Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: Identity Crisis - 21 Days of Discovering Who God Says You Are by Michael D. Perkins

Identity Crisis by Michael D. Perkins
For years many of us have struggled with trying to measure up to others standards for us and for our own. We walk around calling ourselves failures. We tell ourselves we are not smart enough, good enough, nice enough, and on and on. After spending years telling himself similar things, Michael Perkins discovered that none of those things were what God had to say about him. In his book, Identity Crisis, he provides 21 short devotionals that each highlight something God has said about who we are. At the end of each of the 21 devotionals, he provides a suggested prayer emphasis for asking God to affirm His words about us in our hearts and he provides a challenge to share what God is doing in our lives.


Identity Crisis is an excellent tool to assist us in moving away from the lies we have been listening to for years and towards the truth that God is speaking about us. This is an awesome piece of encouragement in a world where we are bombarded with criticism. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: Building a Life Out of Words by Shawn Smucker

Building a Life Out of Words


Often times when life throws us a curve ball, out natural tendency is to find some corner somewhere, cry in cup of coffee, and sing our favorite verse of poor, poor me. But what if we drew a deep breath, stepped back, and considered for a minute how we could use this opportunity to make a positive change of direction in our lives?

Shawn Smucker was faced with such a situation. After returning from four years of managing a large business in England, he felt lost working 10 hour days painting houses and living in his parent’s basement with his wife and two children. When his aunt called out of the blue and asked him to write her life story, he had no idea how his life would be impacted. He approached the project tentatively lacking the confidence of a career writer. But when a publisher reviewed the initial two chapters that he had written, the publisher contacted him wanting him to write the book. Had he pursued other unrelated temporary opportunities, his writing career would have never launched. That first published book led to a second and eventually to a successful career in writing.

Building a Life Out of Words is a transparent look at the struggles of a 29 year old husband and father attempting to establish himself as a professional writer and the self doubts and second guesses that come along the way. It is a very encouraging story to those of us writing and wondering where the path will lead us.

His final line in the book is the most encouraging of all, “I hope that you will be known as a person who lives. Really lives. Someone who makes decisions, not based on what’s expected, but on what’s possible. Someone who does things, not because everyone else is doing them, but because it’s what you want to do more than anything else in the world. Now that would be a life worth living.”

For all of my friends that blog, write, or even think about writing, let me recommend that you read this book and consider the encouragement to move forward with your pursuit of writing. And if you have ever considered having your writing published, let me throw in another recommendation. You should have a conversation with my friends at FistBumpMedia. I can say nothing but good things about their  service, support, and affordability.

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Beach

(photo credit: the author)

One of my earliest childhood memories is a Christmas in the early 1960s. My family made a road trip to visit my grandparents who were spending the winter in Ft. Myers, Florida. When we arrived, their Airstream trailer was parked on the beach with colorful patio lights draped through the neighboring palm tree. Believe it or not, the Red Coconut RV Resort actually still has RV spots on the beach beneath the palm trees all these years later as it has since 1920. I have pressed my memory as hard as possible several time trying to remember more details, but that is as much as comes back into focus.

Red Coconut RV Park - Photo Credit: tripadvisor.com


Growing up, we made several more trips down to visit them when they made the traditional migration of the blue hair. Eventually, they began settling on a spot across the road inside the Red Coconut RV Resort's main campground. I can still remember being in complete awe watching the manager, moving patron's travel trailers with his antique tractor to their spot within the RV park. My granddad and my dad would often get up early and walk the beach and come back displaying gorgeous conch shells. Granddad had taken up the traditional sport of the migratory blue hair, shuffleboard, and he was always eager to take us along to teach us this sport. Other shuffleboard players would grumble about the small kids being on the court, and he would tell them they could "pound sand." One related memory, Granddad took his shuffleboard stick and harvested a coconut out of the palm tree next to his Airstream, which I thought was an amazing feat. But then he took an electric drill, bored a hole in the coconut, and gave us both a drink of coconut milk - crazy!

Granddad had a boat stored nearby, and on one trip he took me with them on a fishing trip. As a small kid, I thought it was amazing to see a huge forklift go into this huge warehouse and come out carrying a boat and then put it in the water for us. The most vivid memory of the fishing trip was that under the covered bow was a stack of orange square life jackets like the one tied around me. The stack of life jackets made a great place to crawl into, curl up, and take a nap out of the sun.

So maybe we can blame  it on my granddad for planting this fascination with the beach and the ocean in my soul. But it seems so deeply anchored I have to believe it goes much deeper. I can feel all the restlessness in my being settle when I am walking the beach or wading in the surf. The cares of the day, the worries of life, they all seem to melt away and a feeling of peace floods over me. Every time I experience this feeling of peace, I imagine this must be a small glimpse of what heaven will be like.

Apparently, my fascination with the beach did not skip a generation. After our family settled in South Georgia, I fondly remember several trips with my family in a Midas mini motorhome to Panacea, FL and Alligator Point. On our first trip, we arrived to find a KOA under construction at Alligator Point. The main office building was only partially completed, but the owner allowed us a spot bordering Alligator DR facing the Gulf of Mexico. While it was not on the beach, we could sit in the cab or in the booth dining table of my dad's RV and look out across the two lane road onto the Gulf. In the 1970's, you could cross the road, climb down the huge rocks that protect the roadway from high tides and walk on the beach.

On one of these trips, my dad was fishing from the beach and caught a saltwater catfish. He advised us that it was not good eating as the freshwater catfish that we were familiar. He tossed it up on the huge rocks and told us to leave it alone. But as a 10 year old boy, I was soon stomping the catfish with by dingo cowboy boots. At some point the fish rolled onto its side and one of its barbs went through the side of my foot. I screamed bloody murder. My dad ended up carrying me back to our RV, and our trip was promptly cancelled. I remember him telling me if I was not hurting so badly he would beat me with a belt. A barrage of painful shots in my foot followed at our local medical clinic. Lesson learned.

One of the more pleasant lasting memories of our trips to Panacea and Alligator Point was the Oaks restaurant. Every meal, they brought out a little boat filled with crackers and garlic butter which I thought was the best appetizer in the world.
The Oaks Restaurant, Motel, and Shopping Center
Photo credit: knightofswords.wordpress.com

I still remember the first year,I was allowed to go to the beach on my own. It was my junior year in high school. Two friends and I loaded up early one morning in my 1974 Chevrolet El Camino and headed to Panama City Beach, FL. It was one a perfect trip. None of us had the money for a hotel room, so we got up before the crack of dawn and drove down for the day. I can remember tons of details from the trip. At one point we were approaching a U-haul pulling a large boat. The trailer ball broke on the truck and the tongue of the boat trailer hit the road producing a shower of sparks. The trailer violently darted left and right suspended only by the safety chains as the driver slowed and pulled off the roadway. We stopped in a rest stop and a couple was fast asleep in a Corvette. It did not look like the most comfortable way to sleep. But finally, we reached Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach, and we were cruising the beach. We had overlooked the fact that this portion of Florida was an hour behind us in the Central Time Zone, so we were cruising along Thomas Drive by ourselves. By the time the Sun set that day, I did not want to leave. Since then, I have experienced that same sad sickening feeling every time I have left the beach to return home.

Many years later, my family made the journey to visit my granddad in Melbourne, Florida one Easter weekend. He was in the closing stages of a long hard fight with prostrate cancer. But he had insisted that he be allowed to make his traditional migration to Florida for the winter.  Hospice was gracious and coordinated between their organization in Indiana where he lived and their sister organization in Melbourne. My dad had driven him and his trailer to Melbourne, then flown home and drove his own trailer down. My daughter was still in diapers but walking, and I knew this would probably be his last chance for him to see his great-granddaughter. During the trip, my dad took us out to the beach. It was chilly so we were all wearing jackets, but the thrill of introducing my daughter to the beach was a memorable one.

One of my fondest memories is the first time I took my daughter for a weekend at the beach. With the sands of Alligator Beach all but completely washed away from being battered by several hurricanes, we had begun visiting Mexico Beach, Florida - a gorgeous and quiet little fishing town situated between Panama City and Port St. Joe. Her fascination with the sand, the sound of the surf, and picking up seashells told me that she too felt the peace, joy, and tranquility that the beach and the ocean brought to my soul.

The Gulf of Mexico - Mexico Beach, FL (photo credit: the author)


Every time I stand at the surf's edge and look out at the massive Gulf of Mexico, the white sandy beaches, the seagulls, cranes, and pelicans, I marvel at the beauty and the hands that created it all. I can hear a couple of scriptures:


How precious to me are your thoughts, God!

How vast is the sum of them!
18 
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand
when I awake, I am still with you.
- Psalms 139:17-18



(photo credit: the author)


“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? - Matthew 6:25-27


Sunset - Mexico Beach, FL (photo credit: the author)

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Finding My Place

One of the most painful processes associated with a new move is finding a the place where you "fit" in the new community. And in our case, after volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for many years and spending the last three years serving with Feed Forsyth, we knew a big struggle would be finding a nonprofit to serve. I mean you cannot just work furiously for three years addressing struggling families and then go to nothing, right? So once I could access my own deodorant and there was a clear path through the living room to the front door, we began the search for a new church home and a nonprofit that aligned with my passion.

The second church we visited was Pinellas Community Church. We parked in the parking spots labelled "First Time Guests" and started walking down the sidewalk following the signs to the auditorium when I was stopped dead in my tracks. I casually glanced to my right and was speechless. There was a building with a huge sign on the front of it, "Feed St. Pete". I could not speak for a minute. To suddenly see a food pantry named so closely to the nonprofit we had founded was overwhelming. I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks. Wow. I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture and posted it to Facebook. Within minutes, friends in Atlanta saw it and started posting comments like "they are going to be so glad you are there".

Feed St. Pete - the image that stopped me in my tracks (credit: The Author)
Once seated in the service, I quickly found how to contact their staff for volunteering and sent an email saying I was interested in serving with the food pantry. On Tuesday morning, I received an email saying to arrive at the pantry ready to work at 4 PM that afternoon.

When I arrived at 4 PM that afternoon, I saw a sign that said they distribute food at 5 PM, and there was about 20 or 30 people sitting under the shade of the trees waiting for the food distribution. I knocked on the door of the pantry, and when the door opened, I told them I was there to volunteer.

The person I met said, "OK, come back at 5."

So, I said, "cool", and headed back to sit in my vehicle and surf the internet on my phone in some air conditioning.

When I got to my vehicle I looked up and saw three men talking and walking down the sidewalk from the church office towards me. I recognized the pastor from Sunday. He looked up at me and introduced himself and shook my hand. He asked what I was up to, and I told him I had come to volunteer with the pantry and had been told to come back at 5pm. We started up a conversation, and he invited me into the office. We chatted for 30 or 45 minutes, and he seemed to be stunned when he learned I had been managing a food rescue organization. We walked back over to the pantry, and he introduced me to a couple of the volunteers and mentioned my work at Feed Forsyth. To say that I was warmly welcomed would be a huge understatement. 

By 7 PM, we had given out food to over 120 families. I was impressed with how many families they had served, how they were managing the food distribution, and how friendly everyone was to me and how welcomed they made me feel. In the midst of things, I was introduced to the pantry manager and had a brief conversation on how they wanted to expand what they are doing and how I might help. To date, I have been volunteering with them for seven weeks. Together we are working on plans to increase the amount of food they have available to provide the families, how many families they serve, but also providing services from business professionals like resume writing assistance, job search/placement, counseling, etc. The vision they have is exciting, and I am glad to be a small part of how they are serving the community around them.

While a lot of other things have not been completely settled in this transition. Finding my place with a local nonprofit that shares my passion for struggling families has made this feel like home really fast, and for that I am very grateful.

-Peace

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Least of These

Homeless on the streets of Atlanta (credit:http://committeeforabetteratlanta.org/)
You have seen them when you walk the streets of the larger cities: Washington, DC, Atlanta, GA, Austin, TX, St. Petersburg, Fl, the list goes on and on. You see their stack of overstuffed bags, or an old worn suitcase, or a tattered backpack. You notice their tattered and stained clothing. You decide to avoid eye contact. Just stare at the ground to you get by and they will not bother you. One may call to you, "Can you help me with money for lunch?" You ignore them and walk on, quickening your pace. You catch a whiff that tells you they have not had a shower in a few weeks. They make you uncomfortable, and you wish they would just go away. How do you know if you gave them money that they would not buy liquor or crack with it? It is a growing problem, and several cities have decided to solve it. Their solution: make the homeless go away. Make it illegal to put up a tent under a bridge or in a public park.

Homeless Encampment - Atlanta, 2014 (credit: Weslee Knapp)
A few years ago, the city of St. Petersburg, FL took an active stance to solve the problem in their city. Watch for yourself.

January 19, 2007

Georgia DOT sent bulldozers in to clear out the tents of 40 homeless camping under I-75/I-85 and I-20 on January 14, 2014. GDOT Sends Bulldozers for 40 Homeless Camping Under I-75/85 and I-20 The bulldozers and GDOT employees hauled off tents, blankets, jackets, and what little possessions these people owned. Two weeks later, Atlanta was hit with a winter storm that closed the city. FOX NEWS WEATHER CENTER Rare winter storm leaves students, drivers stranded in Deep South

Well, those people would be better off in a shelter, you think. Maybe so, if there was enough shelter space in Atlanta to house all of the homeless individuals in the city. But there is not. 

"According to homeless census data estimates, more than 10,000 people in metro Atlanta experience homelessness on any given night, with more than 40 percent being women and children. A comprehensive, three-county survey of Atlanta's homeless shelters found a shortage of 1,700 beds for all single homeless people, including children and youth."homeaidatlanta.org

A shortage of 1,700 beds means 1,700 people in Atlanta had to face the elements during the Winter storm that stranded drivers and clogged interstates. And at least 40 were without blankets or temporary shelter thanks to the government's attempt to solve homelessness.

We must put down all of our preconceived ideas why people are  homeless, and recognize that every homeless person is in fact a person. They have a story. They have a story worth telling. They have value. Not everyone that is homeless is a crack addict, or too lazy to work. In fact, in today's society there are people who are working at minimum wage jobs and cannot afford housing. In fact, to afford a two bedroom apartment in Atlanta, a person would have to work 85 hours a week for 52 weeks a year. So where do the minimum wage laborers live?

This year, an experiment was conducted in Austin, TX. They took a homeless man and bought him a suit and then filmed people's reactions to him when he asked for spare change. They then had him do the same thing in the same area of town in his regular clothing. The results speak for themselves.

The Real Homeless Man Experiment - July 2014

Solving our nation's homeless crisis will not be accomplished by criminalizing homelessness. It will be done by providing them assistance. Helping them with food, shelter, clothing, resume preparation, and job skills training. That will not happen until we begin to look at them as human beings - people - not bums. We will have to bring ourselves to say, "there but by the grace of God go I." Many of us are just a few weeks away from being in their shoes. For the last 5 years, millions of homes have been foreclosed and families have been sent scrambling. Some of slept in cars (illegal in many cities). Some have slept in the floor of a generous individuals apartment. Our local, state, and federal governments will not solve hunger or homelessness in this country. It will only be solved by the compassion of you and I.





I greatly admire those who are pursuing opportunities to actually help solve the homeless problem instead of trying to run people out of their towns. One such group is Mobile Loaves and Fishes and what they are doing with the Community First! project. They have obtained 27 acres outside of Austin, TX and are placing tiny homes, refurbished RVs, along with a central shower and laundry facility. Additionally, they are arranging for dentist, doctors, and therapists to come to the property to provide free services to the residents. 


Community First! Village

Other organizations in other cities are attempting similar solutions. This past week, USA Today ran this article: 

These are the type of solutions that will help turn the tide of homelessness, because they value the individuals and work to restore their dignity and self-esteem.



-Peace



Monday, August 18, 2014

Stepping Into The Vapor: The Move (Part II)

We woke Sunday eager to see the rental house we had rented via pictures and phone calls, to unpack the truck, to find my suitcase, and begin to settle in to our new home. Kramer and Sadie were ready to quit being in pet crates and to have a backyard. At the same time, I was anxious about what we would find when we returned to the office parking lot where our rental truck was parked. Against their will, Kramer and Sadie were tucked into their pet crates and secured in the back seat of the car, and we drove across town to the office parking lot. I held my breath as we turned the corner into the parking lot. There set the rental truck and my SUV on the trailer behind it totally pristine and unmolested. I felt silly for being concerned. Where was my faith? Perhaps it was all the tension from the moving and upended-ness, but I felt ashamed of myself for allowing worry to overcome me.We said several "Thank You Jesus" prayers, and Kramer and I assumed our positions in the rental truck that we had assumed over the last couple of days and began the short drive to the house following Allison's lead through town.

I hardly had dropped the trailer and backed the truck up the driveway than the guys from the moving company that were unloading us arrived. And right behind them came the realtor with keys. Moving from 1,700 Sq Ft to 1,100 Sq Ft does not sound like a big deal, but we quickly realized a bit more pairing down would be required. The house originally had a one car garage that had been converted into a master bedroom, so my garage contents were going to need a new home. Much to my surprise there was a storage barn in the backyard that was not in the pictures we had seen or the rental listing. That was a huge blessing as I had been expecting to have to purchase and assemble one on top of all the other moving chores. When the truck was almost completely emptied, we found my long lost suitcase that had been packed for the trip!

After 900 miles and two days without clean clothes and my own deodorant - my suitcase! (credit: The Author)

The moving guys were amazing and had the truck completely unpacked in a little over three hours. God Bless those hard working and good natured guys! We filled the rental truck with diesel for the last time, and navigated our way to the closest Penske Rental Center. Fortunately for us, it was within 10 miles of the house. We had barely gotten home when our friends, the Bartons arrived and all six of them dove in helping arrange and unbox. They were amazing! It was like having a small army. Kramer convinced their kids to play ball with him, and he was quickly a happy dog.
Kramer James (credit: The Author)


As is always the case with something during a move, the screws that attach the mirror to the dresser turned up MIA. So, Bill and I found an Ace Hardware and headed over to pickup replacements. As we were just days away from the Fourth of July and our son-in-law is active duty in the U.S. Army, I picked up an American flag for the front of the house. The Bartons surprised us with a house warming gift - a pair of plastic pink flamingos for the front yard. We loved it! Allison and I had committed to embracing all that is Florida - pink flamingos and Hawaiian shirts!
Lil Pink Flamingos For You And Me #EmbraceThePinkFlamingos (credit: The Author)
During the unboxing process, I was summonsed to the guest room, and much to my surprise I discovered to former residents had apparently had a fondness for pink flamingos as well. They had adorned the guest room with a pink flamingo light switch wall plate.

#EmbraceThePinkFlamingos (credit: The Author)


Before the Bartons left, we celebrated the reunion with their family and our move with dinner at the Cracker Barrel just blocks from the house. And you cannot go wrong with a Cracker Barrel that has palm trees out front right? I can almost hear a heavenly chorus sing just looking at it!

Cracker Barrel and Palm Trees (credit: The Author)

We slept soundly the first night in our new home and Sadie and Kramer slept peacefully for the first time since leaving Atlanta.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Stepping Into The Vapor: The Move (part I)

When we learned that my office would be closing, my wife and I began praying for wisdom on next steps. We had talked about where we would consider moving if potential jobs required. We both began applying for jobs and the interview process began. For several months, we were both on conference calls and Skype calls. We traveled to Wyoming and Texas for interviews. More than once, God closed a door that we were all but certain was the path to our next steps.

Then in June, my wife, Allison received an attractive offer in St. Petersburg, Florida. I had several potentials in the Tampa/St. Petesburg area but no offers in hand. Her offer had a pretty aggressive timeline, and we knew we had to make a decision and be ready to move quickly if she was to accept the offer. My Dad lives in Lakeland, Florida, so the idea of being closer to him was attractive not to mention we would be within 30 minutes of the beach. And to say the possibility of walking on the beach on a regular basis was not enticing would be a lie. We decided that she would accept the position, we would put the house on the market, and we would make the move to central Florida.

One of my major concerns was ensuring Feed Forsyth could carry on its work to supply food to the food pantries in Forsyth county after my departure. Our operations manager, Ginger Boyll had assumed the day to day operations. And, I had been handling grant writing and public speaking. We met with the board and resigned our positions of leadership while remaining on the board. We remain committed to supporting Feed Forsyth and the pantries in Forsyth county.

Knowing my day job was ending and cycles of layoffs were in process, it did not seem like a big stretch for me to resign and make the move without a new job secured. So, within two weeks, we packed up the house, loaded a Penkse rental truck and headed to Florida. It just so happened that we moving day worked out to be Allison's birthday.

Moving Day June 27, 2014


The trip was an adventure as all moving experiences seem to always be. We stopped at a rest stop south of Macon to walk the dogs, and Allison dropped the bomb on me that she had received a call while we were on the road and our rental house would not be ready for us to move into when we arrived. Peachy! So we would spend two nights in a hotel instead of one as originally planned.

When we arrived at the hotel the first night, I discovered the suitcase I had packed for the trip had inadvertently gotten packed deep in the truck and a suitcase full of winter clothes was in our car. So, clean clothes and my prescriptions were all buried in the truck somewhere. A desperate late night search of the truck in the hotel parking lot proved unfruitful, so I elected to take a shower and put back on my sweaty clothes.

Fortunately, my wife had found us a pet friendly hotel and parking that could accommodate a 26ft truck and trailer. Unfortunately, our two dogs, Sadie and Kramer had a hard time getting settled with the constant sounds of a hotel - doors closing, voices in the hallway, kids running down the hall, etc. So, we slept a couple hours, took the dogs outside for a walk, rinse and repeated for the majority of the night. Knowing our rental house was not going to be ready, we tried with all our might to sleep in late. A girl's softball tournament was in town and a couple teams were staying in the same hotel. When the softball teams got up to head to their tournament, our dogs were wide awake, and they wanted us up as well. I dressed, brushed my teeth and used my wife's deodorant. Ah yes, a nice melon/cucumber scent.

We loaded up and hit the interstate after a complimentary breakfast. Around noon, I found a truckstop and parked near a shaded grassy spot, so we could let the dogs out while one of us grabbed lunch. We ate under the shade of the canopy of live oak trees to the tune of cicadas. I had not heard cicadas since moving to Atlanta, and it gave me an unexpected sense of peace reminding me of earlier chapters in my life. I smiled and thanked God for a bit of peace and a sense of belonging amidst all the turmoil of the move.
Periodical Cicada (photo by Alex Wild)
Learn more about the Cicada at:
nationalgeographic.com


We fueled up the truck and got back on the interstate, driving through Tampa and across the bay to St. Petersburg. I have been across Tampa Bay on I-275 several times in my life, and it has never gotten old. Even while driving a 26ft box truck pulling a trailer, I found myself enjoying the view of the bay and the palm trees. I could here a still small voice say "Welcome home."

My wife passed me to guide us to the hotel in St. Petersburg she had found for us that was again pet friendly. Upon arriving, I quickly noticed that the hotel had a tight driveway and small parking lot and there was no room to park the truck. I had to perform my personal version of truck driver ballet to get back out of the parking lot. The front desk clerk suggested parking the truck at a local grocery store. A quick call to our realtor sent us on another adventure to locate the real estate office where we could park the truck for the night. As we pulled into the parking lot, I saw three police cars conducting a vehicle stop one block away. I found it unsettling knowing I would be 3 miles away from everything we owned for the next 8 hours. So, we prayed for protection, peace, provision, and rest.

When we returned to the hotel and checked into our room, I discovered Allison had booked us a room with a jacuzzi tub. I still was without my suitcase and clean clothes, but at least I could soak sore muscles. We found a Chinese restaurant that did delivery and made camp. The dogs were still not completely comfortable with the noises of a hotel, but we managed to get some sleep. It was a huge improvement over Friday night.

We woke Sunday morning eager to see our rental house and get the truck unloaded.
(to be continued...)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Maximizing Exposure on Social Media

Many businesses and nonprofits have recognized the value of social media. Many launch into social media blindly believing that all that is needed is to build a Facebook Page or a Twitter account and start posting what is important to them. A few months go by and the individual tasked with managing their social media presence starts asking "Why aren't we getting more likes on our Facebook Page?" and "Why aren't we getting more Twitter followers?" The answer I have come to learn is they did not stop and learn the medium before they attempted to begin utilizing it.

In his book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, Gary Vaynerchuk says, "On Facebook, the definition of great content is not the content that makes the most sales, but the content that people most want to share with others." Facebook does not display everything everyone posts. Nor does Facebook display everything to you from a page you have liked. Facebook has a super secret and ever changing algorithm for determining what content it will display in your news feed from the pages you like and the people you have friend'ed. And the algorithm determined what to display on your news feed by analyzing what posts you have liked and shared. So if you like and share several posts from one company's Facebook page, the algorithm will provide you more of that company's content in your news feed. With that information in hand, someone managing a business or nonprofit's Facebook page should consider not only the message they want to disseminate to the masses, but first what message would the most people like and share? Because posting content that people will like and share gains their Facebook page a higher ranking in the super secret algorithm and gains them maximum exposure. Maybe every post should not be the message the organization is trying to communicate to the target market. Maybe some posts should be something inspirational that the masses will like and share.

At the same time, keep in mind that Facebook is a visual medium. A simple all text post will get significantly less likes and shares compared to a post utilizing a photo. No wonder Twitter has gone to showing a preview of graphic images used in Twitter posts! Utilizing a graphic or photograph that visually supports the organization's message is the most effective means of communicating a message in Facebook. Additionally, anything that a viewer would be inclined to share will help achieve maximum exposure. Watch your own Facebook usage. How many coupons or giveaways have you shared when you saw them in your Facebook news feed? How many beach sunset pictures have you shared that had a company logo or website in the bottom corner? Somewhere there was an organization's Facebook page manager saying, "Thank you for sending my message to your 500 friends."

Additionally, drop the "its all about us" mentality. Begin to adopt a mentality that helping partner organizations, clients, and followers is good for everyone. Stop talking your following and start talking with them. Make your social media presence a conversation. Look at what is important to your followers- what they are saying. Your organization might not have any interest in the Academy Awards, but if the people following your Twitter account and the people that have liked your Facebook page are chatting furiously about what is going on at the Academy Awards, it might be wise to watch the awards show and get involved in the conversation. Arby's did this very thing this year during the Grammys and it paid off for them a million fold.
See on Twitter

Arby's Social Media Manager, Josh Martin, noted Pharrell's hat looks like the one Arby's has used as their logo for years and commented on Twitter. “When I saw so many people mentioning us in relation to the hat, I thought it was a great opportunity to jump into the conversation,” Martin later explained. It was not a message to sell roast beef sandwiches or to motivate followers to the drive-thru window. It was a post relevant to what Arby's customers were watching and talking about at that moment. By the next morning, that post has been retweeted 75,000 times and liked 40,000 times. But it did not stop there. Pepsi's Twitter account quoted it and said "#Win", shoving the Arby's post to all of Pepsi's followers and Hyundai quoted it and said, "Well Played" which shoved the Arby's post to all of Hyundai's followers. It gained enough exposure that Pharrell saw it and responded, "Y'all tryna start a roast beef?" Arby's came away looking fun and relevant to its followers and a host of people who were not following Arby's. Recognizing the success of the media hoopla that followed this single Twitter post, Arby's then bought Pharrell's hat in the subsequent eBay auction for $44,100 with proceeds going to a charity, From One Hand to Another. When the dust settled, Arby's gained 6,000 new followers due to that single posting. 

Trying to increase the exposure of an organization in social media? I highly recommend checking out Gary Vaynerchuk's blog, reading his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, and check out Relational Equity and owner Van Baird


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Devil Walks in Mattingly - Billy Coffey



I will not make any bones about it. I have become of fan of Billy Coffey's writing. Maybe partly because his novels are set in the rural countryside of Virginia, and I can relate to the setting having grown up in rural South Georgia. But I believe the quality of his writing is a much bigger part. I have reviewed his latest novel, The Devil Walks in Mattingly for Bookwi.se

You can my review here: My Review at Bookwi.se.

You can get your copy here: The Devil Walks in Mattingly at Amazon.com

Read more about Bill Coffey here: BillyCoffey.com

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stepping Out In The Great Unknown



Last Monday we had a called full staff meeting. Once everyone was assembled,  our office's project manager called our company's headquarters and one of the corporate VPs came on the line to announce our office would be closing permanently at the end of August. Many in the room were shocked. I was not one of them. I have learned over the years to pay close attention to the small details and to read the signs.

In the last 14 years, I have survived two small businesses where I was employed collapsing. Unfortunately, they were consecutive jobs. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire. But both of those experiences taught me a great deal including the tell-tale signs to notice. Both of these situations also taught me lessons in faith much like the lessons learned through surviving divorce. 

After the second small business collapse and subsequent layoffs, it took awhile to find another job. The concerns regarding paying the mortgage, child support, and all of the other bills felt like a huge mill stone hanging around my neck. But a gracious God provided for us while I sought a new job. I took side jobs from three consulting firms during my unemployment, and it was always enough at the last moment. And after the financial losses from walking through divorce, the prospect of starting over from scratch did not seem as intimidating as it had in the past.

While this is not a small business collapse, my past experience allowed me to recognize this office closing several months ago. And though I do not have a new job lined up, I have used the time leading up to Monday's announcement to prepare and had begun the job search process. Now is the tough but familiar part - the waiting and the sense of the unknown. 

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part
- Tom Petty

As I think about the weeks and months that lie ahead of us,  I can picture that scene from Indiana Jones. He is standing at the very edge looking down into an abyss. He draws a deep breath,  looks straight ahead, and takes a huge step out into nothing. And to his surprise, he finds himself fully supported. It is a familiar feeling. I have been here before, and although I would rather not be here again, I know the one the cares for me holds me in the palm of his hand.

So I wait...

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" 
Matthew 6:25-27

-Peace

Allen