Exploring God Through Old Media, Social Media and Content Marketing

Questions about the impact of social media on religion are as old as social media — although certainly not as old as religion.

Many other bloggers and journalists have opined on the topic, books have been written about it, and a Google Scholar search turns up more than a million results.

There are the major players like the Pope who’s “Selfie Blows Up Twitter,” the grassroots themes of sunrises and sunsets inspiring digital adoration of God as artist, and even the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently announced that missionaries will do less door-to-door proselytizing, and instead, use the Internet to recruit new church members.a billboard in Austin, TX, with #ExploreGod on it

But much closer to my home, I’ve been watching with great interest as billboards began popping up all over Austin with simply “#ExploreGod” on them. I only wondered a short time what it was all about before I heard at my church that we were joining more than 300 other churches in Central Texas, from at least 12 different denominations, in a four-month campaign to invite people to investigate questions about God in a non-threatening way.

It was evident that social media was part of this campaign when billboards sporting hashtags popped up, but ExploreGod pulled off a truly integrated marketing campaign with their website, out of home advertising, online video, DVDs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, livestreaming broadcasts of Q&A forums, daily messages that could be delivered to your inbox or cell phone, and… of course, the powerful word of mouth from the pulpit with a sermon series on seven common questions about God and faith. Talk about your content creation!

My own weekly Bible study group made up of members from two different non-denominational Christian churches, and one mostly agnostic skeptic that likes to play devil’s advocate, has been using the DVDs and study guide.  Last week’s question of “Is Christianity Too Narrow?” was one of my favorites so far.

The well-produced videos have sparked good conversation, although our agnostic hasn’t really changed his stance. But, I don’t think the goal was really conversion, so much as encouraging conversation.

Too many people proclaiming their Christianity today are doing a lot of talking about what they think God wants people to do and believe, but they’re doing little listening and showing little grace, and this creates an environment where other Christians fear conversation about their beliefs will alienate or offend. So ExploreGod says, “If our work here can start a good conversation and give you something valuable to think about in your own life, then we’ve done what we’ve set out to do.”

For that I applaud them. And as a communicator, I admire them for their ability to create such expansive content, leveraging just about every modern marketing tool plus the old reliable ones, and to bring together hundreds of different congregations in support of it.

Surprisingly, the church with the Instagraming Pontiff was not one of them.

Good to Know I’m Still Less than 1 Percent

I’ve been feeling lately like maybe I wasn’t being beta enough.

Having made a job change, I’ve been focusing on remembering old technologies (like the wires) and having very little time for new ones (like Google+).

Was I slipping? About to lose my early adopter cred, I wondered?

Then, a project we launched at work (my employer, Dell) this week showed me I’ve still got it.

You see, we’re partnering with Microsoft and Mastercard on a contest to find “America’s Favorite Small Business.” The contest involves submitting a video through YouTube to enter. Nothing really new there. User-generated content (UGC) contests have been around for several years now.

But, the day the contest launched I went to our YouTube channel to check it out and didn’t see it. There were some of our videos related to the contest, but none of the interface that explained it and allowed contestants to upload their entries.

At first I thought I was just looking too early. Usually when you launch something, there are a few bugs to be worked out. But, it was the same the next day and everyone else was saying it looked good.

What was I missing?

Then, I remembered … it was a panda.

You see, a while back I opted in to YouTube’s Cosmic Panda – a beta test of a new design – and evidently, custom iFrame implementation is not supported in Cosmic Panda.

This caused some concern when I raised the issue with the project team and there was a bit of alarm for a day or so when we thought that 10 percent of YouTube visitors were on Cosmic Panda.

But YouTube came back to assure us (bringing visions of my illustration here) that:

Remain Calm - Kevin Bacon in the movie Animal House

“The new YouTube brand channel designs are being tested less than 1 percent of users who can revert to the classic channels whenever they choose.”

Whew! Most people really will see all that hard work that went into building out the contest.

And, whew! I’m part of a group that is less than 1 percent of users. I’ve still go it! <wink>

Future Machinimists in SecretBuilders

Just before the new year started, I posted my 6th review of kid-targeted virtual worlds over on the This Mommy Gig blog. A reader comment led us to check out SecretBuilders, which just officially launched a month ago.

Well, the team at SecretBuilders read the review and noticed that I mentioned my daughter’s infatuation with The Jonas Brothers (especially Joe). So, today they sent me a link to the following mashup created by one of their builders. If you also have a JoBro fan in your house, you’ll get a kick out of it. If not, it still gives you a peek inside of the SecretBuilders world. Enjoy!

Since it’s really a 2D or maybe 2.5D virtual world, this probably doesn’t qualify as machinima, but it does show that some pretty creative, young builders are getting involved in this one!

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Social Media Explained as Ice Cream

Just a quick post to share another fantastic video from the folks at Common Craft (their video explaining Twitter is on my very first post here).

Now if only more of my friends and family who don’t understand my fascination for social media would actually read my blog and see this!

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New Toys for Everyone to Play With

Had intended to do some real writing tonight, but keep getting distracted. Two things have the twittersphere buzzing: changes to the Twitter web interface and video uploads on Flickr.

Seems @Armano likes how Twitter has moved their search box to a much more UX (user experience) friendly place at the top of their web page. And, several (including myself) are submitting their Twitter stories via a new link for that. But, @QueenofSpain fears the demographic information asked for in that form means advertising will soon be pushed at us on Twitter. @SamLawrence shares her reaction. I don’t rush to go there yet. I know demographics can be helpful for way more than that, and can envision how the Twitter guys might use them to pitch for more venture funding, or just answer that question they probably get all the time: “So, who uses Twitter?” Even if this did preclude ads, if they’re necessary to keep the Twitter servers running, I’m OK with it. Also, I haven’t run into it yet, but @TWalk _really_ doesn’t like the hover effect . They also seem to have moved the link for getting widgets for your blog (which I’d love to have, but don’t see available through IABC’s version of WordPress). But, no one’s really talking about that much.

The other big deal is video on Flickr. Having just purchased a cool Flip Ultra camcorder [that wouldn’t connect to my PC, so I’m having to return it and wait to get it fixed or get a new one before I can start having fun with it :-(], I was jazzed to see that. Any opportunity to not have to open yet another account somewhere is a good thing, and if I can combine my still-to-come vids with my pics, all the better! However, it looks like it’s only available for pro accounts, and I’m so cheap I’ve only got the free account. Might have to break down and upgrade, but wondering if the 90sec length limit will be a big deal or not.

The cool thing about all of this is just how quickly everyone jumped on the new features, and how quickly they became the hot topic of conversation online. Really drives home the speed at which the web works – it’s a crazy environment for those of us who work in it every day!

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