One of the quickest ways to flummox an Adirondack mountaineer is to say you’ve come to the area unsure of what you want to climb. Similarly, if you tell people you’ve jumped into social media to promote your college, organization or business, they’ll scoff if you say you haven’t planned the whole thing out.
Both mountaineering and learning the ropes of social media require preparation, hard work and determination. As I hiked Indian Falls last week, I pondered some other parallels between exploring the mountains and social media.
Know your options. In the mountains, you’ll want to know what hikes are available, how challenging they are and how they match your ability. While you shouldn’t have to map out mission statements and full social-media plans before engaging in Web 2.0, you should know what tools to consider (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.), what they will require of you and how much you can tackle. On either end of the metaphor, you want to avoid getting lost or taking on something that you can’t accomplish.
Say hello. An overwhelming majority of those you’ll meet on hikes will say hi or return your hello. You can engage in — or overhear — the most interesting discussions. The same with social media: One of the first things you should do is say hello to people and engage in conversations. Just the way folks you meet on a mountain can give you good advice, so can others working in social media become great sources of ideas, sounding boards and resources for any questions.
Pause once in a while. There’s a tendency while mountaineering to keep driving on non-stop. But I find it better to stop and catch your breath once in a while, enjoying the burst of energy upon continuing. Just like with social media: If all you’re doing is reacting and day-to-day maintenance, it’s hard to think about what you’re doing, what else you should do or even not do. You should take time to evaluate where you are on the trail, how achievable your goals are or rather you should seek another peak.
In either pursuit, remember it’s worth the effort. When you reach the top of the mountain, the payoff is the tremendous view and sense of achieving a goal. With social media, there’s no one summit that marks an end, but the continuing journey, the connections you make, the problems you solve are the real rewards.