Sunday, March 14, 2010

10 Ideas to Help Business Navigate Social Media

Almost a year ago I wrote a post called 5 Reasons Social Media is Like Sailing that was well-perceived. It’s time to update that post.

Since then I’ve come up with more reasons sailors might just have the right approach to social media for business. Even if you aren’t into sailing you might try these approaches to see if they don’t make your time in social media more positive and more productive.

Here then are 10 Ideas to Keep Biz Sailing Smoothly in Social Media:

1. Pick your boat carefully: Not every craft is right for every sailor just as in social media not every platform is right for every individual. Pick a platform that suits you. Work with one at a time and see what works.

2. Start slowly: Nobody goes from pond sailing to open-ocean sailing in a day, weeks or even years. Learn your own capabilities, learn from others and be willing to get dunked a few times along the way.

3. Find an old-salt/mentor: Every top sailor was at some point helped along by an experience hand. So it should be in social media: Find someone who literally knows the ropes and can help you navigate your early days. They’ll also be there to stop you from drowning when you inevitably get wet a few times.

4. Learn to be ease in the environment: Just as being on the water can be a somewhat unnatural state for many beginning sailors, so can a newbie feel that their first days, weeks and months in social media can be slightly uncomfortable. Relax. Once you realize that the very worst that can happen is you may get a little wet once in a while then you’ll soon be loving every moment in social media.

5. The quickest route is NOT always a straight line: Like sailing, businesses in the social media space must navigate all kinds of challenges to get to their 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 (goals). The best-laid social media plans include contingencies to deal with these. Although the course may be less than perfectly straight, the well-planned business will reach its goals ahead of its competitors.

6. You can’t control the wind: But you can control the trim of your sails and heading of your boat. The winds at the intersection of social media and business can be unpredictable and are constantly swirling. As a business you need to monitor the breezes of public opinion so that if they should suddenly turn into a squall of bad publicity you can react appropriately.

7. When bad weather hits: You, your vessel and your crew had better be prepared. Having a well-trained crew/staff and a solid social media plan will help a business react in its best interests. The plan allows the captain/boss to sleep well at night knowing that his boat is ready for anything.

8. An efficient sailboat is the sum of its working parts: A combination of hull shape, sails, masts and rigging keep a sailboat moving forward. A business operating in social media is also about the right combination of components to keep it moving forward. A social media plan will assess existing strengths, competitive threats and business goals to come up with the correct combination to keep you moving forward.

9. You WILL find yourself becalmed: It’s 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 breeze (opportunity). Remember that the “calm usually comes right before the storm.” Using it to get your business ready is just smart sailing!

10. Sail away from the safe harbor: You should take a few chances. This great quote from Mark Twain (sent to me by the helpful and smart Marita Roebkes) says it best: “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. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

So, are you and your business ready to sail off and explore social media? I hope so. What other tips would you recommend for social media sailors?

Image is of The Man at the Wheel – the Gloucester Fishermen's Memorial Cenotaph, a tribute to local fishermen who have died at sea, in Gloucester, Mass. From FreePhoto

Possibly related posts
4 Steps to Social Media Success
Why Social Media? A Good vs. Evil Debate


  1. Mike,
    Thanks for a drawing again a great analogy between Social Media and Sailing and thanks for your nice words.

    Fair Winds and Following Seas on the ocean and in the social media space

  2. Love the sailing analogy! I am so very new and so often past two weeks I am clinging to the rail at the bow of the boat wondering how I am going to navigate the ocean of information and possibilities! I have been listening 2-3 weeks now; picking up 'accessories' for my craft - trying the ropes here and there. Today I started customizing a bit - releasing accessories that don't fit with where I am ( supposed) to be going. I would dearly love to find an old salt with time to guide me! Until that day I will continue to listen and be grateful for generous navigators such as yourself.

  3. Marita and Cari - thank you for the kind comments. As a sailor myself it just seems like such a natural fit to have social media and sailing be somehow related.

  4. Great article !
    A small contribution from an experienced sailman:

    When the storm is too violent, it is necessary to know how to use trickery with it, oppose to it frontally can be catastrophic because it is stronger than you: when it will have weakened you by starting to break you, it will be easy for it to pour you