Month: August 2013

An Interview With John Saddington

I’ve written a lot about Instagram and how you can use it for your church. However, I’ve never been a big fan of giving away digital property to a company with no guarantee that will I get it back. So when I heard that John Saddington had started a new photo sharing service called Pressgram, I was intrigued.
After doing some research, I’m quite impressed with what John has created. I then decided it would be a good idea to grab John for a quick interview and let him talk about Pressgram. John agreed and was kind enough to answer a few questions.

What inspired you to start Pressgram?

The inspiration was simple. I wanted to publish filtered photos on my WordPress blog without the issue of being a commercial product of Facebook or Instagram (being exploited for their commercial goals). I wanted complete control over my work and content. There wasn’t a simple way to do this so I began to explore the option of building it myself. We typically call this “scratching your own itch.” I had a big one to scratch!

What do you tell people who fear that they may lose the time and effort that they’ve already invested in Instagram or Facebook?

That’s easy. I tell them that it’s a legitimate fear and it’s a possibility with or without Pressgram (or any other option for that matter). Facebook and Instagram can shut down their doors tomorrow for all anyone knows (and for whatever reason). In the end, if history proves to be true, all technology companies end their reign of absolute dominance. I doubt Facebook and Instagram are impervious to history’s trend data!

Which brings up an important question: Do you really care about the “continuity” of your data? Do you really care about the preservation of your work without fear or anxiety of being swallowed whole or disappearing? If so, then you should endeavor to use solutions that will allow you to ultimately keep your work and have peace of mind about it. If you publish your image and your content to a system that you control, then you have true continuity and preservation of data. Even if Pressgram were to disappear, you’d still have those images on your blog.

Can Pressgram help with SEO? If so, how?

Yes. Images are a huge part of direct and organic traffic on the web. In our Alpha / Beta group we’ve seen increases of over 20% in terms of pageviews and site visits alone! Also this is only in a short-term trial! The long-term benefits of housing all that increased data, content, and images for search engines to index and return as results for users is going to be a boon for all bloggers and online publishers.

The simple fact is that if you publish more, you become a more attractive source of information for search engines. I’m already enjoying a 23% increase of traffic week over week… and I was already getting some good figures!

Editor’s Note: Thanks John for taking the time for an interview. If you (the reader) have not checked out Pressgram, I suggest you head over to their site and sign up for the news updates so you can be notified when it will launch.

Photo Credit: Chiceaux via Compfightcc

What I’ve Learned In the Last Four Months of Blogging

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not a great writer. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to start blogging. I figured that if I consistently wrote on a daily basis, that eventually my writing and communications skills would improve over time.

What I didn’t expect to occur was the realization of how poor my writing skills had become. Years of exchanging text messages and tweeting had brought my communication skills down to short bursts of communication that rarely contained context or deep meaning.

It’s not all been bad, in fact I think blogging has solidified what I believe about social media and its impact on the church. I’m even more convinced that social media is no longer an option for churches, but rather a requirement.

I’m very grateful for these last four months of blogging. Blogging is a skill that worth pursuing and I’m thankful for the encouragement I’ve received along the way. The church social media community (#chsocm) is full of wonderful people who are giving of their time and skills.

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not you should begin blogging, I want to encourage you and share with you three key things that I’ve the learned along the way that you can learn from.

Blogging Is Hard

For those of you thinking of starting a blog, you need to know something. Blogging is hard. From content generation to editing, blogging is one of the most time consuming experiences that I’ve had. If you want to blog, you need to be ready to give up something else. That may sound harsh, but great bloggers will tell you that they don’t watch much TV or do other wasteful activities.

Edit, Sit, Edit

I hate editing. I would rather write a post once, publish it and then walk away. However, writing for me doesn’t work that way. I need to write a really bad rough draft, let it sit for about a day, then can come back and see what needs to be polished. Sometimes I’m surprised at what I’ve written, other times I wonder what I was thinking when I wrote it.

Do I let things fall through the cracks in the editing process? Sure. If you read through my past blog posts, you will find all kinds of errors.  However, unlike print I can always go back and edit.

It’s Time to Reboot

I spent the last week think about what this blog is and what it should be. I’ve come to a few conclusions. First, this design does not really reflect me and my aesthetic. Don’t missunderstand me, I think it’s a good design. It’s called Focus and it comes from the awesome people at StudioPress. However, I’m going to simplify things and go closer to what Brian Gardner is currently using.

I’ll also only post once a week. I know that breaks all sorts of blogging rules, but it’s what works best for me and I think will best serve my audience in the long run. For those of who blog at least once a day, my respect goes out you.  If you’ve just started blogging, pace yourself.  Blogging is more like a marathon than a sprint.

I’m excited about the future of the church and social media. The task is great, but I have a firm belief that church is up to the challenge.   I also think you are too.  I think we need more voices in the conversation and the voice we’re missing is yours.

How To Create a Church Social Media Policy and Not Hamper Your Staff

Creating a church staff policy is not a lot of fun. No one wants to be the “sheriff” and create rules that they’ll have to police. At the same time, if policies aren’t in place things can quickly run amok.

This is especially true when it comes to social media. A church social media policy can help make sure that your staff stays on message and keeps your church out of some potential hazards. While it may not popular with your staff, the pros far outweigh the cons.

The question is, how do you create a policy for you church staff, but not hamper them at the same time? Can you create a policy that will help your church staff make sure they know what not do and why? Consider the following ideas when crafting your church social media policy. (more…)

Three Questions I Get From Ministers About Social Media

If you’re a minister and thinking about joining social media, you might have a lot of unanswered questions. I don’t blame you. Social media can be daunting if you have never used Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

While I can’t answer all of your questions, I thought I would compile some of the top questions I’m frequently asked and my responses.  Here they are:

Can I Hire Someone Else to Write My Social Media?

Let me ask you this question: Do you have someone else writing your sermons? I’d assume your answer would be no, and with social media the same thing should apply. When you tweet or blog, there’s an assumption that the content is coming from you. Write your own content.

What If I Make Mistakes?

Let’s get this out of the way, you’ll make mistakes. I’ve seen pastors accidentally tweet out content that was meant for text messages or forget how to correctly send direct messages on Twitter. The thing about mistakes on social media is that they are quickly forgotten.

Perfection is not the goal of social media. Your congregation cares more about you interacting and sharing then perfection. I often find that mistakes remind people that you’re human and they usually give you an opportunity to show others your sense of humor.

Is This One More Thing I Have To Do?

You won’t like this answer, but yes this is one more thing you have to do. I know that your schedule is packed and you don’t need something else on your plate. However I believe that once you start interacting with your congregation on social media, you’ll see the benefits. In fact, I think that social media is rewarding enough that you will want to make time for it.

Question: What do you tell ministers who are thinking about joining social media? Click here to share below. 

Are You Using Spotify’s Secret Social Media Powers?

Like most Americans, I’ve not bought a CD in a long time. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve only bought one album on iTunes in the last six months. Why? Well, like most of my friends I’m getting my music through an online subscription service. My service of choice right now is Spotify. It has a wide selection of music and apps for all my devices. It’s interface is not too bad to look at and my wife and I like sharing new discoveries with each other.

Are Using Spotify’s Secret Social Media Powers?

However, the more I play with Spotify the more I see some hidden potential for churches. Underneath what appears to be an online music service lies some pretty cool social media features that churches should take advantage of.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Spotify is another social media network, however it does have some social media elements that your church could use to collaborate, discover and share new music. Let me show you what I mean:

It’s All about Following

We all know that radio is on the decline. There once was a time that the only way to discover new music was to let the radio dj curate the hits and be the tastemaker. However, with radio’s decline we have entered into a new era of music discovery.

One of the reasons why I love Spotify is the ability to discover new music. With Spotify, you can follow different users and see what they are listening to. I love finding a few people who I know have great taste in music and then seeing what they discover.  Try setting up a Spotify account and encourage church members follow the account.  This will allow church member to see in real time what new music the church is discovering and they can add it to their own collection as well.

Spotify also has a built in discovery tool that suggests what you might like as well. I have found this tool to be surprisingly accurate and as a result I’ve found a lot of new music that that I love.

Collaborate and Listen

Spotify makes it very easy for your church members to build their own playlists and share them with you. This is really great for when you are building a pre-worship or event playlist. Imagine telling your members what next week’s sermon topic is and letting them send you songs on that topic. You might be surprised what you get back.

Social Is Built In

With Spotify, social media is built into the platform. You can sign in with Facebook, share tracks on Twitter, SMS, email or with other Spotify users. With this feature, you can tweet out Sunday morning’s pre-worship playlist as the service is about to start. (Trust me, I have worked the sound booth enough to know that there is at least one person in the pew who wants to know what the song is that is currently playing.)

Now there are other services like Rdio, Mog and Pandora which offer some of the same features with their own twist. However, I found Spotify to be the most robust choice out there. Right now, Spotify offers a free trial to first-time users which I think is worth your time. So head over to Spotify, sign up and discover some new music for you and your church.

Question: How does music play into your social media strategy? Click here to share below.

40 Blogs You Should Be Reading Right Now

If you’re like me, you’re always trying to read and grow. However, finding the right material to read can be overwhelming. Sometimes a little curating can help guide you in the right direction.

Here are forty blogs that I think you should read. Hopefully you will find these blogs useful and worthy of your time. If you do, fire up your favorite RSS reader and add these blogs to your reading routine.

Church and Culture

Ed StetzerEugene ChoTrevin WaxScot McKnightTony MorganJonathan MerrittQ (Gabe Lyons)Frank Viola

Church Social Media and Communications

78p.tvDustin StoutPro Church ToolsJosh BurnsNils SmithChurch Marketing SucksJonathan HowePhil BowdleSteve FoggChurch Web Strategies

Productivity

99UAsian EfficiencyMacSparkyGTD TimesLifehacker

Technology

The VergeWirecutterDaring Fireball

Design

Minimally MinimalDribbbleboardBrand NewSwissmissFastCo DesignFastCo CreativeFastCo LabsLogo Design LoveIdentity Designed

Web Development

A List ApartSmashing MagazineTreehouseCopy BloggerWebmonkey

Question: Is there a blog that isn’t on here that you recommend? Click here to share below.

Photo Credit: Ben Clinch via Compfightcc

Three Social Media Tools That Your Church Is Missing Out On

We all know that if you want build an effective social media campaign, you typically start with Facebook and Twitter. Both of these tools seem to have become the bedrock of most churches’ social media strategy.  However, if you rely solely on these tools, you may be missing out on areas of growth by not utilizing new tools that are quickly establishing themselves as players in the social media market.

While I could give you an exhaustive list, I don’t want to waste your time. So here are three tools that your church may be missing out on and how you can use them as part of your social media strategy.

Tumblr

In recent months Tumblr’s made news because of it’s selling to Yahoo for 1.1 billion dollars.  So what’s the deal with Tumblr? Tumblr creates a space for you to post quotes, links, videos, audio and photos all in one place. It also features a very easy to use sharing option that can allow your content to quickly spread across the Tumblr system.

One way you can use Tumblr is like a catch all for items that you want to share with your congregation, but aren’t really important enough to put on your main website.  Think of it like the b-sides of a record or scraps from preparing a meal. It’s great content you want to share with your members, however it doesn’t earn prime placement on your website.

Pinterest

Pinterest is stereotypically known as the place where women congregate to share decorating ideas and pictures of Ryan Gosling.  However, it’s a lot more than that.  It’s a great way to work with your church members to visually brainstorm.  With Pinterest you can create a group board where you can collectively pin ideas for what the new children’s area might look like or a redesign of the church logo.  It allows you to let your church members visually submit ideas, comment and like the “pins” (that’s what posts on Pinterest are called).  This gives everyone in the church the feeling that their voice is being heard.

Instagram

We all know of Facebook’s 1 Billion dollar purchase of Instagram, but did you know if was one of the fastest growing social networks of all time? Instagram’s ability to deliver a Facebook like visual news feed, has quickly become a favorite amongst the young adult audience. I’ve covered before various ways you can use it for your church and shown churches who are great examples of how to use it. If you haven’t signed up, do it today and give Instagram a spin.

Questions: Do you use any of the tools?  If so, how?  Is there another social media tool that has been great for you church?  Click here to share below.

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