Category: Social Media (page 2 of 10)

When Blogging Slows Down

image credit Creation Swap User Vicky Smit

There are some books that are so over the top that they break me.

For instance, I love Stuart Scott. He was one of my favorite professors in seminary. And his book is one of the most Scripturally sound books on the role of a man in the home. But at the end of the day, the book is so difficult to put into practice that I’m almost left just throwing up my hands saying, “If that’s what I’m called to do, it’s just too tough!”

Likewise, when I read others’ posts about blogging, it breaks me. They say things like:

“On the days you don’t feel like writing, just write.”

OR

“On the days when you’re busy with other things, just write.”

Sometimes I wonder how these guys do it.

‘Hustle!’ they espouse.

‘Umm…I thought I was…’

‘Get up early to write…’ My 3 year old is up between 5:30 and 6:00. Every morning.

‘Stay up late…’ I have a 3 year old that gets up early. See above.

‘Work hard…’ I am. I have a family at home, a full-time job, and just opened a new store.

This line of thinking is so black-and-white, so difficult that it could break me if I let it. But the lure of it is the challenge, the chase, the adrenaline, and the product that ships.

At this point, I think I need a pass. A throw-in-the-towel, wave-the-white-flag pass for a moment. And I can only guess that if I need one, there are a handful of you out there that need one, too. Whether that’s a pass from your “slacking” on blogging, Facebook, Twitter, or any various other personal/public endeavors you’re chasing. I’m going to publicly give myself a pass. And I’m going to give you the same.

I get a pass

It’s been a busy month. My wife and I, with my and sister-in-law have opened a new store in downtown Clarksville. Our small groups team is in heavy recruiting mode for January. We’re also in heavy planning mode for a new system of leadership development we’ll be rolling out next year.

I have a 3 year old son who vies for my every moment when I’m at home. And 1 Timothy 3:5 haunts me. Not to mention that I love playing with him!

I also have an amazing wife I’m trying to be a good husband to, who’s been as busy and overwhelmed launching the new store as she’s ever been.

Note to self: it’s ok, Ben, that you don’t blog everyday. In fact, thank you very much Jon Acuff for the idea, it’s ok if you post your top 5 blog posts for 2011 during the last 5 days of 2011. Which is what I’m going to do.

I give you permission to slow down your blog, too. There are other, more important things in your life.

 

Feel free to pick it back up in January. And in the meantime, relax. Have a merry little Christmas. Or a merry big Christmas. Enjoy the time away.

* image credit: Creation Swap User Vicky Smit

 

 

10 Tricks to Getting Your Emails Read

If you want none of your emails read, read my post HERE. But, since you’re reading this post, my guess is that you would prefer an increasing amount of your virtual letters to be read and acted upon. Am I right?

Whether you like it or not, you’ve got to send emails.

On a daily basis, I’m sending and receiving hundreds of emails. And when I send an email I hope it gets read. I spend time crafting exactly what I want to say. I take out the extraneous. I boil it down to the essentials. And I hit “send.”

If you put time into an email, you expect people to read it too, right?

10 Tricks to getting your Emails Read

Bold the things you want read. Understand that every word won’t be read. By “bolding” the important words, you ensure that they’ll be read.

Start your email with the most important things. Again, assume people won’t read ever word.

Leave an action statement at the bottom. Many times, people will read the first few sentences and the last few. Make sure you catch them before they hit “delete.”

Break your email into two sections: short and long. Be explicit with what you’re doing. In the “short” section, just give bullet points. No explanations, just the facts. In the “long” section, elaborate on each point a little bit, giving people more details if they want to read more.

Include your main point in the subject line. 

Include an action step in the subject line. This may not guarantee that your email will be read, but it will ensure that what you want done because of the email gets done.

Use numbered lists. People are more likely to read your email if they know that there are only __ points in it. Lists are magical.

Less is more. Keep your emails under 250 words. Anything more deserves a phone call. Or a cup of coffee. Or both.

Cc their superior. This is a ninja move. It could get you what you want. But it could get you enemies just as quickly.

Never FWD junk email. Never. It breaks trust rather than building it.

 

Getting the perfect gift for the blogger you love

We all want to get that perfect gift for someone for Christmas, right?

image via creation swap user Travis Silva

The one that says, “I know you so well that I didn’t even have to ask you what you would want, I can pick the perfect gift you didn’t even know you wanted or needed.”

Allow me to help.

If you’re looking for a gift for a blogger, I’ve got your back.

1. 31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo

This is a great e-book resource from Bryan Allain. It’ll help kickstart a new blog or restart an old one. And it’s only $4.99. 

2. Evernote Premium

I’ve made it no secret that I love Evernote. I’ve found some new uses. It’s revolutionized the way I capture information, which I believe is key to having fresh blog content. An Evernote premium account just takes Evernote to a whole new level. I’m finding more and more every day just how key Evernote is to blogging success. Pay for a year’s subscription for $45.

3. Standard Theme

This is the theme that I use here on my blog. It’s fantastically simple to use, but beautifully robust on the back-end. It’s a great theme that’s easily customizable. If the blogger you love doesn’t have it, this would be a great gift. The theme is $49, but for $99 you can get lifetime support and updates.

4. Idea Paint

I use a big dry-erase sticker, but Idea Paint is even more awesome. You can get it on their website, or you can snag a much cheaper can at Lowe’s HERE. It’s $30 for enough paint to cover a 6 square foot area.

5. Kindle Fire

This is a great new tool that gives the blogger flexibility to read e-books and post updates to their blog as well. And you’ll be someone’s hero. Priceless. Or, if you’re counting change, it’s $199.

6. Coffee

I prefer Starbucks VIA or Starbucks cards. If you’re not a Starbucks fan, just head to your local coffee shop and get a pound of coffee. Your blogger will love you for it. Average price: $10/pound.

7. Moleskine Notebook

Sometimes it’s easier to write our thoughts out, or sketch an idea on paper. Enter the Moleskine. With a variety of colors, cover-types, and paper, you can pick just the right one. Soft cover: $12; Hard cover: $17.95

8. Apple gift cards

From music to apps, bloggers can find a variety of useful things. Most of them serve as distractions, but that’s beside the point. Price: starts at $5…but depends on how much you love your blogger.

9. Headphones

If we’re going to listen to music in public places, respect dictates we listen to music through headphones. I’ve got my eye on a set of Beats by Dr. Dre that have a built-in mic for talking on my phone through the headset. Those are $179, but the Plantronics Backbeat are great, too, have a built-in mic, and are $19.99.

10. Laptop bag

If you’ve got a laptop you carry around, you’ve got to have something to carry it in. I have an STM bag that I love. A new laptop bag is always a good idea. The STM bag I’ve got is $49.99.

11. MacBook Air

I know, I know…this is a stretch. But for those you really love, this may be just the right gift! The portability and power of a new MacBook Air is perfect for the person that travels throughout the day and needs something light and easy to move with, but that’s still got plenty of power. It’s a steal at $999.

Have a blogger in mind? What are you getting them?

* photo credit: creation swap user Travis Silva

 

 

 

 

 

Two great new uses for Evernote

I use Evernote more than any other 3rd party software on my computer. I’ve been using it for a while now.It’s changed the way I capture and process information. It has become a part of my everyday workflow. (if you’re interested, my pastor and friend, Ron Edmondson, just released an eBook called “Evernote for Pastors.” It’s just $1.99. You can pick up a copy HERE.)

I use Evernote in place of a few things:

  • Microsoft Word/Pages
  • Sticky notes
  • Moleskine
  • Journal
  • Storage notebook

If you don’t already use Evernote, find out more basics on their blog HERE.

Let me tell you about two ways I’ve recently been Evernote that I think you’ll like.

Two Game-Changing Uses for Evernote

1. Image capture post-meeting.

I have a whiteboard sticker on my wall. I collaborate on it during meetings so that it’s a collaborative effort with the people I’m meeting with and they don’t feel like I’m just staring at my computer screen. When the meeting is over, I snap a picture of the whiteboard with my phone and drop it in Evernote into my ‘meetings’ folder, tagged with the appropriate type of meeting. Now I can go back later and reference my notes. In fact, the image (composed of my handwritten notes) is digitally searchable via Evernote’s built-in search.

2. Collaboration

Some people use Google Docs, but to be honest, I have never been crazy about it. I don’t like the absence of a desktop app, which forces me to navigate to the web-browser interface every time. It’s never become a part of my workflow.

But I’ve just started using Evernote for collaboration. I share entire notebooks with other team members. For example, I’m sharing a notebook with some staff members as we’re working through developing a pastoral care ministry. In that notebook we’re putting all of our notes documents that we’re creating (Evernote supports any type of document via Evernote Premium). Any changes or additions that are made in the notebook are reflected with all that are sharing. Everybody has the ability to upload files, take notes, and make changes.

Evernote is a fantastic program. And it’s free. There’s no reason you shouldn’t pick it up right now.

It just may change the way you gather and process information, too.

Do you use Evernote? If not, what do you use to capture and process information?

 

A world where content is not king

Photo: Creative Commons User: Polježičanin

Information isn’t the most important thing anymore. We live in a world where content isn’t king.

Right content is king.

Today, you can turn anywhere and find any answer to any question you can come up with.

Message ChaCha and within 60 seconds, you’ll have your answer. From a real person!

“Google” is a verb used in common language.

Information is abundant and around every corner. You can have nearly every major newspaper delivered wirelessly to your Kindle.

Our culture is on information overload. The answer is not found in more information.

The answer is in curating the right information.

Which explains the success of sites like Take Your Vitamin Z, Monday Morning Insight, and Between Two Worlds. This generation is not just looking for more information. We’re looking for the right information.

  • I don’t just care to go to a movie because it’s a big-budget blockbuster. I’ll go because someone I trust has recommended it.
  • I won’t read your book because a big-name publisher has printed it. I’ll read it because someone I trust has reviewed, or recommended, it.
  • I won’t watch a TV show because a television network pubs it. I’ll watch it because someone I trust encourages me to do so.
  • I won’t buy a product because an advertisement sells me, but because you, whom I trust, “sells” me on it.

Trust is rooted in relationship

And there are a few things you can work on to build trust in others. You can build the same trust you’re looking for in others.
  • Social media interaction helps engender trust.
  • Real, offline relationships help engender trust.
  • Consistently helpful information engenders trust.
  • Honesty engenders trust.
  • Vulnerability engenders trust.

If the next generation of writers, communicators, and leaders wants to be effective, they’ll learn to develop trust, not just rely on content. And trust is rooted in a relationship.

In a culture of information saturation, we’re looking for a reason to follow someone’s lead.

Pastors:

Are you finding this to be true in your church?

 *Photo Credit: Creative Commons user Polježičanin’s

 

A site you’ve got to visit

iStock photo user: Arakonyunus

I’ve done this before (HERE), and I want to do it again.

I want to help one of your friends pub their site.

In the comments below, tell us about a blog (or a site) that you read that you think we should know about. Tell us why you love it. Tell us what they’re doing to make a dent in the internet. Tell us why, if we’re not reading it, we’re missing out on some of the best that the internets has to offer.

Don’t nominate yourself. That’s silly and selfish. If you nominate yourself, I’ll delete your comment.

I’ll choose one of the sites you mention in the comments and write a full-length post about them and why the readers here at Life & Theology should immediately head over and join in that community.

Sometimes all a site needs is a little publicity. That’s what I want to do.

And I’m just trying to practice what I preach. I think that social media is at its best when people are being truly generous. (see what I mean HERE or HERE or HERE)

So go ahead and leave a comment. Tell us about a site we can’t live without.

To jump straight to the comments, click HERE.

*Photo credit: iStock Photo user Arakonyunus

 

7 Ideas to Produce Fresh Blog Posts

via iStockPhoto user: Rubber Ball

When I finished graduate school, I was asked if I was going to go on and get my doctorate. Here was my response:

Nope. I’m going to write about what I want to write…and read what I want to read.

I didn’t want anyone to dictate the content or the timing of my reading and writing. And I found great freedom in that.

Then something happened on my blog. I fell into the trap that says you have to create certain content on certain days. For instance, last week marked the 10-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. The blogging world dictates that you need to put up a post about that…reflect on how life is different or share a story about where you were. You know the drill. You should do this because that’s how you’re going to grow your blog…lots and lots of content driven by what’s happening in society. This is the pressure of content creation.

And then there I was, right back into the rut of others dictating what I wrote about.

So how do you get out of that rut? You create new, fresh content.

Easier said than done, right?

“I’ve got nothing to say!” you purport. And that’s where you’re wrong, my friend. You’ve got plenty to say. You’ve just got to start thinking differently about gathering, curating, and producing content.

Ready to start producing consistently high-quality, original posts? Then get ready for some hard work.

 7 ways to Produce Creative Content on your Blog

Idea Capture

Always be ready to capture…because you never know when inspiration is going to strike. I use Evernote for capturing many of my thoughts. (in fact, I email myself many ideas. Evernote has a feature where you can email info and have it go straight to the folder you designate. My friend Jeff Goins wrote about that HERE). But I’ve also been known to write ideas down in my Moleskine…the problem is, I often leave the Moleskine somewhere other than where I need it. But I’ve always got my phone, and capturing an idea is key to having content to share.

Observe life

You’ve got a unique angle on life, because you’re the only you. Only you have your job, your family, your church, and your community. Only you have your story and your gifts and your passions. Observe life through your lens and share your observations with us, whether that’s through photos, the written word, or videos.

Share a tool you’re using

Is there a new, helpful app you’ve stumbled on? Some new software that’s helping you be more productive? Maybe a new piece of hardware that you love? Share that with us, and tell us how it’s changing the way you work, play, produce, and enjoy life.

Vblog

Try videoing yourself instead of writing your post out. Having to speak into a camera is a whole new challenge…maybe that’s just the motivation you need.

Interview someone else

Pick an author, a blogger, or a leader you respect and interview them. Most people, if asked respectfully, would be honored to digitally sit down with you and answer some questions. This way, you have fresh content and get to introduce your readers to someone whom you respect and follow.

Read incessantly and share your learnings

I read mostly on my Kindle, and when I do, I highlight sections. Amazon makes all of your highlights and notes available (you can find yours HERE), so when I’m done, I can peruse back through my highlighted sections. Pick a quote you love and write a post on that. Pick 5 quotes and paste them all into a post and share them as proof that we really need to read that book.

Ask a question and aggregate

Try asking a question on Twitter or Facebook. Take the responses and aggregate them into a blog post (making sure to give credit where credit is due). Make sure to add your own thoughts into the mix. This is a great way to create fresh content.

Time to get to work. Start capturing ideas and sharing them with us.

Question: What do you do to create fresh content? What ideas could you share with us to help improve our blogs?

 

 

Don’t be tempted by the cop-out

image via iStock Photo, Rellas

I recently posed a question (HERE), “What’s a win for your blog?”  In the post, I said that a “win” for me isn’t the number of comments or tweets I receive in response to my writing…it’s getting the chance to articulate my thoughts.  And many of you heartily agreed with me.

But I began to wonder.

Is that just a cop-out?

Is that just the Resistance (re: The War of Art, Steven Pressfield) saying, “Don’t work harder…it’s not worth the effort.”?

Because if something is written well, shouldn’t it connect and inspire and spark?  Shouldn’t it be helpful for others?  Maybe it won’t be helpful for everyone, but shouldn’t it be helpful for some?  If I’m using my gifts, shouldn’t others be impacted and benefit? (re: 1 Corinthians 12)

It’s not that I need to start writing in order to get comments and shares. That’s backwards and fake and forced. Nobody wants that. That reeks of inauthenticity.

I was talking with a worship leader about his performance between songs on Sunday mornings.  When it comes to speaking between worship songs, he admittedly stumbles over his words, not sure what to say or how to best communicate.  He gets nervous and clams up.  I told him

Just be yourself. Talk about how God’s been speaking to you throughout the week. If God’s been pounding you over the head with the concept of grace, then share that with us. If He’s been convicting you about holding a piece of yourself back from Him…share that with us. If He’s been prodding you to do something new…share that with us. Share from your heart, not just from a canned piece of information that, on paper, connects the dots from one song to the next. If God really is moving your heart throughout the week, and you share from that experience, it’ll connect.

Do the work

Don’t miss this: that statement is predicated upon his hard work in seeking God throughout the week.  Don’t miss that!  It’s only after he’s done the hard work of seeking God throughout the week that he can truly share from his heart.

Writing a blog is a lot like that. Do the hard work of being real, improving your writing over time, asking probing questions of your own heart, observing life well…and the result should show an engagement with others at some level.  Am I wrong?

Justifying mediocrity

In the church world, where I operate, I’ve heard people use the phrase, “It’s not about the numbers” to refer to the fact that they don’t exist just to simply add numbers of people.  The problem is that that statement is often used when things aren’t going well, justifying a lack of effort and innovation.*  With blogging, never ever use, “It’s not about the comments and the ReTweets” to justify innovation and hard work.  Never.

If you’re aiming for mediocre, you’ll hit it every time, regardless of your field of expertise.

Question:

Do you think, “It’s not about the comments or the shares” is ever a cop-out?

Have you ever used a phrase like that to defer criticism of your lack of innovation and hard work?

*Though this isn’t always the case, and I’m not singling out any one church in particular.

*image via iStock Photo, Rellas

 

The 1 Question Every Blogger must Ask

image via Coach Jeremy

Ever gotten no response after you write a blog post?  Frustrating, no?

I’d rather have haters.  Or evil trolls.

The ‘no response’ is equivalent to standing in front of a crowd, pouring out your heart, and people just looking right past you. Or worse…as soon as you’re done, people begin chattering with their neighbors about something else entirely.

Oh well. I’ll keep working hard. Hoping something connects. And reminding myself that through writing, my own thoughts are clarified.

Winning

And that’s a win.

If I don’t consistently remind myself what I’m aiming for in my writing (for me: the number one benefit is “clarity”), then I’ll be forever frustrated.  But with the “win” defined, no amount of negativity will deter me.  It may frustrate me, but it won’t keep me from pressing forward.

Question:

What do you consider a “win” for your writing?

*image via Coach Jeremy

 

Email promptness

What’s the standard response time for responding to an email?

image via iStock Photo



I try to respond to all emails within 24 hours. Sometimes on the weekends, things can pile up and it takes a bit longer than 24 hours, but I try.

But I don’t know what’s standard.

Is there a standard for email responsiveness/promptness?

If you know you’re going to take longer than your standard, do you put up an “away” message alerting people it may be a bit longer?

What do you go by? What time frame do you shoot for?

Is there a different standard for your work email than for your personal email?

Do you respond more promptly for social media interaction than email?

Does your promptness (or lack thereof) reflect something about you?

Question:

Pick one of the questions above and help me out.   Wrestle through this with me!

 

 

 
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