Old Reliable

How many blog posts have you seen that start with an apology?

“Hey, sorry for not posting for so long. I had some projects at work, and then my mother-in-law came to visit, and then I got sick all weekend…”

I imagine all bloggers start out eager and excited, planning on regular posting. But life often gets in the way of our best intentions. And yet reliability is one of the hallmarks of building a strong platform in social media.

Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, posted a blog recently listing reasons he stopped reading your blog. One of the reasons given was unreliable or infrequent posting. The apology post also appears on every list of “blog posts no one wants to see” that I’ve ever read.

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I say this only with fingers pointed at me (as this screen cap of my post dates will bear out). But if the critique fits, then take it in the constructive and encouraging way it’s meant:

People aren’t interested in intentions.

What’s the solution? Consistent action.

Maybe that means scheduling out posts well in advance, or structuring realistic goals like one post a week. Perhaps it means blocking out a portion of the day for interaction on social sites, or for writing and editing the next blog. It definitely means we avoid being haphazard, only posting when we feel like it.

Spirituality is like a platform, because we have a message we want to get out to the noisy world that may or may not be listening. Just like successful blogs and social media efforts, the message we communicate has to be reliable. If I never speak about my faith, it’s hard to believe that’s a powerful or important part of my life.

Our spiritual platform – just like social media – is born out of discipline and consistency. We do the little things, the day-in day-out basics of living out our faith, the stuff no one applauds or even likely sees. In this way, we develop patterns and habits that serve us well when crises arise.

My pastor from when I was a child posted a story about a fellow believer, a widow of a pastor who was murdered two months ago. My former pastor and an elder paid this lady a visit with the hopes of encouraging her by presence if not by words. He wrote, “She didn’t express anger or bitterness (though I could understand it if she did.) Willie and I went to encourage her, and we left encouraged by her!”

He then made this key insight:
“Such true Christlikeness isn’t acquired in a crisis. She has lived consistently for God over time and now, in the midst of the storm, her faith is made manifest. I was deeply moved. I want to be like her — as she is like Christ.”

We have the option to dabble in a hobby, post a blog now and then, share some thoughts, maybe read a Bible verse or “like” a spiritual post on Facebook. We can have the Sunday spirituality in a life that otherwise leaves out Christ.

But then we have no spiritual platform to stand on, no compelling reason for the crowd to stop and listen to what we have to say.

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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.