Forgive the cheesy title, but I’m starting to pick up running again and am finding a lot of analogies of what businesses can learn about social media from training for a marathon. No, I’ve never run a marathon, my longest race being a 10K run decades ago (#justagedmyself). I’m not training for a marathon, either, just the ability to at least run a 5K in the spring. But businesses who are looking to get started in social media can learn a lot from what I am going through now as I am trying to work my body into better shape.
Here are my 6 reasons why social media for business is like training for a marathon:
1) Is Your Company Truly Committed?
I began running as part of a New Year’s Resolution. It’s a resolution that recognizes that this has to be an important part of my life. Social media has to be an important and integral part of any business in 2011. Furthermore, as I say time in and time out, Social Media is a Commitment, NOT a Campaign. So who’s overseeing your social initiative at your company? Did you outsource it to an agency to have someone else build your social brand? Hire interns to do it? Or are your executives involved and you have a road map in place outlining how you could ramp up once the benefits are seen and already foresee having a separate social media division within your corporate entity? Does your company even have a social media policy in place? Are you training for a marathon or for a one-time 100 yard dash? Is your company trying to accomplish something great and lasting or ephemeral? I see the marathon that is social media no different than the marathon that finding a job seems to be for many.
2) Do You Have a Social Media Strategy for Business?
How do you have a plan to guide you in training for a marathon? You need a road map, a blueprint, a plan of action that will help you achieve your goal. You need a strategy. You don’t just go out there and start running with no plan, right? So why do so many companies just start engaging in the tactics of tweets and posts without a greater game plan?
3) Are You Too Pre-Occupied with ROI Concerns That You’re Missing Out on the Potential?
Why do I run? Because it’s healthy. I’ll shed some pounds, and I know I’ll feel really good about myself which will lead to greater efficiency and happiness in everything I do. I don’t need to calculate the ROI to understand that exercising is something I need to do. Companies build websites without calculating the ROI. Why, then, are you trying to calculate the ROI of social efforts instead of starting to implement a plan? Just like training for the marathon, the ROI of your activities will be an afterthought after you start the process, just like what happens when you start engaging with the community and your potential customers on social websites. I’m not saying the ROI of social is not important nor that you can’t calculate it, which you partially can. I’m saying that you’re missing the full benefits of a social presence if you’re only scrutinizing the ROI, that’s all.
4) Do You Start Off Walking or Running?
So you start the actual training for the marathon. Do you all of the sudden start running 26 miles? Of course not! I started by walking a brisk 3.0 to 3.5 miles per hour pace for several workouts to build my stamina before I started to actually jog. Social media isn’t any different. You’re not going to all of the sudden tweet 20 times a day and blog daily. You’re first going to listen, and then when you feel confident in your strategy, you’re going to start off in a way that you feel is sustainable. Walk before running.
5) What’s Your Workflow?
Going forward, I am slowly increasing the distance as well as pace at which I run. I have a system in place and know what I need to do each time I run. Does your company have a similar system for your social media for business activities? Do you stick to your tactics, your daily fitness schedule? What about your social workflow? Are you engaging in social arenas for business day in and day out? If not, you won’t survive. And you wouldn’t be able to train up for a marathon either. And please stop asking yourself, “How much time do I need to spend in social media?” Your strategy and tactics, combined with gauging their effectiveness, will be your best guidance here.
6) Does Engaging with the Public Excite You?
When you get into the swing of running, you get to feel really good about yourself. You also get “runner’s high.” That keeps you going to the point where you truly enjoy running. Obviously, regardless of the motivation, if you don’t like running, it’s going to be painful for you to run a marathon! Is your organization equally excited about your social efforts? Does your Community Manager absolutely thrive on engaging with others in the community? Have all of the decision makers in the organization bought in to your social strategy and are equally excited about truly communicating with your present and future clients in a new and exciting way? If not, your social efforts might go the way of those who’s New Year’s Resolutions didn’t make it into February…
Now it’s your turn: Any other analogies you can draw to add to this list for business? C’mon runners, support me here! And if you see things differently, may the debate begin!