfortable with both the attention he received, and the amount of effort the company went to to respond to his joke.

But the ultimate way to respond to criticism, joke or otherwise, is modelled by Jesus while he’s on the cross. Beside criminals – being taunted, having his clothes gambled for, dying (Luke 23:34).

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

I wish I was better at that.

Twitter is making this mission to mars extra fun.

First, Curiosity has been tweeting with a great blend of personality and substance. NASA’s social media team are doing a great job. Apologies if this doesn’t show up nicely in the RSS, I’m going to use the new WordPress embed tweet function for the majority of this post…

It has made the Curiosity mission to Mars lots of fun, and shows some of the benefits of doing social media well. And its spawned a few fun spin offs.

Like today. As Curiosity announced it was about to employ its rock zapping laser for the first time on a humble rock named N165. N165 soon had its own Twitter account.

Here’s the science behind the story of this poor rock on Mars.

 

Remember Beck?

No? Not the Ted Danson show. That was Becker. And it sucked.

Beck. This guy.

The guy John Safran “exposed” as a scientologist (he was already well and truly known as a scientologist).

Anyway. Now that the short primer on Beck is over – he’s doing something a bit cool, he’s releasing an album. As sheet music. Through McSweeney’s – and they’ll be featuring notable user generated versions of the music.


(this is a mockup.)

 

This is ultra low fi. It’s lower fi than a 4 track tape release. It’s also a really nice way to tap into the music culture of the internet – in a fashion similar to Gotye’s remix of covers of his own song – harnessing user generated stuff is my favourite way to use the power of web 2.0.

Warning: There are some clips in here that may slightly, or significantly, offend.

Some guys who make really successful viral videos are talking about what makes a viral video, and the history of viral videos. Useful stuff if you’re thinking about making YouTube part of your social media mix as a church or company.

The “Viral storytelling” part about 5:30 in was, I reckon, particularly interesting.

It’s good stuff.

This is Now pulls current instagram shots from five international cities (including Sydney). It’s pretty cool.

This is a few minutes ago in Sydney.
Sydney in the now

And in Tokyo.

Tokyo in the now

It shouldn’t surprise you that I think churches should be using social media, and the ones who do use social media should be doing it better. Mostly because I think we should be going to where people are communicating and communicating the gospel to people (because I think that’s what Paul models in Acts 17 in Athens, and because I think it’s part of “always being prepared to give an account” ala Colossians 4).

It doesn’t surprise me that the churches that are using social media think that it helps them reach people, which seems to be the implication of this infographic from an American survey that was featured on Mashable yesterday.

Here are some resources for using Social Media for ministry, or thinking about Social Media.

I’ve been working at pulling together some streams of content and sporadic bursts of related content into something that is less “blog” and more “website”…

So I’ve gathered together a few streams of resources, and you can find a nice little drop down menu on the top of the page.

I’ve got:

I’ll be updating these over time, but hopefully this will provide a better return on investment for me content production wise, and be of cal

Savvy user generated content is pretty much the holy grail of social marketing – or marketing of any sort – generating “buzz” also known as “word of mouth” also known as “having other people blow your trumpet for you” is the best, and most cost effective, way to spread the word about your product, cause, church, or company.

But boy can it go wrong. The Qantas Twitter fiasco is a testimony to that, as is the time Justin Bieber let people vote for where his next international tour would take him – the denizens of the Internet made sure North Korea topped the vote.

There have been a few funny campaigns like this in recent weeks, where the collective imagination, or hive mind, of the Internet has turned on a couple of campaigns – in the crosshairs, in the United States, weighing in as one of the biggest companies in the nation, is Walmart, but Australia is not immune to such frivolity, as Queensland Rail can attest.

Walmart ran a vote to sent a hip hop character known as the Pit Bull to any of its stores, well, the store that gained the biggest number of likes. Voters jumped on board to send him to the smallest, and most remote, Walmart in the country with a campaign called #ExilePitbull. At Kodiak Island. Somewhere in Alaska. Where Russia is visible from the sporting goods department. The campaign seems to have originated from a Boston website called The Phoenix.

Walmart embraced the result, so Pitbull is off to Kodiak Island.

Churchm.ag has a good little analysis of the Walmart situation as it pertains to social media marketing for churches.

A couple of months ago QR launched a train etiquette campaign, where its online followers could generate, or customise, their own “Super Simple Stuff” campaign poster. The interwebs took over, many of the posters that resulted are far too crude to share, but it’s fair to say the campaign backfired.

Here’s a relatively tame example. Via Know Your Meme.

Queensland Rail responded pretty much the way they had to when the Courier Mail turned the campaign’s memeness into a story.

“The etiquette campaign has encouraged customers to be aware of their own behaviour and think about what is socially acceptable behaviour while on the City network,” he said.

“Since its launch in September 2011, our campaign has sparked a lot of interesting discussion on train etiquette faux pas.”

The third little example is slightly different – Shell Oil is facing a parody campaign, some environmentalists have created a page that looks very similar to Shell’s own website. The parody site gives people the chance to generate an ad that looks a lot like a Shell ad – and these have spread around the net.

Here’s the ad I just made.


Image Credit: Arctic Ready Generator

Some “social media commentators” couldn’t tell the difference between satire and real life, and slammed Shell – who have been forced to be pretty gracious about the whole thing. This confusion was exactly what the campaign was designed to achieve. The campaign even involved setting up a fake Shell account to respond to the campaign…

That reaction highlights something interesting about playing in this sphere. If someone has it in for you online – like Greenpeace do with Shell – there’s not a whole lot you can do about it to come out a winner. The SMH piece has a few opposing perspectives on the issue…

“As an observer it would seem Greenpeace actually wants Shell to take legal action, which of course would draw even further attention to their campaign,” said McDonald.
“For Shell it’s the nightmare of juggling perception and reality and right now they are probably damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
“My only advice to Shell in this instance would be to suggest that they launch a fake Greenpeace site and laugh it off.”

And…

“”It’s behaving, smelling, looking as though it was Shell under siege so the only way that you would ever know that it wasn’t Shell is through the Twitter ‘verified account’ but I know that a lot of brands haven’t gone through the verified account process.”
Gloria said she saw a real Shell “Let’s Go” banner advertisement on a US site that “looks identical” to the spoof Arctic Ready site.
She said Greenpeace had realised that it was much more effective to campaign online rather than appearing as “hippy do-gooders”. Why chain yourself to polar bears in the Arctic when you can create a fake Twitter page and do more damage?
Gloria criticised Shell’s response, saying it was behaving too “corporate” and not adequately responding to the campaign in the channels where the hijacking is occurring.
“They mistakenly believe they will give Greenpeace traction by ‘dignifying’ a response. Unfortunately the opposite is occurring – by not responding, Shell look corporate and out of touch,” she said.

I tend to sit somewhere between the two – Shell needs to do something funny and brand salvaging, in a voice the collective mind of the internet will appreciate, or it needs to issue a mea culpa on its practices and promise to change, and then actually deliver (a bit like Maccas have done with responding to rumours and criticisms about their burgers in Canada)… This is partly to do with having thought out a Crisis Communication Plan for social media stuff – which the books I reviewed last week touched on, and also with figuring out your “voice” or personality online so that you can respond accordingly.

Of the three situations, only Walmart has come out a winner, QR hasn’t been particularly damaged, but at the very least their campaign shows that not all publicity is good publicity, and the Shell situation surely demonstrates the utter foolishness of that idea – their brand is being hammered and laughed at, with no potential positive outcome, unless they think that motorists are more likely to think Shell when their “fuel empty” light flashes up on the dashboard on their next drive, and less likely to think about dying polar bears.

Smart Business, Social Business is the most technical of the three books I read during our holiday. It’s not for everybody. Where the other two were “vibe” based, and supplied principles, this is stats and numbers driven. Where the other two were conversational in tone, this is didactic, and assumes a degree of familiarity with some business and marketing terminology.

Out of the 85 percent of people who want companies to be present in social media:

  • 34 percent want companies to actively interact with them.
  • 51 percent want companies to interact with them as needed or by request.
  • 8 percent think companies should be only passively involved in social media.
  • 7 percent think companies shouldn’t be involved at all.

The data is clear. Consumers want to have conversations with companies they care about. They don’t want to engage with corporate entities or logos, either—they want real, live human interaction and two-way dialogue with employees. And this can only be achieved with another person.

“One of the worst things any company can do is create a thriving community and then abandon it. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. Before launching new communities, Facebook fan pages, and Twitter profiles, a company must get a firm commitment from everyone involved to continuously engage in these channels. Otherwise, the company will surely be at the center of criticism and will probably be featured in a Harvard Business Review case study titled “What Not to Do in Social Media.””

“An advocate is a customer who talks about a product, service, or brand without being asked to. These customers may or may not be influential in social media, but that doesn’t stop them from talking about the brand and telling others about it.”

There’s some interesting stuff on the cash value of social media followers…

“In 2010, social media marketing firm Vitrue determined that the average value of a Facebook fan is about $3.60 in equivalent media each year. The firm calculated this using a wide range of clients and their 45 million aggregate fans before arriving at the $3.60 annual valuation. A couple of assumptions Vitrue makes up front are that each status update posted by the company generates an average of one new impression for each fan. It also assumes that the brand is posting two updates per day. Finally, Vitrue placed a value on each impression by assigning a $5 CPM, which translates to $300,000 in earned media per month, or $3.6 million annually, for a fan page with 1 million fans. The mathematical equation follows: 1M impressions × 2 posts × 30 days = 60M impressions 60M impressions / 1,000 × $5 CPM = $300,000 $300,000 × 12 months = $3.6M $3.6M / 1M fans = $3.60 The one flaw in this equation is that the $3.60 valuation heavily relies on the fact that the company needs to post an average of 730 status updates a year to reach that $3.60 value per fan. That’s just less than two posts per day, which is extremely high; sometimes overengagement can appear to be spam and can result in a loss of fans.”

And a bit on the amplification that social media platforms allow…

“For example, assume that company A has 1,000 Twitter followers. Every time it shares a piece of content, its potential reach is 1,000. Of course, this number will naturally grow as the company acquires more followers. The reach of the messages will increase exponentially as more followers retweet the message. If one of the company’s tweets gets retweeted 10 times and each of those followers has 1,000 followers, the total reach of that branded message would be the following: 1 tweet × 1,000 followers = 1,000 10 retweets × 1,000 followers = 10,000 1,000 + 10,000 = 11,000 total reach An engaged community that finds value in content that is shared on Twitter is likely to share that content with its own microcommunities.”

The plan this book advocates is fairly similar to that presented by Likeable Social Media.

  • Create social media policies that address employees’ behavior when engaging online.
  • Train employees on how to blog, use Twitter, and be conversational when interacting in the community.
  • Develop a metrics model to measure the effectiveness of employee engagement on the social web.
  • Find and engage with online influencers and the communities where they spend their time

The first two steps are pretty much described by Likeable. The strength of Smart Business is the emphasis it places on listening to what people are saying online – you can join all sorts of conversations by monitoring when people on Twitter are talking about relevant issues, and even what people in your area are talking about with a tool like Nearby Tweets.

Part of doing social media well online is understanding how people behave online, and what sort of people you want to “empower” or build systems around. The book divvies up people according to how they use the net.

  • Creators—Create and publish content on blogs, Twitter, and YouTube.
  • Critics—Post ratings and reviews on websites such as ePinions, Yelp, and CNET. These users also comment on various blogs and wikis and contribute to online forums.
  • Collectors—Collect content in the form of tags and RSS feeds. They also vote for content on websites such as Digg.com.
  • Joiners—Join social networks but might not necessarily create or interact with any content.
  • Spectators—Only consume content. They read blogs, watch videos, read customer reviews, and listen to podcasts.
  • Inactives—Don’t create or consume any social content whatsoever.

The book also advocates finding advocates who will do the talking about your business for you – or, in the case of ministry, will use the channels you create to share the gospel (and stuff about your church) with their friends.

“Whatever the reason, advocates are vocal, passionate, and unafraid to praise the brand (both online and offline). In some cases, advocates even defend the brand against criticism and negative feedback. And even though they might not have hundreds of Twitter followers, Facebook fans, or RSS subscribers, the conversation with advocates about the brand is always authentic. Why? Because they’re being real and aren’t trying to impress anyone.”

You’d hope that comes with the territory of being part of a church – that should involve a significant level of personal investment.

Like every social media textbook everywhere, Smart Business relies on the premise that content is king – and that producing engaging content is fundamental to any social media success. It makes a distinction between proactive and reactive content (this distinction pretty much applies to all forms of consumer/public relations).

“Proactive content considers all outbound engagement and includes the sharing and distribution of brand-related messages on corporate blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other owned media properties. Proactive content can include product- or company-related announcements, industry perspectives, contest management, and other promotions…” 

Proactive content gives you the opportunity to plan. This is something we do at Creek Road, because the service, not just the sermon, is defined by the big idea of the passage, we are starting to think about how we build the big idea, questions, and application, into our use of social media. This little snippet from the book is particularly useful.

“Some companies create just weekly or biweekly editorial calendars. However, it’s good practice to also maintain a six-month thematic calendar that documents and includes upcoming events, holidays, product launches, and other topics of interest to customers.”

Reactive stuff relies on having that carefully defined voice, and being quick to engage with criticism – preferably in a winsome way. It’s also worth reacting quickly to positives too, there are some great case studies in these books where encouraging and affirming people who have taken the time to engage with your product has worked to boost the good vibes involved as the interactions spread through people’s networks…

“Reactive content happens as a result of listening to conversations on the social web and responding when relevant. It can certainly include responding to comments on corporate blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, but it can also entail leaving comments on third-party blog posts.”

Here’s a “slideshare” that goes along with the premise of the book.

The author, Michael Brito, writes a blog, and you can also follow him on Twitter. He’s also produced an infographic that might help you think about the web.

This book was harder going than the other two books, but it was pretty useful, especially as a companion piece providing some of the technical background and research to support the conclusions the other books assume.

 

 

I really enjoyed this book. This was actually my second time through (I’d read through it on a previous holiday) – but I wanted to skim over it again having read Platform… its fundamental thesis is that the social media success is tied to being Likeable , which in turn is tied to being a good citizen of the web, giving content away, sharing, and being altruistic in order to win brand loyalty and create ambassadors. So its got some great tie ins with ministry – especially since the gospel should come with built in enthusiastic ambassadors, namely, the church (2 Corinthians 5:20).

“In the beginning, there was Adam and Eve. Eve said to Adam, “You’ve got to try this apple,” and the first marketing interaction in the history of the world had taken place.”

The fundamental conviction at the heart of this book is that word of mouth marketing is the most powerful form of marketing (I agree), but that harnessing word of mouth marketing and even generating it – especially in the age of social media – requires a bit of thought and deliberation, and then an ongoing commitment to being present in a persistent and authentic way.

“Who is better to defend you against negative posters, you or your thousands of happy customers? What kind of company would you rather do business with as a consumer—a company that publicly answers every single customer, or one who seemingly ignores many customers?”

The thought and deliberation happen at the level of thinking about your brand’s personality and the substance or content you aim to share to engage and benefit your audience.

Being authentic means speaking in a language that really represents who you are, but also in a language that resonates with the people you want to connect with – this means, in business, avoiding corporate weasel words or legalise, in the Christian sphere it’ll mean avoiding jargon and in crowd stuff.

You also need to have some grasp of the way each social media channel works, and use that knowledge and the thinking work you’ve put in to figure out a strategy for how you use them (or don’t). I’ve put together something like a social media strategy a while back which has some info about how Facebook works, amongst other useful things, but this book is helpful because it gives you practical homework at the end of each chapter that will leave you with a good sense of how to take your next steps into the world of social media.

There’s some stuff in the book that’s incredibly useful if you’re looking to promote a specific product where you want a purchase decision (which I don’t think you can do with the gospel – there are a few more categories that probably need to be esablished than a Facebook ad or status update can accomplish) – so this advice is relevant for events, or for people who are looking for tips for a small business, there are lots of pearls of wisdom along the way, like:

“Write five sample Facebook updates that combine an engaging question or valuable content with an irresistible offer, and link to your website to buy or learn more. Test, track, and measure the results in order to optimize for future ROI.”

To translate – even when you’re selling something you want to be hooking people with the update so that even if they don’t act, they engage, and including some sort of call to action. And you should experiment till you get it right. This is a theme Platform develops in more depth, I’ll be reviewing it in the next couple of days.

In my experience, and I, at last count, administer Facebook pages for about 20 different churches, events, and businesses, the pages that do this stuff well, and thoughtfully, are the ones that take off – so one page, for a popular drag racing team, has gone from 0 to 7,000 fans in about six months, just by having a well thought out brand, carefully driving people to their page, providing good content, and urging people to share the love and invite their friends.

Here are some examples of helpful “homework” from the book.

1. If you’re a one-person operation or a very small business, write down five things you could say that would seem inauthentic or that sound like marketing-speak to a customer. Then write five examples of how you could say the same messages in a more authentic way on Facebook.
2. If you are part of a large organization, create a plan for how to represent yourself authentically. Recognize that authenticity won’t be easy but that it’s essential. Meet with key stakeholders and management at your organization to determine how you can make communication more authentic across all channels, especially on social networks.
3. If you already have a social media policy, examine it carefully to ensure that it encourages authentic communication, and tweak it if it doesn’t. If you don’t yet have a social media policy, draft one now.
4. If multiple people are responding on Twitter on behalf of your organization, have them sign tweets with their name or initials.

1. Create a social media policy that insists on honesty and transparency as the default expectation. Review with other key stakeholders in your organization what company information, if any, is off-limits and how you can better embrace openness and transparency while still keeping this in mind.
2. If you work at a large organization, determine whether your chief executive officer can effectively use social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook herself to be the ultimate transparent representative of your brand.
3. Closely examine your social media policy to make sure it is aligned with the values of honesty and transparency at its core. If it is not, consider what you could add to help instill these values. Include references to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s code of ethics.
4. Write down three ways you could respond to questions and comments on social networks in a more transparent way in order to further build trust with your customers.

And here are some helpful quotes from the book…

“The formula for ad success is not to link ads to your website or shopping cart but to link to your fan page. Connecting users to your page encourages them to engage with you. They might enter a contest or ask you some questions about products, services, or your industry. They have the opportunity to connect with other people in your community.”

“Also, forget the notion that YouTube is about creating “viral videos” and getting millions of views. Is it possible to create videos on YouTube that will go viral? Sure. But think of the last 10 viral videos you’ve seen on YouTube. Chances are few of them, if any, were created by or for a business. Most of these videos take off organically. Videos that are “produced” don’t tend to go viral. What makes content viral is that very thing that often can’t be produced: the spontaneity of human experience. Even parody videos are based from the initial experience that was captured on video and released to the world, then deemed viral.”

“Many company blogs are unsuccessful because they are updated infrequently, and too often they’re updated with press release-like broadcast material, rather than valuable resources or content. With a blog, you have the opportunity to include longer text updates than you’re able to through Facebook or Twitter, as well as incorporate photos, videos, polls, and other multimedia. You can also tell stories at your own pace and on your own terms.”

One of the central theses of the book, if not the central thesis, is that being successful on the web means being prepared to give away good material in order to build your brand, and goodwill.

I think the great take home messages for people in ministry, or people who are thinking about how to use Facebook for Jesus, is that churches looking to use social media to help spread the gospel, as a way of connecting with people, the secret is in empowering those in the pews to be using your church’s presence as a bit of a call to action in their use of Facebook – we should be encouraging those who are keen ambassadors of Jesus, and members of our church communities to be talking about both Jesus and church in an authentic and engaging way online, we don’t carry the entire weight of producing good content that people will engage with (though our church/ministry pages should be doing that).

There are some interesting ways I’m thinking we could use Facebook advertising spinning out of this book – you could target people who say they’re Christians who have just moved to your area (changed location), you can target friends of friends to invite them along to evangelistic events, you can target people who aren’t Christians to welcome them to your area with the offer of a welcome pack if they like your page, you can target engaged or married people in your area to offer pre-marriage counselling or to advertise a marriage course. Facebook advertising is fairly powerful stuff – which is why it can be insidious when used by unscrupulous people. I read someone I respect greatly who said that the low quality of advertising on Facebook was enough to drive him away from spending advertising dollars, and someone yesterday suggested the inappropriate ads he was receiving were causing a rethink about Facebook’s values – but it’s not Facebook that does this, beyond an algorithm, it’s people using the data and likes you’ve supplied to target you – the key to improving the standard of ads on Facebook is liking more particular stuff (the ads I get are almost exclusively coffee related), and for advertisers – the key is producing relevant ads that might cut through some of the noise of weightloss ads, dating service spruiking, and whatever else you get coming up on your profile.

It’s interesting too that the emphasis on social media success seem to fall around characteristics that are emphasised by Paul as either parts of his ministry, so he has a fairly cross-shaped approach to ministry that emphasises ethos and substance over flashy and impressive stuff, or the modern equivalent. Authenticity. Loving others. Being selfless. Responding to situations that emerge with humility, integrity, generosity, and grace… the guy who wrote this book is basically the most successful social networking consultant going round – and he’s essentially advocating that people behave sacrificially in what they give out online, though he’s doing it with the expectation that it will eventually produce material returns, and we’re expecting that it will build goodwill that will get the gospel a hearing.

There are some great ideas in the book about what sort of content makes good Facebook content and boosts engagement – the ultimate goal is being likeable, and getting people to share the stuff you’re putting out there, which I guess raises a question about how we get people in our churches on board with this and thinking about themselves as ambassadors when they’re online, which probably taps into a bigger issue regarding how we get people to think about ambassadors when they’re offline. Part of authenticity is making sure that the experience people get of our church family is consistent both in the virtual world and the real world.