Last night, I returned back to trapeze for the first time in 6 months. I had one injury before the wedding and managed to slightly injure myself in a fall during our honeymoon, so it’s been a while since I’ve been able to attend class. Going last night though made me think about this piece I published on Buzzfeed back in June 2014. It’s still pretty much on point.
I’ve only been doing flying trapeze for five and a half years, but fighting my way to improve bit by bit over that time has led me to see lots of similarities between it and social media – as I think we can agree that at some times, our social communities can feel a bit like a circus!
1. Practice, practice, practice.
I’ve been doing the same trick at trapeze for the last three years. THREE YEARS. Week after week, going through the same steps to try to accomplish the same trick. It takes dedication. ANd patience. Lots of patience. Reviewing videos and realizing what you can do to improve. What you did along the way that made it impossible for the catcher to reach your hands.
Similar with social, it’s repetition. Committing to the little things along the way for the benefit of coming out ahead in the long haul. Trying daily to publish content you think will reasonate. If it falls flat, know that come tomorrow, you’ll get another chance to see if you found something that is more engaging.
It’s also about experimenting. Poking around on new platforms to see how they work, what’s wrong with them (as often is the case with new ones). If you don’t do this and are content to just stick to the originals (ehem, MySpace to name one), you’re going to look back and see your competitors are already on the new platforms with a community they’ve built.
And over time, you’ll try different approaches. Maybe it was a timing game – perhaps you didn’t publish at the best time for your key audience. You’ll try it next time at a different time. Maybe you’ll tweak the post length, or choose an alternate visual. There are so many ways to refine and hone in on what works for you and your particular audience.
2. Prioritize your goals.
When I’m flying through the air trying to do a handstand off the bar before completing the rotation, releasing, and hitting the net, there is no more than 8-10 seconds in total to remember everything I want to change. Combining tackling all of that in one turn? Not impossible. Not realistic. And that’s okay.
Similarly with social, you can’t do it all. You can’t add your organization to and start publishing content on every additional new channel at one time. Besides that, the truth is, not all channels will be appropriate for your brand. That’s okay too. When you’re trying to change and improve perhaps your tone and your content, you also have to prioritize your energy. A list in order of importance will help you to accomplish things and have realistic expectations. All-around win.
3. Start with the basics before you get fancy.
I love watching the super strong flyers at trapeze – the ones I know before they ever tell me were either gymnasts or dancers. Their bodies know how to do what mine has to be scolded to get. I may be watching them do a double out of safety lines, but I know that I’m doing what I need to be. Once I’ve proved I have mastered what I’m working on (a layout), then I know I will have the opportunity to try something new.
With social, it’s very much the same. Get comfortable with publishing on a platform like Google+ before you decide to host a very publicized Hangout on Air for your brand. Make a personal Vine, playing with the edit tool and creating a smooth end result before you try to stage something more complex for a company or client project or initiative. It’ll save you on time and money (as well, for bigger initiatives, potentially your corporate reputation).
4. Be open to feedback at every turn, but prioritize its importance based on the source.
Critics are everywhere. I hear comments from my fellow trapeze classmates, but I’ll admit I pay most attention to my teacher (probably because he set records in Ringling Brothers over his amazing career).
When it comes to social and your community you’ll get feedback – and the negative for the normal brand will usually outweigh the negative. Take the feedback for sure. It’s valuable (and something marketing teams everywhere pay to receive). However, prioritize it, realizing that you can’t please everyone in social. Know your brand and what it stands for – but know what’s important enough to bend on. You’ll know a need for change when you see it.
5. We’re not going to all be in Cirque du Soleil. And no, we can’t all be Oreo.
I’m taking classes as a recreational flyer at a facility where people are in the professional training program. I’ve learned to acknowledge that as a former flutist attending school on a music scholarship I am not likely to ever be able to do half of what they are doing – as a fellow classmate Sue noted this week, even if my lifetime was tripled.
Similarly, remember that watching the brands who are able to act and maneuver and who have had those big “moments” with everyone watching that are highlighted everywhere can set the bar at an unrealistic place for your organization. I believe that it’s our role as social to try to push the limits – question our organizations to try to get the answer from a yes to a no on just about all requests. It’s important to take these cases for what they are – opportunities for learning ways to improve, period.