Author Archives: Vince

About Vince

Vince Marotte is a communicator, futurist, speaker and consultant. He dwells in creative spaces and lives with ideas. Never satisfied with the status quo, he is always looking for a better way to do things. He recently wrote Context and Voice—communication design in our new media culture and also contributes regularly to Outreach Magazine.

Vince

I want to be surrounded by the broken and mended

BillClinton2012DNCSpeech640

BillClinton2012DNCSpeech640

Have you ever screwed up in an ugly and public way? It sucks. If you have any shred of self awareness it eats you alive. You lose sleep…lots of sleep. The anxiety starts to build as it becomes clear that this is not going away until you engage it head on and humble yourself before any and all effected. As soon as you come clean and air it out, even though a list of consequences may await, you feel a tension release and a freedom that is powerful and brings you back to life.

Forgiveness and reconciliation is about as powerful of an interaction as two humans can have on this earth.

I’ve been there plenty of times and I know how these experiences have shaped me. I know I’m in good company when I’m around people who have walked these hallways.

Drop Phones Not Bombs

Tunisia

Tunisia

Governments that exist by controlling access to information, as well as the synchronization and coordination of people, are losing in the face of abundant new media and the power it gives individuals.

Venezuela, Ukraine, China, North Korea and the like cannot be a part of the emerging global economy without every worker having at least the connectivity provided by a mobile phone.

This means the people can unite and rise up. It’s exciting because maybe we don’t have to go killing and bombing to overthrow dictators. The people can do it themselves, all they need is the tools.

Drop phones not bombs.

Viral Facebook Page Posts 101

glow-sticks

Since early 2013 Facebook has made changes to the ‘algorithm’ that determines what content actually makes it into a user’s feed. I’m assuming you knew that. This had a drastic, if not overnight, effect in January 2013 when the average views a non-promoted post from a page halved from around 30 percent of page likes to around 13 percent on average! Ouch.

I believe this is probably a good thing for the future of Facebook although it may have left a sting to page owners who depend on the platform as a major revenue building channel.  Without going into the details too much, Facebook ‘curates’ what posts make it into a user’s timeline in an effort to; (a) keep them on the site so that they can (b) serve them ads and make money. It’s a good thing because I think it will increase the quality of posts because pages will have to be more creative and push higher quality content. The downside is that it may eventually lead to more paid posts in user’s feeds. We’ll see.

The one type post that will go viral on Facebook

Pictures of me. No, not pictures of me as in me…Vince. I mean pictures that users see and think; “That’s so me“. Or in some cases, pictures that they are actually in (or think they are in). Images, by far, give you the best chance to hit a larger segment of your page likes and beyond; there isn’t much debate there. Links are getting hammered on by Facebook because they send people away from Facebook so they’re not going to give you much exposure there. Videos (uploaded into FB vs. linking up YouTube etc) do okay but as more and more Facebook traffic is on mobile devices users are watching (and sharing) less videos.

That’s so me

Here’s an example of an image that went ‘viral’ that we played on a pretty new page I manage for my cycling team here in Austin. Viral meaning that it garnered (as of today) views that were 25 times the number of page likes. It is the quintessential ‘that is so me’ image. The shares go nuts for this type of picture, especially when its targeted well; in this case to cyclists.

broken-bike-running

A photo of ‘me’

This image is of an event where we gave everyone in the auditorium glow sticks to hold up all at the same time. The event took place three times and this photo is of just one of them. Because users were there and ‘in’ the picture they shared it en masse. That’s the key to getting more views; leveraging the influence of users sharing the content on their timelines. People like to share pictures of themselves, its kind of the whole point of Facebook in the first place.

glow-sticks

You can start right now with the ‘that’s so me’ image targeted at your page’s niche and moving forward, build in a workflow to actually get images of your fans.

4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use New Media

bang-your-head

I thought I was done trying to sell business owners, leaders and entrepreneurs that they should be using new media (formally called social media) but I have had a string of interactions already in the new year that lead me to post this. I have encountered all the old excuses; “I don’t have time”, “Show me how it can be strategic”, “I’ll start using it once the startup is up and running”. Seriously, someone said those exact words to me.

I apologize to most of my readers who, by and large, get it.

Rather than compile a list of reasons you should use social media, let me paint the other side of the fence here and list out some reasons I think you shouldn’t be using new media.

1. You are done learning

If you have learned everything you need to learn the wide open spaces of new media platforms, Twitter especially, can seem like a waste of time. You would quickly see that there is so little you know that it could make it really difficult to continue being done learning. You could engage hundreds, if not thousands, of people in your field who could teach you, in real time, and that would just suck, so you should probably stay off of new media.

2. You don’t need to communicate to more people than you currently have access to

You’ve already achieved fame among your finely curated fiefdom and you can get them to buy enough of your widgets or attend enough of your events to pad your pockets just fine; why waste time trying to grow that audience?

3. You have built the perfect team that will never change

You have found that perfect team of all-stars and have the funds to pay them what they’re worth and you keep them motivated and passionate; you’re the greatest leader ever! You won’t need to engage in networking to add to your team or replace team members who have gone on to other things.

4. You are a jerk

New media is like alcohol, it amplifies the core of your personality. If you’re a jerk when you’re sober, you are likely an apocalyptic idiot when you’re drunk. If you engaged in social media, many more people would know that you are a tool and that’s something you want to keep an eye on.

So there you go, continue staying off new media, next time I’m near a fax machine I’ll get you an update on what living in the future is like.

 

Does The Church Have A Future?

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

{I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, just wanted to hang onto it since this is the meat of most of the conference talks and keynotes I’ve given in the last year}

Seriously, what is the future of the church? I could go a hundred different ways with this thought; gay marriage, globalization, fossil fuels, consumerism, theology, death of the suburbs, fall of dictatorships and any number of changes in culture both in the United States and the world.

But I want to focus on something quite fundamental that, even in the midst of massive cultural change, never seems to even be on the table for discussion in any meaningful way; going to church. The next paragraph will draw a line in the sand that many of you will simply not be able to understand let alone free your mind enough to even consider crossing. You can’t have a revolution without pissing at least someone off, right?

The exercise of going to a building filled with hundreds or thousands of people to listen to a talking head and sing some songs is a peculiar one, irregardless of what you may believe in terms of God and religion. I’m not alone when I say that ‘going to church’, as we know it, is a struggling fiction at best, on it’s death bed at worst. I’m speaking specifically about the ‘time and place’ gathering we call ‘going to church’, not all the other functions of the local church (that’s another post unto itself); so stay focused with me here.

This might scare you. This might encourage you; as it does me.

Being & Doing
Let me state right here and now that it is of utmost importance that Christ Followers gather together at the same place and time as often as possible for the purpose of being the church balanced by as much, or even better, more doing Kingdom work. I am in NO WAY advocating we stop getting together. I’m also going to be speaking under the umbrella of basic Christian truths and keeping in practical. That is to say; I’m assuming you and I have the same basic theological framework for our understanding of this conversation.

Yes, I’m excited about this cultural change. I’m excited because I see the flip side of this reality and there is possibility there if we are willing to look and willing to change. Let’s start with Sunday and ask some questions.

What do we hire the Sunday morning experience to accomplish?

That is to say; why do people go to church? I’ve had this conversation with my team, church leaders around the country and spoken about it at various conferences and leadership gatherings. I’ve narrowed it down to three things and everything you do during a time and place gathering of the church falls into one of these three buckets; spiritual experience, community experience and content consumption.

This is where we are running into roadblocks in innovation and creativity because we are chained down by the limited possibility of the time and place gathering. Let me show you what I mean.

What is the absolute best way to have a spiritual experience?

This is hard to answer because it is a very personal thing, but in short, spiritual experience is at it’s best when we draw near to God. The problem is, we all do that differently. For some drawing near to God happens when they are deep in the Bible or singing worship songs or serving people or being in contact with His creation. Once you’ve listed all the ways different people draw near to God you quickly see that it is not something that scales well at all. It’s clear that corporate singing of songs is about as scaleable as you can get, which is why it has stood the test of time. It’s not the best way to have a spiritual experience for most but it is good enough for scale.

At it’s foundation, it is simply not possible to scale spiritual experience in a time and place context. True spiritual experience is far too personal, sure we can scale surrogate spiritual experience but not the real thing.

What is the absolute best way to have a community experience?

This is an easy one; sit around a table and have a meal. The table is the centerpiece of true community. Although not super scaleable; on a meal by meal basis it is, however, really easy to pull off.

What is the best way to have a content consumption experience? Or even better; how do people prefer to consume content?

Right now, in 2013, it is clear that people prefer to consume content in video form on a screen in an ‘on-demand’ manner. The average American watches nearly 20 hours of TV per month, 830 minutes of YouTube.com videos per month.

Clearly these three things that we have leaned on ‘going to church’ to serve to us are far better experienced and exercised in contexts that are much different than what we have spent so much time and money building.

What are the outside pressures prompting the need for change?

“Great, you boiled down what ‘going to church’ is Vince, but what does that have to do with the future of church?”

I’m glad you asked.

I don’t have to convince you that culture today is different than that of 100 years ago and now that we have distilled the going to church experience down to the raw ingredients we can see that is has not changed in 100 years. Sure the packaging has changed but the same three things are the product; spiritual experience, community experience and content consumption. Our current version of going to church, in western culture, has not changed since before the industrial revolution yet society has changed dramatically.

Let me show you.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m speaking strictly in terms of practicality. I want to talk about the practical reasons why ‘going to church’ as we now know it is a struggling concept. Here are just a few thoughts.

Family Redefined

In, what may be the most foundational book in the church’s understanding of the post-modern shift in culture, Jimmy Long’s ‘Generating Hope’, we just scratch the surface in terms of how Generation X relates to their family. Long describes a generation who, for many, view themselves as closer relationally to their friends than to their own parents. The western church and the act of ‘going to it’ has proliferated from generation to generation almost as an extension of the family unit itself.

Challenge one: Churches die as the next generation establishes a new family among their friends rather than their blood.

The church was the social centerpiece for the family unit. So much to the point that, historically, single people over the age of 30 have always struggled to feel at home in the western church; they just don’t belong. The ‘in’ point of the church was always blood family. Layer on top of that the reality that people are are having their first marriage later and later especially in more progressive cities.

Challenge two: Even more of those who want to attend a church struggle to connect simply because they are single adults. And as a result they see the church as only a place to consume content rather than a community experience.

Work to Play

One of the biggest shifts from Boomers to X-ers is the idea of play. Generation X takes play very seriously. The boomer tendency was to focus on a few points in the year to recreate, like vacation and holidays. Boomers also have a draw to suburban culture which comes with the work of upkeep on house, yard and vehicle; leaving very little time, energy and money for play. Gen-X and Millennials go so far as to build their life around their preferences in play. Into outdoor sports? Move to Colorado and figure out how to have a job that supports it. Into music? Move to Austin or Portland and build a career that allows it. Boomers prided themselves on hard work, staying at the same job for 30 years and going to church ‘because its good for you’.

To put it another way; we’re too busy and even play is higher on the list than going to church.

Challenge three: The act of ‘going to church’ is a lot of work and it comes at prime time for play…weekends. Not to mention THE prime time to connect in community.

Real Time

The world now moves at real time. Just yesterday the AP Twitter account was hacked and a fake tweet went out and within minutes the stock market dropped 150 points. Things change fast. The church changes slow…if at all. Being a part of a church experience is a cumbersome, slow and outdated fiction. The rising generations like to be a part of a tribe that is real time and can react to real life as it happens.

By nature, historically, the concept of church was ready made for real time action in the local context but when church was institutionalized it lost that ability. The biggest hurdle the church has to overcome is that it is dependent on people gathering in a place at a time in order to synchronize and coordinate them. That is slow. That is expensive.

Challenge four: Requiring lots of people to gather at a time and place is slow and expensive. The secondary challenge this creates is the disinterest of high capacity creative, entrepreneurial and important culture makers who are turned off by this cumbersome reality.

Expert Class

The expert class has been in charge of the church for a while now and in a culture where we all now have the tools and ability to create and share content at scale, experts just don’t have the social pull they once had. It’s not that career pastors aren’t as smart as they once were it’s that the value of the content they create has dropped significantly since the proliferation of new media; just like the film and music industries. The ability to scale, at little or no cost, immediately de-values the Sunday morning gathering from a content perspective. We cannot create a better mouse trap at any acceptable cost. That is to say; making the gathering more interesting or remarkable just won’t work. the film industry tried that.

People have been going to movie theaters less in favor of the convenience of Netflix and other on-demand outlets even though the experience is not on par with a theater experience. The movie industries answer? 3D movies. Make the theater experience better and people will come back. It hasn’t worked and it won’t work for church either.

Challenge five: Content abundance and easier access through new media has broken the information monopoly once held by the expert class.

This is just a look at the surface level, we could do this for days but I’ll stop there. I want to start building a framework for the future, but you’ll have to wait for the follow up to this post.

Until then, post in the comments some challenges you see the Church facing lately.