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Value the Shrapnel

This afternoon I met with some thinkers at Saddleback Church to talk about using social media in ministry. While we were meeting, a thought hit me and I started scribbling in my Moleskine…

Social Media Flow

After I finished with my chicken scratch (a southern term for doodling, scribbling, and designing innovative flowcharts), I snapped a pic and posted it on Facebook and Twitter. This obviously evoked a number of requests for translations into English (since few people actually read chicken scratch) so as promised, I’m offering here some explanation about what I jotted down.

First of all, I don’t care for the term “social media strategy” even though I help people come up with them all the time. Strategy is a piece of what social media is all about, but if you’re just about strategy, you’ll cease to be social about media. From top left…

Building Your Strategy

The strategy portion of all of this is about what I’m going to contribute to the social web. It involves at least three aspects:

  • A library of content, which can include my blog posts, favorite links, funny Youtube videos, or chicken scratch recipes instructions. I personally use Diigo to build that library, but there are tools a’plenty.
  • A system for inputs, which is a fancy way of describing when, how, and how often I’m posting and tweeting.
  • And schedules. I know that plenty of well-respected leaders in the online space disagree with scheduling anything, but while I see the perspective, I think that argument has already lost to some degree. Schedules is a matter of showing up at the times most likely to provide meaningful interactions, whether automated or organic.

Unfortunately, this is where a lot of social media efforts stop. This is the spot where you pay the bill for the expensive social media strategy consulting. You have accounts set up, content to share, and some kind of a road map for attracting attention. But the middle of the chart chicken scratch is where the action is.

Engaging Your World

I wrote the words “distribution, interaction, and response” because those are three primary actions that happen in the engagement portion of social media, but I didn’t put straight lines around them because they don’t happen in straight lines. It’s random. You tweet something, which invites some unexpected and unpredictable response, which draws you into an unplanned conversation and sometimes makes unintended connections with people.

It’s organic, natural, and somewhat random, but those three components of distribution (as opposed to broadcasting), interaction, and response are all valuable and essential pieces of the puzzle.

So… engage. You can do that without a strategy, and you can do it without metrics too. But if you’re a thought leader, consultant, or any kind of communications strategist, you need the right side of the diagram as well – metrics.

Gauging Effectiveness

Metrics have to do with tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Bit.ly (or my preferred shortener, Yourls) statistics, plus plenty of other systems on the market. Metrics is about what we get out of the social web. This can be sales, leads, traffic, and more, but I prefer to glean these three benefits:

  • Connections with people with whom I wasn’t previously connected.
  • Knowledge I didn’t previously possess.
  • Evaluation of the effectiveness of that strategy thing we talked about earlier.

Circling Back

This whole thing is a cycle. I didn’t draw it that way, but I was certainly thinking it. Metrics yield insights into how I should be tweaking what I’m doing in the online space. And tweaking is an endless process. I don’t manage my profiles the way I did in 2010, much less the way I did back in 2008 when I first signed onto Twitter.

And what is this “value the shrapnel” business? As we interact with the world via social networking, there are all kinds of things spinning off of our efforts. They may seem as though they don’t fit with the goals and strategies we had in mind, but that’s the nature of social media. It’s the unintended discoveries and developments that typically turn into successful ideas.

Being Social In Larger Numbers

And that last little piece down in the lefthand corner about “groups” pertains primarily to organizations and ministries that are trying to motivate their memberships to be active. It has to do with the communication device of groups. I use Posterous for several group projects. At Saddleback, we use Facebook groups for behind-the scenes communication, and there are also the old standby platforms like Google Groups as well.

These internal communication tools are utilized for recruitment, training (which never stops in a never-changing online culture), and communication about issues, policies, campaigns, etc.

There you have it – my “chicken scratch” social media strategy for churches and ministries. There is more… a LOT more… but all of that will be in the book… Chicken Scratch Social Web Strategies.

What should I add, take away, or… tweak?

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