Platform Check

At our recent Christian Writers’ group meeting, Angela D. Meyer spoke with the group about building a platform.

If you’re not familiar, the “platform” is the collection of people whose eyes are going to see and engage with a given person’s social media and marketing presence. It’s not merely how many followers you have on your blog, or how many Likes you have on Facebook. It’s about how many people will probably take the time to pay attention to what you have to say, through whatever avenues you communicate.

Your platform is what gets you heard in the sea of shouting voices.

This little book you've likely never heard of

This little book you’ve likely never heard of

Michael Hyatt has a fantastic book all about it. If you’re blogging, you probably already knew about that.

Yesterday, I was reading some posts online and reflecting on what I understand about building a platform. I took some time to start up an account on Google Plus. I also engaged in a limited discussion on Twitter. And in the middle of that, a question came to mind:

How effective is my Christian platform?

Am I thinking about how many people I can reach with the Gospel? Not exactly. I’m not counting Facebook friends and associations on LinkedIn. Nor am I getting ready to up my social media Bible-thumping with posts you should “Share unless you’re ashamed of Jesus” or pictures of Scripture verses superimposed on sunsets. And I am not thinking of how many people pack into the church on Sunday, nor am I looking at all of them as potential targets of my marketing campaign.

I’m thinking that the principles of building an online platform can in many ways apply to how I live my life as a follower of Christ with a message I want to share and a world that generally isn’t interested.

With that in mind, I’m going to post about platform for a while, both how it works in the world of social media, and how I believe it applies to my faith.

For example, a friend started a blog recently, and his first post discussed changing his business model from trying to attract interest in his product to showing interest in the lives of others. Instead of hocking his wares and chasing down disinterested customers, he started spending a little effort to chat with folks, one person to another, simply showing interest in them as valuable people.

Once he got to know them a bit, and more importantly, they got to know him, he was able to adjust his pitch to their individual needs to find out whether they would be interested in his product.

It’s the old saw that “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

As a blogger, I can rant and rave and become one of the spamming hordes that comment on random posts with “Hey good blog check out mine here’s the link.” No one wants that. That doesn’t build a platform, because it doesn’t build relationships. It’s the door-to-door method, the street-corner preacher yelling at anyone in earshot.

I would much rather find some people with similar interests, people who have a unique voice, plain folk with whom I can relate as plain folk. Often, they have things to say that I need to hear. I have to hope that sometimes what I say benefits them. If nothing else, we interact with each other and share life as much as one can over a blog.

I think of one of the blogs I follow, that of “an Opinionated Man.” He has a horde of followers, in part because I think he lives online, given how much he interacts with all of them. He certainly speaks his mind and communicates his message. But he also makes effort to listen to others, and that wins people over. That connection, for me, is part of how a platform is built.

Now, as I type all this, I can almost hear some say, “Christ is the Foundation, the Gospel is the message, nothing else is needed.”

That’s where they’re wrong. But that will be the next post.

Let me know in a comment what you think about the importance of relationships to building a platform – social or spiritual.

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My Monkeysphere

“I want Jesus to be in my monkeysphere.”

Okay, weird conversation piece, maybe. First, what’s a monkeysphere (if you don’t know), and second, did I go off the sacrilegious deep end or what?

1. The “monkeysphere” is a term for the number of interpersonal relationships a brain can generally maintain and care about. The term comes from monkey research where the scientists discovered that the monkeys’ brains would only allow them to form societies up to a certain number of other monkeys. A bigger brain permitted a larger society. They then tried using a human brain and ended up boosting the monkey’s “sphere” of relationships from 50 to 150.

Basically, the monkeysphere is the collection of people you actually care about and think about as real people… not just friends on Facebook, or nameless humans that intersect your daily life. A good example is the trash man, whose job dramatically affects your quality of life, but whose name you probably do not know or care to discover.

The wiki article about it seems to make it pretty clear.

Clear on that one? Good.

2. No, I’m not losing my faith or mocking Christ. My wife and I were talking about how we relate to God, and she made the comment that she really wants to remember the personhood and humanity of Christ. A Man, someone she cares deeply for, willingly suffered beating and shame. He chose to endure anguish and agony, and He accepted His own execution.

Jesus is the soldier who jumps on the grenade to save the other soldiers in the trench (except multiplied by 20 billion or so).

If a person does that for you in real life, it’s kind of hard to forget it.

The fact that I can say it that way, and you probably understood and agreed – that says something about how we view Him.

I find I happily recognize and recount the transaction, the theology, the spiritual “chemical” reaction that took place at the Cross. My sins were washed away by His blood, my inky stain of death was turned scarlet, and my scarlet sins were washed clean. I can quote the scriptures to say what took place: He died for all, that those who live should live for themselves no longer, but for Him who died and rose again… if through one man, death reigned in all men, how much more shall life reign through the one Man Christ Jesus… for there is no other mediator between God and men… and so on.

It’s a historical fact. On such-and-such day, the battle of Gettysburg was won by the Union. Abraham Lincoln wrote a powerful speech about it. And on such-and-such day way back in 33 AD or 29 AD or whatever, the battle over sin and death and hell was won by the Messiah. And Paul the Apostle wrote some really powerful speeches about it. I like to quote them, just like I enjoy hearing “Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…”

Hopefully my point is becoming clear.

I find it easy to recognize Jesus’ unique place in history and theology.

I find it all too easy to stop there.

I don’t want a historical figure. I don’t want a relationship with a spiritual principle, nor an affection for a moving quote.

I want a personal relationship, a constant interaction, a recognition that there was a Man… and not just any Man, but my best Friend… and when the enemy opened fire, He jumped in front of me, arms wide, to protect me from every deadly shot.

You don’t forget that sort of love. And neither do you recall it with cold distance. It changes your life.

Oh, and don’t forget, dear self… all those other monkeys outside my sphere? He did the same for them.

Maybe I should care. Because He does.