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Do you know what I love about Times Square? The buzz. The activity. The lights. The action.

Day or night, the half block in Manhattan is filled with people from all corners of the globe. It’s constantly moving, breathing, and shifting. For an extrovert like me, Times Square is bliss.

There’s a dark side to all the action, however. Do you know what it is? The non-stop influx of marketing messages.

The signs hanging above the Square provide a visual backdrop for the action. They’re “detached” advertising—almost serving as works of art.

But the “beauty” gives way to the street-level vendors selling their $2 tchotchkes and Rolex knock-offs. The in-your-face advertising quickly becomes intrusive, unwanted, and ubiquitous.

Many of our social media feeds are becoming the digital version of Times Square.

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing a HUGE influx of scheduled or “buffered” links in the accounts I follow. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of Buffer. They’ve done an amazing job at crafting a product, educating their community, and resourcing any and all comers.

The problem is not with Buffer. Or Hootsuite. Or Sprout Social. Or any other service that helps us strategically schedule our content.

The problem creeps in when we think scheduling a bunch of links will somehow, magically, create social media momentum for us. When we fill our social networks with nothing but scheduled content, we become digital tchotchke peddlers, adding to the noise instead of rising above it.

Here’s the thing: everyone is scheduling links now. It’s a commodity. Just take one look at your feed and you’ll see what I mean. The telltale sign is usually a shortened “buff.ly” link pointing to a blog post or website.

Either way, the scheduled content is on the rise (and I’m not convinced that’s a good thing).

The problem is not with the scheduling. I use this strategy often. I think you should too. The problem is when we go on autopilot for the duration of our flight.

Many of us schedule links, abandon our post for the majority of the day, and then come back disappointed at the progress. report:

“No new follows? No retweets? Why isn’t anyone liking my page? It’s Facebook’s fault for making me pay to reach my fans! ZUCKERBERG!”

The question you need to answer is this: “How am I going to stand out from the crowd?” A good way to ensure you rise above the rest is mix up your content. Follow this formula:

  1. 20% Curated Content. Content created by other people related to your industry or passion area. This can be scheduled.
  2. 20% Created Content. Content created by you or your team related to your industry or passion area. This can be scheduled.
  3. 60% Audience Engagement. Responding to the human beings in your online community and treating them like real people. This cannot be scheduled.

You won’t hit it all the time, but you’re much more likely to get there if you have a target to shoot for.

The last time I was in Times Square, do you know who got my attention?

It wasn’t the giant billboards people paid a gajillion dollars to be on. It wasn’t the crappy purse knock-offs some folks were selling on the street.

It was a man, dressed up as Spiderman, who saw I was with my son and came up to us and convinced us to come into Toys R Us and pay for a picture with him. Creepiness aside, it was his one-on-one engagement that landed the sale.

In the words of Gary Vaynerchuk, “You can’t automate the human spirit.” How, then, shall we proceed?

Finn got bashful, so yours truly got a picture with Spidey.

Finn got bashful, so yours truly got a picture with Spidey.

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Have you ever had the experience where a rogue wave of emotion snuck up on you, seemingly out of nowhere?

You know, you’re just going about your day and suddenly find yourself blubbering like a two-year-old. (Like this.)

I was speaking to a group of church-based leaders a few months ago and, simply put, I started weeping. Like, borderline ugly cry.

I still can’t quite put it into words. I was simply overwhelmed by the task-at-hand for these leaders:

  • Many came from organizations with little or no budget for their web presence.
  • Two of them had no website.
  • Social media was a time luxury that many couldn’t afford.
  • Hardly any of them had someone on their staff who could help navigate a way forward.
  • They were the ones who needed the most help, yet would never be able to afford my consulting day-rate (and I’m cheaper than most…living in the midwest has its perks, yo).

When I left the event, I started working on a solution almost immediately. If I couldn’t work with them on a one-on-one basis, surely I could find another way to get them the training and support they so desperately needed.

Enter: The Social Church Online Intensive. The Intensive is a half-day training session filled with practical social media teaching and resources. We’re hosting an event April 24th from 1-5 PM and you can register this week for less than $100.

A few things you should know about the Social Church Online Intensive:

You get access forever. Once you register, you’ll be given access to an on-demand replay that’ll be yours to keep. Even if you can’t make the scheduled training day, make sure to register. You’ll get access to the exact same material we’ll go through during the scheduled intensive.

You can attend from anywhere. You don’t need to spend 80 percent of your continuing education budget on travel. We heard stories of teams watching and learning together, all from the comfort of their church. You’ll get high-quality teaching, strategy, and resources without having to travel anywhere.

It fits any budget. We’ve made this training as affordable as possible for any church. Many churches spend more than $99 on their weekly coffee budget! Take advantage today.

You’ll get a copy of my book. I’m super pumped to announce anyone who signs up for the Intensive this week will get a FREE electronic copy of my book, The Social Church. If you wait until next week to register, you will not get a copy of the book.

Church leaders love it. Here’s feedback from people who have been through the Intensive:

The Social Church Online Intensive gives you a plan to move forward with. – Cindy Brown

If you are overwhelmed with the though of social media and are looking for a place to start, this is the place. – Rick Estes

An essential step for any church to take as they consider what social media is for their church. – Sarah Howell

You will learn much more than you think you already know. Huge eye-opener and very practical. – Steve Wiseman

The Social Church Online Intensive was packed with great information. Our team had a hard time not wanting to stop every 10 minutes to discuss what we were learning. – Trina Lee

It was well worth the money and gives an excellent review of how to get started, and how to prioritize! – Jenny Koch

Here’s one more thing you should know: Price goes up next week. The price you’ll pay today will be more expensive if you wait until next week. Do not pay more. Do not wait until next week.

I’ve seen first-hand what this Intensive can do for churches. It breathes life into their social media and web presence. In a small way, it gives churches hope. It gives them a direction to move forward in. That’s worth getting emotional about, isn’t it?

Click below for more info and to register:

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I have a soft spot for people who take action.

Take Christian, for instance. Christian started Think Digital Academy, our social media coaching program, with 12 (TWELVE!) email addresses in his database.

No one was clicking his links. No one was reading his emails. No one was reading his blog. Nothing.

No traction. No movement. No amount of blog posting or buffered tweets were going to solve his problem.

Truthfully, most people in Christian’s situation would have quit long ago. But he had a vision of what he wanted his life to look like and wasn’t going to stop until he got traction.

(CUE: Soft spot)

That’s when Christian found Think Digital Academy. After implementing a few of the coaching tips and using the course resources, his list jumped from 12 to over 150 emails in 30 days. Huge. (That’s an 1150 percent increase, by the way.)

While that may not seem like a lot, the growth was more important for his psyche than anything else.

When I listened to him speak about the changes he was seeing, I heard hope. I heard the voice of someone who felt like he was finally in charge of his own life.

It’s been amazing to watch how this material has given him the confidence to move forward with (cautious) abandon. He’s changing what was previously thought to be unchangeable.

All from a program I created from the middle of an Iowan cornfield. Amazing.

You see, it’s been a full year since I launched my own business. 9 of those 12 months were spent creating, perfecting, and tweaking Think Digital Academy.

As I watch the first round of Academy members “graduate” next month (Christian included), I’m reminded of a few gems that make me smile. For instance:

  • Over 100 people, businesses, and organizations (125 to be exact) are in Think Digital Academy right now
  • Think Digital Academy was featured as one of the “12 Best Online Courses for Learning Practical Business Skills” in The Huffington Post
  • Two Academy members have quit their jobs because of the audience they were able to build using materials in the course

What a privilege to watch all this happen!

As I thought about what’s next for members after they leave the Academy, I saw a common theme emerge from course feedback.

What do people want to concentrate on next? Two words: personal branding.

In fact, the last class I taught at Drake University only confirmed my suspicions. When I asked the students, “if you could have any class in the world that’s not currently being offered, what would it be?” Immediately, almost all of them answered, “personal branding.”

That’s why I’m thrilled to bring you Think Digital Masters Class. It’ll be a 4-month course focused on personal branding and living life on your own terms.

We’re taking applications right now and you should consider applying IF (and only IF):

  1. You want to break out of the 9-to-5 job you mildly tolerate (at best)
  2. You’ve got an entrepreneurial bug that won’t stop biting
  3. You want to earn extra income on the side but aren’t ready to quit your full-time gig
  4. You want to blog or write for a living

If one (or more) of those qualifiers describes you, click here and enter your info. We’ll get you an application ASAP.

Please note: We are only taking 10-12 applicants in this first round of the Masters Class. I want to ensure a great experience for the first (and subsequent) rounds, so we need to keep it super small. Don’t waste time if you’re interested.

Take action and start living the life you want by building your personal brand. It’s truly the most unique offering you can bring to the table. Don’t waste it!