Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You will fail at social media

I did something that made me a bit comfortable this morning. I spent about an hour or so going through the archives of this blog. I read some (many) of the posts from 2006 and early 2007, and I cringed. They were terrible. I was in complete 'this is about me' mode.

But I noticed that toward the end of 2007, the tone of the posts began to change. There were more 'here is what I have learned' and 'what do you think?' posts. When I started blogging, this was a place for me to share my voice. I blogged about what was interesting to me.

Yet as time went by, I found my blogging voice. I connected with my readers, and wanted to change how I created and presented content here. I stopped focusing on 'let me share what's important to me', and started trying to create valuable content for my readers.

But the now wouldn't have come without that first year or so. It took time for me to connect with my readers, and realize what type of content they want to read. And I am still learning and tinkering with the content and experience that I co-create with each of you. Every day I try to improve.

The point is, you will have that same period of 'failure' that I did with your social media efforts. Embrace that as your growing pains that will allow you to improve the way that you use these tools. I recently saw a TED talk from Sir Ken Robinson on children and creativity, and I've embedded it below. He made a wonderful point that children don't fear being wrong. They will 'make a go of it' even if they aren't sure what the 'right way' is. But he suggested that as we grow older, that we become fearful of being wrong, and I think he's mostly right.

When you start blogging, or you start using Twitter, you will 'fail'. You will make mistakes, and these mistakes will be incredible LEARNING experiences for you that will help you move forward.

Embrace your failures with social media. They are the key to your future successes.


Kim Maisel said...

I *COMPLETELY* agree with this. In supporting my Director's internal blog there has definitely been a change in his tone and way he receives information and presents it. We have a bit of an advantage, because I am there to do that outsider-view analysis for him (it's always harder to evaluate yourself), but I applaud you for calling attention to this.

BTW, I read your blog all the time and have printed and handed over some of your articles to my leadership for consideration in the Director's blog (particularly the one on negative comments). Thanks for doing this! It is very applicable to my daily work.

Sue Spaight said...

Mack - this is a great, authentic and humble post and is incredibly encouraging to new bloggers like myself. It's so nice to know that most everyone goes through this period of trying to find their voice and what their community wants to talk about. Thanks for taking the time to share it - much appreciated.

Lisa Kribs-LaPierre said...

Persistence is equally important. I'm not convinced that the success of some blogs out there are due to primarily content and voice. Persistence, and lots of participation are also huge!

I remember your early days Mack. Thanks for giving it your all-great post, the title sucked me right in.

AnnaB said...

Sue put it best. As a new blogger myself and still struggling to find my place, it's encouraging to read your blog and learn from experiences you've had. We are our own worst critic. Thanks for reinforcing that we should learn from our mistakes and past experiences rather than be down about them.

Stuart Foster said...

I still haven't found my blogging voice. I know I fail at social media every day. But the best part about it is that I am allowed to do so.

I learn best by consistently making mistakes and thus learning from them. I'm the kid in school that has to break their arm doing something before they'll stop. I just learn that way. Great stuff Mack. Hope others enjoy this post as much as I did.

Mack Collier said...

DC Girl thank you so much, I am honored that you printed out my posts! And you're right, having a 'fresh set of eyes' to look at content is a big plus!

Sue I want it to be encouraging. I don't want new bloggers to delay starting because they fear making mistakes. This is one reason why I wanted to write this post, to show that even experienced bloggers make blogging mistakes. What counts is what you LEARN from those mistakes, because they WILL happen.

Thank you Lisa, and thanks for reading for so long and suffering through the early mistakes ;)

Anna I just don't want the 'fear of being wrong' be what keeps people from joining this space. We are all learning as we go, and often the ones that 'get' this space the most, and the ones that started the earliest, and have been making mistakes for the longest time.

Mark D. Drapeau, Ph.D. said...

Chicken vs. Egg: What comes first, the writing or the audience?

Matt McDonald said...

Hey Mack,

Great insights, and something that I think a lot of us that have been blogging for a while have gone through.

I think one thing to point out though, but not in direct correlation to what you're saying, is the tendency of people to crucify social media mistakes so easily. The problem is if people, and more often large brands, are scrutinized so quickly, it can make you hesitant to make those mistakes. I think that as a community we need to be a little more tolerant of things and stop worrying about "the right way" all the time.

Mack Collier said...

Matt that's one of the underlying reasons for writing this post. I absolutely *hate* that this space is so quick to jump on companies that are making their FIRST attempts at social media. Remember Dell's One2One blog it launched before Direct2Dell? It was horrible, but Dell learned from that attempt, and it helped improve later efforts.

The companies that are using social media effectively today are often the ones that have made the most mistakes. As it is with so many areas of business, and life.

Unknown said...

Mack -
As I read this I remembered learning to ride a bike, fell down a few times - probably can still manage a spill - but you have to try again and again.

Thanks for the reminder to keep getting on and trying.

Jay Baer said...

Thanks for being honest enough to publish this. That's one of the things that makes you special, Mack, and makes TVG a must-read.

You will not and cannot find your voice on a blog until you've written at least 100 posts, period. I found this to be true in my own efforts, and have had similar stories over and over again.

That's why I recommend that people don't worry about blog promotion and such too much until they find that voice. Otherwise, you end up promoting something that is no longer authentically you.

It's also important to recognize that the knowledge and expectations of your readership change right along with yours. The average TVG reader today probably knows a lot more about social media than he/she did in 2006, and that influences how they perceive your work.

This is what makes blogs so great. They are living organisms, like wine in written form.

Good stuff Mack. Thanks for making us think. See you in Boston.

David Spinks said...


Great post and one that it extremely motivational to newer blogger like myself. I try to tell myself all the time that it's important to be able to make mistakes and I'm usually able to take that to heart throughout my career. It is tough though. With social media tools, you have people watching every step you take, waiting for you to make a mistake so that they can blog about it.

Therefore I'd say that it's important that you're willing to make mistakes...what's even more important though is your ability to learn from that mistake, grow from it and you're ability to let others know that you've learned from your mistake. If you mess up and you're called out on it, you can either do nothing, and watch your rep be destroyed, or learn from it, make it clear to others that you've learned from it, and probably earn more respect than you had from your peers in the first place.

No one can start off doing everything right and the process of trial and error is a natural way of growing as a person and a professional. Don't let the obstacles and issues you face early on deter you from your goals.

Thanks for the reminder Mack.


@heatherrast said...

I like the topic of this post, but I'll encourage consideration that what you're speaking about really isn't about failure leading to success, but instead incremental success that become aggregated. Maybe even an evolution of success.

Consider early home dial-up, like 14.4k. Now it's common for home broadband at 1MB. The early edition wasn't a failure; rather, it incrementally led to today's success.

I feel that way about earlier (heck, even now) online activity. My early work likely needed a dash more circumspection and a smidge more polish (ha!) but it wasn't a flop. With the help of a lot of people, I began to figure things out. And like you say, I hope each day and each effort brings better results. Wonder when I'll know for sure... ;-) Thanks, Mack!

Ms Single Mama said...

This is so true.

I too have a really hard time digging in my archives - a task I'm doing now though to beef up my SEO.

I quit my day job this week Mack - largely thanks to you showing me the way from the beginning on how to build a community with my blog.

I owe you a drink next time we're out/ meet up.

Beth Harte said...

Mack, I am so glad you wrote this post! There are days when I still feel like I don't know what the hell I am doing with my blog. ;-)

It's a learning process for sure, but for me it's also a self-discovery process. Sometimes I look back at posts that I wrote and think "Wow, that was really bad" and other times I think "Wow! I wrote that?"

The reason I started blogging was to have a place to reflect, share my opinions, share tips, rant, etc. [I never really thought anyone would actually read my blog!] But what I have learned about blogging from you and other great folks is that it's okay to make mistakes, try new things, and test the waters a bit.

Like Heather said, it's not really failure, it's incremental success.

Norman Birnbach said...

I think fear of failing is why some organizations and some marketing executives have been hesitant to engage on social media. We've been providing Twitter Lab Training for clients, and have heard a number of times that a senior manager doesn't want the organization to get involved with social media.

Those executives raise reasonable objections -- like the need for ROI, the need to impact the bottom-line, etc.

But at the same time, they don't deny what's happening to traditional media, and that companies need to find new channels to connect to their customers, employees and other stakeholders.

I think some of their concern is that they will fail in the social media world, and that they don't realize that's how they -- and everyone -- is learning what works.

And I really liked the Sir Ken Robinson video, too. Thanks.