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Why Ironman is like Social Media

by / Monday, 07 November 2011 / Published in Uncategorized

Ironman is a heart-stirring and awe-inspiring display of the strength, courage and indomitable will of the human spirit. Often participants can ask themselves “What am I doing out here? Why didn’t I take up chess, or golf?!”

The answer of course is: self-discovery. You learn more about yourself in those hours plodding around the course than you do in years otherwise. This event has a way of doing that: it strips everything away and reveals your “true self.” It’s why people are so fanatical about it. It also gives you a long time to think about things – like the similarities between long distance races and Social Media!

Here they are:

1. Slow and steady wins the race.
Ironman is hard. If it weren”t, I suppose they might call it: “Aluminum-man.” I mean, let’s be honest: human beings were not designed to race all day. We were meant to live in caves and hunt animals, but that was a long time ago, now we have trained ourselves to be much more nurtured.
Social media is similarly hard. Like Ironman, it requires a lot of work. Every day. One reason why most people don’t see results in social media is that they give up too soon. They see the jaw-dropping speed of these channels and are lured by the quick fix. When they don’t see stratospheric results, they give up … when success was likely around the corner.
Lesson: To achieve great heights, you must be in it for the long haul. Social media is not a marketing channel or a media. It’s a human relationship. As such, it takes time, patience and work. Stick in there. Slow and steady. You’ll get to where you want to go.

2. You never know who’s watching.
You’ll be surprised at the amount of people that say “Yeah i was watching your times live online” I never knew these people were paying attention. They hadn’t messaged me in social media. But, they were there. In social media, you might feel like you’re playing to an empty room, but you’re not. Most people are “watchers.” They won’t necessarily contribute much to the conversation, but they’re there–and you’re having an impact on them.
Lesson: Don’t be a caution expert and let fear dictate your decisions. In social media, and in life, people won’t remember your failures; they’ll celebrate your successes. Dream like you’ll live forever, but live like you’ll die tomorrow. If you pour your heart into honest social media, you’ll produce “share-worthy” content, which unlocks the real power of social media.

3. Have a plan, but watch the data.
Ironman, like social media, requires serious planning! I spent months planning everything down to the smallest detail: I knew where to line up in the swim; how many calories I would take in on the bike; how many watts I would produce; what pace I would run, and so on. Most of it materialized perfectly, but here’s the critical element: if I weren’t watching the data and assessing in real-time, I would have bombed.
Lesson: Spend the necessary time designing a well-conceived social strategy for 2012. But once it’s underway, watch that data–and be willing to shift course based on the numbers. I cannot over-emphasize how important that is. If people aren’t retweeting your content; if your LinkedIN ads aren’t pulling; if your videos aren’t being shared, then mix things up!

4. Efficiency trumps effort.
You can turn up on race day feeling unstoppable, like a gladiator! However there are always going to be faster and stronger people than you, so focus must be on efficiency – making the most of what you have! Same goes for training, dont just put the miles in because it makes you feel better and gets you off the couch, have a concrete plan that works for you and maximises your strengths.
Efficiency. Channel your effort into forward motion more effectively than your competitors.
Lesson: Ironman, like social media, is not about how many hours you put in; it’s what you put into those hours. Strive to be efficient with your time. Use tools like Hootsuite to do more in less time.

5. Without purpose and passion, you’ve got nothing.
Twenty minutes before the start of the event, with the thousands of people around me cheering and getting ready to go –and the most difficult day of my life beckoning–I had to remind myself why I was there. For me, it was to complete the hardest physical challenge i would ever engage and raise €2k for my charity. That focused my mind, calmed my nerves and put purpose and passion into every move I made on race day.
Lesson: Know why you’re engaging in social media. List three things you want out of it in 2012. Knowing that will better define your strategy, your tactics and how you measure success.

6. When you don’t think you can take another step, take another step.
Ironman tests your soul, and most people at least fleetingly think about quitting during the marathon course. But, in those moments of nagging doubt, if you say to yourself: “Just run to the next aid station and then decide if you want to quit.” When you got there, something inside, the indomitable spirit keeps you going. Thats why you see so many guys walking the whole marathon due to injury, nothing is going to stop them! Before you know it, you are running down the finishing straight high-fiving the crowd in a blaze of glory “You are an Ironman!”
Lesson: Anything worth doing is hard. Sometimes it tests our soul, whether it’s parenting, work or a sporting event. But you are far more powerful than you realize. You are. You may have forgotten it, but you are. There are 70-year-olds finishing Ironman regularly. And, I’ve seen all kinds of people, from all walks of life, succeed magnificently in social media. If you take a long-term approach, watch the data and come from the heart with passion and noble intentions, you’ll succeed in social media. It may take more time than you thought, but you’ll get there.
Just take it one step at a time.

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