I was at the gym this morning running on the tread mill. Since I’ve been doing a lot of weight training recently, I now have extra strength in my leg muscles that makes running much easier. I quickly found myself running at the front of the treadmill, as if my feet were gripping the tread and pulling it back. This is much different than the way I had been running, in the middle of the treadmill, touching the tread as it ran under me. I then experimented with running at the back of the treadmill – which felt like trying to catch up. Sometimes, it can even be a little scary because it feels like you might fall off.
The funny thing is, in all three instances I was actually running at the same speed. But the difference of my mental state between being at the front, center or back was significant. These three positions serve as a good metaphor for how you define you or your organization’s relationship to social media. Let’s look at all three:
Running at the center of the treadmill is a reactive position. You are basically letting the treadmill run you. Something happens, you respond. It’s the position of being the follower or the fan. It’s the marketer who says, “Yeah, we got that facebook thing covered. We’ll post our PR and discounts there as well”. Or it’s the impulse to use idea from a competitor instead of finding a unique application of social media for your organization. When you run your social media marketing campaign in a reactive way, you aren’t taking full advantage of the medium. You’re watching the road go by. You might not fall behind, but you’re not going to get ahead. If you approach social media with this attitude, you won’t gain any advantage from it that your competitors don’t have as well.
We’ve all been here at some point in our lives, just trying to keep up with things. This is the organization who might have a facebook page, but hasn’t updated it in months, or updates it as an after thought. If you or your organization is behind on embracing and using social media, the only thing you can do to recover is to make it a priority. The further you fall behind, the harder it will be to get something going. The effort required is actually less than you imagine. The most difficult part is changing your “we’re behind” mental state. Yet it’s that mental state that prevents you from exerting the effort to get on top of it. Just as having a company website is just now part of the regular cost of doing business, so is having a social media presence. If you don’t, your business will slowly decline and you’ll fall off the treadmill.
The amount of energy it takes to run at the front is actually the same as the center or the back. Marketing work is marketing work. The only difference is that someone at the front took a few moments to accelerate their speed to get there. Taking some time to get up to speed with social media tools and strategize how to use them is the most critical thing you can do. Marketing is about creating buzz and social media tools enable marketers to innovate. You can create new buzz in a whole new way! When you take the lead position, you are instigating the social media cycle. You aren’t just responding, you are contributing the media stream. You build followers and fans. And once you are innovating, it gets easier to keep innovating, because you will be buoyed by the responses to your work.
Remember, it’s not about how fast you are running – every marketer feels like they are running. It’s about where you run. If you aren’t running at the front, you’re letting the treadmill run you. And if you let that go long enough, the social media treadmill will run you over.