Why marketers have trouble with full-duplex social technology

[ Groundswell ] Why marketers have trouble with full-duplex social technology.

Your company has a chance to turn its email list into a two-way communication. Except that most mass emails from companies are “do not reply”. “We want to talk to you,” they say. “But we don’t want to hear back from you. Unless you want to place an order, and if so click here.”

In general, a marketing department is set up to have a one-way conversation: a monologue about the virtues of this or that. “Social media” works best at generating a dialogue. Sadly, a marketing department is often not geared up for such conversation: this falls, rather to the customer service area of a business.

To successfully employ social media technology, an organisation needs to have these separate parts working together. This, I think, is the biggest challenge in implementing a social media strategy.

Book: The Reason for God: Belief in an age of skepticism

Book: The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Tim Keller wrote this book as a response to the things that he learned in 20 years as a pastor in NYC, engaging with the doubts people had expressed to him.

Out of all the books I’ve read explaining the reasons for believing in Christianity, this is the only one that spends half its time engaging with the arguments against Christianity.

From his experience talking to people with firmly held doubts, he writes in a that answers the doubts sensitively, but thorougly. I’ve found this book to be the best response to something like Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”.

The second half of the book puts forward the positive case for Christianity. This is something that other books have done, sure, but having heard him answering the doubts gives the author that much more credibility in this area.

It’s an easy read, considering the subject matter, and I’d recommend it.

Website for the book (auto-plays a short talking-head video of the author on opening).

book: Total Church

book: Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community

I’m still trying to work out what to make of this book. To some extent, it’s another “everyone else is doing church wrong, this is how you should do it” volume, but it makes some constructive points. There were moments where I felt like giving up on the book altogether, because I had such strong disagreements.

The book talks about changing the nature of Christian gatherings from a public meeting to something more akin to living in community, with as big an impact on the wider community as possible. By living in community, the Christian faith is to be lived out more practically and authentically than in “normal” churches.

The biggest problems I saw were the chapter on counselling (best to just bring people into your community and teach them the bible, rather than refer them to an external counselling professional), and – oddly – on spirituality. It seems their spirituality is not one of meditating or thinking about God, but rather about getting out and doing things.

The opening couple of chapters attempt to make a very broad case at a biblical basis for the rest of the book; it’s generic enough that it’s hard to fault, but leaves me uneasy given the material that follows.

Sure, there are some good ideas in terms of social involvement and living out the Christian faith in a more holistic way, but overall, I found the approach somewhat troubling.

book: War and Peace

Book: War and Peace (Wordsworth Classics)

It’s been almost a year since I started reading this, one chapter per day. Matt put out the challenge, and has been faithfully blogging about each chapter as we go through. I’ve found this tremendously helpful in understanding some of the more obscure topics and characters, especially given my lack of knowledge of the historical events.

I first heard of this novel in a “Reader’s Digest” joke:

Have you read War and Peace?
War and Peace is one of the great novels that everyone must read before they die. I’m saving it for insurance.

Matt in fact gave me a copy of the book (the edition I ended up reading) as a birthday present a few years back, but remembering the joke above, I didn’t end up even starting it: it just taunted me with its many pages, and many characters.

In the end, it’s been a really worthwhile read. As a mix of fiction and coverage of historical events, it’s not pure escapism. Tolstoy presents so many characters in different times and stations of life that you feel like you’ve learned a lot about what it means to be alive by the end of it. He spends chapters building up relationships between characters, only to finish such subplots with throwaway sentences.

In the end, it’s the sweeping arc of history that concerns him, not the small events of life that are covered along the way. And yet it’s precisely these small details that make it so worthwhile. Set in the early 1800s, much of what is covered is timeless. If you’ve been putting off reading this book, you should try and read it through, a chapter per day, next financial year.

Randy Pausch’s last lecture, and other inspirational stories

What kind of lecture can make you foolishly stay up way too late? Randy Pausch’s last lecture. Over an hour and a quarter long, this video is well worth the effort.

I was intrigued when the lecturer walked in to a standing ovation, and said “make me earn it”. He does. You’ll understand if you make the time to watch it: the topic is “realising your childhood dreams”.