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Social Media Marketing Expertise: Master the Half Pipe, Master of None

Posted on Jul 20th, 2011
Written by Lee Odden
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  • Social Media Marketing Expertise: Master the Half Pipe, Master of None
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    Mastering Online MarketingThis is the second of my “workation” blog posts this week, so I hope you enjoy the brevity.

    My oldest son is a relatively new fan of skateboarding and I’ve noticed some interesting comparisons with his advancement of skills to the experience of many social media marketers – or any new discipline for that matter.

    To be clear, I don’t know much about skateboarding beyond the games of suicide and smear we played as kids, skateboarding down the hill by my childhood home. Think “Mad Max” on skateboards. There were no ramps, half-pipes or skateboard parks back then. Trust me, it was a very, very long time ago.  But the challenge of learning something new, seeing other accomplished skaters and the social aspect made it appealing and fun.

    As with skateboarding, there are accomplished and highly promoted individuals in the social media marketing world that attract people to the promise of achieving the same. The appeal of  seeing others that are successful (or the appearance of success) plus the ease of online publishing has brought a deluge of “social media experts” to the web. Clearly, “expert” is a relative term.

    As I’ve watched my son start practicing with his skateboard on a half pipe, it seemed hard at first. But after iterative improvements & watching others who obviously focused on developing their own skills, he got the hang of it. But in the scheme of things, mastering a single half-pipe means very little in the skateboarding world.

    Credit to him that he’s never called himself an expert or even a great skateboarder during this formative stage. Not that I have a problem with that, people calling themselves “expert”, but I do appreciate the focus on growing expertise over grandstanding.  With each successful trick accomplished, he’s also realized that there’s still more to learn. And I’ve tried to reinforce that the learning will never end. When you’re really passionate about something, the journey of learning, testing, failing, succeeding, challenging and connecting with similar interests is where accomplishment comes from.

    What does that have to do with social media marketing?  My 14+ years in the online marketing industry overall and more recently in areas like social media marketing are a passion and an opportunity for eternal learning. I am a student that will always seek to advance meaningful knowledge that can be used to advance success for my team, our clients and our online marketing agency.  For each thing mastered, there are many, many more ahead.

    The industry changes. Customers change. Tools change and so does the level of competition as others advance their individual and collective organizational knowledge of social business. Knowing that things will change is really interesting to me and I enjoy working with a team and industry peers that feel the same way.

    As a reader of this blog, I think it’s safe to assume you’re someone that is interested in learning and advancing your own skills.  I would hope that we continue to be a resource in this way. I would also like to think that our readers might buy into the notion that success in the social media marketing world is the journey not a singular destination.

    Self professed social media experts that align themselves with superficial KPIs and social proof as business value are something to view with some skepticism. Your time is valuable and in an age of information overload, it can be tempting to follow the shiniest objects. I challenge readers to measure their exposure to social media marketing information sources to a healthy mix of: Subject Matter Experts, Research and MOST of all, your own hypothesis, testing and discovery.

    Get ideas from watching others, but keep in mind that your most effective mastery will come from testing things out yourself. My son got great ideas about skateboarding tricks from watching others, but he certainly didn’t master anything until he tried those things himself. He also learns by testing new things and sharing those experiences with others.  Master your social media half pipe, then find another, and another and build your ability to adapt and evolve with new tools, industry changes and marketing problems to solve.

    I guess I failed on the “brevity” promise for this post. But hopefully I inspired some thinking about how you’re advancing the social media marketing knowledge of your organization and for yourself.  Do you see social media marketing as something that can be mastered? How do you approach individual and organizational learning when it comes to the social web?