So what do I do now?

So you’ve been invited to use Google+.

You want to.

But you just aren’t sure you want to add something else to your ever growing plate of places to keep up with.

I mean, aren’t you already on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and your blog?!

And yet you find yourself drawn to try

one

more

thing.

I’ve found some great tutorials to help you maneuver your way through Google+.  But as is typical of Google, you are going to find that it’s pretty simply laid out.  There are just a few little spots that may cause you to scratch your head for a minute.

Source

Also, if you’ll notice in your URL line, your Google+ address is a long string of numbers.  If you want a vanity URL, you can go here:  http://gplus.to and create your vanity URL to help others find you more quickly.  For example:  mine is http://gplus.to/maryjohess.

You can also go here for 15 tips and tricks for Newbies as well as here for 9 things you really should know about Google+.

If you’re like me, you’ve been taking these last couple of months to just figure out whether you like Google+ or not.  In the mean time, I’m enjoying reading the reviews, the tips and tricks and having some interaction with others on the site.  I hope you are too!

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Do you have any questions or thoughts that you want to share about your experience thus far with Google+?  Have you used it yet for your business or church?  Leave a comment and let’s chat about it!  

 

 

 

Leadership in Social Media

Picking up from my last post, I’d like to lay a basic foundational understanding of what leadership looks like in Social Media, as described and presented by Michael Hyatt.

Leadership within a Social Media realm may sound like leadership in any other forum, however, it takes a very different shape.  The central themes upon which leadership in Social Media is founded are: Insight, Iinitiative, Influence, Impact, and Integrity.  Let’s break these down to see what they look like delivered through the channel of Social Media.

1. Insight — In short, insight refers to a leader’s ability to “discern opportunities and examine threats.” Opportunities in Social Media simply point to avenues through which you can more effectively reach your target audience; meet your customers where they are, ask them what they want, and understand what they need, etc.  Social Media brings the customer to the board room.  Good for them and even better for you.  Threats lie in one of two areas: Being over exposed (i.e. participating in too many Social Media platforms and not having an excellent presence in any) and being unavailable by not entering into the Social Media arena (i.e. sticking with mass mailings).

2. Initiative — “Real leaders go first,” says Hyatt. And he did so himself by creating a Twitter account and a blog under his personal name and for his personal use.  Did he make his employer and position available? Absolutely.  In doing so, he enabled readers and even other publishers to get to know him, learn from him, and even grant him advice, recommendations, etc.  He humanized himself through Social Media, making himself available to be reached by the people he was trying to reach. Once he broke the ice, his employees and company followed suit, generating a greater and more passionate following.

3. Influence — Even the most brilliant, accomplished, and effective marketers will tell you that the greatest form of marketing remains “word of mouth.” Given the power, breadth, and time-effetiveness of Social Media, “word of mouth” is now amplified 100 fold. As leaders, we ought to care what our customers and followers are saying.  We ought to acknowledge their opinion, respond when they pose questions, remedy complaints, and most importantly, communicate that we care and we’re grateful for their business.  Give them reason to brag about you.

4. Impact — According to Michael Hyatt, the investment is minimal for a potentially high impact or return.  Depending on how many tweets or Facebook statuses you post a day, be it one or 12, it’s highly unlikely that you will spend 30 minutes or more  writing.  However, your time invest in creating a captivating tweet or an intriguing Facebook status is often multiplied by however many people see it and choose to respond, by either buying a product or passing your message along (word of mouth). The impact hold great potential.  Never underestimate how many people watch what you’re saying.

5. Integrity — Hyatt concludes by describing integrity as this: “Making your words align with your reality.” As Christians, it is our calling according to the commandments and it is our mandate, as Christ ambassadors, to be above reproach.  To be honest, forthright, and truthful in all things.  This includes Social Media.

Perhaps these leadership principles seem simplistic and even disappointing.  Perhaps you’ve heard it all before.

My question is not if you know the above.

My question is, are you doing the above?

Do I like it? Do I not?

Those are the two questions I keep asking myself since joining the Google+ world.  Do I like you, Google+ or do I not?

And I still can’t answer that.

But I can share with you what I do like and what I don’t like, so far, with this new deal.

What I love about Google+

1.  Circles – Oh how I love the circle!  This is the one area that I most dislike about Facebook – the inability to pick and choose who can see what status update.  Because let’s be honest, all 722 of my friends on Facebook aren’t my close friends.  (Yes, I know that is a shocker. ;0) )  So it’s nice to be able to send out a thought, post, status update just to the people I want to see it at any given time.  God bless the circle.  Amen.

2.  Instant upload – I also appreciate that any photo I take on my phone is instantly uploaded to a private album in the cloud for me to have access to without having to email, text or transfer via usb cable from my phone to my computer.  Easy peasy.  Then, if I so choose, I can share the photo with the public, a circle, a person, or just little ol’ me.

3.   Everything in one place  – (yeah, I made that category up)  I think the biggest plus I’ve found so far is that everything I need is in one place.  I don’t have to login to 5 different sites.  Notifications are sent to my phone via email, text or push.  I don’t think Twitter is going away any time soon, so the only thing I wish I could do is tweet and have it show up as a Google+ status or post on Google+ and have it show up as a tweet. Maybe with time. . . . .

What I don’t love about Google+

1.  Posting – The only drawback to posting is that you don’t post on someone’s wall directly.  That’s just a personal frustration of mine, most likely because of my brainwashing from Facebook.   You have to get used to just posting from a central place (your “Stream”) and then choosing who sees that post – whether it be an individual, circle or the entire public.

2.  Sparks – I’m not a big fan of this yet. Maybe I need to give it a bit more time, but as of this moment, I’m not liking it.  It’s designed to give you quick bits of information (sorta like Twitter) and then you can in turn share it with a circle, the public or an individual.  I’m trying it out a bit longer before making a final judgment.  I’ll keep you posted.

3.  Lack of friends – Because it’s not fully rolled out yet (they’re sending out invites in waves), I don’t have that many friends on Google+.  So it’s hard to really use it to its full potential when there is little interaction.  So again, I’ll have to re-evaluate this as the momentum grows and more people join and start using it.

Here’s what others are saying about Google+ as well:

The Washington Post

Mashable

Business Insider

The Root

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So tell me, have you tried Google+ yet?
If so, what are your likes, dislikes?

Prayer @ The Speed of Social Media

The Dying Prayer Request

A decade has passed since our prayer team huddled around that folding table on Wednesday evenings. We prayed over big requests on flimsy little cards turned in the Sunday before. About half were written with a pencil too small to grip and nearly always dull. And some folks would get carried away until their tiny sloping sentences were impossible to decode. Others remained nameless with hopelessly cryptic requests such as “we didn’t get it – please pray”. And there were still some that had to be the joke of a few middle school boys – same tragic story with different names every week. I sat on that team for two years and prayed in earnest for many unknowns and a few fake relatives, I’m sure.

Our New Posture

Fast forward ten years and many churches still have those little cards. But if you’re under thirty you’ve probably never picked one up, even to write a phone number. In fact, a growing number people regardless of age will never write a word on paper – especially something as intimate as a prayer request. More often now we see in any given crowd that familiar posture of isolation (people standing next to us yet off limits)  gazing toward an extended hand while reading, texting, listening, chatting, streaming, tweeting and yes, even huddling on Google+ (whatever that means). It is the “social media” posture and it’s here to stay because we’ve become addicted to hyper personalized communication. There are myriads of debatable explanations behind this odd new behavior, but only one that hits most of us right between the eyes. “Social media is a safe place for me.” It is safe for you, me and us to be who we are, or would like to be. Good or bad it has become the ideal environment for personal communication because it is uniquely customizable to feel safe for every participant.

Digital Neighbors – Screens instead of Screen Doors

To that end, we may smile at the person sitting next to us but never speak because we’re deeply engaged in a conversation with our new neighbor (a thousand miles away). It seems clear that we’ve already decided to trade at least some of the intuitiveness afforded by physical proximity (touch, hug, handshake, tear filled eyes, etc.) for the ability to delicately customize our audience. So… in effect, we have already placed one foot in a new kind of neighborhood – one where our neighbors have screens instead of screen doors. Whether or not this means we’re embarking on the best or worst of times who can say? But one thing is certainly better for Joe and Susie Christian – they can now be prayed for by their digital neighbors at the speed of social media – a potentially thousand-fold difference.  By this definition social media is anything but a waste of time.

The New Prayer Room

Finally, any of the popular social media platforms can be used to dramatically increase your prayer covering. Depending upon the amount of connections you have, it is foreseeable to have thousands of believers praying for you with only 30 seconds of effort. This is amazing when you consider that discretion is always at your fingertips- you control the flow of information. I want to leave you today with the idea that social media is radically changing the world we live in. Enlarging our prayer covering is one of the many benefits we reap by embracing it. Next time (8/22) we’ll dig in to the various platforms and look specifically at the bells and whistles of each as it relates to increasing that prayer covering.  Hint: My personal favorite tool for prayer has been twitter but Google+ looks very promising with its next-step ability to further customize our personal audiences.

How often do you ask others to pray for you – could it be improved by seeking out new Christian friendships on line? 

 

Social Media Tattoos

Yesterday, author and speaker Jonathan Acuff posted a comment on his Facebook fan page that could lead to very beneficial discussion between teens and those who live and work with them.

“Posting a photo online is like getting a digital tattoo. Once it’s on, it’s on forever. You wouldn’t let your 12 year old get a tattoo. Make sure they understand what they’re doing when they post a photo online.”

As Christians who actively participate in social media, it is important that we teach our teens (and first learn ourselves) the importance of applying biblical truth even in our interactions on social media sites.

The fact that our every move is known and “recorded” by God is an ancient truth; in Psalm 139 David praises God that we can never escape His all-loving, watchful eye. But being “watched and recorded” 24/7 by other people is new to human culture, and it places upon believers a new pressure to be wise in our walks, even at our most relaxed times like social gatherings. Here are some tips on caring for your “digital testimony”.

1. Be proactive. Don’t wait until you see that one of your students is tagged in a picture that captured a moment of poor judgment. Begin talking now with your tweens and teens about the permanence of anything posted online, not just photos. Even if you “delete” a comment from a social media site, it is captured and saved somewhere. Talk with them about where they go and who they hang out with. Ask them if they have talked with their friends about boundaries concerning what is ok and what’s not ok to post online. Remind your students that personal information such as address, phone number, and age, should never be shared with people online that they don’t in person. And as much as possible, get to know your child’s friends, both those in reality and those with whom they only associate with online.

2. Be gracious. Even the most well meaning person can end up in a photo or post a comment without thinking, and when (not if) you or child gets caught in a moment of thoughtless social media usage,  don’t panic and don’t blow up about it. Even though that is usually our first impulse. If it is something you or your child posted and you have “social media regret”, delete it. While it doesn’t change the fact that it took place, repentance for a wrong decision includes attempts to make it right, and removing the questionable post shows an admittance that it was wrong and a willingness to correct the situation. If a friend has posted something of questionable and unflattering content, go the extra mile to make personal contact as soon as possible (a phone call, a face-to-face conversation) asking them to remove the photo or comment. Making personal contact lets them know that you are both sincere and serious in your request.

3. Be accountable. The best way to prevent photos or comments of questionable content from becoming social media tattoos is to avoid questionable situations to begin with. Teach your teens (and practice yourself) accountability with a friend in social settings. A good rule of thumb these days for where to be and who to hang out with is to ask yourself, “Would I want my friends and family members to see this posted on online?” If the answer is no, then it’s time to excuse yourself from the situation.

These are just a few ways to protect our testimonies online from negative impact. What are some ways we can share a positive testimony online?

Social Media: A Leadership Tool

I had the privilege of attending a Social Media Summit who’s key note speaker was Michael Hyatt, the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Hyatt began his talk with this: “There is no such thing as a social media expert, only a social media experimenter.  Should anyone tell you different, you ought to be suspicious.”

What a brilliant statement, I thought.  How can someone possibly be an expert in a space as ever-evolving and limitless as the internet (i.e. social media)? Its capacity for use and its global reach is constantly morphing.  What began as a primary form of entertainment has now become a legitimized avenue of communication, information sharing, and community establishing and empowering.

Hyatt continued that Social Media is a growing leadership tool. And that is what this, and later posts from me, will be about.  Unpacking the ways in which social media allows leaders to be effective.

There are four key reasons that social media is becoming a real and lasting form of leadership:

  1. It allows you to be accessible—to customers, colleagues, and the competition. Making yourself available to those who often vie for your attention humanizes you, allowing those who buy your services or serve with you to feel as though you care about who they are and what they want.  It’s a bold move.  A risky move in some instances.  But the greater the risk, the greater the potential reward.
  2.  It amplifies your voice—“Everyone has a megaphone,” said Hyatt. Social Media has now provided, in a real and sometimes irreversible way, the impact and longevity of everyone’s voice. There are no real social media police outside of your desired audience and you can either give them reason to love you or hate you. Never before has someone’s opinion been so loud or created so many ripple effects.  Mean what you say… just be careful how you say it.
  3. It extends your influence—With millions of new users to Facebook, Twitter, and the like nearly everyday, there has been no other time in history when such vast opportunity for global communication has ever presented itself.  No matter what your message, there is a likely chance that you will strike a chord with at least one person. And that one person may know 10 people with which they share what you think.  And those 10 people may then pass on your wisdom or humor to 10 more people, each. Suddenly, 1,000 strangers now know that you exist and what you think about something. Welcome to the “world wide web.”
  4. It creates a “tribe”—Seth Godin explains the idea of a tribe as being a group of people that are connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to a similar idea. All that they need is a way to communicate.  Social media empowers new tribes to be established through ample communication.

This is just skimming the surface of all the power, potential, and responsibility that entering into the world of social media offers.  In posts to come, we’ll explore more ideas on practical ways to use these leadership tools in your ministry.

Oh, and it’s so nice to meet you! I look forward to engaging with each reader in the future!

 

 

 

What’s all the fuss about Google+?!

If you’re like me, you’re probably “social media’d” out. (Yes, I just made that word up.  You’re welcome.)  Do we have to have one more place to keep up with?  Is it necessary to add yet another site to our ever growing list of places we log in to every day, just to keep up with everyone?

Well, apparently Google thinks so. So on June 28, 2011, they posted about their new site, Google+, that, in their words, would

bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. We want to make Google better by including you, your relationships, and your interests. And so begins the Google+ project.

There are several key features to Google+ that Google hopes to use to set them apart from other social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.

1.  Circles – Everyone has a differing opinion of what constitutes a “friend” online.  So Google has created the circle concept.  You create circles of friends, acquaintances, work associates, high school friends, family, etc.  If a circle can be named, it can be created.  This allows you to be selective in who sees what status you post.  If you want to talk just to family, select that circle and post a status update.

Another aspect of the circle concept is that you can add people to your circle, but they aren’t obligated to add you to their circle.  So there isn’t a need to “friend” someone if you really don’t want to.  The beauty of that?  No one is the wiser for it, but you.

2. Sparks – This feature in Google+ allows you to select from a variety of interests you may have and follow information on that particular interest from different places on the web.   According to Google,

Sparks delivers a feed of highly contagious content from across the Internet. On any topic you want, in over 40 languages. Simply add your interests, and you’ll always have something to watch, read and share—with just the right circle of friends.

3. Hangouts – If you would like to video chat with a few friends, then hangouts is the place for you!  Google+ allows you to create hangouts to chat and catch up.

4. Mobile App – Google+’s mobile app is clean, simple and streamlined. They have 3 main features to allow your mobile experience to be as engaging as using your pc. The three main features are +Location, +Instant Upload and +Huddle. You can attach your location to any of your posts (if you want), have all of your photos upload instantly to the cloud (a private album, of course) and huddle online with a few friends for a right-this-second group chat.

It’s still too early to tell how successful Google+ will be, but one thing is for sure, the masses will let them know soon enough whether Google+ will be a keeper or not.

Big Planet Small World

This past weekend, I traveled across two time zones to attend the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference. While moving across our big planet, I became aware that we live in a small world. Though our world is large, it is smaller due to social media.

Before the conference, a private Facebook page was started for attendees to ask questions and encourage one another. This exclusive area provided a way for women to connect with one another before arriving at the conference.

In the reserved Facebook group, attendees located other women who were assigned to their small evaluation groups. Others found they shared the same flights. Women also asked questions of the conference leaders, which developed an atmosphere of closeness in spite of being spread across this big planet.

Upon arrival at the conference, I realized many traveled lots of miles across our big planet. Women from 44 states and four countries were represented. Interestingly, peopled recognized one another from their pictures on Facebook. Social media definitely makes the world feel smaller.

Another thing that became apparent to me, people consistently connect with social media. In the airports, as soon as we were allowed to turn on our electronic devices, people tuned into the preferred social media outlets as quickly as possible. Texting, tweeting, and checking Facebook updates. While waiting at the boarding gates, the same behaviors were clearly visible.

During the conference sessions, people used electronic devices to take notes (myself included). With 3G services and available (((wi-fi))) connections, attendees shared via social media their experiences and newly learned concepts. Information about a ministry or business can go viral in a matter of minutes. (Christie shares some great statistic in this post.)

Personally, when I met a new friend at the conference, I pulled out my smart phone, opened the Facebook app, found the person and sent a friend request. Using her phone, she accepted my request right away and vice versa. Within minutes, we all had new social media connections.

Though we live on a gigantic planet that takes days to traverse, it has become a small world due to social media. In the past, it was laborious to meet with one another, but now it is convenient with the available technology.

Through social media, we can get to know other people before actually meeting them. And when we meet new people, we can maintain that connection through social media. Yes, we live on a big planet, but in a small world.

In what ways has social media made your world smaller?

Getting Anywhere… Is Easier… From Here

Bridging The Digital Landscape

THE REACH OF SOCIAL MEDIA… is a beautiful family of souls that God has placed at our fingertips. Could it be a legitimate new mission field? Even comparable with Africa or the homeless section of your city?

The digital landscape, like the original great commission platform, is based on simple communication through live human interaction. Yet it is so different now because that live interaction can be exponentially carried out without limit to physical location. So the potential for teaching, mentoring, praying for and reaching out to encourage people in the Lord is virtually unlimited. By leveraging technology one person can establish and maintain real, interactive relationships with hundreds, even thousands of people.  It’s certainly no secret, but actually applying it may require a shift in our “work of the Lord” paradigm.

What comes to mind when you think of the mission field – hunger, poverty maybe? It’s probably not your long list of twitter friends or app loaded touch screen device. Agreed… social media isn’t quite ready to feed people physically (though it can help expedite that); but through it we are absolutely capable of doing what Jesus said and that is to disciple, teach and preach the good news to nations and people. We are also commanded to love our neighbor. Guess what?  Our Twitter friends whether we know them or not are our neighbors. And ultimately if we reconsider the spiritual hunger of everyday people: depression, troubled marriages, bible illiteracy, Godless parenting, and the generations ahead who already buckle under the influence of the enemy, then social media begins looking more and more like a mission field? Would you agree?

Okay, there is no way to replace a hug. But at the end of the day it’s the communication of God’s inspired word (not a hug) that captures a heart. We’ve never seen God but by Spirit inspired communication we fell in love with Him. Social media is communication. And communication that glorifies God and desires to expand the kingdom has the same Holy Spirit power. So by leveraging social media we are currently able to interact and mentor folks from different walks of life in different parts of the world. Frankly, I’m blown away by the power of His Spirit to work just as efficiently through Blogging / Twitter and Skype, etc. (and other forms of messaging), as it does in person sitting down over coffee and a bible. We can literally reach into any life anywhere and interact.

Again, the power of this technological expression is no secret but it’s in the application of that power that untapped life transforming potential exists. What I see is a true mission field like another Africa or homeless outreach in a blighted area, except the location is now a collection of souls that God brings to our fingertips for live interaction. It is a surrendered outreach that only seeks to uncover the need and fill it – virtually any place on earth. What I’m suggesting is not to rehash what we already know, but to actually employ that idea by inspiring believers, writers, intercessors, teachers and encouragers who will proactively seek out relationships on line and ask what the needs are and fill them to the Glory of God. By now you know where I stand. How do you see it?

Do you consider social media to be a legitimate new mission field?

Would you ever consider participating in this type of mission work?

Socialnomics Video by Erik Qualman

This video shares some great educational information about the far reaching impact of Social Media on our Society on and offline.  If you want to learn to leverage something effectively you must first understand it’s true impact.