Five Years Later

Five Years

Almost five years ago, it happened: I finally worked up the courage to start a blog. Back then, blogging was just hitting the mainstream with the rise of WordPress and Blogger (and to a lesser extent Tumblr and others). My first blog post, “Sometimes 140 Character Isn’t Enough,” set the foundation for the 147 posts (and counting) that have come since. Looking back at some of those first posts is pretty embarrassing, but it also shows how God has molded and shaped me over the past five years.

Back in 2010, I was beginning my final year at John Brown University, serving as the student ministry intern at Harvard Avenue Baptist Church, working part-time for the Arkansas World Trade Center, and making a lot of big plans for what I wanted to do when I graduated that May. Between that first post and this one, I have launched a business, led a college and career ministry, attended several incredible conferences, gone on adventures all over the country, experienced the joys and sorrows in different interpersonal relationships, and a host of other events that have all served as inspirations for the posts on this site.

If you would’ve asked me back in 2010 what life would be like in 2015, my predictions would be quite different from my reality. And you know what? That’s not a bad thing! Looking back, some of the things that were on my agenda would have deprived me of some incredible opportunities. If I would have traveled to Europe or moved out of Siloam immediately, I wouldn’t have gotten to enjoy the rich fellowship with the believers at Harvard Avenue. If I wouldn’t have started AFS, I wouldn’t have gotten to learn about what it takes to bring an idea to fruition or meet some of the inspirational people in Arkansas and around the world that are passionate about improving the world through building innovative businesses.

The examples are endless, but the lesson is the same: God’s plans truly are higher than any plans I could have for myself. I’m not saying don’t set goals or pursue your “five-year plan”, but do so with the realization that God’s plans and yours may not line up… and that’s just fine. When you look back, you’ll see the grace in the way He has sovereignly directed your steps to increase your joy.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love it. Live It.

[image credit: Michael Ruiz on Flickr

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3 Reasons Everyone, Including You, Should Blog

BLOG

Once upon a time, if people wanted to tell others about what excited them, they had to write it down on paper, put it in an envelope, and mail it to a friend, family member, business associate, or publisher. The process took days and the original author didn’t have a copy of what he/she wrote in the first place (unless they made another handwritten copy). Then the telegraph, typewriter, and email came along and helped speed up the process; however, the scope and efficiency of the author was still limited.

In the late 1990s, the weblog, or “blog” as we know it today, format was created and began to flourish. Sites such as Blogger and WordPress made the blog much more accessible to the average user, giving almost anyone with internet access the ability to create a blog and share their story with the world. As of February 2011, there are more than 156 million public blogs in existence and are used by large companies, small businesses, nonprofits, clubs, organizations, pastors, artists, marketers, authors, crafters, moms, and ordinary men and women to quickly and efficiently tell others what inspires them.

With that in mind, here are a three reasons why everyone, including you, should consider blogging:

  1. Share your passions
    A blog is a fantastic platform for you to show off your expertise in a particular field or fields. Get excited about new marketing techniques for small businesses? Share your expertise, experience, and experiments with other small business owners (and maybe you’ll be able to turn it into a consulting and speaking gig). Do you enjoy crafts? Create a blog displaying a project you are working on and the different steps and materials involved in the process (you can even monetize it with the Craftistas widget). Travel a lot for work? Tell others about your trips and the fun/terrible places you encounter. Have a variety of interests like I do? Dedicate time to each one and show how they influence and interact with each other.
    Basically, a blog is a great way to give people a deeper look into what drives you while also giving your audience information that inspires, educates, or entertains them.
  2. Process your thoughts
    There is something about writing a blog post that is very therapeutic. It’s relieving to take an idea you’ve been bouncing around in your mind and put it into a tangible, written form. Processing the idea not only stimulates your mind; it also allows you to move beyond theory toward application. The blog format then allows you to transmit the idea and the thought process behind it to your audience for them to evaluate, comment on, and act upon.
  3. Build your brand
    Of course, there is a personal branding aspect to blogging. As you continue to develop your blog, your audience will steadily grow, especially if you are serving as a source of interesting and helpful information that relates to shared interests. This can be especially helpful if you are looking for a new job or want to develop a side hustle. Put your blog address on your resume (if it’s relevant to the position you’re applying for): it gives the potential employer something more to look at in order to assess your skills and abilities beyond a one-page resume and a 30 minute interview. Posting to a blog will also help establish your credibility within your field and potentially lead to opportunities to expand your influence through networking and speaking events.

Want to give blogging a try, but don’t want to go through the trouble of setting up a blog? Plenty of bloggers are looking for people to write guest posts. Reach out to one of your favorites with an idea and see if he/she will feature you. If you enjoy business, ideas, or theology, write a post and send it my way. I’ll take a look at it, offer feedback, and potentially feature it on here.

Operating a blog requires consistency, patience, and passion. You won’t get 100 views/day immediately, but as you continue to add more posts, connect with other bloggers, and create more content, your audience will slowly grow. Here are some “do’s and don’ts” to get you started. Of course, there is much more to blogging than the numbers, as mentioned above.

What are you waiting for? Start telling your story!

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

Already blogging? Share why you enjoy blogging (along with a link to your site) in the Comments below.

[image credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr]

Learn It. Love It. Live It. [Post #100]

BITheader

I was recently asked about my blogging philosophy: “Why write (and tweet) about three different, and seemingly unrelated, subjects (business, ideas, and theology) on one blog?”  Well, the first reason is practical: I don’t have time to maintain three different blogs. Another minor reason is because I find blogging to be therapeutic and a great outlet for me to share my thoughts about the world I live in.

However, the primary reason that I blog about a variety of things is because it is an accurate representation of reality. Like most people, my life isn’t siloed into different interest areas. Each of the things I’m passionate about interacts with the others and affects what opportunities I pursue with my time and energy.

The same is true for each of us. We all have different things we are passionate about that combine together and express themselves in the way we live our lives. That’s why I end each post with the tagline “Learn It. Love It. Live It.” These three phrases sum up how we discover our passions and make them a part of our daily life.  Read more of this post

Social Media and the Church

Social media is a big deal. In case you’ve been wandering in the Sinai Desert for forty years, you have probably heard of social media and probably have an account on at least one of the major social networking sites. Speaking of the Sinai Desert, imagine if the Israelites had Twitter accounts (“Still wandering in circles…getting tired of quail and manna. Wish there was a @TacoBell nearby… #ineedChacos) or, better yet, if Moses was on Foursquare (Moses just became the Mayor of Mount Sinai!).

Anyway, there are a vast multitude of applications for social media in almost every setting, even the local church. In fact, integrating social media into your church could be one of the smartest moves you make for spreading the Gospel, marketing the church, and promoting congregational growth and interaction. Though social media will never substitute for personal contact, discipleship, and evangelism, it is a very helpful tool in bolstering the effectiveness of the local church. It allows the church staff and members to extend the reach of the local body beyond the walls of the building (itself a tool in church ministry). Below are a few ways the different social networks can be used in the ministry of the local church, but first some recent statistics about the “Social Media Revolution:”

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Think Outside the Bun

Think Outside the Bun.

Not only does this motto describe Taco Bell‘s product mix of fast food that comes wrapped in flour tortillas rather than sesame seed buns, it can also be applied to Taco Bell’s marketing strategy. Taco Bell has done an exceptional job of adapting its strategy to the evolving social media sphere. In his book The New Rules of Marketing and PR, David Meerman Scott outlines what he refers to as the “new rules” for companies in a culture that seeks engagement and conversation with companies rather than being interrupted during their favorite TV show to be told to go buy something. Mr. Scott wants marketers to realize that, in today’s business environment, “marketing is more than just advertising” and that marketing is “about delivering content just at the precise moment your audience needs it.” The majority of his book is dedicated to explaining how various social media sites and tools can be used to accomplish organizational goals.

I believe that Taco Bell does an exceptional job of using new social media sites, especially Facebook and Twitter, to build brand loyalty, engage in conversation, and drive traffic to their stores. On Taco Bell’s Facebook page, users express their love for the fast food franchise and it’s products despite the recent allegations made by an Alabama law firm regarding Taco Bell’s meat content.  Several of the page’s 5 million fans have also posted over 500 pictures of Taco Bell food, locations, and sauce packets. Facebook isn’t the only social media outlet where people express their love for the restaurant chain: they also have over 55,000 people following the company’s Twitter account. Taco Bell has a smart strategy that it uses with its Twitter account that has as much to do with when the company tweets as what it tweets. Like other companies on Twitter, Taco Bell responds to customers and lets people know about their special menu items from time to time; what is unique about Taco Bell is that they tweet during the times that are considered peak hours for them: lunch and FourthMeal. This strategy not only gets people tweeting about Taco Bell on Twitter in the hopes of being retweeted (a goal I have yet to accomplish on Twitter myself…), but it also bombards the feeds of all the users who follow Taco Bell with how people are enjoying Taco Bell at that moment. This helps to keep Taco Bell in the all important “consideration set” of consumers as they decide where to spend their money on a fast food meal.

Taco Bell is truly “thinking outside the bun” when it comes to utilizing the new tools available to marketers. The company compliments its traditional advertising by engaging its highly loyal fan base on popular social media sites. I can’t wait to see what Taco Bell will do next with its marketing strategy in this exciting time in the progression of marketing thought.

-Lawson

Learn It. Love It. Live It.

Business Up Front, Party in the Back: The Two Sides of Twitter

 

Multiple Tweets Plain

Twit·ter [Twit-er] (v.)- “a short burst of inconsequential information or chirps from birds”

That is the definition that inspired Jack Dorsey and several others to create a 140-character messaging service that eventually became popular social media website we know today as Twitter. Since it’s launch on July 15, 2006, Twitter has grown to over 180 million users who create over 65 million tweets a day! (Thank you Wikipedia) As a marketing student and social media enthusiast, I have enjoyed using Twitter for the past year and a half or so to find and share information about the things that I am passionate about (like #marketing, #socialmedia, #theology, #business) as well as be entertained by tweets from @ochocinco and several others. Aside from my personal profile (@LawsonHembree), I have also managed the Twitter account for the Arkansas World Trade Center (@ARWTC).
From my experience with these two accounts, I’ve always gotten to see more of the “business side” of Twitter. However, like a mullet haircut, while Twitter is all “business up front,” there is also a “party in the back.” This post will take a brief look at both sides.

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Sometimes 140 Characters Isn’t Enough

How to optimize your blog post

140 characters? Only 140 characters? As someone who has been using Twitter for about a year, sometimes 140 characters just isn’t enough.

It has always helped me to write things down as I think about them (Obviously, this can’t be done adequately with the 140 characters provided by Twitter and is a little awkward to do on Facebook ). There is just something about seeing the written or typed words that allows me to make sense of my thoughts. While 140 characters allows for short personal expressions, rarely do they capture the depth of what went into their formation. My purpose in writing this blog is to expand on the things that I post on my Twitter account or think about on a daily basis. I entitled the blog “A Little Bit of Everything” because I will be writing posts about topics such as theology, business (including social media), outdoors, sports, and life in general. Most personal blogs focus on one or two topics. That’s fine, but I feel like this doesn’t reflect the complexity of each individual. Each person is a combination of many likes, interests, and passions. This blog will cover some areas of life that I enjoy keeping up with, so I hope that what I share connects with you on some level and makes you think more about the topic. Maybe some of the posts will even lead to some good discussions. Either way, I hope you enjoy this blog as I expand beyond 140 characters into a more expansive format of expression.

So, buckle up, settle in, and let’s go on this ride together.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love it. Live It.

[image credit: SEOPlanter on Flickr]

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