In praise of social media mediocrity

Mediocrity is the New Excellence

Mediocrity is the New Excellence

Social media rewards consistency, persistence, and attention, even if it isn’t super-service or if you take a full 24-hours to respond to a query or concern.

My advice for blogging and social media marketing alike is as follows: 20-minutes-a-day with an hour once-a-week. If you spend any less time than that, you’re really not a content marketer; however, spending this amount of time on social media brand promotion and protection is really just barely enough time to keep things moving forward.

It’s mediocre work and you’ll never win any awards for doing the bare minimum; however, if you can keep showing up every work day and then spend an extra hour once-a-week, and you can do that persistently and consistently over time, you’ll start seeing some impressive results.

Social media rewards consistency, persistence, and attention, even if it isn’t super-service or if you take a full 24-hours to respond to a query or concern (I mean, you’re only spending 20-minutes-a-day on it, and probably early in the AM, over lunch, or before you go home).

Come on! You’re not @AmericanAir, and you don’t need to be. My flight was grounded en route to SXSW, I tweeted complaint, and AA got back to me on Twitter by the time I deplaned — you probably don’t need to offer that much service, do you?

Don’t worry, after exploring your competitors online, the bar is really low: everyone has a link to Twitter and Facebook on their web site but very few shops are actively engaged. If you just spend that minimum on your social media, you’ll only be participating, you’ll only be showing up, but you’ll still be out there doing it.

Showing up is good enough for social media marketing. There, I said it. If you can get a mediocre social media marketing campaign up and running, keep it relatively cheap by implementing cheats and software tools, and then keeping it going forever and ever ad infinitum, then you’ll be able to benefit from being there, being relatively responsive, over the long-term.

Being mediocre over the course of a very long, fruitful, life is always preferable to being exceptional, burning bright, and then burning out. Participation is key, you don’t have to be the star. We’re too focused on gold, sliver, and bronze and not focused enough on running the race; we’re too focused on the drama of going from the couch to the marathon and not just focused enough on becoming a runner-for-life.

And I see the paradox, too. While I always say that life is a marathon and not a sprint, I was wrong; life is running a few times-a-week for the rest of your life, and so is social media marketing.

Participation is more than good enough for most of us.

Exceptional and world-class athletes are rare-birds — they’re outliers. They’re rounding errors. If you’re already a world-class social media marketer, a globally-acknowledged digital content marketer, then you’re probably not reading this, or at least this far.

And while participation awards are openly mocked in the media, I must put my foot down: just throwing your hat in and committing should be lauded! It’s not easy to get out of bed in the morning and put in the training to cross the finish line at a 10k nor is it easy to gear up every day to make it to the dojo or the field, suit up, and leave it all on the field, whether or not you’re properly-competitive.

Imagine the sort of heart, persistence, and passion one must have to be an Olympian who knows he’ll never medal — ever; imagine being the racer who knows he’ll never even make the Olympics; imagine the racer who never wins a race, ever, but keeps pinning on his bib number, lacing up his shoes, and covering the 5K, 10K, 13.1 miles, or 26.2 miles within his time allotment, to say nothing of all the daily training it takes to even be able to race at all without killing himself.

Most runners will run for about 20 minutes each and every morning with a longer run over the weekend; some runners will put in 45-minutes-a-day with a longer run on the weekend; some runners run three-times-a-week and take the weekends off. It’s all good, they’re all runners.

Why? Because they run all year long, because they race, because they know how to use a treadmill, because they subscribe to Runner’s World, because they wear out shoes every six months or 300 to 400 miles. Any of them, all of them.

But the moment you stop running, you’re not really a runner anymore, are you?

The same thing can be said about social media marketing. Just because you set up a bunch of social media profiles, wrote a bunch of blog posts, got a bunch of followers, and even tried out Pinterest and Google+ in a big way, you’re not really a social media marketer, guru, maven, or expert, if you’re not still monitoring, posting, commenting, and contributing.

Here’s the narrative behind my impetus for writing this post: I am participating in the World Erg Challenge with three of my friends. This is an annual challenge that takes place globally, virtually, and in the seats of the Concept2 Indoor Rower, the same rowing machine you see in most gyms and CrossFit studios.

It’s a regatta of sorts. And we have a team, Team Grotto. But, unlike a regatta on a river near a fancy college, online races between virtual boats happens not over a weekend but over a month — at least when it comes to the WEC.

Well, two of the four of my virtual boat mates are animals. They routinely row north of 10,000 meters-per-day — a 10K-a-day — and sometimes will make an 8-hour push through a half-marathon, 21k meters, and then 42k meters, a marathon, all the way to 100k meters! Me? I am mediocre, putting in a semi-religious 4,000-7,000 meters/day.

I aspire to do a 10k/day but I peter out closer to 6k/day. And during the last race, I felt terrible. I saw Stephen Dee and Douglas Kim power away from me, tens of thousands of meters ahead of me in the race, and felt constant pangs of guilt and unworthiness until I hit a crossroads: quit or get over it.

I chose “get over it.”

And I still aspire to 10K /day. And I am being mentored by Stephen and Douglas, too, and they have great advice like “stop rowing so hard, you’ll never make it to 10,000 meters” and “set the PM3 (the rower’s computer) to 10,000 meters and keep slow and steady until you make it.”

Excellent advice.

I rowed in college so when I get onto the machine, I get competitive, imagining a petite-but-fierce coxswain screaming at me like some tiny Drill Instructor, and I want to pull hard — but pulling hard isn’t the goal of this race, accumulating the most meters possible, over time, between March 15, 2013, and April 15, 2013, is the only metric.

In other words, committed mediocrity is well-rewarded in this challenge: The Tortoise and the Hare exemplified!

The same competitive nature kicks in when I get to work, too. Because I am in the business of social media marketing, my standards are very high. However, I have been doing quite a bit of comparative research, looking at the social media profiles and performance of hundreds of DC-area companies, most of which with revenues well north of 100-million-dollars-per-year — oftentimes pushing a billion — and the general consensus is that no matter how poorly you perform your daily social media marketing tasks, you won’t nearly be the worst by any means, but if you pattern your social media campaign on their terrible examples, you won’t even be mediocre, you’ll downright suck at this.

So, while there’s quite a distance between social media mediocrity and social media A-list brand celebrity, there’s also an equal distance down, and it’s dark and treacherous. Consider social media mediocrity to be a de-facto purgatory: neither heaven nor hell.

Being in social media purgatory is not ideal by any means but if you have to choose between A) a hot and heavy, high-resource, social media marketing strategy par excellence only to peter out, becoming a zombie ghost town B) no social media strategy C) hot and heavy but only on Facebook or Twitter (or even just Facebook and Twitter) or D) a consistent, good enough, posting across Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Instagram forever and ever, I will always recommend D.

Why? Well, there’s nothing worse for a brand reputation than showing abandonment by leaving social media ghost towns, zombielands, or brand placeholders.

And it’s not uncommon, either. And the general consensus is that the corporate bean-counters — the people who control the purse strings — demand a perceived Return on Investment (ROI) and very few social media marketing campaigns know how to give our bosses the sort of gifts that they need in order to keep a best-in-class, premium, social media marketing campaign running much longer than three-to-six months before the powers-that-be put an end to it.

Like running, social media marketing shouldn’t require a lot of start-up costs: a good pair of shoes for running and an Internet-connected computer for marketing through social media. What’s expensive for the both is time: running takes time and energy and so does social media marketing.

Social media mediocrity done right should only require a good pair of shoes and some time put aside every morning to put in the time, put in the miles. If you do this every day and have no end-date in sight — meaning you plan to do this forever — then you’ll see so many changes: your Klout will rise, your followership will increase, your engagement will improve, and your friends, followers, and prospects will get to know and trust you. Before long both you, your bean counters, your bosses, and the powers that be will start seeing the true value of social media and content marketing and they’ll probably start giving you the support that you require to take your brand well past mediocrity, well past simply showing up, and allow you the time, money, and support to try out for the social media Olympics and maybe, some day, not only make the team but earn social media gold!

Let me know how it goes, will ya?

Via Biznology