Alright, so in the back (or the front) of my mind since I purchased a ’98 Camaro Z28* was facing my fear of the manual transmission. I instantly drew many similarities to how businesses view social media in their business. No bystanders were hurt in the making of this blog entry.
The first question anyone (including my dad) would ask is, “Why in the world would you buy a stick?” I’ll answer that briefly – it’s time to learn it, it’s time to conquer it and I’d like to graduate my driving tastes. A follow-up question would be, “Why a Camaro [for your first stick]?” Admittedly, it isn’t the best “learner” car out there, but I’ve had my eyes set on this car since I was in high school.
You have to understand this. My only prior experience to driving a stick was on a quarter mile track in high school. Driving a straight line – four gears – then clutch in, go to neutral and brake. That’s it. I was quintessentially a stick-shift newbie. Many business owners have only heard of social media, but never have actually done it. This is the angle where I’m coming from.
Many businesses view social media the same. Social media is the dark matter they can’t quite understand. Social media is that beast that takes patience, effort or money. Social media is that puzzle they’ve yet to figure out. It’s not like a merger; it’s not like a customer service operation; it’s not like a marketing team. It’s a blend. I can empathize with small business owners who would much rather travel down the road in their automatic transmission. It is easier. Let’s be honest … it’s even cheaper.
I faced failure head-on. I held disciplined optimism despite all odds. I stalled a couple times at an intersection. I burned out at another. Three intersections later, I now have smooth starts. I kept faith that I will learn the stick. And I did. For now, I kept it to city streets and a few rural ones. That’s okay; I know I will graduate onto the highway soon. Eventually, I’ll graduate to the quarter-mile track. Maybe even a circuit track for the ultimate thrill. (According to YouTube, this car can handle 150MPH…)
I asked others close to me their inside advice on driving a stick. I couldn’t count how many “what-if” scenarios played through my head. One theme in the responses – stay calm. Don’t overexert yourself, worse-case scenario is you can chill in neutral or ride the clutch for a bit. Oddly though, their advice never quite “stuck” with me. It’s not that they’re wrong, but driving a stick requires kinetic learning. In other words, you learn it by doing it. Sure enough, their advice stuck once I messed up a few times and it all came back to me. I also budgeted my learning curve by pricing out a clutch so I manage the inevitable risk that I prematurely wear out my clutch. Managing risk is key to building confidence.
Social media is the same. Many people ask me “how do I […], how should I […], tell me about […],” and my answers are usually subjective based on their audience, purpose and their motive. There are no “universal” rules that apply to social media. I generally arrive at the same conclusion in my answers: listen to your audience, be creative and care. It’s actually pretty difficult to screw up at social media, unless you try to. After all, you don’t start your car in sixth; you don’t start out being the best either in social media.
Driving a stick is no different. You’ll see me probably jerk the car, race the engine, chirp the tires for a while. But you’ll also witness me listening to the car for feedback, adjusting accordingly, smoothing out my shifts and caring about the car. Failure isn’t an issue when you’re taking action to overcome it.
The similarities are too clear and vivid to ignore. Have patience, listen and don’t be an idiot. You will screw up — not once, not twice, but many times. It’s what you do afterward that counts. Once you get the basics down, everything is much easier, enjoyable and you’ll feel more confident about it.
I love my car, I love learning my car and soon my car will love me. Businesses can have the same feeling with social media if they have the right attitude going into it. The best part is, once you become skilled at it, the benefits reciprocate and everyone’s having a great time.
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*Pictures coming soon…
Image credit: rmgimages