“…dream it all up again.”

Last fall, I decided to prune over 300 Twitter followers. From 480 down to the high 170’s. Pruning is the key word here. A number of the users/brands I stopped following were good, but I felt the need to get back to basics with life and work. I was wondering if I moving forward with my social media use, or just making a bunch of noise? I wanted to get back to square one with what I was doing on Twitter. A calibration.

Every so often, I go through my social media profiles and think through how I use them. How I interact. How I speak. How I listen. How I live. I’ll make course corrections if I think I’m getting off track with it and what my mission is with life and work. And then I keep moving forward, but with a new course perhaps.

Coming out of Thinc Iowa, I felt the need to strip away some of the noise in my life. I had a bit of a sense I was moving in all sorts of directions, and wanted to make sure I was on mission. As Nate Silver might say, “I needed to remove the noise so I could discern the signal.” It’s been good as I’ve been more focused on what my mission is with work. My schedule has been refined and more effective, especially on the home front.

With the Online Campus, this was especially helpful. One of the questions I asked was, “Who am I spending my time interacting with on Twitter?” I’m a husband and a dad of (soon-to-be) four boys. I needed to be a bit more strategic with my Twitter use. I didn’t want to remove the element of fun from it, but part of my work is to leverage social media to further and deepen relationships and community. As a pastor, I wanted to make sure I was loving and serving those I was called to.

Also, I didn’t want to lose sight of my community and cultural context. Yes, I am an Online Campus Pastor which means, in theory, the people I pastor are anywhere in the world. However, the analytics reveal that 75% of the visitors to the Online Campus are within Omaha’s media market. Expanded even more, we are Midwest heavy with our audience when we factor in Minneapolis, Chicago, Des Moines, Kansas City and more. I wanted to make sure I was taking in more input with that context in mind. While I’d love to see an increase in audience on the coasts, that’s not the reality right now for the Online Campus. I removed some of the “noise” that didn’t fit those contexts as well.

The results? Over the past four months we saw the best growth of the Online Campus. There were a number of factors that played into this, but I believe one of the factors was me becoming more efficient and effective with my resources and how I invested them with the Online Campus.

I was able to hear the signal better because the noise had been stripped away.

I’ve viewed the Online Campus somewhat as a dynamic system.* Basic wording, “the behavior of the system at one point in time influences its behavior in the future”. Was its/my behavior moving it toward accomplishing its mission? Chaos theory talks about how even small changes can have tremendous ripple effects. What were the small changes I could implement that could bring about positive change in the future of the Online Campus?

*Again, the influence of Nate Silver.

Last September, we averaged 253 at the Online Campus. This year? We are averaging over 400. Again, there are a number of factors that have led to this. I’m picking out one, the Twitter pruning, because the motivation behind it allowed me to hear the signal better from the noise. I was able to better define the current reality and proceed. It helped me implement changes that have yielded growth.

Here I am four months later from the calibration. I’m pleased with the results, but also looking ahead. The behavior of the past four months has influenced the now, and that will influence what is to come. I have to keep being vigilant in staying the course and stripping away the noise so I don’t get off mission. What worked then doesn’t necessarily mean it will work now as effectively.

In the meantime, one thing I’m starting to do is follow more Twitter accounts again. Adding a few accounts I had dropped before, but also adding a few new ones. Where I am now, and where I want to go with the Online Campus, has me following more people again. And making sure it isn’t noise.

I’ve gone from “maintaining” to “moving forward” when it comes to the Online Campus. I’m excited to see what takes place in 2013 with the Online Campus.

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