Over the last year or so I’ve been asked to do an increasing amount of Facebook consulting. Most weeks I get a couple of emails asking for help and asking how this sort of consulting works so I thought I’d explain my experience.
In early December 2009, I got a call from a prospective client who wanted me to build a website for her husband’s home improvement business. The catch? She wanted it to be a surprise Christmas present! She started collecting pictures from his clients and I went to work with a simple but expandable WordPress site. Reports are that Brad was thrilled!
See it live: http://www.bradleywinkler.com/
Michael Oliveras is a long-time union carpenter making the entrepreneurial jump and starting his own business: Mike’s Precision Carpentry, serving the New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware from his shop in Hammonton, NJ. He came to me looking for a webpage to advertise his new enterprise.
It’s a simple design, a typical small-business site of half-a-dozen pages. The color scheme matches his business cards for a bit of branding. Oliveras faced a problem typical for new businesses: a lack of good photos. The work he’s done for many years is not technically his own (per the employment contracts) so for now the pictures are a mix of the few jobs he has done on his own and a few stock images. I’m sure he’ll have a well-rounded portfolio before long and we’ll be able to fill out the site with his own work. In the meantimes, he added a couple of great pictures of him and his family on the “About Us” page to give it that personal touch.
See it live: www.mikesprecisioncarpentry.com
Popular children's entertainer/educator Slim Goodbody is one busy guy: most weekdays of the school year find him spreading the message of good health in his trademark body suit ("When a Body needs somebody there's nobody like Goodbody!").
He's been doing this work for decades now and has a vast storehouse of videos, products and fans.
Slim came to me to build a branded Facebook presence.
A typical workload for a Facebook branding project is:
- Set up the Page;
- Coordinate with the client for a good profile graphic;
- Adding a number of photos and videos;
- Help set up a posting strategy;
- Provide phone support to answer questions on best practices;
- Give feedback on campaign (like Facebook's "Insights" stats)
For Slim, we decided to rely on Facebook's native apps as much as possible. This became especially important when Facebook shifted it's feed layout (yet again) to focus less on user streams and more on an algorithmically-determined best posts. The more integrated your site is with Facebook, the better chance your pieces will have of showing up on Fan's user streams.
We used Facebook Markup Language (FBML) to create custom Page tabs for integration with his existing online store and listing of tour dates. We would have liked to use FB's Events application but it doesn't allow for the volume of tour dates necessary to cover a busy entertainer like Slim Goodbody!
See it live: www.facebook.com/slimgoodbody
Elisabeth is a painter and artist who specializes in original acrylic paintings and giclee prints of nature and South Jersey beach scenes. Her existing site was attractive, but it didn’t have online ordering and she wasn’t able to update it herself.
We put together a features list and then went through a round of concept screenshots which I built in Adobe Fireworks and Photoshop (you can see our work here!). Design in hand, I built a customized Movable Type site. A specialized template allows her to enter information about the each piece: medium, theme, price and the URL to it’s image (most of which are hosted on Flickr). Movable Type pulls these together into various category and individual art pages, with automatically-generated Paypal “Buy” buttons for available pieces. We stressed search-engine visibility so there are many categories and they all cross-link with each painting.
Visit: Elisabeth Olver
A few weeks ago a newsletter brought written reports about the latest round of conflict at a local meeting that’s been fighting for the past 180 years or so. As my wife and I read through it we were a bit underwhelmed by the accounts of the newest conflict resolution attempts. The mediators seemed more worried about alienating a few long-term disruptive characters than about preserving the spiritual vitality of the meeting. It’s a phenomena I’ve seen in a lot of Quaker meetings.
Call it the FDR Principle after Franklin D Roosevelt, who supposedly defended his support of one of Nicaragua’s most brutal dictators by saying “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” Even casual historians of Latin American history will know this only led to fifty years of wars with reverberations across the world with the Iran/Contra scandal. The FDR Principle didn’t make for good U.S. foreign policy and, if I may, I’d suggest it doesn’t make for good Quaker policy either. Any discussion board moderator or popular blogger knows that to keep an online discussion’s integrity you need to know when to cut a disruptive trouble-maker off – politely and succintly, but also firmly. If you don’t, the people there to actually discuss your issues – the people you want – will leave.
I didn’t know how to talk about this until a post called Conflict in Meeting came through Livejournal this past First Day. The poster, jandrewm, wrote in part:
Yet my recognition of all that doesn’t negate the painful feelings that arise when hostility enters the meeting room, when long-held grudges boil over and harsh words are spoken. After a few months of regular attendance at my meeting, I came close to abandoning this “experiment” with Quakerism because some Friends were so consistently rancorous, divisive, disruptive. I had to ask myself: “Do I need this negativity in my life right now?”
I commented about the need to take the testimonies seriously:
I’ve been in that situation. A lot of Friends aren’t very good at putting their foot down on flagrantly disruptive behavior. I wish I could buy the “it eventually sorts out” argument but it often doesn’t. I’ve seen meetings where all the sane people are driven out, leaving the disruptive folks and armchair therapists. It’s a symbiotic relationship, perhaps, but doesn’t make for a healthy spiritual community.
The unpopular solution is for us to take our testimonies seriously. And I mean those more specific testimonies buried deep in copies in Faith & Practice that act as a kind of collective wisdom for Quaker community life. Testimonies against detraction and for rightly ordered decision making, etc. If someone’s actions tear apart the meeting they should be counseled; if they continue to disrupt then their decision-making input should be disregarded. This is the real effect of the old much-maligned Quaker process of disowning (which allowed continued attendance at worship and life in the community but stopped business participation). Limiting input like this makes sense to me.
The trouble that if your meeting is in this kind of spiral there might not be much you can do by yourself. People take some sort of weird comfort in these predictable fights and if you start talking testimonies you might become very unpopular very quickly. Participating in the bickering isn’t helpful (of course) and just eats away your own self. Distancing yourself for a time might be helpful. Getting involved in other Quaker venues. It’s a shame. Monthly meeting is supposed to be the center of our Quaker spiritual life. But sometimes it can’t be. I try to draw lessons from these circumstances. I certainly understand the value and need for the Quaker testimonies better simply because I’ve seen the problems meetings face when they haven’t. But that doesn’t make it any easier for you.
But all of this begs an awkward question: are we really building Christ’s kingdom by dropping out? It’s an age-old tension between purity and participation at all costs. Timothy asked a similar question of me in a comment to my last post. Before we answer, we should recognize that there are indeed many people who have “abandoned” their “Quaker experiment” because we’re not living up to our own ideals.
Maybe I’m more aware of this drop-out class than others. It sometimes seems like an email correspondence with the “Quaker Ranter” has become the last step on the way out the door. But I also get messages from seekers newly convinced of Quaker principles but unable to connect locally because of the divergent practices or juvenile behavior of their local Friends meeting or church. A typical email last week asked me why the plain Quakers weren’t evangelical and why evangelical Quakers weren’t conservative and asked “Is there a place in the quakers for a Plain Dressing, Bible Thumping, Gospel Preaching, Evangelical, Conservative, Spirit Led, Charismatic family?” (Anyone want to suggest their local meeting?)
We should be more worried about the people of integrity we’re losing than about the grumpy trouble-makers embedded in some of our meetings. If someone is consistently disruptive, is clearly breaking specific Quaker testimonies we’ve lumped under community and intergrity, and stubbornly immune to any council then read them out of business meeting. If the people you want in your meeting are leaving because of the people you really don’t want, then it’s time to do something. Our Quaker toolbox provides us tool for that action – ways to define, name and address the issues. Our tradition gives us access to hundreds of years of experience, both mistakes and successes, and can be a more useful guide than contemporary pop psychology or plain old head-burying.
Not all meetings have these problems. But enough do that we’re losing people. And the dynamics get more acute when there’s a visionary project on the table and/or someone younger is at the center of them. While our meetings sort out their issues, the internet is providing one type of support lifeline.
Blogger jandrewm was able to seek advice and consolation on Livejournal. Some of the folks I spoke about in the 2003 “Lost Quaker Generation” series of posts are now lurking away on my Facebook friends list. Maybe we can stop the full departure of some of these Friends. They can drop back but still be involved, still engaging their local meeting. They can be reading and discussing testimonies (“detraction” is a wonderful place to start) so they can spot and explain behavior. We can use the web to coördinate workshops, online discussions, local meet-ups, new workship groups, etc., but even email from a Friend thousands of miles away can help give us clarity and strength.
I think (I hope) we’re helping to forge a group of Friends with a clear understanding of the work to be done and the techniques of Quaker discernment. It’s no wonder that Quaker bodies sometimes fail to live up to their ideals: the journals of olde tyme Quaker ministers are full of disappointing stories and Christian tradition is rich with tales of the roadblocks the Tempter puts up in our path. How can we learn to center in the Lord when our meetings become too political or disfunctional (I think I should start looking harder at Anabaptist non-resistance theory). This is the work, Friends, and it’s always been the work. Through whatever comes we need to trust that any testing and heartbreak has a purpose, that the Lord is using us through all, and that any suffering will be productive to His purpose if we can keep low and listening for follow-up instructions.
It was five years ago this week that I sat down and wrote about a cool new movement I had been reading about. It would have been Jordan Cooper’s blog that turned me onto Robert E Webber’s The Younger Evangelicals, a look at generational shifts among American Evangelicals. I found it simultaneously disorienting and shocking that I actually identified with most of the trends Webber outlined. Here I was, still a young’ish Friend attending one of the most liberal Friends meetings in the country (Central Philadelphia) and working for the very organization whose initials (FGC) are international shorthand for hippy-dippy liberal Quakerism, yet I was nodding my head and laughing out loud at just about everything Webber said. Although he most likely never walked into a meetinghouse, he clearly explained the generational dynamics running through Quaker culture and I finished the book with a better understanding of why so much of our youth organizing and outreach was floundering on issues of tokenism and feel-good-ism.
My post, originally titled “The Younger Evangelicals and the Younger Quakers,” (here it is in its original context) started off as a book review but quickly became a Quaker vision manifesto. The section heads alone ticked off the work to be done:
- A re-examination of our roots, as Christians and as Friends
- A desire to grow
- A more personally-involved, time-consuming commitment
- A renewal of discipline and oversight
- A confrontation of our ethnic and cultural bigotries
When I wrote this, there wasn’t much you could call Quaker blogging (Lynn Gazis-Sachs was an exception), and when I googled variations on “quakers” and “emerging church” nothing much came up. It’s not surprising that there wasn’t much of an initial response.
It took about two years for the post to find its audience and responses started coming from both liberal and evangelical Quaker circles. In retrospect, it’s fair to say that the QuakerQuaker community gathered around this essay (here’s Robin M’s account of first reading it) and it’s follow-up We’re All Ranters Now (Wess talking about it). Five years after I postd it, we have a cadre of bloggers and readers who regularly gather around the QuakerQuaker water cooler to talk about Quaker vision. We’re getting pieces published in all the major Quaker publications, we’re asked to lead worships and we’ve got a catchy name in “Convergent Friends.”
All of this is still a small demographic scattered all around. If I wanted to have a good two-hour caffeine-fueled bull session about the future of Friends at some local coffeeshop this afternoon, I can’t think of anyone even vaguely local who I could call up. A few years ago I started commuting pretty regularly to a meeting that did a good job at the Christian/Friends-awareness/roots stuff but not the discipline/oversight or desire-to-grow end of things. I’ve drifted away the last few months because I realized I didn’t have any personal friends there and it was mostly an hour-drive, hour-worship, hour-drive back home kind of experience.
My main cadre five years ago were fellow staffers at FGC. A few years ago FGC commissioned surveys indicated that potential donors would respond favorably to talk about youth, outreach and race stereotyping and even though these were some of the concerns I had been awkwardly raising for years, it was very clear I wasn’t welcome in quickly-changing staff structure and I found myself out of a job. The most exciting outreach programs I had worked on was a database that would collect the names and addresses of isolated Friends, but It was quietly dropped a few months after I left. The new muchly-hyped $100,000 program for outreach has this for its seekers page and follows the typical FGC pattern, which is to sprinkle a few rotating tokens in with a retreat center full of potential donors to talk about Important Topics. (For those who care, I would have continued building the isolated Friends database, mapped it for hot spots and coordinated with the youth ministry committee to send teams for extended stays to help plant worship groups. How cool would that be? Another opportunity lost.)
So where do we go?
I’m really sad to say we’re still largely on our own. According to actuarial tables, I’ve recently crossed my life’s halfway point and here I am still referencing generational change.
How I wish I could honestly say that I could get involved with any committee in my yearly meeting and get to work on the issues raised in “Younger Evangelicals and Younger Quakers.” Someone recently sent me an email thread between members of an outreach committee for another large East Coast yearly meeting and they were debating whether the internet was an appropriate place to do outreach work – in 2008?!? Britain Yearly Meeting has a beautifully produced new outreach website but I don’t see one convinced young Friend profiled and it’s post-faith emphasis is downright depressing (an involved youngish American Friend looked at it and reminded me that despite occasional attention, smart young seekers serious about Quakerism aren’t anyone’s target audience, here in the US or apparently in Britain).
A number of interesting “Covergent” minded Friends have an insider/outsider relationship with institutional Quakerism. Independent worship groups popping up and more are being talked about (I won’t blow your cover guys!). I’ve seen Friends try to be more officially involved and it’s not always good: a bunch of younger Quaker bloggers have disappeared after getting named onto Important Committees, their online presence reduced to inside jokes on Facebook with their other newly-insider pals.
What do we need to do:
- We need to be public figures;
- We need to reach real people and connect ourselves;
- We need to stress the whole package: Quaker roots, outreach, personal involvement and not let ourselves get too distracted by hyped projects that only promise one piece of the puzzle.
Here’s my to-do list:
- CONVERGENT OCTOBER: Wess Daniels has talked about everyone doing some outreach and networking around the “convergent” theme next month. I’ll try to arrange some Philly area meet-up and talk about some practical organizing issues on my blog.
- LOCAL MEETUPS: I still think that FGC’s isolated Friends registry was one of its better ideas. Screw them, we’ll start one ourselves. I commit to making one. Email me if you’re interested;
- LOCAL FRIENDS: I commit to finding half a dozen serious Quaker buddies in the drivable area to ground myself enough to be able to tip my toe back into the institutional miasma when led (thanks to Micah B who stressed some of this in a recent visit).
- PUBLIC FIGURES: I’ve let my blog deteriorate into too much of a “life stream,” all the pictures and twitter messages all clogging up the more Quaker material. You’ll notice it’s been redesigned. The right bar has the “life stream” stuff, which can be bettered viewed and commented on on my Tumbler page, Tumbld Rants. I’ll try to keep the main blog (and its RSS feed) more seriously minded.
I want to stress that I don’t want anyone to quit their meeting or anything. I’m just finding myself that I need a lot more than business-as-usual. I need people I can call lower-case friends, I need personal accountability, I need people willing to really look at what we need to do to be responsive to God’s call. Some day maybe there will be an established local meeting somewhere where I can find all of that. Until then we need to build up our networks.
Like a lot of my big idea vision essays, I see this one doesn’t talk much about God. Let me stress that coming under His direction is what this is all about. Meetings don’t exist for us. They faciliate our work in becoming a people of God. Most of the inward-focused work that make up most of Quaker work is self-defeating. Jesus didn’t do much work in the temple and didn’t spend much time at the rabbi conventions. He was out on the street, hanging out with the “bad” elements, sharing the good news one person at a time. We have to find ways to support one another in a new wave of grounded evangelism. Let’s see where we can all get in the next five years!
The NYTimes has a piece by an IBM employee who has largely freed himself from email by consciously using whatever social networking tool would be better at moving the conversation forward, whether it’s IM, wikis, or even (gasp!) the telephone. This line stood out for me:
I have had continuing support from my management in this effort, because I’ve been able to prove how much more I can accomplish by answering a question, and posting it on a blog, for example, than I can by answering the same question over and over. I still help people, but in a more open and collaborative fashion. Other people can join in the discussions — maybe they will have a better idea than mine.
This is exactly how I try to describe the blogging philosophy in the business world. Don’t think of the blog as another chore that needs to be added to your already overwhelmed to-do list. Instead, think about it as another communication tool so it becomes a seamless part of your ongoing work. This will no only help work flow, but help give your blog an honesty and approachability it wouldn’t have if you thought of it as simply another marketing piece.