Every month, I write a column about social media for Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly. This month, I’m drawing an analogy between social media success and weight loss.
Back in 2008, I completed my fifth marathon. I was in the best shape of my life: lean and fast, with energy to spare. As a result, maintaining a healthy weight was a piece of cake — cake I could eat, of course, because I was killing thousands of calories a week.
Fast forward to 2013, and things are a little different. After taking a couple years off from running, I’m 40 pounds heavier. Things that used to be effortless have become a challenge, and I’ve had to buy an entirely new wardrobe. In short, I’m fat instead of fast, and lumpy instead of lean.
Like many people, I’m trying to do something about it, including returning to running. And something occurred to me the other day when I was out for a jog: Losing weight has a lot in common with social-media success. In fact, what works in both areas is almost exactly the same. For example:
You can’t gorge yourself. One of the challenges that comes with weight loss is all the temptation you encounter. Fast food, desserts, one extra helping. An indulgence every now and then is OK, but you can’t have it all.
The same holds true when you consider the cornucopia of social-media options. It’s tempting to put everything on your plate — Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, a blog, Pinterest. It’s all good stuff, right? Well, just like food, a little moderation goes a long way. If you consume everything you possibly could, you’ll end up bloated, losing your agility in the process. Making it all work is more a matter of being disciplined in saying no than in deciding when to say yes.
You are what you eat — and tweet. Moderation is just part of the equation, though. It’s not enough to eat less; you also need to eat better. Social media is no different. Even when you have the discipline to focus your efforts on a finite number of tools, you still need to put quality over quantity when posting content. After all, while eating 100 calories is better than eating 500, you’re usually better served by eating 100 calories worth of vegetables than 100 calories of chocolate. In the same way, content aligned with your goals will get your further than content that’s just filler.
Get plenty of exercise. Eating well is a great start but it’s not enough. Strength training and cardio are just as critical because they train your body to use fuel more efficiently. In the same way, you can’t be complacent in using social media. Taking action is important, but what you’re doing today may no longer be effective tomorrow. As frequently as things change, you have to be committed to continually learning from others and applying that knowledge.
You have to use a scale. How do you know if you’re eating right and getting enough exercise? Step on the scale and you’ll have a pretty good idea. When you’re determining the effectiveness of your social-media efforts, you need to measure your progress. It’s not as simple as stepping on a scale, but checking insights, analytics and — most importantly — results will tell you if you’re headed in the right direction.
Consistency is key. I have a considerable amount of weight to lose, and it’s not going to happen by going for one 10-mile run. It’s more a matter of running a few miles a few times a week, month after month, while maintaining consistency in eating well. Social media works exactly the same way. Success doesn’t usually come as the result of the perfect blog post or a single short-term campaign. It happens because you do a lot of little things well, day after day. There are no shortcuts. You’ve seen the ads for those weight-loss belts, right? Do you really think they work? The fact is there are no shortcuts when you’re looking to lose weight. If it takes years to pack on pounds, taking them off isn’t going to happen overnight — even if you’d like that to be true.
It’s just as tempting to look for quick results from social media. However, the secret isn’t gaming the system by buying followers or trying to bloat your Facebook likes with an iPad giveaway. The secret, in fact, isn’t a secret at all. It’s simply a matter of sustained effort in the long run.
The bottom line is that losing weight and getting results from social media both require a lot of work. Those efforts, however, are well worth it in the end. Whether you make the investment in the interest of your health or the health of your business, you’ll be glad you did.
Now, does knowing this mean I’m guaranteed success, either in losing weight or in my social media efforts? Nope. It just means I know what I’ll need to do in the future if I want to make it work. With that, I’m going to go lace up my shoes, head out the door and hit the road. I’d better, because for some reason I can’t stop thinking about cake.