5 Facts that Social Media is an Endurance Contest

Photo by USACE Europe District

“You say you want a [social media] revolution, wellll you know . . . we all wanna change the world.” ~John Lennon

OK, that’s not exactly how the song goes, but I think a lot of people have this underlying expectation that once you get your NPO a Twitter account and/or a Facebook page, the revolution will just need to be televised. I certainly thought, when I started my Twitter account, that I would be able to jump in right away and get at least 50 followers pretty quickly. I humbly acknowledged that getting my blog going would probably take a bit longer–like, a month or two. I thought that way after a year or two of watching a lot of webinars, and doing a lot of reading and research about the online world.

I would imagine many of you are entering or entered the online world with similar expectations of how things would progress. And, unless I’m more off my nut than was previously surmised, I’m willing to bet that like me, you found the journey to be slightly more torturous than what you had expected.

The fact is that social media marketing is not a 100-yard dash. It’s a marathon. A really, really long marathon. And it’s not a marathon where everybody starts at the same time. There are people who are already sitting at the proverbial finish line (at least from your perspective) drinking their Gatorade and kind of laughing at you a little. There are people who seem to be running a lot faster than you. And although you’re sure they must be there, you just can’t seem to see anyone behind you.

Well, fear not. Social Media is not about speed. It’s not about who is running beside you or ahead of you or behind you. It’s about running your race, even when things seem like they will never get easier. Here are five facts that help support this line of thinking.

1. Most people abandon their blogs.

Back in 2009, the New York Times reported that 95% of blogs end up abandoned by their bloggers. Fast forward three years later, and Gini Dietrich is writing about how companies are abandoning their blogs.

But that doesn’t mean blogging is dead. Here’s the truth. Starting a blog is hard. You won’t get many, if any comments. People won’t share your stuff. I got maybe 10 comments during my first 6 months of blogging. It’s an endurance test. You have to keep going even though you’re not getting a lot of feedback. If you’re still blogging, you’re winning.

2. People can’t know you if they don’t know you.

When you are first starting out, social media is really about getting to know people. You can’t expect people to magically gravitate towards your blog or your Twitter account. You have to put in a lot of time (a lot!) commenting on other peoples’ blogs, retweeting other peoples’ stuff, participating in Twitter chats, or finding other ways to get yourself on peoples’ radars. It’s a lot of work that, again, can take time before benefits start showing up. If you are out there trying to get to know people even though they still may not be visiting your blog or tweeting with you, you’re winning.

3. About 50% of the Twitter accounts have been abandoned.

A blog post by ReadWriteWeb in September 2011 reported that about half of all Twitter accounts have been abandoned. This was based on the fact that Twitter had announced surpassing 200 million total accounts while also surpassing 100 million active Twitter accounts (pretty easy math).

Twitter can be massively frustrating. It’s hard to get conversations started. It’s hard to jump into conversations when nobody knows who you are. It’s hard to find your voice. And it’s hard not to get discouraged when you see other people making it look so easy. If you’re still tweeting even though it seems like you just can’t get the hang of it, you’re winning.

4. There are still only 24 hours in a day.

Social media, especially when you are trying to build your online presence, is a major time commitment. Writing those blogs takes time. Commenting on those blogs takes time. It all takes time, time, time. When you combine that with the frustration you may feel for those first 6-12 months, and then add in that whole “I need to take care of my business” thing, it’s easy to put social media on the back burner. If you’re balancing your time so that you can maintain your online presence while doing everything else you do, you’re winning.

5. Most people are not “powerhouses.”

When you first start to do whatever it is you’re doing with social media, it’s easy to get distracted by those powerhouses. The people who have 500,000 Twitter followers, 17,000 fans of their Facebook page, and 30,000 blog subscribers. Your numbers, in comparison, may seem pretty paltry. They shouldn’t.

According to a post from October 2011, “93.6% of Twitter profiles have less than 100 followers and 92.4% follow less than 100 profiles.” That means if you have 20 followers right now, you’re 20% of the way to getting where most people get to. And you’re winning.

Everything in the online world is relative. Success comes and goes seemingly without our ability to control it. There are dips and highs. There are people who seem to be “doing it wrong” who seem also to have a lot more success. Hang in there. Endure the tough times. Run the marathon. And remember, as long as you’re moving, you’re winning.