What Your Can Learn from Lebron James's Letter

About four years ago this summer, Lebron ripped the heart out of Ohio and by "ripped" I mean he crushed Ohio's dream of an NBA title. For various reasons Lebron decided to "take his talents to South Beach (Miami)" and began a four year stint with the Miami Heat. For most sports fans this was tragedy of the upmost regard.

All that changed a week ago when Lebron released a letter on CNNSI telling the world that he was headed back to Cleveland. Now this wasn't just any letter, it was an apology, a declaration and love letter all rolled into one.

When I first read the letter the basketball fan in me jumped for joy, but the more I reflected on it I began to see it for what it was, a lesson in commununication. Here's what you can learn from the letter:

Write with Your Own Voice

Let's be clear here, Lebron didn't write this letter. He probably wrote the initial draft and then handed it off to Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated. However, this letter feels like Lebron wrote it and that's the most important part. Since it feels like Lebron's voice, it makes the whole letter seem believeable. It doesn't feel like a press release or an article in Sports Illustrated, it feels like a letter that Lebron wrote for Cleveland.

Finding your voice isn't easy. It can take hours of writing until you learn to turn off that internal editor in your head and then write in a way that let's your audience hear the real you. When you write with your voice, it's adds authenticity to what you're saying.

Paint a Picture with Details

I don't know about you, but when I read that letter I could actually picture Lebron growing up and playing in Ohio. I could even feel his dread when making the decision to go to Miami. Lebron takes his audience through the last four years in way that makes you feel what he felt throughout his time away. By the end of the letter you end up cheering for him to go back to Cleveland. The details of this letter give it the emotion that it needs.

Be Direct with Your Audience

Lebron is clear with audience about why he's coming back home. It's not about the coaches or the players, it's about northeast Ohio. It's about bringing his family back home. By being direct with his audience, Lebron squashes most rumors and thereby allows the conversation to revolve around where he's going, not where he's been.

Being direct with your audience is not easy. It requires being precise and leaving little room for interpretation. Once you're direct with your audience, you need to be willing to back up what you say.

Set Clear Expectations

Unlike his previous entry into Miami, Lebron sets clear, realistic expectations. He makes it very clear that this is about bringing one title back to Cleveland. Not eight titles like he promised when he stood on the stage in Miami, but one title. In fact, not only does Lebron state that they might only get one title, he lets the fans know that it could be a long time until they see that title.

So if you're a Cleveland fam, you're being promised a possible run at a title. Not now, but sometime in the future. Ask any basketball analyst and they'll say that that's a fair prediction.

Did this letter work? If you ask most pundits, you'll get a yes. Of course it doesn't wipe away the four years of hurt for Cleveland fans, but it does make for a fantastic story.

What I Learned from Taking a Month Off from Twitter

Back in May I decided to take month off of Twitter. I've written before about taking a digitical sabbath, so I thought I would take my own advice and leave Twitter behind for thirty days. So I logged out of Twitter, deleted my personal account from my phone (I kept my church's acount on the phone considering it was part of my job) and began my sabbath.

At first it was little awkward. The silence, the wondering if I was missing out on a breaking story or an amazing video featuring cats hanging from ceiling fans. After a while though, the axiety subsided and I began to relax. Before I knew it, the month was over and I survived. Here's what I learned along the way:

I Missed the Information Overload

There is something about having a screen lit up with so much information that you don't know where to click. It's almost like this false sense that you are a well informed individual because you read that tweet from Buzzfeed about Iraq. It's easy in a hallway conversation's to act like I knew what was going on, because chances are it probably came across my twitter feed. Once I left Twitter, I suddenly felt like I was cut off from a key source of information.

Twitter Can't Be Done on Autopilot

While I was gone from Twitter, I began to ask myself, "Will anyone know I left?" (and yes I realize that's a really egocentric question). The truth is most people didn't know I was a gone. Why? Well, I wasn't actively engaging people on Twitter. I had set everything on autopilot. I planned out my tweets two weeks in advance and loaded them into Buffer and then never thought about it until I got a notice that all my tweets had been posted. Sure, I got some retweets and favorites, but I had taken the "social" out of social media.

It's Hard to Avoid Twitter During Real Time Events

I love the NBA and I love the NBA Finals even more. Despite the fact that my beloved Chicago Bulls didn't make it, I still had a keen interest in watching the Heat lose to the Spurs. However, what make these Finals interesting was trying to watch it without looking at Twitter. Lebron getting cramps? Spurs shooting the lights out in Game 3? All of these real time events begged for commentary and snark that only could be provided by Twitter. You see, Twitter is very good at real time events. It's designed to be an in the moment tool. Watching a live event with Twitter can actually enhance the event itself. I didn't realize how much I would miss that.

I Had to Learn New Ways to Share

One use for Twitter is that I share any resources or links that I think people might like. So when I was off of Twitter I didn't know how to share my internet finds. Do I email people? Do I hit them up on Google chat? How do I get them to look at the important video of a cat spinning around on a ceiling fan? These questions, led to me to rethink what I should share online. Am I being conscious enough with what I share? Am I really adding value to the conversation or am I just adding to the noise?

I Still Hate Notifications

I hate notifications. When I'm in a conversation or deep in thought, the last thing I want is that ding sound from my phone. Yes, I know I can turn off the notifications, but if I do that how when I know when someone is retweeting me on Twitter (yes, another egocentric question)? When I deleted my Twitter account from my phone, I felt an initial sense of relief and panic at the same time. However, once day three had passed I got used to the lack of notifications and began to appreciate the silence for what it was.

A Challenge for You

Think about your favorite social media tool and how much time you spend on it. Now ask yourself, what would happened if you stepped away? Does that scare you? If so, you might need to take a digital sabbath.

The Problem with My Church's Social Media Strategy

When I first took over my church's social media I knew I wanted to get everything up running pretty fast. I quickly put together a content calendar, updated social media logos and signed up for additional accounts to round out our portfolio. In theory, this should have been enough to get everything off and running. However, it wasn't till a year later when I realized that I made a crucial mistake.

The mistake I made was a rather simple one. A mistake that I think many churches make, not intentionally of course, but more out of convenience. You see, when I began the job I asked around about what social media channels our people were invested in. I then took that information and began to plot out where we would spend majority of our time. So with what I thought was the right data in my hand, I plotted out our strategy. Of course, this is this was a mistake.

Maybe a better way of saying it is that I didn't really do the right research. I realized that while the people I was asking had good intentions, they weren't necessarily our core social media users. On top of that, they were confirming a bias I already had towards social media platforms. So what was the result of this mistake? I spent a good portion of my time focusing on social media channels that had some return on investment, but not the channels that could really help our church.

Let me be more specific about my biases. I'm not a big Facebook user. I don't care for their interface, user policies and the conversations that usually take place there. On the other hand, I love Twitter. There are multiple clients to choose from and I don't feel nearly as hassled by the ads when I'm using the service. So naturally when I'm working on social media, my instincts are to go to Twitter and not Facebook. However, the hard data says that majority of my church is on Facebook and only a small fraction use Twitter. In fact, we have more users on Instagram then we do Twitter. However, I was focusing our social media strategy in this order:

  1. Twitter
  2. Facebook
  3. Instagram

When the really our focus should have been:

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. Twitter

So how do you prevent this from happening to you? First, get a good handle on any data that you can. Find data that will give you some bearing as to where your people are. Second, spend some time investing in other churches around you and find out where they're investing their time. While you're not trying to copy their strategy, they might give insight into what could work for you. Finally, start to branch out and become more comfortable with other social media channels that you might not normally use.

Learn from my mistake. Take the time to test your strategy and use the best data on hand whenever you can. Don't be afraid to admit you have biases and try to figure out ways to move beyond them. More importantly, shift your strategy when you need to and save yourself the time and effort like I wish I did.

Are You Feeding Your Church Social Media Fast Food?

I have a confession. I love fast food. Yes, I know it’s horrible for me, but the double cheeseburger meal at McDonalds will always have a special place in my heart. There’s something about the quick process of ordering and getting fast food. There’s no wait, it’s cheap and quickly solves my hunger. Of course, I’ll pay for it later, but in the moment it’s worth it.

Social media content can be a lot like fast food. You can produce content that's quick and easy to digest, but ends up providing little value to your church. It’s not that you intend to create this type of content, but when you are trying to fill a quota or pump up your numbers, you create content that’s cheap and serves as filler.

We all know the long term of effects of fast food is devastating and social media isn’t any different. When we feed our audience cheap content, we tell them we don’t respect their time. We also demonstrate that we haven’t taken the time to plan out our content in a way that leads to our church to telling a better story.

Think about your social media content. What are you feeding your audience? Is it something that will drive them to live out a better story and connect with Jesus? Or are you creating content to drive up numbers with the cheap fast food?

Four Questions to Ask When Creating a Social Media Position for Your Church

So you're thinking about hiring someone to handle social media for your church or maybe you're thinking about applying at a church that's looking to hire. Either way, it's easy to get caught up in the process and not think through some essential elements that the job requires. Here are four questions to ask when creating or applying for a social media position at a church.

Is the Job Is Content or Platform Focused?

Content or platform. While picking one doesn’t mean you ignore the other, your job description will need to lean one way or the other. If you decide that the job is more content related, then you'll want go with someone who thinks like an editor of magazine. If you go the platform route, then you will need to think more technical, someone who can manage the ins and outs of something like geolocation search or ad tracking.

Is the Job Focused on Creating or Curating Content or Both?

A lot of social media directors don’t realize how much content creation will have to take place before the accept a job. Sure every church thinks they have a story to tell, but the social media director will need to produce those stories, figure out the key hooks and how to make the story digestible into your social media channels. As you can tell, the content creation process is much more lenghthy than curating content. Make sure you've clearly spelled out the difference.

Is the Job Focused on the Overall Church or All Ministries?

You will need to clarify whether the job is focusing on large church messages or all of your church ministries (students, kids, missions, etc…). Sometimes, ministries will believe that the social media staff works for them as well. If you don’t clarify responsibilties then you’ll quickly find your social media staff creating Facebook pages for a puppet ministry when you’d rather have them focusing on a larger message.

Is the Job Focused on Live Event Social Media?

It’s one thing to work out of an office and create social media, it’s another to do it in a live setting. If your working out of an office setting, then you can set your hours and the job can be predictable. However, if you want coverage of all your live events and you have plenty on the calendar, then the job description needs to reflect that.

Do you have more questions about creating a social media position for your church? Feel free to contact me and I'll help in anyway I can.