The Real Problem With Facebook and the News

This week I was asked by The Baptist Press to comment on the Facebook Trending News controversy (you can read the article here). Looking back, the more I look at the issues people are raising, the more I find the situation to be absurd. I think Ben Thompson stated it best:

This, then, is the deep irony of this controversy: Facebook is receiving a huge amount of criticism for allegedly biasing the news via the empowerment of a team of human curators to make editorial decisions, as opposed to relying on what was previously thought to be an algorithm; it is an algorithm, though — the algorithm that powers the News Feed, with the goal of driving engagement — that is arguably doing more damage to our politics than the most biased human editor ever could. The fact of the matter is that, on the part of Facebook people actually see — the News Feed, not Trending News — conservatives see conservative stories, and liberals see liberal ones; the middle of the road is as hard to find as a viable business model for journalism (these things are not disconnected).

via The Real Problem With Facebook and the News – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

The Information Age is over; welcome to the Experience Age

Interesting article from TechCrunch.

Many people think Snapchat is all about secrecy, but the real innovation of Snapchat’s ephemeral messages isn’t that they self-destruct. It’s that they force us to break the accumulation habit we brought over from desktop computing. The result is that the profile is no longer the center of the social universe. In the Experience Age you are not a profile. You are simply you.

This has been my thinking for a while. Once we move from Web 2.0, in which you actively contribute to the web, to Web 3.0, where the contribution is so seemless, your ability to create an online persona that’s different from your real life is going to become more difficult.

I don’t see this as a bad thing. Instead, I see it forcing high profile personalities and organizations to rethink they’re strategy. Yes, people will still need to plan in advance and think through the brand, but the idea that you can create one thing, yet do another thing, is coming to an end.

via The Information Age is over; welcome to the Experience Age | TechCrunch

Ask Darrel: Politics And Your Church

Welcome to Episode 57 of the Ask Darrel podcast. On this episode we’re talking about dealing with people who want to talk politics on social media.

Okay, let’s talk about politics (everyone makes an audible groan). While I know this is not everyone’s favorite subject, you may have to deal with a staff member or pastor that is really passionate about politics on social media.  So how do deal with this gracefully and still let people voice their opinions? 

Listen to the Audio

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Why Podcasts Matter

I write a blog, do a weekly podcast and I’ve tried my hand at vlogging. If you told me I could only do one for the rest of my life. The answer would be easy.

My podcast.

Why? One reason is that it’s the easiest for me in terms of content. There’s always something to talk about. Plus, talking about a subject is much easier then writing about it.

But that’s not why I would choose podcasting. I would choose podcasting because there something intimate about audio. I’ve listened to enough podcasts to know that over time those people behind the microphone can become a comfort for a lot of people. There’s something about a familiar voice talking to you while you go about doing life’s work.

Now I have no idea if I have that effect on people, but I know they do on me. Here’s a quick list of podcasts that I’m currently listening to:

Each of these podcasts bring me some joy throughout the week. Every episode is like hanging out with friends that you haven’t seen all week. I don’t think I’m the only person who feels that way.

It’s why I love podcasts, and I think they’re here to stay.

Determining the Priority

One of my favorite books from last year was Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I loved this quote:

The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities.

In short, the author is pointing out that priorities (the plural of priority) is a fairly new invention. Sure, you can claim to have multiple priorities, but in reality you only have one priority. Only one thing can be the foremost thought in your mind. You may want multiple priorities to matter to you, but you can really only focus on one.

Your church’s communication channels are no different. You can claim that you have multiple ministries and events of equal importance, but you can’t give them all priority. When you do try to give them all priority, nothing will have priority and therefore nothing will be communicated.

Declaring something as a priority is hard, because you’re saying that something else (a person, ministry, event, etc…) is not. However, that’s why your in charge of communications. To make the hard calls and decide what is the priority.

The Two Paths of Social Media

I’ve come to realize that are two paths you can take when you’re trying your hand at social media. 

The first is rapid growth. You consume every video, podcast, and article on social media that you can find, and you go at it with brute force. No tip or trick is too small to try. Of course, over certain period of time you find yourself eventually doing the following:

  • Creating listicles to get quick easy page views. (I’m guilty of this one.) 
  • Creating unsustainable content creation strategies which ultimately lead to burn out.
  • Creating click-bait articles that could pass for writing on Buzzfeed. (I’m guilty of this one too.)
  • Employing third party algorithms that will tell you who to follow in order to gain more followers. (I’ve tried this.)
  • Trying to mimic social media celebrities without asking if that’s who you really are. 

The second path is much harder. It’s about creating something that’s durable. It’s about finding a rhythm to the work, that keeps the work in line with who you are. Again, this path is difficult because it means the following:

  • Saying no to the latest trend or social network that will help you “enlarge your audience”. It’s not because you’re against growth, but you want maintain your focus. 
  • Coming to the understanding that generating value for an audience isn’t about volume or speed. It’s about building a relationship that helps you understand that they want. 
  • Realizing that the word “hustle” is code word for always being on the go and never resting, which is not sustainable.
  • Finding contentment not from your social media numbers, but from the quality of product the you produce. Knowing that in the end those numbers are meaningless if what you’re producing won’t last.

I’m not against growth. I’m against the culture that defines your value by arbitrary numbers or lures you into practices that  are contradictory to who you were created to be. 

Your Only Competition

When I was first starting out as a creative director in the corporate world, I was really competitive. I spent a good portion of my time sizing up our competition, identifying what I though were their design weaknesses and then creating plans to surpass them. 

This competition was my daily fuel. That was until my mentor sat me down, and gave me this one piece of advice.

Your only competition is yourself. You need treat this like a game of golf. You’re the only one keeping score, and your goal is to get a little bit better each day. Stop comparing yourself to those around you.

To this day, those worlds still ring true to me and I’ve learned to apply them not only to myself, but my church’s social media as well. 

This is hard to do, because of the things that the world does is tell you that you’re not complete, and your effort is not enough. In fact, I’ve become more resolute to the idea that the world’s ultimate goal is to rob you of contentment. More specifically, contentment in Christ. 

That’s why it’s difficult to not want to compare your church’s social media with the church down the street or even across the globe. Yes, their graphics look cooler, they have more “Likes”, and everyone in their photos looks like a model from an H&M ad. 

But that’s what the world does. It sows little seeds of doubt and discontentment in our hearts, and before you know it we trying to be something that we’re not. We end up with angry and fustrated that our attempts to be cool or relevant haven’t connected with our audience. 

When I have those moments, I have to remind myself that my soul will never be satisfied by being cooler than the church down the street. My contentment will be in being who God created me to be, and my church doing the same.

Will I push my church to get better? You bet. But I’ll do that in context of knowing who we are and what were designed to do. I’ll focus on helping us get a little bit better every single day. Knowing that my goal isn’t to be better than the church down the street, but be better for our audience and those who were trying to reach.

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