Tuesday, April 7, 2009

5 Reasons Social Media is Like Sailing

Or why sailors may make the best Social Media consultants!

There are many analogies between pastimes and business, but because I’m a sailor I have been struck by the parallels between sailing and Social Media. I also happen to think that business generally is best-served when sailors – or would-be sailors – are at the helm: they have faith in their skill, their vessel and their ability to navigate even the worst of tempests.

Here then are five parallels between sailing and Social Media for business (you may think of more and I welcome feedback):

1. You can’t control the wind
It is always true: You cannot control the wind, only the trim of your sails and heading of your boat. The winds of public opinion and customer satisfaction are unpredictable and constantly swirling. As a business you need to be aware of those winds and their subtle or not-so-subtle shifts. Social Media monitoring allows the business enterprise to react to sudden squalls of bad publicity and to get the most out of any favorable “winds” of opinion that come your way.

2. When bad weather hits
When bad weather hits … as it assuredly will: You, your vessel and your crew had better be prepared. Davey Jones’ Locker is lined with the boats and crews who set out ill-prepared for sudden changes in the weather. The same will happen to businesses ill-prepared to handle a crisis within their community and their customer base. A professional and rigorous Social Media Plan will help a business know what to do when the sudden tempests hit. It will also allow the “captain” to sleep well at night knowing his business and his “crew” are prepared and have a plan for any eventuality.

3. A well-founded sailboat is a sum of its efficient working parts
Just as a sailboat moves forward through a combination of hull shape, sails, masts and rigging, a business in the Social Media space needs to be about the combination of the right elements to keep it moving forward. A professional Social Media Plan will assess existing strengths, competitive threats and business goals to come up with the correct combination of parts to keep your business sailing forward.

4. The quickest route to port is NOT always a straight line
Like sailing, business in the Social Media world must navigate all kinds of challenges to get to its goals. Along the way there are likely to be winds (customer feedback) and currents (the business climate) that challenge a business trying to get to its port (business goals). The best-laid Social Media Plans will include contingencies to deal with these. Although the course may be less than perfectly straight, the business will get to its goals ahead of its competitors.

5. You can, and sometimes WILL, find yourself becalmed
What do you do if forward motion ceases? What can you do with the time on your hands? This is not something to fear. A thorough Social Media Plan includes a list of “To Do” items that are not pressing, but certainly help make the enterprise if not stronger at least better able to make the most of the next opportunity. Remember that the “calm usually comes right before the storm.” Using it to ready your business is just smart sailing!


  1. Just popping over from the 31 day challenge! I think you did an AWESOME job on your list post! I love how you tied the sailing theme in so well!

    - Kendall

  2. Mike,
    what a great post. Cannot agree more.

    Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Mark Twain (1835-1910)

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. What a great analogy. I could probably write an epic comment of 100 pages...

    Bet YES - what a great analogy. As a sailor you have to develop certain skills, of which one is to render yourself into the forces of nature. One saying accompanied my sailor life that I use more in business than in sailing: "You cannot direct the wind but you can adjust the sail"

    In social media more than in any other business discipline you need to "render" yourself into the situation of the market as a sum of all your customers, prospects and partners. You can't direct them nor EXPECT to get a deal, nor EXPECT your sales guys to close some because you say so. It actually never worked that way - but "sailing" through the social media ocean gives you the real world like never before.

    So yes, you need to have a plan, and yes, you need to have skills, you also have to have the patience and more so you need to develop a very special skill that only comes when you are out in the waters - listening. You hear not only the wind but also the ocean, you feel the currents, you feel the pressure against the rudder and you sense the forces in your mast, the rig and the sail.

    If you don't you won't get far, you won't have fun, you will be frustrated and by trying much harder it gets worst - very much like social media - the forces are the thousands of people who either love you, or hate you, work with you or ignore you. It's all up to you.

    Thanks for the story - Mike


  5. Point Five, when there is a calm, get out your paddle and put in some manual work. Everything you can to distance yourself from the competition.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Kendall, Marita, Axel and Tom: Thank you so much for your comments and input. I greatly appreciate it.

  8. GREAT analogy!! And I completely agree w/@AxelS on the value of listening. This post is definitely RT-worthy!

  9. There are many analogies between pastimes and business, but because I’m a sailor I have been struck by the parallels between sailing and Social Media. Buy Real Instagram Followers

  10. It may seem that its polar environment hockey can be too challenging to find out as a adult but starting just as one adult seemingly doable along with starting just as one adult perhaps has their advantages. Ice baseball is very complicated to find out than alot of team athletics because you will need to learn tips on how to skate simply uses learn tips on how to play its polar environment hockey. www.scorespro.com