Scott Writes Pro Email Newsletters

email marketingEric J. Scott.  2016.  Email Marketing: Tips and Tricks to Increase Credibility. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The first widely circulated, bound book (a codex)[1] was the Greek New Testament; the first major, printed book (circa 1455 AD) was the Guttenberg Bible.[2] In both instances, Christians were early adopters of new technologies and used them to advance their evangelism. For example, the codex was important to missionaries because it was easier to transport than a scroll; the Guttenberg Bible was a priority for protestant reformers because Bible was considered to be the sole authority for the church’s teaching. In today’s environment it is therefore not surprising to see evangelists and churches being quick to exploit email and other social media in promoting the Gospel. But, how is that best done?

Introduction

In his book, Email Marketing, Eric Scott observes these business values as helping establish credibility in email marketing:

  1. “Precipitate positive change in the world.
  2. Resolve all types of issues…
  3. Be a moral agency.
  4. Generate enthusiasm in employees and clients.
  5. Make things happen. Have a positive outlook…” (2-3)

Supporting these values are internet standards like:

  1. “Customer service—how you treat your clients.
  2. Transactions—the amount of time purchases take or the way they are handled.
  3. Handling of currency—the protocol you follow in case of theft, where you store money, and who is allowed to handle the money.
  4. Client demands—the requests of your customers.
  5. Marketing—the way you advertise your company.
  6. Organizational tasks…” (3)

The drift in all of this is that in an environment where time is precious and expectations are high, many details are involved in establishing the trust of customers. Scott observes: “People these days see everything as black and white. You are either trustworthy or not.” (4) Today’s readers are a tough crowd to please.

My Email History

Although I have had an email newsletter since my early seminary days (circle 2009), I never really understood how to use the medium properly. When I graduated in 2013, I had three separate lists of supporters who I would write periodically which I merged into a common list and started using MailChimp to manage each month. I established a blog (T2Pneuma.net) with the hope that my email readers would migrate to it, but really few did. Email remains more familiar to people and, because they resisted migrating to the blog, I got into the habit of writing both a monthly newsletter and the blog. Only in the past couple months did I come to realize that I needed to focus more on the newsletter and treat it as central to reaching my most dedicated readers. This realization led me to Scott’s book, which  focuses on email marketing.

Scott’s tips are priceless and it is helpful to think of the book as posing a conversation with you about your email practices. For example, Scott writes: “In your welcome email, make sure you have an about you.” (20) I certainly did not have an “about you” in my welcome email (which I crafted only last week), in part, because I have always written to an audience of friends and family who obviously know me. As I encourage other readers that I do not know me personally to read my newsletter, it is helpful to insert this “about you”, even if ever so brief. In some sense, Scott’s book substitutes for the lack of a consultant able to tell me such things.

Email Hang Ups

Some of my email hang ups arise because my identity as an author is changing. As I have upgraded my internet presence to reflect a “professional author” persona, attitudes about merchandising need to be amended. For example, my newsletter (and my publisher Facebook account) now sport buttons encouraging readers to purchase my books, which Scott certainly encourages (21). However, surprisingly he cautions the newsletter writer to focus on being a friend (24). Friends are helpful, truthful, and friendly. (25-27) This advice transfers across technologies. Other authors encourage online entrepreneurs to be social on social media, rather than treat social media like another advertising forum.

Scott’s tips are in many ways confirmation of many of the practices that I have evolved myself over the past few years. For example, he cites the “90/10 rule” which reads that 90 percent of your content should be helpful advice and other things while only 10 percent should consist of sales pitches (36). This rule is, in effect, an application of the social part of social media.

Assessment

Eric Scott’s Email Marketing is a helpful book. The focus on building credibility with your audience is actually critical when you consider how easy it is to unsubscribe from a newsletter—reminders are help. Scott’s book is short and easy to read, but don’t discount its content. Newsletter writers will want to take a look.

Footnotes

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutenberg_Bible.

Scott Writes Pro Email Newsletters

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

Continue Reading

Grahl Connects Authors to Fans to Books

tim_grahl_review_09162016Tim Grahl. 2013. Your First 1,000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book.  Lynchburg: Out:Think Group.[1]

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The word on the street is that less than 5 percent of self-published authors sell 1,000 books. Most sell none at all which means that the first book sold, even to your mother, is a critical threshold. Thus, when I noticed a book entitled—Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl—it got my attention and I bought a copy.

Grahl[2] writes:

“This short book will solve that problem [knowing how to sell] by providing a clear, actionable and proven system to author platform building…A platform is whatever plan and method you use to connect with your readers and sell books, whether it’s traveling the world to speak, hand-selling to friends or building a popular blog.” (ii)

This is a big promise for a small book so what is the plan? Grahl calls it his “connection system” which he describes as:

“Our journey into online platform building will start with the best way to get Permission to communicate regularly with your fans. Then we will discuss how to engage your readers through Content that you will make freely and widely available. Once you have permission and content, we will examine how to find and connect with new readers through Outreach. Finally, we will talk about how you use Permission, Content, and Outreach to naturally and ethically Sell your books.” (iii)

A couple of very interesting principles are mentioned in Grahl’s system. For example, the idea of permission means that this system is not your traditional marketing framework which assumes that you are selling to people that you do not personally know at any level. Fans know you and you know your fans at least well enough that they have trusted their personal email address to you. In fact, Grahl redefines marketing as two things: ”(1) creating  long-lasting connections with people through (2)…being relentlessly helpful” (8-11) They are willing to trust you in this case because they have read your free content and identified with it helping solve one of their problems.

After a chapter about marketing, Grahl’s book is organized around how to apply these principles in your own connection system. Let me turn to each in turn.

Permission. After reviewing options in social media, Grahl highlights developing an email list as an author’s first priority (27).  Two reasons stand out: (1) you as author control the list and (2) people read their email daily. With other social media, access to your contacts is controlled by a firm which may or may not allow you direct access and people are much less committed to actually reading the content provided.

Grahl suggests using an email service—MailChimp, Aweber or Constant Contact (28)—and suggests making the signup process both obvious and compelling. He sees the most obvious signup mechanism as a popup box, delayed 20 seconds to assure that your website visitor is actually engaged, not just passing through (36-38). He sees compelling content in your newsletter as the primary way to keep readers engaged and willing to come back (38-39).

Content. Free is everyone’s favorite price, but authors know that free can be costly. Grahl sees 3 reasons why free content is essential:

  1. It allows people to interact with your content before signing up,
  2. It gives other bloggers, journalists, and other publishers something to link to and publicize your work, and
  3. It gives search engines, like Google, something to index so that people can find your work (51-52).

In other words, your free content helps make your work discoverable and gives them a reason to want to. Grahl suggests focusing on content that will not grow stale over time (74) and building on top of other people’s platforms, like blogging on LinkedIn (55).

Outreach. Grahl sees outreach as necessary to growing your platform. How exactly do you find new readers? (80-81) A key component of this outreach is empathy—“the intellectual identification or vicarious experiencing of feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” (82) The reason empathy is key is because it allows you to serve your fans in ways that we keep them coming back for more and your influencers to want to work with you in achieving your goals (87).

Sell. Once you have permission from your fans, you have offered them compelling content, and have demonstrated that you serve their needs, they will be willing and hopefully eager to hear about your products. At this point, Grahl advises authors to be enthusiastic about their own work—be your own fan (113). If this advice sounds easy, try working for a year or two on a writing project and still be as excited about it as you were the first day! If you are not enthusiastic, then who exactly will be? When you are excited, then your fans will pick up on your enthusiasm and asking for them to buy your book will come easier.

Grahl suggests offering the first 10 percent of your book online as a teaser to get readers interesting and asking for more (115). He suggests a “call to action” page with blurbs, a photo of you and a short bio, and hyperlinks to purchasing the book (116). If you are like me, this is not what your call to action page looks like, but Grahl makes the case that a call to action page should ask you to buy the book, give details, and be presented multiple times, although perhaps not all in the same way.

Tim Grahl’s book, Your First 1000 Copies, is a helpful and readable guide to how to market a self-published book. Grahl’s approach is believable because he works as a marketing consultant to authors and cites numerous cases studies taken from his own clients’ experiences.[3] His focus on email marketing also lends credibility to his advice because anyone who has tried to market books knows how hard it is to make online sales. In my own experience, about 10 percent of my books are sold online and the other 90 percent are sold in person—in other words, as a new author you are selling yourself, not your books, to most of your readers. Consequently, I expect to adjust my marketing strategy in view of having read Grahl’s book. I expect that you will too.

[1] http://www.OutThinkGroup.com

[2] If you are unfamiliar with Tim, this podcast with Joanna Penn (http://www.TheCreativePenn.com) is a great place to learn more about him: http://timgrahl.com/penn-replay.

[3] I recently reviewed one of Grahl’s clients: The Heath’s Stick to Communication (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-1zK).

Continue Reading

Schaefer Analyzes Social Media Logic and Purpose

Social_media_06052015Mark W. Schaefer.  2014. Social Media Explained:  Untangling the World’s Most Misunderstood Business Trend. Schaefer Marketing Solutions[1].

The rapid pace of innovation in social media continues to evolve and reshape how we communicate both socially and commercially. This innovation brings new opportunities, but it also challenges businesses to evolve with these changes.  This evolution requires awareness, reflection, and response.  Because time and money are involved, it is helpful to get advice from time to time from industry pros.  Mark Schaefer’s Social Media Explained (SME) provides such advice.

Schaefer states his purpose: “This book explains how social media marketing works in plain English” (5). In this case, plain English includes graphical illustrations by Joey Strawn (135) which provide the text with themes and pictures that mirror the points being made. The text clearly targets busy business leaders who don’t necessarily want to know all the details, but need to be able to ask informed questions (5). More than once, Schaefer chides the reader to turn off distractions, sit up, and listen—an interesting commentary on cultural trends.  Between the cartoons and the commentary (and the all black outfit in the photo), one gets the impression that he is targeting a millennial, not a boomer, audience. OMG!

Schaefer describes himself as an (best selling, globally recognized) author, marketing consultant, and faculty member at Rutgers University. Other books that he has written include:  Return on Influence, Born to Blog, and The Tao of Twitter[2].  Schaefer divides SME into 3 sections:

  1. The 5 Most Important Things You Need to Know about Social Media Marketing.
  2. The 5 Most Difficult Questions You’ll Face
  3. A Social Media Primer (2).

These 3 sections are followed by biographies of the author and illustrator and an index.

Section 1. As alluded to above, Schaefer’s introduction is actually aptly named—may I have your attention please? —because while his is not verbose, he does choose his words carefully and knows what he is talking about.  In chapter 1 (Humans Buy From Humans), for example, he uses a rather shocking analogy—social media is a lot like an ancient bazaar. The point is that people buy from other people—personal contact and feedback remain important.  People want to connect with other people (8-12)[2].

Schaefer’s point mirrors my own business experience.  Although my book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality, is available worldwide through Amazon.com, I generally sell about 10 books through personal appearances for every 1 book that I sell online.  Even when I make online sales, I generally have a good idea of who the online buyers were because of recent interactions with people.

For those of you new to Schaefer’s writing, chapter 3, The Social Media Mindset, provides an important interpretation of how to understand social media.  Schaefer makes 4 points:

  1. Target your connections,
  2. Provide meaningful content,
  3. Be authentically helpful, and
  4. Reap business benefits (23).

Point 1 is less than obvious—in the entire world of possible contacts, you want to reach people who are most likely to be receptive to your service.  Point 2 defines the task at hand—provide content useful to your connections.  Point 3 speaks to motivation—being truly helpful is something rare, remembered, and, ultimately, rewarded. Point 4 answers the why question—being available and helpful to your connections makes it more likely that your connections will stay in touch and consider your service in their purchases.  Taken together, these 4 points speak about the need to develop relationships—social media is social in the sense of providing unique networking opportunities.

Section 2. Among the questions that Schaefer fields, chapter 6 was the most eye-opening for me.  What is the value of social media and how do we measure it? Schaefer starts with a brilliant statement of the obvious, for those of us who live in the real world—we have to measure our progress (51).  He give 4 reasons:

  1. Everything has an implied value.
  2. We have to justify what we do—if we want to continue being employed.
  3. Measurement helps us determine when we are making progress.
  4. With so much data floating around, there is no reason not to measure (51-52).

Having said this, Schaefer sees the benefits of social media as primarily nonfinancial, intangibles—much like networking. Listing his own benefits in a recent year, he cites these items: increased customer loyalty, free advice, a job offer, greater awareness, and a book contract (55). The big question is how do you learn in a fast-paced, changing environment? Learning is a non-financial, intangible, yet it is often critical for firm survival. No one wants to become, so to speak, the next high-quality, buggy-whip manufacturer.

Section 3. Keeping up with social media innovations is the source of a lot of my anxiety about social media—which platforms do I need to pay attention to and what tools are a priority to learn?  Schaefer’s comment gave me great comfort:  “Blogs are among the most important sources of ‘rich’ content—the real fuel for your social media engine” (124). My comfort arises because, contrary to other advice, my social media strategy focuses on blogging on a regular basis. Schaefer goes on to mention podcasting, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ [3], YouTube, and SlideShare (125-132).  Personally, I probably need to spend more time developing my presence in Facebook; SlideShare is one media that I had not considered but probably should.

Mark Schaefer’s Social Media Explained provides a helpful overview of the current status of social media and why firms need to be aware and involved.  SME is also very readable.

[1] http://www.BusinessesGrow.com

[2] Read my review in 2013:  Schaefer Works Twitter; Brings Business Sense (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-3S).

[3] I am surprised that Schaefer did not mention Google’s preference for Google+ in its SEO algorithm.  This was a motivator in using Google+.  Has this advantage gone away?

 

Continue Reading

Penn Whispers to Professional Speakers

Joanna Penn, Speaking

Penn Whispers to Professional Speakers

Joanna Penn.  2014.  Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives, and Other Introverts.  UK: Creative Penn Limited.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

In analyzing the results of the launch of my first book last month, a surprising finding emerged.  While my online sales were frustratingly few, sales during personal appearances were stronger than for typical authors [1].  The question then came up:  should I be speaking more?  And what should such speaking look like?  When I stumbled across Joanna Penn’s book, Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives, and Other Introverts, I immediately ordered a copy.

Background as Speaker

Mind you, I have been speaking publicly for most of my professional life, both as an economist and as a pastor.  However, economists typically address audiences of other economists and pastors typically address a familiar congregation.  In neither case is the audience wholly unfamiliar; in both cases the audience response is fairly gracious of what is being presented [2].  Public speaking to unfamiliar audience to speak about a book is a bit more out there than I am accustomed to.

Organization of Book

Penn states her writing objective as follows:  In this book, I’ll share everything that I know as a professional speaker and introvert (11).  She breaks this objective down into 4 parts:

  1. The practicalities of speaking;
  2. The psychological aspects of speaking;
  3. The business side; and
  4. Interviews with professional speakers (11).

In other words, this book focuses on things that speakers do and worry about; it does not focus on how to write and deliver good speeches.

The Mix

An important point in my own choice of this book is that Penn straddles 2 worlds:  public speaking and book writing and publishing.  While there is a lot of overlap these days between these 2 worlds—speakers that write (politicians, for example) and writers that speak (best-selling authors that do appearances)—the mechanics of these 2 professional realms are filled with thousands of unwritten rules, details, and networking requirements.  If the subject matter were different, an entirely different set of observations would arise.  Think of the worlds of IT gurus or sports figures or film stars. Penn’s niche and expertise speaks specifically into my space as a writer/publisher.

Audience

Penn drills down into her audience a bit deeper by focusing on the fears and anxieties of “introverts” and “creatives”.  In some sense, she is carving out a niche here with not just authors, but authors focused on creative writing.  Perhaps even more specifically female, creative writers (17-19) [3].

Types of Speaking

Two sections of the book were of special interest to me.  The first focused on 6 types of speaking.  Penn lists those as:

  1. Keynote/Inspirational speaking;
  2. Content speaking;
  3. Workshop presenting/facilitating;
  4. Mc/Event chair;
  5. Chair of panel or panelist; and
  6. Reader/performer of your own work (24-25).

I suppose that an author presenting their own work might fit into most of these types, depending on the work.  One type of speaking on my mind as I read the book is not on the list:  radio interviewing.

Role for Video

The second section of special interest to me was her discussion of using video.  For example, Penn sees 6 uses for video:

  1. Self-improvement tool;
  2. Evidence of speaking ability;
  3. Bonus material for spicing up sessions;
  4. Testimonials;
  5. Marketing; and
  6. Premium product for customers (133-134)

Although I have produced a number of You-Tube videos for Leader and Media Guides [4] to promote my book, video remains a source of anxiety for me [5].  Seeing the scope of use for video helps to reduce anxiety by demonstrating the range and real value of their use.

AIDA Principle

Penn’s background in marketing broke through in her comments on social media.  She cites the AIDA principle:

  1. Attention.  Social media content lets people know you exist and what you do.  Hopefully, your content is interesting and informative
  2. Interest.  Once people know you exist, they have to know how to find you.
  3. Desire.  Once people know that you exist, they need to know that they can trust you.  Are you authentic or simply interested in attention?
  4. Action.  Once people know you, how to find you, and trust you, then when an appropriate occasion arises they may turn to you for advice and products (129-130).

AIDA makes sense not only in social media, pastors effectively use it by practicing a “ministry of presence”. It also works with animals, like horses [6].

Assessment

Joanna Penn’s Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives, and Other Introverts is a real gem.  Over the years I have read a number of books on public speaking—most on preaching—and this is the first book with real value added in terms of what speakers worry about most—the zillions of details where things go wrong or should be prepared for in advance.  Penn is obviously very readable.  Authors should take special note.

Footnotes

[1] Members of my book club reported that the industry average number of sales for a public book signing was 3 books.  My first two appearances resulted in sales of 8 and 10 books.

[2] Economists sometimes talk about the “prisoner’s dilemma”. Prisoners informally agree without consultation not to “rat each other out”, in part, because of the threat of retaliation in kind. Economists may seem to be a tough bunch to present in front of because of all the tough questions, but the informal agreement usually is to limit questions to the topic at hand—no ad hominem (personal) attacks.

[3] Penn lists her Myers Briggs type as INFJ (18).  This is surprising because her book abounds with details—a big selling point for readers and a classic flag for a sensate personality, not intuitive personality—more like an ISFJ.

[4] Check out T2Pneuma.com.

[5] To borrow a phrase from Garrison Keillor, I am particularly shy of video and Skype where my “face made for radio” might be a liability hard to control for.

[6] A film called The Horse Whisperer (1998) staring Robert Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas, employed a ministry of presence to calm frightened horses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Horse_Whisperer_(film)).

Also see:

Penn Attracts Readers to Books 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

 

Continue Reading

Social Media Enhances Ministry Revisited

Author unknown
Author unknown

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This past September I began blogging for the first time and also became more involved in social media.  In October I wrote a newsletter article which outlined my first impressions on how social media contributes to ministry (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-2D).  This article looks back over the past 6 months and comments on lessons learned.

My blog, T2Pneuma.net, has an online pastor or Christian ministry theme and I post 4 times weekly:  a prayer on Sundays, a book review on Mondays, a guest post on Wednesday, and a Bible lesson on Fridays in English and Spanish.

Social media starts with the word, social, which implies that your online persona builds on your offline persona.  If you are aloof and detached offline, chances are good that this persona will come across online.  Pastors and churches that post only Bible verses or their own program announcements probably will not be effective in social media.  Social media works best when the conversation is more of a personal dialog.

This personal dialog idea is not all that personal.  Social media is not quite a telephone conversation, but its more participatory than watching television.  Think of it as having the option to pick up the phone but with not quite the same incentive—social media participants enjoy an illusion of intimacy.  Its kind of like having a date with someone on another continent.

A couple of events over the past month illustrated this personal dialog principle.  The first event was when I posted my first online survey.  I asked my followers to vote on 4 book cover ideas (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-qD).  The survey and the write up of the results (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-r7) both broke records for most viewings and for daily traffic on my blog.  The second event was when I posted my first You-Tube video (http://wp.me/P3Xeut-1).  Viewings for the video the first day substantially exceeded my daily traffic record set even by the online survey.  People relate to video—it is very personal even if it does not offer real dialog.

I often talk about my posts online in offline conversation.  While some may think this makes for tedious conversation, my reviews frequently speak into the space where chaplains live—grief, anger, exercise, personal boundaries, addiction, singleness, marriage, and so on.  It is easier to talk about a review than to inquire too deeply into people’s pain.  This is an extension of what I used to refer to as my book ministry (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-aq).

Recently, for example, I spoke with a friend who struggled with intense anger as a young person.  In God’s provision, my review that week was a book on anger (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-rv).  After we discussed the author’s perspective on anger, we also then discussed my lesson on 1 Corinthians 8 from the previous week (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-rm).  Because my posts are online, sometimes I need only point to the post in order to offer insights.  The point is that the blog enabled a conversation much deeper than might otherwise have been possible—offline dialog complements online dialog.  The reverse is also common.

People online love to cite statistics.  At this point, I am approaching my 200th posting on the blog.  At last count, 87 people follow my blog; 557 people follow me on Twitter; about 125 follow me on Facebook; about 150 people follow me on LinkedIn; and about 25 people follow me on Google+.  As many as 33 people have visited my blog on a single day.  (For You-Tube, the number is 45).  Visitors have come from 50+ different countries. These numbers are meaningful only in comparison with typical attendance on Sunday mornings at Sunday school or in the pews when I preach.  More meaningful is the insight that I know family members who never attend church yet faithfully read my posts.

The tally on my book cover survey raises an interesting point.  Outside of book cover preferences, in the survey I quizzed people about their background.  At the end of 1 week of voting, 54% of the respondents were under 30 years of age and 29% listed their religious preference as other (not Christian) or not sure.  These results confirmed my suspicion that my blog was reaching people not in the choir on Sundays.

Do you want to change the world?  A good place to start is by learning to talk to people both inside and outside the church.

Continue Reading

Detweiler: Taming the Electronic Beast

Craig Detweiler, IGods
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Craig Detweiler. 2013.  iGods:  How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives.  Grand Rapids:   Brazos Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Technology has defined my career.  During my career as an economist, I went from adding row and column sums with a manual calculator to programming with computer punch cards to programming personal computers for Windows and super computers in half a dozen languages. Being an early adopter of a variety of technologies allowed me to be the first to make sense of massive amounts of data.  Now, social media is redefining how work gets done and how people think about themselves, the world, and even God.  So when I noticed that Craig Detweiler had taken time to write a book, iGods, that tried to make sense of these changes, I was intrigued and ordered a copy.

Introduction

Detweiler observes:  Jesus was more than a carpenter; he was a techie (23). The Greek word, τέκτων (Mark 6:3 BNT), usually translated as carpenter probably better describes a builder. Think about it. Palestine has a lot of deserts and rocks; it has very few trees—the primary input in carpentry.  Detweiler observes that Jesus does not talk about carpentry; most of his stories are not even about agriculture.  His stories are about winepresses, millstones, olive presses, tombstones, cisterns, and so on—the technologies of his era (24).  He talked about the things that he knew best.  Detweiler prefers the translation, artisan.

Like father like son.  God created the heavens and the earth bringing order to chaos (Genesis 1).  Bringing order to chaos is exactly what technology does.  Creation is marked by both order and by beauty.  Do you suppose creation is “state of the art”? (25)  If we are created in the image of ‘high tech” God, then does our fascination with technology reflect God’s presence among us? [1]

Are you intrigued yet?

Organization

Detweiler focuses on the persons, the technologies, and companies responsible for the social media revolution writing in 8 chapters, proceeded by an introduction and followed by a conclusion.  The 8 chapters are:

  1. Defining technology,
  2. Apple,
  3. A brief history of the internet,
  4. Amazon,
  5. Google,
  6. A brief history of social networking,
  7. Facebook,
  8. You Tube, Twitter, Instagram (v).

These new technologies are intrinsically more complex than even the personal computers that we are all familiar with.  Changing the battery in an iPhone, for example, requires special tools and a detailed list (8 or more steps) of instructions which, ironically, can be found more easily on YTube.com than in any manual. This complexity relegates us to the role of consumers rather than masters of the basic technologies of our age (25).  It is WALL-E (a garbage-compacting robot), not the morbidly obese Captain McCea of the spaceship Axiom, who is the hero of our age [2].

Author

Detweiler is the author of numerous books and director of numerous films (http://bit.ly/1d7lWx8). He has his doctoral degree from Fuller Theological Seminary (www.fuller.edu) and currently is a professor of communications and director of the Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture at Pepperdine University (http://bit.ly/1ebWAOn) which is located in Malibu, CA.  Because Hollywood has been at the cutting edge of both changing technology and social trends, just the Malibu address suggests that he might have some interesting insights.

Assessment

Detweiler’s iGods is accessible, thoroughly researched, and fascinating to read.  He concludes that social media provide tools that redefines many of the assumptions of how we live, think, and work that are neither intrinsically good or bad.  In terms of the scientific method, Detweiler has moved discussion from focusing on felt needs to defining the scope of the social media problem [3].  In the midst of chaotic social and technological change, the task of problem definition is typically the hardest. Detweiler has done us a great service.  This is a book that smart people will notice.

Footnotes

[1] For years I have described scientific discovers as nothing more than God’s little Easter Eggs hidden in places where he knew his kids would find them.

[2] Pixar Film 2008.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WALL-E.

[3] The steps often employed in the scientific method are:  felt need, problem definition, observation, analysis, decision, and responsibility bearing.   Stephen W. Hiemstra. June 2009. “Can Bad Culture Kill a Firm?” pages 51-54 of Risk Management.  Society of Actuaries.  Accessed: 18 February 2014. Online:  http://bit.ly/1cmnQ00.

Detweiler: Taming the Electronic Beast

Continue Reading

MacGregor Aids Authors; Simplifies Social Media

Writer_01072014Chip MacGregor (a.k.a. Amanda Luedeke). 2013.  The Extroverted Writer:  An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

People are funny.  Back during the cold war, the wife of a Russian friend of mine kept calling to ask him to come home.  Vladimir, she would say, I cannot take care of the kids and do the shopping too!  When she came to visit, the complaints continued.  That is, until she visited a local department store.  At that point she was lost in choices.  She asked:  how do you Americans ever know what to buy?

As a first-time author, I feel a bit like Vladimir’s wife amid all the publishing alternatives.  At least 4 intimidating questions arise:

  1. Which stylebook should I follow?
  2. Do I promote my writing with a website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media?
  3. Do I self-publish, hire an agent, or look for an established publisher?
  4. Do I publish in paperback, hardcover, or eBook?

Worse, the questions are not interdependent of one another.  In the middle of all this uncertainty, Chip MacGregor’s book, The Extroverted Writer, offers welcome guidance.

MacGregor starts by observing that agents and publishers advise wannabe writers to establish a platform, but offer no guidance on what a platform is or how to get one.  He defines a platform as the number of people who follow you online, attend your speaking engagements or are otherwise know about your work.  For nonfiction writers, he talks about tens to hundreds of thousands of followers; for fiction writers maybe half that many (12-14).  Obviously, establishing a viable platform takes time and effort.  MacGregor’s objective in writing is to offer ideas, rules, and advice to help you establish this platform and at least 10 action items to work on (1-3).

The Extroverted Writer is organized into 8 chapters.  These chapters are preceded by a forward and followed by an Afterword and Acknowledgments.  The chapter titles are informative:
  1. Know your audience,
  2. Know your goals,
  3. How to use this book,
  4. Websites,
  5. Blogs,
  6. Twitter,
  7. Facebook, and
  8. Miscellaneous Social Media Sites.

Obviously, for MacGregor a platform consists of a theme, an audience, and a social media presence.  Interestingly, this book does not cite a publisher, but is listed on Amazon.com as published by CreateSpace which implies that this book is self-published.

MacGregor starts his social media advice by focusing on the need for writers to have a website (17).  A website signals 3 things to agents and publishers:

  1. You are serious about your career,
  2. You are not afraid to use the web to promote yourself, and
  3. They can check you out without committing to a relationship.

Having established the motivation for a website, MacGregor gives advice on quality points to look for in the website.  These points summarize in making the point that a website has effectively become an online resume—it must have eye appeal, be informative, and point to your blog where you show your skills (23-24) [1].

Chip MacGregor’s The Extroverted Writer is a useful author guide and a fun book to read.  Missing perhaps is a reflection on the role of branding–being known for your expertise, not just your following.  For example, why do many boutique publishers have fewer followers than authors with a platform under MacGregor’s guidelines?  Still, MacGregor clearly met his objective in writing.  In each of his social media chapters, I found actionable tips on what to do—easily meeting his goal of leaving me with 10 tips.  Personally, I found his advice on using professional pages in Facebook and on organizing a book giveaway particularly helpful. I am sure you will too.

________________________

1/ In the corporate world, content production and marketing likewise needs to carefully planned (bit.ly/1igPRHp).

Continue Reading

Ebenezers, Benchmarks, and Transitions in 2013

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Art by Sharron Beg
Art by Sharron Beg

How will you remember 2013?

Did you watch the corn grow in 2013 or did God break into your life in ways that will change you forever? The Greeks had two words for time which capture this distinction: chronos time and kairos time.

Chronos time is clock time. It is often associated with the Goya painting of Saturn eating his son—a grotesque reminder that each minute on the watch can only be enjoyed during the minute and then it is gone. In chronos time, the corn grows and we watch.

By contrast, kairos time is decision time. When God steps into our lives from outside of time, we experience His presence as crisis. We are changed forever. We are forced to answer the question—who are you, really? This is the experience of God that we read about in Paul when he says: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2 ESV). In kairos time, we grow and God becomes real.

I will always remember 2013 as the year that I graduated from seminary. For 5 years, I worked towards the goal of graduating seminary before my 60th birthday. I passed that benchmark this month. My diploma now hangs on the wall in my office—a kind of metaphorical Ebenezer (a pile of stones erected to God)[1].

School is a transition with a beginning (how you got admitted), a middle (all the classes, experiences, and uncertainties), and an ending (graduation). Looking back, I am not sure which stage in the transition was most stressful!

Other transitions that I will remember include—seeing family members grow, witnessing my first death, preaching my first emotional sermon (http://bit.ly/1eQEqbn), writing my first book (http://bit.ly/1fVF6c9), developing the social side of social media (e.g. http://bit.ly/19ROE26), and first appreciation Christmas. Of these, appreciation Christmas was probably the most meaningful.

At the Hiemstra Christmas party this year, we got everyone in a room together and shared. The usual fare was been to share things like—what are you most thankful for? Or, what was your most memorable Christmas memory? However, this year I proposed that we go around the room and take turns being appreciated. When it is your turn, everyone else in the room takes a turn telling you why they appreciate you. People really got into this—we spent about two hours appreciating one another. This exercise only works for groups that really know one another, but for these groups it can be a really healing experience [2]. I will never forget.

Return tomorrow to view my Top 10 Postings in 2013.

Thank you for supporting this online ministry.

Happy New Year!

1/ Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, Till now the LORD has helped us (1Samuel 7:12 ESV).

2/ I owe this idea to my Clinical Pastoral Education instructor, Jan Humphreys (http://bit.ly/19zhgPb).

Continue Reading

Hyatt’s Platform Stands Solid; Gets Noticed

PlatformMichael Hyatt. 2012.  Platform:  Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

My introduction this fall to social media evokes memories of my experience with survival camping as a Boy Scout. Survival camping tested your skill with the equipment, with problematic colleagues, and with hiking through rugged terrain. Social media likewise tests your knowledge of technologies, ability to communicate, and dealing with numerous uncertainties. In preparing for survival camping, I studied the Scout Fieldbook [1]. In preparing in social media, Michael Hyatt’s Platform is a great help.

Introduction

Hyatt is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, celebrity author and speaker, and professional blogger. His professional focus is on leadership, productivity, social media, and publishing—all issues of personal interest. Hyatt came to my attention online when I observed him promoting John Maxwell’s Sometimes You Win; Sometimes You Learn among bloggers (New York:  Center Street, 2013) [2]; at that point I knew that he was also a marketing professional. My curiosity about Hyatt led me to purchase Platform.

Hyatt’s basic thesis is that: “A good product does not stand on its own anymore. It is foundational, but it is not enough” (xvii). He defines a platform as: ”the thing you have to stand on to get heard” (xvi). A platform provides visibility, amplification, and connection (xviii). He writes: “This book is all about attracting [an] audience, turning on the brightest lights you can find, and building passionate loyalty so your audience stays with you through every line, every scene, every act” (xv).

Organization

Platform is divided into 5 parts: 1. start with wow, 2. prepare to launch, 3. build your home base, 4. Expand your reach, and 4. Engage your tribe. Before these parts is an introduction which declares that “All the world is a stage” (William Shakespeare; xv). After these parts are some helpful items: complying with FTC guidelines, post ideas for novelists, a list of online resources, notes, acknowledgments, a writer’s bio, an index, and contact information. Hyatt’s scope is comprehensive; his details are thoroughly researched.

In chapter 35 which focuses on generating more blog traffic, for example, Hyatt talks about how he was able to increase his traffic (measured by unique visitors) by 81.3 percent in a single month. After changing to a professional blog theme, he blogged more frequently; we wrote shorter sentences, paragraphs, and posts; he started optimizing his posts for search engines; and he became more engaged in comments (134). He then offers ten additional recommendations on increasing traffic, a focus most bloggers identify with.

Focus on Followers

What is interesting is that in chapter 36 he then argues that increasing traffic is the wrong focus. Focus instead, he says, on increasing the number of people who follow and promote your blog. Keep your best customers happy and they will keep you happy (137). Hyatt’s list of 7 strategies to grow your list of followers then makes it clear that he sweats the details. My favorite is suggestion 4: offer an incentive for subscribing. Hyatt’s incentive here is to offer a free copy of one of his e-books.

Assessment

Hyatt’s Platform is a helpful book and a good read.  Authors, speakers, and other professionals in the public eye will want to take a look because the rules for success in professional life are evolving so rapidly. While many professionals will not be stepping up to a national platform like Hyatt, his advice should scale well to the local platform where most of us live. In my case, I have already given my blog a makeover and have developed a long to do list based on his advice.  I suspect you will too.

[1] Boy Scouts of America. 1967.  Fieldbook for Boys and Men.  New Brunswick.

[2] In the interest of full disclosure, I received a free copy of Maxwell’s book in exchange for an online mention.   I read the book and found it worthy of a review (http://bit.ly/1ktRxPI).

Hyatt’s Platform Stands Solid; Gets Noticed

Also see:

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

Continue Reading

Schaefer Works Twitter; Brings Business Sense

Mark W. Schaefer. 2012.  The Tao of Twitter:  Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time.  New York:  McGraw Hill. @markwschaeferSchaefer_book

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

When I expressed interest in learning how to use social media more effectively, a friend quickly remarked:  whatever you do, don’t start Tweeting!  Probably the hardest part of learning to use Twitter has been to overcome the pre-conception that it’s used primarily by celebrity fans.  Mark Schaefer’s The Tau of Twitter has vanquished pre-conceptions and convinced me that Twitter is a business tool here to stay.

What is Twitter?  Twitter looks like a personalized wire service or  stock market price feed.  The limited space in a Tweet assures that only short messages are transmitted which means that it is easy to view many Tweets quickly.  For news junkies and market watchers, Twitter has to be addictive–it is more than a non-stop pajama party for fifteen year olds.

So what does Schaefer say about it?  The book is organized into seventeen chapters.  The introduction and first two chapters explain how Twitter can be used in business.  Chapter three examines Schaefer’s basic social media strategy (The Tao Explained).  Chapter four explains business benefits.  Chapters five to seven explore Schaefer’s strategy in more detail.  The remainder of the book covers advanced Twitter concepts.

Schaefer’s strategy in using social media revolves around three principles:  Targeted Connections, Meaningful Content, and Authentic HelpfulnessTargeted Connections means concentrate on following and be followed by people likely to find your business interesting.  This is just basic networking.  Schaefer talks a lot about his Twitter Tribe—a group of about 200 contacts who share your basic interests.  Meaningful Content means that you introduce information that is both helpful and interesting.  Most professionals today are specialists—talk about your area of expertise.  Authentic Helpfulness means that you express honest interest in what people are doing online.  Just pretend a colleague has walked in your office asking advice and you get the idea.

What makes Schaefer’s discussion interesting is how he mixes business and personal interests.  Several times he reminds the reader that “social media” begins with the word “social” or alternatively “P2P”—person to person.  People want to do business with people that they like being with.  For those of us who are not the life of the party, this whole discussion can be a bit intimidating—life in business causal—but the point is that networking is very personal.  Twitter is not a place to sell, but rather a place to establish relationships.

Schaefer’s The Tao of Twitter makes Twitter more inviting, more accessible for business professionals.  Baby boomers may be shocked to learn that real business gets done in Twitter.  Millennials may discover that business requires a different protocol than Twitter’s social side.  Still, this is not a how to book that will substitute for the help system in Twitter.  Professionals outside of the world of business may also need to tweak Schaefer’s rules of thumb to fit the ethos of their own fields.  Given those caveats, The Tao of Twitter is an authentically helpful book.

Continue Reading