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Pondering: Practice Makes Perfect

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Ok, maybe not perfect but really, really good! In Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers he talks about how it takes 10,000 hours to become a superstar. Think about how long that is!

The argument of Outliers: (via Seth Godin's post)

  • Where you're born and when you're born have an enormous amount to do with whether or not you're successful.
  • Becoming a superstar takes about 10,000 hours of hard work.
  • Both of the bullet points above are far more important than the magical talent myth.

Now equate this to social media: 10,000 hours to become exceptional at something! And now consider folks who are self-proclaimed experts/thought leaders/gurus. There are some who have put in considerable time and effort into their social media and this SHOWS! And others who have purchased followers or used the #teamfollowback method of gaining numbers to appear that they are a BIG DEAL due to their follower count. Size doesn't equate quality!

There is no Disney Fast Pass to social media expertise or any expertise. Let's do some math. So let's say Susie works in social media 10 hours a day, 6 days a week (we will split 5 hours Saturday and Sunday) or 60 hours a week for 3,120 hours a year. It will take Susie 3.20 years to become a social media zen master. Honestly, that is really doable for a very motivated person and there are those who have done it.

Power tip: Look beyond the number of followers to decide if someone is indeed a leader. Check their followers and who they are following. Are they following quality people? Or do you see a lot of eggs and no profiles? If they have 20,000+ followers and 4,000 tweets, chances are they purchased their followers. Read their tweets and posts. Are they providing consistent quality or just tweeting a quick thanks? Have they built a body of work on their own blog and guest posted on others?  The exception is celebrities who gain large followings due to their offline celebrity.

Another thing that I have seen a lot of lately is people setting up social media businesses without any experience. How do I know they have no experience? They are pitching that they can manage your Twitter account and Facebook page yet they have a few hundred followers or very few fans. Make sure you ask for examples of work that they have done or accounts they have managed. A social presence is there for all the world to see, for better or worse. Successful people who have earned their followers established their followers through hard work and continue this everyday to maintain their interest.

Positive example: Mari Smith has 5,350 Facebook friends, 318,000 Facebook subscribers and 153,863 Twitter followers. She worked very hard to build her following and continues to build and grow her thought leadership by speaking, writing and continuing her social media efforts.

Look beyond the very surface of the issue here and make sure that you are basing your judgements and decisions on practical matters. Not fluff.

Positive example: Jay Baer has 16,000 rss subscribers, 3,473 Facebook fans, 57,452 Twitter followers and 14,467 have circled him on Google+. Why? He is consistently publishing stellar social media content on Convince and Convert and is a popular keynote speaker. People who are true leaders put the time in, not just once, but everyday to maintain and grow. There is no resting on your laurels in social media.

Power tip: If you want to grow your social media presence, start a blog or dust off the one that you haven't written on in ages. Comment on other's blogs and join the online conversation. And know that it will take time to become proficient and build a true following.

Check people's blog, tweet streams and decide for yourself who to work with and look up to. Take the time to do a little research and make informed decisions. And have fun as you practice and learn your way to social media expertise!


10,000 hours by Seth Godin
It all Boils Down to Practice by The Washington Times
Featured image courtesy of Chris Campbell via Creative Commons.

Article by Peg Fitzpatrick

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  1.  @susansilver 10,000 is a lot! These are concert pianists, Olympic athletes and captains of industry. The creme of the crop! Not sure if you read Outliers but is a great read.  “According to Gladwell, great men and women are beneficiaries of specialization, collaboration, time, place, and culture. An outlier’s recipe for success is not personal mythos but the synthesis of opportunity and time on task.” 
    Props on your four years in social media! 

  2. Great post! I also read a similar thing about photography: Your first 10,000 photos are your worst. It does take time, effort, and work to become a master of anything.

    1.  @reneedobbs It is fascinating that it seems to be a general amount of time in to learn things. I think the same can be said for cooking too. When I got married, I actually made (totally shaming myself here) Hamburger Helper. Now I can make practically anything really well. I am only at about 7,000 dinners in so 8.2 more years, I shall be gourmet in theory. 

      1.  @Peg Fitzpatrick There is no shame in Hamburger Helper. I once cooked with it too (Foodie confession). It was a suggestion from my husband and I thought I would give it a try. At least it is cooking at home and if it is a first step to greater things than so be it.

  3. Hi Peg, I couldn’t agree more! It does take time, a lot of effort and listening to the big guys and girls before you ever could proclaim to be an expert. Although, I’m extremely suspicious whenever someone labels himself as the expert 🙂

    1.  @JuanFlx I totally agree. A nicer way to get the point across is using awesome things that others have said about you like Mari does, which of course need to be earned along the way.
      I appreciate you reading & commenting!

  4.  @annelizhannan Great thoughts Anneliz! And yes, I feel like the best are constantly evolving. Social media is a moving target with so many new things popping up.
    But with being at the top of anything, I think that the people at the highest level also are the most driven to succeed as the made it to the top with hard work and sweat equity. At this point, they need to work just as hard if not harder to maintain staying at the top.
    I appreciate your comment!

  5. I think one thing that needs to be added here is that the 10,000 hours to fluency isn’t just solo hours, when it comes to social media. Maybe 10,000 hours would be solo work if you were practicing the piano, but in social, it’s 10,000 hours of group work. You can shout all your want about your favorite topic on Twitter, but unless someone tweets back, all you’re doing is playing with the mechanism of the site. True social mastery involves learning what others are doing and interacting with them. 

    1.  @kehutchinson So is your theory that all the beginning of social media doesn’t count towards the 10,000 hours? No one sounds good when they start an instrument until they reach a certain level.

      1.  @Peg Fitzpatrick Not what I meant at all! I meant that it is important for those seeking those 10,000 hours won’t be doing it on their own. Once you dip your toe into social media, you are in the crowd, and working with the community. 
        There are many “experts” out there, as you note in your article that don’t actually tweet/blog/etc. and those are the people who are missing the point. Spending 10,000 hours reading about social media won’t help you at all. It’s the doing it, with the community around you that gives you the expertise.

  6.  @dbvickery It is definitely a process and knowing that it takes so much time to reach a certain level lets you know a few things. It is worth it to work hard and grow, everyone learns at different paces and putting in the time can pay off if you keep at it.

  7. Oh my Peg, I absolutely love this post! I’m one of those guys who was born in an area where change is non-existent and difficult to really succeed in this field. I’m one of few ppl really utilizing sm, where I am, and recently a young person (about my age) created a start-up social agency, but only had a presence and Facebook and that was IT! Needless to say, it didn’t last long. Self-proclaimed experts/gurus  make me turn in the other direction immediately. I’m no expert (never claimed to be) and I fully understand that. I am a constant learner and connector, which is why I love getting involved in so many chats. Because I am young and don’t have near the experience you and many others have in the marketing/sm space, I get involved and connect with such amazing people so I can learn and understand why things are the way they are. The communities we both participate in are such valuable resources for learning and growing in such a young industry and by constantly discussing new or troubling topics we work to help each other out. Thanks for another great post, I always love reading your content/tweets Peg!

    1.  @CedarBrown in regards to the person with the start up, I think that things usually do come out in the wash but I too feel the same sense of frustration with the attempts for people to hop into social media and claim they are experts. Social media is complicated. No ifs, ands or buts about it! Sure, people can tweet or post status updates but that doesn’t mean that they have a strategy.
      I agree that online communities provide valuable resources and I was blessed by finding a really established group of on Twitter when I first started out. I literally learned the ropes there.
      I am so glad that you enjoyed this article, Cedar and all my other content. I appreciate that you took the time to tell me and share your thoughts as well.

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