youth ministry

Should I friend my youth group students on social media?

From a Pew Internet focus group:

Friending teachers and preachers

Female (age 14): “I think I wouldn’t [become Facebook friends with my teachers]. Just because I’m such a different person online. I’m more free. And obviously, I care about certain things, but I’m going to post what I want. I wouldn’t necessarily post anything bad that I wouldn’t want them to see, but it would just be different. And I feel like in the classroom, I’m more professional [at] school. I’m not going to scream across the room oh my God, I want to dance! Or stuff like that. So I feel if they saw my Facebook they would think differently of me. And that would probably be kind of uncomfortable. So I probably would not be friends with them.”

Church Leadership Marketing

Dear Church, You Can’t Buy Followers

There are dozens of services online that let people buy followers.

Prices start at about $15-$20 per thousand, with bulk orders costing less – 50,000 followers will typically run less than $500. Those followers, though, are often dummy accounts run by computers, some in a very obvious way, some in a more sophisticated fashion.

“If you’re not familiar with Twitter and someone says I can have 10,000 people follow you, that sounds great,” says Mack Collier, a social media strategist and trainer (and frequent speaker at events like South by Southwest Interactive). “They’re not going to talk to you about how to use Twitter to meet your goals and objectives. … When we don’t really understand something, we go back to ‘what’s the number?’ The biggest number always wins until we understand how something works – especially with social media.”

Follower for Sale: Buying Your Way to Twitter Fame, USA Today

While no church would attempt to buy Twitter followers, churches who want to grow often think that a really slick marketing campaign is the difference between their growth and their demise.

Church! You Do Not Have a Marketing Problem

Unless you are a brand new start-up, plenty of people in your community already know you exist. Marketing isn’t your problem.

You do a marketing campaign for one of three reasons:

  1. You have a product or service that is new to the market.
  2. You are trying to remind people who have used your product or service and not returned that you have something new.
  3. You are trying to convince people who already know they don’t want your product of service that they really do.
SAT Question: Which of the speakers in this set does not match?

In the past two days church leaders from around the country have voted on who they’d like to see speak at an online leadership conference called, The Nines. Scrolling down the list from the top you’ll see a bunch of pastors and theologians until you come to #14… Seth Godin. A marketing blogger and conservative Jewish man.

The last thing church leaders need is to be convinced that they need a better marketing plan for their church.

Spending money on marketing without changing the reason people already aren’t coming to your church is just validating the message people already know about your church– That’s not for me.

Church! You Do Have a Follower Problem

We have bought into a lie that the way to grow a church is one of two extremes. (And our inability to grow is a marketing and not a discipleship problem.)

Extreme #1 – To lower the expectations we place on people who attend and follow us. Come as you are, listen if you want, that’s between you and God.

Followers are free but the cost of following is high. In John 6 Jesus fed five thousand people and walked on water and as a result had a whole slew of people who wanted to become his disciples. So Jesus held a quick disciple orientation class to explain what the cost of following him was.

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. John 6:53-56

Yeah, that wasn’t going to work. They just wanted to follow Jesus for the free lunch and magic show. John 6:66 says, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

In reality… that’s what a lot of people come to church for. The free lunch and magic show your church is offering. When you actually challenge them to count the cost and follow Jesus they just move on.

Extreme #2 – To raise expectations to a non-Biblical level by adding things to the Gospel message. To be a part of our team, you have to meet these 26 extra-biblical requirements as laid out in our church constitution… 

Followers are free but you keep raising the cost. Acts 15 documents a case of this.

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. Acts 15:1-2

This isn’t unlike what we see today in many churches. They add extra-biblical requirements to being on board with the church. You have to be baptized in a certain way, attend certain classes, volunteer a certain way, on and on. While none of those things are typically “bad” they are extra-biblical requirements which weed people out falsely.

In Acts 15:28-29, the council replied to these extra requirements that people were teaching with this, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.”

You don’t need a new marketing campaign to grow your church. The best growth plan you could ever have is to start eliminating the extremes. (Too little or too high.)

Question: If you have an existing congregation and the community has already decided they don’t need you. How do you change that perception?

social media

5 things you don’t have to tell me in your bio

I look at every bio for each new follower on Twitter and friend request on Facebook. And let me tell you, there’s some pretty important stuff missing and some pretty unimportant stuff that is taking up space.

Hint: Clean up your bio. People look at it.

5 Things you don’t have to tell me in your bio

  1. That you love Jesus (Show me, don’t tell me.)
  2. That you are married to your best friend, that she is smoking hot, or whatever. (Is that how you talk about all women in your life?)
  3. Your age. (I don’t care.)
  4. Anything about your children. (I’m happy you are a parent, but not really relevant at this point in our relationship.)
  5. A quote. (I’m glad you like C.S. Lewis, but is that all you want me to know about you?)

5 Things that you should be in your bio on Twitter or Facebook

  1. Your name. (Doesn’t have to be first name, last name. But if you aren’t in the witness protection program, it might as well be.)
  2. Where you live. (Not the street address, just where in the world are you?)
  3. What you do. (Occupation, employer, etc.)
  4. What you are about. (Keep is simple)
  5. Something fun. (Why would I want to follow someone who is boring?)

Who do I follow on Twitter?

I don’t have a hard and fast rule. I used to follow everyone who followed me. But that got annoying real fast. Then I followed everyone who @replied me. But that got messy, too.  In general, if a bio looks interesting and might add something, I’ll add you. But I’m also pretty ruthless about unfollowing people who are annoying.

Who do I follow on Facebook?

If you look like a real person, I’ll accept your friend request. If I am suspicious that you might be a spammer from Africa or India, I’ll check the “limited profile” button.

One thing I do, and it’s mostly for my own sanity, is that I keep my entire friend list in two categories. “Friends” and “People I haven’t met.” I don’t want anyone to really think I know 1400 people.

Social Action social media

Stupid Forms of Activism

Stupid Forms of Activism by Adam McLane

I don’t care what color your bra is.

And I really don’t care who your favorite cartoon character was as a kid. Nor do I care about a twibbon.

And yet these meme‘s make their way through social media sites over and over again as if they made a lick of difference. “You just have to do this, it’ll raise awareness about ____.

Don’t kid yourself. Changing your avatar or posting a one word Facebook profile status update isn’t changing the world or raising awareness. It’s just clutter.

Passive activism never works.

You want to change things? You want to be an activist?

Activism is by nature… active.

Speak out. Act out. Write out. Video out. Stand out. Get out. Stand out. Jump out.

There is a whole world full of worthy causes to activate people about. And God may be calling you to be that voice for that cause. So do it.

But don’t fall into the trap of passive activism. Be bold, loud, proud, a pain in the neck, a thorn in their flesh, a force to be reckoned with. Stick it to the man. Get kicked out of school. Live in a tree. Whatever it takes.

Just don’t ask people to change their avatar. Ask them to give money. Go to the place you are trying to make a difference and make a video to activate resources and your friends. Ask them to join you actively in a movement.

If you ask people to do something passive for your cause they will do something passive for your cause.

social media

5 Types of Engagement With Each Blog Post

I’m an engagement preacher. No other stat matters in social media quite as much as engagement. Likes, Retweets, Trackbacks, Comments. These are the things that show that your content isn’t just getting read– it’s getting shared.

Here are five ways each of my blog posts is engaged with.

  1. Comments (On the blog itself, on Facebook, and on Twitter)
  2. Facebook like and shares (I have a limited reach. But through my reach I have unlimited viral capabilities.)
  3. Twitter links and retweets (Did someone like you post enough to post on their Twitter account? Did anyone retweet the link?)
  4. Private discussion (I get a lot of e-mails, Twitter direct messages, and Facebook messages with each blog post. I even tally the number of times people see me in person and mention something I’ve written. That’s all engagement.)
  5. Blog excerpts (Getting a paragraph pulled from a post and having it create content for another blogger/online magazine is awesome engagement. It’s like an annotated recommendation.)

What are ways you engage with your audience?


The internet & privacy

Photo by Will Lion via Flickr (creative commons)

Lately there has been a lot of angst about internet privacy. This came to a head when Facebook changed some privacy settings which angered some users who believed that they had a right to privacy with stuff they shared on the site. Some folks ever started a movement called over it.

As a person who does internet development, a long time blogger, and someone who “gets the internet,” I just wanted to give you a reality check.

You don’t have privacy, anywhere. If you think you do– you have never read those little contracts you sign, user agreements that you click “yes” to in order to use sites or software, nor read a single privacy policy on nearly every commercial website on the planet.

I don’t want to scare you, but here is a snapshot of the data “we the internet people” collect from you every single day. We don’t do much with this… but we collect this information:

  • Every time you Google something, Google logs that. They know what you search, what you clicked on– Google is, by far, the largest repository of user data anywhere.
  • Every time you make a phone call, your cell phone company knows who you called, where you called from, and how long you talked.
  • If you have a GPS enabled smart phone, your cell phone company knows your exact location any time its turned on whether you are actively using it or not.
  • Your IP and MAC addresses are logged by every website you’ve ever visited. The sites servers know how many times you’ve been there, how long you stayed, and what you looked at. Even free Google Analytics tools can show any website owner this information.
  • Everything you post on Twitter or Facebook (or WordPress or Blogger) belongs to them, not you. Since it is their property they can do whatever they want with it. Every message, every picture, everything you like, everything you direct message.
  • Any time you purchase something from an online retailer, they collect even more information. They know that other stuff about your browsing history, plus they know what you buy, how often you buy, your shipping and billing address, what category of stuff you like to look at, on and on. The only part of the transaction that they can’t really do anything with is your credit card number.
  • If you store documents online, an administrator could access that information, if they wanted or needed to.

If you don’t see https: (the “s” means that the area of the site is certified as secure by someone like VeriSign. Of course, certified and verified as such are two different things.) in the address bar, you shouldn’t have any perception of privacy.

Whatever you do online is somehow public

What is interesting to me about the privacy concerns is that the stuff that people are worried about– is typically happening in real life! Don’t want future employers to see you dancing on a table while intoxicated? Sheesh, don’t blame Facebook for that, blame your drunk self! Don’t want one group of people to know something about you? Don’t talk about it on Twitter!

The irony of the privacy concerns is that people have willingly agreed to the terms of service and have willingly posted content to websites that they now don’t want put in the public.

It makes me gigle. No one ever told you this was private, you just thought it was.

There is no such thing as “internet privacy.

It’s about ethics

As a web developer, you need to know how much value that 99% of website owners put on this data. If a sites privacy policy says they won’t share that information– 99% of organizations won’t. Their reputation is on the line. And there are plenty of watchdogs and lawyers all to happy to create legal grief for those who violate their privacy policies.

Companies may (and most do) use it for their own purposes as outlined in the privacy policy. The funny part is that collecting and learning from this information makes you love most sites instead of loathe them. Most people like it that iTunes or “gets to know their preferences” and make recommendations to you. Statistics show you are much more likely to click on, and buy from, advertisers who target their ads to your preferences. If you are called to appear in court, you’d be happy to know that your cell phone can provide an alibi.

The opposite of compartmentalism

When I was a high school student, youth pastors preached about the ills of compartmentalism all the time. The irony is that todays privacy-free society has those same people crying for just a little compartmentalization!

Fair Warning

My recommendation is not to flee. It’s to live an honest and transparent life. If you live in a way where you have nothing to hide than your level of privacy is rather innocuous.

But the opposite is also true, as well. If you are going places you ought not go or doing things you know are naughty… you are just building up the evidence against yourself. Somewhere someone already knows. And everything you are doing leaves a breadcrumb to your future embarrassment.

social media

Measuring Success in Social Media

I laugh when I see the term, “social media expert. Let’s be honest. It’s an emerging field and the only thing that makes someone an expert is that they have labeled themselves as such and they read Mashable and Seth Godin.

With that in mind, I’ll just point out that for the last two years I’ve gotten paid to handle social media. I don’t know if that makes me an expert in the field, but it does mean that I’m employed in the field. (And I read Mashable and Seth Godin just for good measure.)

So, how do I measure success?

False positives

  • Size of following. Having 25,000 followers on Twitter or 10,000 fans of your Facebook page doesn’t mean jack.
  • Contest excitement. I love hosting contests as much as the next guy, but hosting a big contest doesn’t mean jack.
  • Being active. Utilizing the tools of social media is important, but just showing up doesn’t mean jack.
  • Atta boys. [Or atta girls] When you first get started everyone in your organization will be excited, but that doesn’t mean jack.
  • Sales or lead generation. This may make the boss happy, but in most cases it doesn’t mean jack.

True positives

  • Engagement. Are your followers, fans, subscribers listening to the stuff you send out in a measurable way? Do they click on links you recommend? Do they comment on stuff you post? Do they open the emails you send? Having a large following is only as valuable as your ability to engage those people. Otherwise, your just another message they are ignoring. I’d rather have 100 engaged Twitter followers than 25,000 who ignore me. What to measure: comments, likes, open rates, click rates, number of clicks, mentions on fan/followers feeds.
  • Users who contribute. Is your effort a two-way conversation? Traditional marketing is about pushing a message. Social media is about pulling a response. It’s shocking to me how many organizations have large followings but only push. And they wonder why they think their social media efforts are a waste of money? They are! What to measure: Submissions, Facebook messages, Twitter direct messages, unsolicited or solicited ideas.
  • Repeaters. This post is the perfect example. When I press publish on this blog post, my own network will draw a couple hundred visitors. But this post will be read several thousand times in just 7 days. How did that happen? Repeaters. What to measure: Facebook shares, Twitter retweets, add-to-this analytics, trackbacks, blog posts about your content/product/service.
social media twitter Web/Tech

5 Tech Trends to Watch in 2010

What’s going to be the next cool thing? Of course, I can’t predict the future. But I can see some technologies that are just on the edge of getting to the masses which I think will be game changers in 2010. All are just a price-point change away from radically changing the way we interact with the world.

Here’s what to look for in the coming year:

  1. Location-based mobile everything. Smart phones have taken over the mobile phone world. GPS-enabled smart phones. With the incredible popularity of iPhone 3G3 and the recent emergence of Droid OS phones, I think we’re about to see an explosion in the sophistication and participation of location-based games. Two that are on the market already, Gowalla and Foursquare, have gained traction among early adapters from Twitter and Facebook. While fun, I think in a year we’ll look back at them like we did at Pacman after Nintendo hit the market. Also, once more mobile Twitter clients become geolocation enabled I think we’ll really see some games (and utilities) pop onto phones that are wildly popular.
  2. Augmented reality takes off. This technology is getting increasingly cheaper. And as this comes out of the lab and high-end marketing applications to generally available among web/graphic designers… look out. Here’s a video that gives you an idea of how cool augmented reality is:
  3. Scams are back. Technology has a Wild West feel to it again. And any time you have a wild west feel, you have scammers waiting to cheat you out of money. The interconnectedness that we all love also makes us vulnerable to scammers. As we link more and more of our lives to Facebook and Twitter, we are lured into trusting that those gateways are safe and secure. But they aren’t! Let’s say you connect your Twitter account to your account or accounts. Bam, you are a sitting duck. Scammers have proven they can trick you into giving them your Twitter password and from their they can/will gain access to all sorts of personal information. The unhealthy trust we all have that Twitter/Facebook are ensuring that people who access their API will truly adhere to the terms of service has set us all up for scams. This will be big in 2010.
  4. IRL. The first three things on this list point to the need for In Real Life to be a tech trend to watch. Experience is back. Meet-ups, events, and tech free zones are a trend to watch out for in 2010. Of course, those things don’t really provide the intimate relationships our souls crave, but they are legitimate experiences people seeing the world through augmented reality and redefined friendship will seek out in 2010. In the church world I think we’ll see the closing of many online church campuses, satelite-feeds, and other non-IRL “ministry” things as people seek human interaction more than the convenience of church from their laptop or mobile phone.
  5. Interactive storytelling. In 2009, YouTube enabled a feature which allows you to post links to other YouTube videos from within the player. I think we’re just at the beginning of some fun storytelling and “choose your own adventure” types of viral videos. Here’s one that I really like to give you an idea: (enjoy your adventure)

hmm... thoughts social media

Facebook Morphs Blogging Again

adam-head-09-100px-squareBlogging, by very nature, is a fluid art. Just a few years ago I thought I was pretty slick because I could journal on my computer using Microsoft Word. Flash forward a few years, to around 2000, and I learned that I could take those Word documents and convert them to webpages. It was cumbersome and I didn’t do it very often… but it was awesome. Then took “the web log” out of the hands of the HTML king and made blogging accessible to just about anyone willing to give it a shot. I was fasinated that I could link to friends blogs and that we could leave comments for one anothers posts. A few years later, 2005-2006 and Typepad and WordPress suddenly made it possible for blogs to live on their own domain easily.

In 2007-2008, blogging became all about search and syndication. I started seeing my stats level off while I could tell my reach greatly extended. RSS (really simple syndication) made my content portable and SEO (search engine optimization) got my blog noticed high in Google search results.

facebook2009 has seen blogging morph again. Facebook’s power in the adult demographic has brought blog syndication to a whole new level. Now my posts appear on my Facebook friend’s timeline, so a whole new audience of people has been added to the pool of people who read my blog. When they comment that ends up on their friends timeline, which greatly expands the pool of people reading and commenting on my stuff. (Though there isn’t yet a matrix for this so that’s a bit frustrating.) In the past few months I’ve run into tons of people who read my blog and I have no idea who they are or how they got here… but it’s awesome!

More noticeably, in the past few months I’ve noticed a steep uptick in folks who read my blog posts exclusively on Facebook and comment there as well. Often times, I’m left with a post which generates two separate conversations. Which is really cool! On top of that, Twitter has further expanded my blogs discussion and reach. While there is some overlap, Twitter is mostly a different audience for my content.

Wagon_WheelGoing forward, is now and will continue to be the hub of my online presence. It feeds RSS, search results, Facebook, and Twitter. I think of the personal blog as the engine that powers everything else. That said, my recommendation for beginners has begun to morph. You can certainly do the same thing with a blog (free) or even a Facebook account.

And since I know about 75% of the people who are reading this post will never make it to, here are some ways we can connect. We can be Facebook friends. You can follow me on Twitter. We can pool links on delicious. You can be a contact on Flickr. You can subscribe to my blog via RSS. But you can’t be my Myspace friend. That’s so 2005.

social media

3 Reasons Gen Y Doesn’t Get Twitter


Great little read here from Millenial Marketing about Twitter adoption of middle adolescents. (The core group for explosive growth of Myspace and Facebook.)

To summarize here points, Notre Dame marketing professor Carol Phillips suggests these 3 reasons Twitter hasn’t popped in that megamarket.

1. Twitter adds no meaningful functionality that Facebook doesn’t. (Calendar, messaging, photos, etc.)

2. No self-branding of personality/activities beyond a status update. Things happen so fast there is no time for friends to react to what you’re doing.

3. Millenials aren’t accustomed to making friends online. They’ve been warned against that their entire lives!

Do the middle adolescents in your life use Twitter? Why or why not?