The Time Suck that is Learning About Blogging and Social Media

by Marcus Sheridan

I received an email last week that truly made me raise an eyebrow, as it in many ways was perfectly representative of why so many businesses, entrepreneurs, and marketers are failing to experience success with this thing we call “social media.” It went like this:

Hi Marcus,

I’m currently learning everything I can about social media marketing and trying to internalize it….

I just wanted to know where you think I should start. Here’s what my plan is right now:

1. Read the top 10 books on social media marketing
2. Meet at least 5 people in the industry
3. Learn at least 5 tools that I could use to help small to mid-size businesses market.

Lisa (name changed)

Now, let me ask you a question: What’s wrong with these statements?

C’mon, think about it before we move forward…What answer would you have written had you received this email?

In an effort to explain my thoughts, I’ll break down each:

1. Read the top 10 books on Social Media Marketing

I have a little secret to tell you: I haven’t read 10 books on social media marketing in the 30 months since I got into all this stuff. Yeah, sure I’ve read many blog posts by others, but I haven’t spent tons of time simply reading books. Heck, I’m not even sure if I’ve read 5.

My reason for this is simple—Books will never compare to the teaching power of actually going out and doing something.

For example, which one of these two people has more experience?:

A: The person who has read 10 books on blogging but has no blog

B: The person that finished half a book on blogging and just went ahead and launched, and is now on his 50th blog post

I don’t know about you, but I’d choose person B any day of the week. Sure, person A is well read, but he hasn’t really applied a single thing he has learned, thus his efforts up to this point have essentially been in vain.

2. Meet at Least 5 People in the Industry

Is “meeting people” important for success in most industries? Yes, it certainly is, but it’s not hard to “meet” someone. In fact, that’s very easy. But never forget there is a very, very big difference between “meeting” someone and actually building a relationship with that person.

And how do we build relationships? Simple—We serve others. We share their stuff. We look for ways to assist them with their goals. We promote and openly discuss their work. The examples go on and on.

But again, just “meeting” someone is much like the act of reading a book without going out and applying its teachings—the experience will likely be short-lived.

Remember—Forming one truly strong relationship with a single person online will likely lead to way more results than “meeting” 10 others in your field.

3. Learn 5 Tools To Use

Ahh yes, the need to learn more “tools.” Today it’s Twitter. Tomorrow it’s Pinterest. The next day it will be Facebook II (the public version).

The new tools coming out day in and day out are practically impossible to keep up with, especially for the average Joe business owner.

But our need to always know and understand the “latest and greatest” is grossly overestimated in my opinion. As we bounce around trying to learn one tool and then moving to the next, we never truly become great in at least one area.

As I’ve stated many times here on TSL, instead of being a “Jack of all Social Media Trades,” it’s much better to be a “Master of One.”

So if blogging and content marketing are likely you’re best focus area, then get after it. Quit reading about blogging and publish your first post.

If Twitter seems to be the best choice, then take that little birdy and run with it. Listen. Share. Tweet. Listen. Share. Tweet….

But whatever you decide to do, do it well. Become great with it. Stop embracing average.

Consumers Vs. Doers

The bottom line is this my friends: Many of us are becoming that student who stays in college for 10 years simply because he or she is too afraid to go out in the real world and get a job.

Reading, consuming, and superficial learning are all fine and dandy (and certainly necessary), but as I mentioned earlier, they’ll never be a substitute for true experience, where everyday success and failure is the name of the game.

So that’s my challenge to you. Stop looking for answers. Stop reading so much. Stop looking for more advice.

Deep-down, you already know what you need to do.

Create.

Apply.

Write.

Become a person of action.

And launch that baby.

Your Turn:

I’ve got a simple question I’d love to hear from you all today: What are you looking to create in 2012? Also, what platform is going to be your main focus? Will it be blogging? Facebook? LinkedIn?

Jump in folks, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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{ 95 comments… read them below or add one }

Hajra February 6, 2012 at

Oh how I love the attitude of the post! :)

I don’t know about reading myself. There is a point where you might have to know something about blogs – setting it up, running it and all that jazz but no matter how much you read about it and not do it, it isn’t going to work. It’s like reading a book on how to set up your wall unit. You read the manual, heck, you read ten manuals do all the searches you want, until you set it up you don’t know whether you actually “know” how it is done.

For social media and blogging, the best way to learn is to go out in the field and join the jungle (beware of the Lion though, he is just too awesome) ;)

2012 or any other year can be just as awesome as you want it to be; why look at the whole year. Why aren’t we focusing on how great we will make today? Why not take the challenge everyday. Okay, if you have a crappy blog and think “Maybe I should start something new”; fine, but why not work on the old crappy one and make it into something you love and something that brings you value. There are loads of ways in which change can be bought. You just have to act on it.

As to what platform; it is again trial and error. For some Twitter works, for some Facebook kicks in more attention. But then again, why pick, use a combination of all; see what suits you best and then work on it to your advantage.

Life is trial and error to quite an extent, but we haven’t tried then you just did the biggest error!

This was fun… looking forward to see what the other have to roar about!

Have a nice day! :)

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Marcus Sheridan February 6, 2012 at

Well hello Hajra, and thanks for jumping in here! :)

You used the phrase “trial and error” here, and that’s what this post is really all about. Like you, I agree that it’s a good idea to learn at first, establish somewhat of a knowledge foundation, and then go out and make it happen…through that process of trial and error.

This is especially true because as business owners and bloggers, we are constantly changing direction as we experiment and push our abilities. Only by doing this can we truly find our greatest strengths and learn what we can be the best at.

Your rock Hajra, thanks again!

Marcus

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Jodi Lewis February 10, 2012 at

I jumped in with “trial and error” as you put it and started doing social media marketing for my business and I discovered two things: 1 Internet marketing is not a strength of mine, I find it too hard to relate to many people and 2 Social media marketing takes up too much time and time if money so it’s expensive for me to be doing this every day.

I realize the importance of Social marketing for a business like mine so I decided to use my strengths where I am most needed and good – my business and to outsource this SMM to someone who knows what they are doing. I found a company on Magicbuz.com that has been doing SocioViral marketing for a few years and has experience in relating to people from all walks of life.

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Marcus Sheridan February 10, 2012 at

I’m really glad you shared this Jodi. This social media “stuff” really isn’t for everybody, and it’s important that we learn to embrace our strengths and find ways (as you did) to remedy our weaknesses. Well done!

Thanks so much for the comment :)

Marcusw

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Marjorie Clayman February 6, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,

This is a tough one. I think it’s important to read a lot about the profession you’re in. As a marketer, I read a lot of blogs and I read a lot of books if for only one reason – I want to make sure I’m formulating my own opinions about people and content. It’s super easy to listen to online buzz and say, “Oh, well that book must suck.” I’d rather read it myself and offer my own perspective, or at least be able to discuss it intelligently. Just like there are books and movies I still want to be familiar with so I can get the references, I think there is a benefit to knowing what people are talking about when they mention certain people or certain books or certain blogs.

Not being in the know can actually make you look like you’re behind the times.

That being said, I think it’s also extremely dangerous to think that doing what your email person wanted to do is enough. Would you go out and drive on the highway after reading 10 books about driving? I hope not. There is a lot about social media that is like driving – from knowing when to be influenced by people honking at you to knowing the stuff that will get you flicked off.

Thanks as always for the great post :)

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Rebecca Livermore February 6, 2012 at

Marjorie, I totally agree about the value of reading a lot about the profession you are in. However, I think where people get hung up is that they read and don’t do. In fact, reading can be a substitute for doing, and it can make people feel like they are doing something when they really aren’t. I think people fall into this trap because reading is “safer” than doing. I believe that people also fall into the trap of feeling “not ready” to do whatever it is they are reading about, so they keep reading. It can be an avoidance thing, and such avoidance doesn’t lead to success or true learning in anything.

Having said all of that, it sounds to me like you have a balanced approach in this regard.

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Marjorie Clayman February 6, 2012 at

Well, I try anyway :) I don’t really like preaching something I can’t do or don’t know anything about.

I know…I’m a weirdo :)

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Marcus Sheridan February 6, 2012 at

I don’t disagree with your perspective at all Marjorie. Learning by reading, at least at first, is a great thing. But I think we need to get to a point where if we finish one book, instead of picking up another, we go out and apply what we’ve just read….almost like a 1-1 ratio, which is way more balanced.

I know I’ve been guilty of this before. I’ll read a post about something I didn’t know and thought, “Boy, I need to experiment with that.”

And then instead of actually experimenting, I’ll go and read another 3 or 4 other posts on different stuff.

This makes me well read but poorly educated…you know what I mean? (And maybe that’s why I need to write articles like this….to keep myself in check! ;-) )

Again, thanks for always being so thoughtful with your comments (and blog) Marjorie. I really respect the things you say.

Marcus

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Marjorie Clayman February 6, 2012 at

Well, it is hard to experiment with everything you read about. Often I read a post and think, “oh yeah, I need to try that.” Ehm…

Truthfully, you need to write articles like this because they are awesomesauce. My comments are just riding on your coattails.

Also, I should probably stop plagiarizing your posts at some point ;)

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Carmen Sognonvi February 6, 2012 at

Yes! There’s no better way to learn about something than to jump in and start doing it.

I think this is especially true when it comes to social media marketing for local, bricks-and-mortar businesses.

A lot of the social media advice out there pertains either to large brands or to small businesses that sell stuff online, and doesn’t necessarily translate for local businesses.

(Which is exactly why I started a blog on that topic!)

It’s good to read about best practices and recommended tips, but ultimately you’re not going to know if things work for your market until you try them out and tweak them.

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Marcus Sheridan February 6, 2012 at

100% agree with you Carmen….there is a huge dearth of good content when it comes to social media usage for Mom and Pop stores and local businesses. So if you’re going after that niche, I’m sure there will be some great results!

Thanks so much for dropping by by Carmen, I do appreciate it :)

Marcus

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paul wolfe February 6, 2012 at

Marcus

This is really interesting – especially for us ;)

Here’s my take: the problem with most ‘business’ books are that:

(a) they are outdated the minute they are published due to a combination of how fast the internet moves, and also the publishing lead time that most publishers operate under (someone – forgotten who – wrote that Blogging Years are like dog years….so most books are already the equivalent of 7 years out of date!!! Extreme analogy I know, but for most things connected to the old Interwebz it holds true
(b) most books have great information but the information is not particularly actionable. So reading a book and understanding how to apply the concepts isn’t always particularly obvious. Especially not to people new to blogging,social media and the like.
(c) most books are generalized. What works for the author may not work for you due to there being different places where your audience hangs out.

Having said that – and taking onboard your thought that a lot of people try and collect all the information before applying anything, and agreeing with it – books can still help.

But nothing will substitute for actually getting in the trenches and starting to grind it out.
So get out there and getting started is the best advice anyway can get. The true students learn as they go along….that’s an equally important part of the process…but I guess for another post!

Rock on.

Paul

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Ryan Hanley February 6, 2012 at

I tend to agree with Paul.

I actually was writing a book and have since decided to stop and instead focus on building a course around that content and applying that content to Professional Speaking events because of how quickly the information moves.

If you’re trying to help people that are trying to learn then I think these two venues serve as better formats…

As far as the Email you received I think that constantly learning and applying to and applying and learning is the way to go. Reading 10 books is Nuts…

Thanks for a great article Marcus.

Ryan H.

If you want people to envy your Hardcover Book… then well… That’s the way to go.

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Carmen Sognonvi February 6, 2012 at

So true about books being outdated the minute they’re published!

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Jon Loomer February 6, 2012 at

Good stuff, Marcus! When I started my blog in September, I tried to be everything for everybody. I was a very general “social media consultant” who knew stuff about Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and all the other stuff you can think of. But soon I realized that people really only wanted to hear what I had to say about Facebook. And that makes sense since I’ve been on it for five years, dating back to my time with the NBA when we partnered with Facebook to build an app (yes, you couldn’t build your own app!).

It wasn’t until I started focusing on a niche — I became “smaller” — that my traffic really started to take off. And now I’m in the process of creating a second site that is focused on a single industry in Facebook.

Picking a niche is often scary. You don’t want to pick the wrong one. But for me, I let my readers tell me where I need to be, and they simply reflected what I knew all along.

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Allie | Ramblings of a WAHM February 6, 2012 at

Marcus,

I have learned more from watching the actions of many bloggers than I have reading anything. Of course I have bought ebooks and books on the subjects that I need for blogging and I use them as references here and there. But there is nothing like watching the pros online do their “thing” and then trying it yourself.

Trial and error also work better than a book. And those relationships you have with others in your field are irreplaceable.

~Allie

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Jack@TheJackB February 6, 2012 at

Balance, it is all about balance. If I needed heart surgery I wouldn’t want to be the first patient my surgeon operated on nor would I want to be the patient of the guy who had never been to medical school.

I like to learn by doing. When I worked as a project manager for a general contractor I did more than just prepare the bids. I helped cut tile, hang drywall, do demo etc.

I did it because I wanted to really understand what it took to do the work. But I also read the books that listed the codes because I wanted to know what the city requirements were so that my work wouldn’t get tagged.

So I agree with you about the need to take action and do something but if you don’t incorporate some reading too you are making a mistake.

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Tom Treanor February 6, 2012 at

Marcus,

Those are great points. It’s so important to get out there and do things versus just getting educated about (often for a long time) first. I remember reading about a certain social media tool and I had visualized how it would work. Then I actually tried it and the reality was completely different! It’s almost impossible for an author to really explain these tools, the usage of them and the engagement in any way that actually reflects how they really work.

To get out there you have to be ready to accept failure or the possibly of embarrassing yourself. I think people need to realize that and get over it. We all went through an awkward stage of looking completely clueless (I’m not claiming to be completely out if it!).

Thanks for the helpful (and practical) advice!

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Rebecca Livermore February 6, 2012 at

Tom, you make a great point here — I think the main reason people put off doing is because they are afraid of potential failure and embarrassment. I know that I struggle with that at times myself, and such fear has held me back many times, unfortunately. Of course, if we’re really honest about it, doing nothing is a form of failure; it’s just less embarrassing. :)

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Mark February 6, 2012 at

Hey Marcus, my two cents sir:

There’s plenty of awesome ‘FREE’ content to get you started in blogging/ social media, including this blog right here.

The one thing you can’t provide is personality and action. These are the only two things that can guarantee your success or failure in social media. These are what have gotten you where you are today and the social web will be no different.

Blogging/ social media are not rocket science and anybody that tells you differently probably has ulterior motives.

Join a social platform or two that you like. Start connecting, sharing and talking. Simple.

The best in my opinion:

Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Google+.

Pick one, join them all – whatever is the most productive for you that stimulate the learning process. Don’t get overwhelmed. Rome was not built in a day, nor will your social media footprint. Time is always on your side in social media unless you let it suck you in. You do have a choice.

Start a blog as your home base for all of your social activities. Own it. Control it. Create helpful content that provides value and insight to the industry you serve and leverage the social networks above to distribute and share your content with the world.

There are strategies, tips, tools you can leverage (many free) that can help optimize your activities, which you’ll learn along the way. You can also hire a credible consultant that can get you on the fast track to building a productive social media strategy for a reasonable fee.

The most valuable investment you can make in your social activities is the investment of your time. Learn by doing. If you’ve got business sense, you’ll have daily light-bulb moments.

With the social web, you’re only limited by your thinking, procrastination or laziness.

Cheers Marcus!

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Gregory Ciotti February 8, 2012 at

“There’s plenty of awesome ‘FREE’ content to get you started in blogging/social media…”

SSSHHHH, don’t reveal that secret!

The scam artists on ClickBank need to put bread on the table too! ;)

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Marcus Sheridan February 9, 2012 at

Yeah, Clickbank does have quite the mix of good, bad, and ugly. Personally, I don’t have a problem if we do buy the occasional product, we just need to apply its teaching before we rush to consume/buy the next one! ;-)

Thanks Gregory,

Marcus

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John Falchetto February 6, 2012 at

Everything in life is experiential learning, we can read about pushups all day it will never give us the workout we need.
There is a myth out-there which is pushed by schools, teachers, universities and the like. They will push you to believe that an intellectual who sits down goes further than an un-educated man who starts walking.

Well it simply ain’t so. The only way to really learn something is to do it.

Everything else is a dream, a fantasy.

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Harriet February 6, 2012 at

I must be the perfect example of taking a lot of time learning about social media by reading about it! I read an absolute ton of blogs on this kind of stuff, just because I’m interested, but I know that when I do want to start my own blog (after I graduate) I’ll have the perfect tools to do it!

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Allie | Ramblings of a WAHM February 7, 2012 at

Harriet,

I read a lot when I began also. But there comes a time when you feel the need to do and it feels so good to be at that point. You take all that knowledge and put it to good use.

Good luck in your blogging venture.

~Allie

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Lori Gosselin February 6, 2012 at

Hey Marcus,
I have to agree with you on this one. There’s no substitute for learning in the great schoolroom of life (er – the blogosphere itself). A young guy I know studied social media for a year – just watching, engaging, trying different platforms. He learned a lot and became my coach. That’s something this Lisa or anyone starting out could benefit from – having a coach!
I’ve got a lot on my plate for 2012. New projects for Terra Cotta Pendants, more content marketing ;-) and a BIG project on the go. I’m going to continue to have fun with Life, for instance. Main focus besides that – in order, Facebook and Twitter with less and less time spent on Google+ save for Hangouts and sharing.
Lori

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Sj February 6, 2012 at

Exactly. What I have been saying (but not nearly as concisely and eloquently) for ages. I help people get started, but it really isn’t difficult.

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Eric Pratum February 6, 2012 at

Marcus, I’d really like to see this expanded on in a further post…you know, sort of a “This is what I would do” post. In a post I wrote quite a while back for the Skool of Life, I talked about something similar, but not specific to social media so I had to be somewhat general: http://theskooloflife.com/wordpress/11-steps-to-starting-over-today/

Since I’ve worked on the big corporation and agency side of social media, I’ll add a slightly different perspective to these 3 points:
1. Books in general are great. Most social media books aren’t though, so while I do recommend consuming as much information and training as you can, don’t make yourself into the perfect consumer. Make yourself into the perfect doer. The books I would recommend in order are: Content Rules, The NOW Revolution, and then some “older” Seth Godin books like Unleashing the Ideavirus.

2. Meeting people in the industry is great too, but most of the people that are on anyone’s radar are so busy that you’ll be lucky to get more than 5 minutes of their time if you’re an unknown. That’s not to say that you won’t get more from them, but why clamor for 5 minutes from an A-lister when you can get an hour with a B-lister? I’d be more likely to do what people like Mark Schaefer and Srini Rao have done and just say you should reach out to people that are just as passionate as you and trying to do the same things. You can all be each others’ support.

3. You can’t go wrong with tools as long as you are learning things that will always be valuable. For example, learning how to use Twitter lists, or Tweepi, or TubeMogul, or anything like that is cool, but what do you do when they don’t apply to the situation? On the other hand, learning something like Google Analytics is better because it’s more universal, your skills can be transferred to different analytics packages, and you’ll hopefully be learning enough code or analysis that you’ll be able to either build/fix websites after or do non-digital analysis should you need to.

I would really stress though that you 1) become a mass consumer of social media a marketing information and 2) never let consumption get in the way of just doing the work. As a marketing manager, I’d hire someone with experience and an entrepreneurial experience twice as fast as someone with an education (but no experience) in the field.

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Alison February 6, 2012 at

I understand why people keep consuming rather than doing. It’s easier, especially when you don’t know quite where you’re heading. I think a lot of people struggle to define what it is they are trying to do, so they just keep on reading instead.

My social media focus this year will be Pinterest, G+ , FB & Flickr because they are great platforms to share art.

I do tend to consume quite a lot. If I want to learn how to do something technical though, I search on Youtube and learn how to do it from a 10 year old in 5 minutes! Children have no fear and we could all learn a lot from them! ;)

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Ameena Falchetto February 6, 2012 at

Oooh I hope you aren’t striving for the title of “social media guru” – YES to all what you said

Just go out and DO IT.

There are NO rules really. Just go and do – and guess what? At first you might suck, the second time you’ll suck a bit less … and by the time you’ve done it 10, 15, 50 times you’ll ROCK. Remember, it’s rare that anyone is instantly brilliant at something.

The number 1 creativity killer is research – go out, look for what you are looking for then STOP. The more you read, the more you question, the more you question the more you think “Oh sh*t I can’t do this – X does this, Y does this – oh but Z is so shiny … ”

At the end of the day use WHATEVER social media platform you ENJOY! Who cares if you *should be* of Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc?? Use what you like, and what works.

These are all tools to get your message out – do you really need 10 books to figure out if you want to eat your meals with a spoon, a fork, a spork, or your hands? … thought not.

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Ryan Hanley February 6, 2012 at

Ameena,

I have to completely agree with your statement, “There are NO rules”… The entire industry of Content Marketing / Inbound Marketing is so new… No one has any definitive answers beyond principles that are intrinsic to human nature… Say like VALUE… One rule may be you have to add VALUE to be succesful but How? With what tools? How often?

And value isn’t an Online thing its a LIFE thing…

Great comment.

Thanks!

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Bob Toovey February 6, 2012 at

Great post, nothing beats learning by doing. I have considered investing in books and possibly courses. But with the amount of information that is already available, you can learn, experiment, master, blog about it. More you do that the better you get and the more you understand. This blog post just made it clearer for me, thanks

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John Gizowski February 6, 2012 at

Been there, done it… and did it some more for about 4 yrs (not college years, but years “researching” this new marketing stuff.) Bought the books (lots), read the blogs (sometimes a day would go by) and scribbled my thoughts in multiple notebooks (I’ve got lots of notebooks.) The more I got into it, the more I felt I wasn’t ready … there was still so much more to learn…And the cycle continued.

Until one day (recently) I realized (some fruit fell out of a tree, hit me on the head) that there STILL is so much more to learn. The biggest lightbulb was that EVERYONE is doing it. Learning as they go. Especially, especially in this space where it’s still very fresh and it’s really any guess to where it heading.

So I said good-bye to my roommate, left the dorm, got in my car and headed to the scary land of the blog-o-sphere….

And I published my first 3 blog posts ;). Yeah for me!

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Matthew Stock February 6, 2012 at

Well said Marcus. I think many rookie bloggers (such as yours truly!) initially suffer from a bit of “paralysis by overanalysis” and information overload.

I think many small business owners and marketers often approach things in the wrong order. You need to identify your objectives and audience first, and then go after them with the proper platform. Not the other way around.

We are in a brick and mortar business (basement waterproofing) and primarily service homeowners. Many of them fall in an older demographic. Last time I checked by grandma wasn’t on Twitter!

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Josh Sarz February 6, 2012 at

Launch that baby. The only books I read are fiction, to keep my mind off work. I’ve also started reading business-related books, but just to know what they look like inside.

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Tammi Kibler February 6, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,

Your post reminds me of a tweet I saw yesterday. Someone asked writers what webinar is best for learning how to write.

My smart aleck response, held in check by an understanding of how fragile writers are before they believe in themselves, would have been:

“Can you sit down every single day and write? If you can’t, no webinar can teach you how, though they will gladly take your money.”

We have to stop buying excuses and start acting.

Cheers!

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rob February 6, 2012 at

Hi Marcus.

I’ve found that ‘growth’ in any domain of life (be it business, personal relationships, spiritual, financial, family …), is a PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, not merely a discussion of ideas.

Do I want to hear a description of how to do something, or do I want to go out there and do it myself? No one is convinced he can win at anything in life until he inwardly feels that winning is available … and how does one do that? The final proof is always with external action.

Mere knowledge is not enough, and today there are millions of young folks who think it is. No one need involve himself with pages of intellectual reveries; let everyday life (out there in the world) be your teacher. That is my thoughts on the matter. Nice wake-up call, marcus.
rob

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Srinivas February 6, 2012 at

Solid stuff as always. It’s funny because I was talking to Derek Halpern this morning about how much of his advice people actually implement versus leaving a comment about what a great ideas it was. As I said on another post you wrote 5 minutes a day implementing will lead to far more than 3 hours a day of consuming. I literally hosed my entire RSS reader one morning to see how it would alter my habits and all of a sudden I was far more productive and not just reading for 3 hours each day.

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Carmen Sognonvi February 6, 2012 at

Ooooo is Derek your next BlogcastFM guest, Srini? He’s awesome – had the pleasure of meeting him recently. I will admit to totally drinking the Derek Halpen Kool-Aid and have tried as much as possible to Halpernize my blog. :D

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

Yep, that Derek guy is great Carmen!

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Ebru February 6, 2012 at

Great post! :-)

It seems Lisa is waiting to be “perfect” to start. Excessive need for information (eg. “I’ll do it after I’ve read ten more books and attended five more seminars”) is one of the ways Resistance shows itself. That day never comes. So she should start NOW. All she needs is a direction and willingness to embark on a journey. She will learn as she goes.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

Yeah, I think you’ve really nailed it with this need we feel for perfection upon launching a project Ebru…but the problem is perfection never happens! ;)

Love the way you think Ebru and so glad you stopped by :)

Marcus

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Shelley Pringle February 6, 2012 at

Hi Marcus, great points as always. My goal in 2012 is to produce and post some videos. My priority platform is my blog, mostly because I love to write. The video will be a challenge since I’m not that comfortable in front of the camera and, like most people, I hate to watch myself. I’ve started preparing by creating some videos of a recent trip to South Africa to get the hang of editing. I’m also going to watch some videos of this pool guy I’ve heard about :). It actually never crossed my mind to read a book about it–I’ve learned from my blog that you really just have to dive right in and learn on the fly.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

I’m so excited for you Shelley!!!! Seriously, this is such a great goal and you’re doing exactly what you’ve got to be doing to make this weakness a strength. Let me know how it goes!!

Marcus

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Daniel Rose February 7, 2012 at

Great post. This year I’m looking to expand revenues in the technology consulting arena. We already do reasonably well in management consulting, but as an extension are looking at high level technology consulting.
Ironically, the platform is face to face. Although blogging, social media and the like are important, it’s hard to replace the absolute benefits of real world networking & relationships.
Keep up the great work

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

Awesome Daniel, sounds like you’re up to some really great things and you’ve got a plan to make it happen….good luck my friend!

Marcus

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Danny @ Firepole Marketing February 7, 2012 at

Hey Marcus, I couldn’t agree more – doing trumps reading any day of the week.

It’s a tricky balance, though, because half-baked doesn’t work either. I think the big problem is that people think there’s a formula, or blueprint, or magic system that makes it all work, and that just isn’t the case.

In real life, business is a series of hypothesis tests. Same goes for blogging and social media. I think people should study and read just enough to form a hypothesis and a plan for proving/disproving it, and then get to work. While they’re testing, they can think about what other assumptions they’d want to do it for as well.

Or, I might just tell them to read Engagement from Scratch! ;-)

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Ryan Hanley February 7, 2012 at

I agree with Danny in that Half-Baked doesn’t work… From my own experience it seems that a little bit of perspective and moderation go a long way.

Read some thought-leaders apply what you can… But the point is you have to actually put what you’re reading to use!

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

Well said bud.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

Amen to the “there is no magic blueprint” thought Danny. Like you said, we’ve got to experiment, experiment, and then experiment some more…with continued learning in between.

GREAT stuff brother!

Marcus

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BethanyBob February 7, 2012 at

It seems like the tool of the day is incorporating video into one’s business marketing. You have been a great inspiration for me to get out and try it — now if I could just remember to do my hair just right and wear the right shirt, I’d be all set. ;) (For example, today I am wearing a shirt that reads: “Which one of my personalities do you find offensive?” Not terribly appropriate for a video about massage therapy, right? Hehehe.)

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Michael Stetina February 7, 2012 at

Hi Marcus – I love your advice to “Quit learning and start doing”. There are so many different ways to promote yourself online these days. Just trying to decide on a few can be a time drain. The bottom line that we teach our clients is to pick a medium and start publishing.

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Jeni February 7, 2012 at

This blog is right to the point.
I would love to get a conversation started within the physical therapy industry: sharing content, research.. there really is a lack of a relevant dialogue! The difficulty I am facing is choosing the right platform. Linkedin seems to be the best place to share professional insights – but when it comes to educating the public – Facebook and Twitter pale in comparison to a simple google search of specific terms.. boom: wikipedia. So.. that’s where we are at.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

Jeni, I so understand where you’re coming from. I dealt with the same thing in the pool industry and realized there just weren’t any others that truly had a teacher’s mentality about content and marketing…so it sounds like you just need to continue to blaze your own trail.

Good luck!

Marcus

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Martina February 7, 2012 at

There is always value in learning more about what you are getting into, who the “players” are, what kind of blogs are being written.

I think reading other people’s blogs, watching their progress and metamorphosis can be instructive. But, eventually you have to write something and post. We each develop or should want to develop our own unique voice. Over-preparation has a tendency to stiffen our voice and make us sound like everyone else.

Read, get educated, but hone your own personla style, or the current buzz-word, “brand.”

We all grow and most of us mature as we put ourselves, our writing, and sometimes our feelings on the line.

Learn from everything and everyone, but be yourself.

Martina
@martinamcgowan

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

Seems like you’ve got a great sense of balance in all of this Martina. My personal opinion is that we should spend about 80% of our time producing, and 20% learning…Would you say that’s about accurate for you or would you break it out differently?

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Leon Noone February 7, 2012 at

G’Day Marcus,
Clearly, paralysis by analysis is alive and well.
Your curmudgeonly friend from Down Unda would suggest to Lisa that

She have a very specific target market for her blog
She practice writing cogent, lucid, simple English
She recognise that writing is about readers not writers. Write stuff that her target market will like to read, even if they disagree with it
If she feels that she must read books, read books about clear writing
She’s writing a blog. She’s not part of some pseudo-religious crusade led by The Blogging Brigade.

Incidentally, I’ve “got into” LinkedIn a fair bit in the last 3-4 months. I’m finding it to be a very useful business tool.

Tell Lisa about the importance of fun too
Best Wishes
Leon

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

I think Lisa would be very grateful for you sound advice Leon…but heck, with all them years under the ‘old curmudgeon’s’ belt, how could it not be sound?? ;)

Always a pleasure seeing you stop by my friend,

Marcus

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Nea | Self Improvement Saga February 7, 2012 at

I really enjoyed this post. I’m a part of the learn-as-you-go clan. I definitely see great benefit in learning about blogging before starting, but perfectionism can turn you into the ultimate procrastinator.

As for me, my new thing is leveraging LinkedIN and local networking groups to build strong relationships with people. My goal is wild growth for both my blog and life coaching practice.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

Sounds like you’ve got a solid plan Nea, that’s great! Just keep it up and when you get great with LinkedIn, do me a favor and give me a call so that I don’t stink at the medium! ;)

Marcus

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Crystal February 7, 2012 at

Hands-on experience usually wins out over book learning any day. That being said, it is also usually better to have some clue where to start on any new venture and learning from the experience of others can save time and frustration.

As for me in 2012, I’ve yet to embrace facebook and plan to work on that. At least I’m finally starting to see how it might be beneficial, especially for my new ebook proofreading service, which is a huge step forward. Now if they’d just quit changing everything as soon as I figure out how it works!

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

An eBook proofreading service Crystal? Wow, I LOVE that idea. Seriously! Let me know how that goes for you, I think it could seriously do well if you’re able to get the word out.

Marcus

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Crystal February 7, 2012 at

Yep – I’m working on getting the word out! My original plan was to focus on informational ebooks, but I’m happy to say that I now have a fiction client, as well.
I’ve actually been doing this on a limited basis for a couple of years and finally thought, DUH! If there are a few people who need this service, there are likely many, many more. So, if you ever need a polishing proofread on a final draft, now you know who to call.:)

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Glen Kohlenberg February 7, 2012 at

Marcus it did not take me long to figure out that I was not good at the social media thing! I do love to write and that is what I do. I trained someone else to to the SM thing and she is awesome at it.
My goal this year is to learn video because I do like the creation part of it. Will use YouTube and our web sites to educate our clients about our products and services.

Thanks, Glen

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

That’s awesome Glen— You identified your strengths and have put the right people in place to address your weaknesses. You know, in many ways that’s what it’s all about.

So excited to see how your videos come out!

Marcus

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Adarsh Thampy February 7, 2012 at

Marcus,

Great post as always.

In my opinion, a person getting started with social media should at least read 1 book. I am not sure about reading X many books to get started. But my thought is that 1 or 2 books on the subject might be a good start.

There is too much conflicting advice online about social media online people are often more confused than ever. So a book from an authority will rightly guide them in the beginning. Then of course it’s all about practice.

“Quit reading about blogging and publish your first post”- Love this one. I know one of my friends who wanted to start a blog back in 2009. He came to me and asked for advice. I gave him the basic tips to get started and then pointed him to problogger for more advanced tips.

Fast forward to Dec 2011, when I pet him, I asked about his blog. Guess what? He’s still reading problogger and waiting for the “right moment” to get started :)

In 2012, I am planning to launch an info product. My main focus will be on my blog of course. But I’d love to develop my Twitter and Google plus outposts as well.

Time is a huge constraint. Even after quitting my full time job, I still feel that I do not have enough time to read through all the blog posts :( . I’ll probably cut down on the blogs I follow to make sure that I get more time to focus on doing stuff rather than just reading :)

I am still worried about all the social media advice online. Is it mature enough for people to come to conclusions about it? I see one post on a popular blog raving about one type of social media technique, but another site bases the same one.

Another trend I am seeing is most blogging about blogging blogs are shifting their focus to social media. I have seen a lot of such blogs writing about social media these days than about blogging. I wonder if the trend will be seen in other niches within internet marketing/tech blogging as well.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

Adarsh, as always, you bring awesome stuff whenever you stop by my friend.

It’s funny how many people are just like your friend. Reading and reading and reading but never doing or applying. I see that again and again.

You are such a hard worker Adarsh. You write good stuff. And you’re getting better and better. I really mean that.

Cheering you on bud and good luck with the product launch this year!

Marcus

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Adarsh Thampy February 7, 2012 at

Thanks Marcus. I sent you a mail regarding networking. Hope you received then. Do reply when you have the time.

P.S: I really should compose my comments on Word. Now that I re-read my comment, I spotted so many typos :(

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Gwen February 7, 2012 at

A person of action…thanks for the reminder.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2012 at

Any time Gwen! :)

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Jason Mulholland February 7, 2012 at

Amen Marcus. I’ll admit I am guilty of consuming and not doing for a while, but that has changed. It’s impossible to be up and up on everything and be effective. It can literally paralyze you if you let it.

Platforms for 2012 you ask? Less of Facebook and Twitter. More on Blogging and LinkedIn.

Thanks for the cool post – yet another easy read, with sound advice. :)

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Kadee February 7, 2012 at

I agree that going out and doing is the best possible way to learn – what works for you may not work for another. However, I think reading a full book pre-launch can help you weigh the benefits and pitfalls before diving in.

If it were me, I think I’d also respond to “Lisa” that when you first begin it may feel like you’re running in place for quite awhile or that no one is listening. It takes time, especially with an industry that changes as much as this one, to really understand all the different sides of best practices and to really form your own opinions. I can understand how jumping in and talking without knowing the “conversation” can be scary to some but just write about what you know (and please don’t act like you know more or have more experience than you do) and don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. It’s okay and people will be more open to that.

Very nice article thanks fro sharing.

@kadeeirene

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Andrea Hypno February 8, 2012 at

Blogging man, blogging. But let me add something about reading ten books as sometimes it’s needed, not because you find always interesting things but because it’s hard to find the original version. Let me explain it further: let’s talk about the Secret. After it was published I guess there were hundreds of books about the Law of Attraction, plus courses, dvds and so on. All the usual marketing thing. So you buy one book but really don’t understand the concept, than another, and another and finally you get to the Science of getting rich or As a man thinketh and finally you understand that all the rest was just a copy rewritten of them. And you get pretty upset because you could find them for free in places like Project Gutemberg. Nothing against seeing things from a different angle but that’s different from picking up some public domain books and selling them again after having done just a bit of renovation. Maybe for a lot of bucks.

Think about public speaking: there is Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale and maybe a couple of others. These are the original sources and given that they write about principles which are evergreen there isn’t really something to be added. If you’re lucky you read them first, if not you might have to buy way more than 10 books until you get them and understand that you’ve been ……

What’s difficult is finding the original source and not copycats. Maybe it isn’t true in every field though.

Sticking with blogging someone could go broke if he or she has to follow the gurus’ directives and buy all those courses and books before beginning to blog. And no one is sure that the information in those courses are worthy the expenses.

With all the information which can be found online for free it’s better to read them and then start doing it, hopefully information from real professionals and not self applied gurus. Then if later on and after having acquired a knowledge basis someone needs deeper or more professional information then it’s the moment to start thinking paying for something. That’s what I’ve done with both Hypnosis and Stress Management and it worked well.

Anyway I think it’s normal that beginning to blog someone tries to follow every advice from more experienced bloggers and aims to be good at everything. Today is social media, yesterday was super duper seo techniques, tomorrow will be who knows what, not Facebook as it will collapse soon after the IPO. Then after learning a bit of the tricks of the trade someone can focus on what he does best and forget the rest. I’ve thrown almost all of the social media thing out of the window and focus on trying to write evergreen content with good keywords and learning and commenting on few good blogs, simply because I just can’t read others’ posts all day.

Does it work? For me yes even if I’m not socially cool, the only “problem” is that traffic doesn’t match with earnings and I’ll probably have really to think about switching to something else than Adsense as its relevancy is almost, well, pathetic and earnings usually cents for 25 days per month. But this is something that can’t be helped by social media so for now I’ll stick with this way of blogging.

Phew, seems like a guest post, sorry if I went a bit long-winded but it happens when I talk about interesting topics. And I hope it all makes sense. :)

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Marcus Sheridan February 9, 2012 at

Yes, it all makes sense Andrea. Your passion permeates your writings and oozes all over the page, which is why I appreciate you so much.

Keep learning, growing, doing, and pushing—and I know you’ll reach your goals.

Best,

Marcus

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Kathi Kruse February 8, 2012 at

Well Marcus, I was looking for some inspiration for my next post and here you are! I love your attitude and the way you write is exactly how you talk–it’s awesome. I was at a Digital Mktg Strategies Conference for car dealers all last week and your message is exactly what they all need. Many of them are already in the Social space but there is a level of apprehension that permeates their actions. Some dealers (who were not there) don’t even believe in inbound marketing! You rock dude…I’m going to write a blog post and link back to you. PS: I heard you on Mitch Joel’s podcast a few weeks ago–love, love, love your story!

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Marcus Sheridan February 9, 2012 at

You’re so kind Kathi! From what you’re telling me, it sounds like you need to bring those dinosaurs in your industry out of the stone ages! With your passion though, I sense it will happen at some point. :)

Thanks so much for your kind words and support,

Marcus

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Rebecca Livermore February 9, 2012 at

From a sheer age perspective, I’m one of those dinosaurs. ;-) But thankfully, I love learning new ways of doing things. I do meet a lot of people my age who are afraid to try new things, but fortunately, many who are open.

I believe one key is treating “those people” with respect and acknowledging what they bring to the table in terms of life experience, and how that can be integrated into new ways of doing things. I think if we value what they have to offer, they will be more open to hearing about new and different ways of doing things. Such an approach also helps to reduce an “us vs. them” feeling. It’s hard to make progress with someone if they feel defensive and disrespected, and in many cases insecure since it’s a world they are not familiar with.

Of course, some will still not respond positively, but there is definitely hope among the older crowd. :)

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Tom Ewer February 8, 2012 at

Hey Marcus,

For my blog in 2012, I am primarily trying to create a brand. Nothing special – I just want people in my niche to know about me. I want my brand to be on the tip of people’s tongues. I think everything else can flow from that.

I am focused on Twitter and Facebook. Although I recognize Facebook as the biggest potential traffic driver of the two, I seem to be having a lot more joy with Twitter…I can’t figure out how to create a sizable audience with Facebook yet. I’ll keep testing!

Cheers,

Tom

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Marcus Sheridan February 9, 2012 at

Tom, you are a man of action, and I know you’re testing things, which is such a key to all of this. Wishing you success with all your goals in 2012 my man.

Marcus

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Oklahoma Roofer February 8, 2012 at

Thank you so much, Marcus, for taking the time to share this information and your thoughts and ideas. I am currently rebuilding my website on a blog platform that, from what I understand, will make it much easier for me to market the website. This article, and others on your website, are becoming very helpful to me and I really appreciate that. Thank you !

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Christina Pappas February 8, 2012 at

So I would have recommended some books and made some introductions had I got this same email sent to me. Love your take on this though and Im thinking more seriously about it. Anyone who knows me knows that I love to read. But what they also know is that I love to dive into things and get dirty. Im not always right but I am open to learning from my mistakes and I can tell you I learned a hell of a lot more from working with awesome mentors than I did in college reading books and writing papers.

As for me, I just read a post on Mack Collier’s blog the other day about engagement and traffic. He said you cannot have both and need to pick one. So thinking about things and my goals, I am going to say traffic. Why? Because my blog is for personal reasons. I am not here to sell but I am here to be a voice and so I am striving to become a bigger voice. What that means is that I am writing more posts and spending more time interacting with posts that strike me (this is one ;) ). Am giving myself a month to see what happens and go from there.

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Marcus Sheridan February 9, 2012 at

Yep, that is exactly why I think your awesome Christina– you’re not afraid to roll around in the dirt. You’re not afraid to fail. And your not afraid to experiment.

Loved this example!

Keep rockin,

Marcus

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Susan Daniels February 9, 2012 at

I have trouble reading books! I fall asleep. They have to be quick and to the point or I only get half-way through them. I use books more as a quick reference than reading from cover to cover. Gleaning through information such as yours gives me concise insight and sends me on my way with new information that I can understand. I love blogs for this reason. A blog post doesn’t overload me with so much information that my brain spills over :).

I do have a question about platforms. Mentors suggest to me that I should follow my niche group to the sites they prefer and I’m not sure how to determine that. I know that’s a rather vague question, so let’s say for instance… if the group I want to attract to my blog or niche network are over 40, fairly new or really new to social media and a little intimidated by it – how would I determine the platform?

Warmly,
Susan

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Marcus Sheridan February 9, 2012 at

Have you ever just asked some of your regular friends this question Susan? Yes, it can be a tough decision, but my impression is this–blogging is the best ‘basic’ platform. Facebook next. And those are likely the two I’d focus on the most. And if your slant is towards other women, then FB is certainly important.

Good luck to you Susan!!

Marcus

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Jason Fonceca February 9, 2012 at

I’m hearing echoes of NIKE.

:)

And I love it.

, man.

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Marcus Sheridan February 9, 2012 at

Hahahaha, thanks bro, appreciate that. :)

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Davina K. Brewer February 9, 2012 at

Mini-comment bombs Marcus, as I’m late to the party:

Marjorie: WORD. It’s a mistake to think ‘anyone can do it’ w/ just about anything; social media is no different. If you want to goof off, have fun and care less how this effects friends, family, your job or professional reputation, then by all means, jump in blind and mix things up. If you want to do it well, get it right – then research, strategy are essential.

Paul: The few business books – esp. those on social media – I’ve tried to read not only felt dated, they are so generalized, so filtered and frankly, no more actionable or compelling than the better-than-average blog post. (draft pending)

Mark, Eric, Jack, Christina: yes, yes, yes and more yes.

It’s not that books are useless or meeting people is bad, it all comes down to goals. What one wants from social media, professionally and/or personally. Aspiring to be a social media star – I could try that but I’m not sure that’s a very good payday for me. I’m doing this as a part of marketing myself as a solo PR; and I am social b/c I like it, but never forgetting that ‘I’m not normal’ and FB lives forever.

What “Lisa” needs to do is decide WHY she wants to learn about social media, WHAT her goals are, WHERE she wants to go with it, WHEN this needs to happen and HOW she intends to get there. Social media strategy 101. I’m all for your “Just do it” and hit publish already Marcus and we can certainly over-think things, be too cautious .. but it’s not always that easy. Without knowing whether or not she’s doing this for personal or professional reasons, I think Lisa’s not that off-base; she’s looking before she leaps, PPPPP – FWIW.

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Jens P. Berget February 9, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,

Interesting question and awesome answers. It’s hard to find the perfect balance between learning and doing, but learning while doing is my take on social media. I’ll be focusing on blogging in 2012, and the reason is that I find it easier to build relationships via the content I publish via my blog. To me, Facebook, Twitter etc.. are ways to chat with people, but blogs create authority and makes people trust you. I’m not sure that I’m right, but that’s how I feel :)

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Natalie February 13, 2012 at

Really interesting debate, and I think for a lot of people, just having a go is the scary bit!

I speak to lots of SMEs who are thinking of dipping their toes in social media, but want to know what will work for them – the truth is that no one can tell them! It depends on what platforms they like working on and how effectively they can engage and network through them.

The best advice that anyone can give is to have a go – learning yourself is great. Don’t be afraid of making some mistakes, as long as you learn from them it’s not the end of the world. I agree totally with trial and error, and don’t be afraid to give everything a try!

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Marcus Sheridan February 14, 2012 at

Natalie, it appears that you’ve got a sound way of helping others “get it” when it comes to all this social media stuff. They’ve got to be willing to experiment and fail, that’s just part of the deal.

Great stuff,

Marcus

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nina February 16, 2012 at

Hi Marcus-

I think I could have written that email that you responded to… took the words and questions right out of my mouth. Well, like you said I am just jumping in and starting this project I have wanted to do for a long time. Web site is almost done and pretty excited about it. A collaborative effort with my friends. So thanks for the great advise and to all your followers.

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Keith February 17, 2012 at

Maybe there was more to this email, but it appears to me that “Lisa” wants to try to be a #expertninjarockstarcoachguru but isn’t willing to put in the time.

I look at it this way, Since 2008 I have been using SM to market both my own businesses as well as clients. Real experience. Real results.

In 2008 I took my little unknown, brand new fence contracting biz from $0 to $50k per month in sales using a blog and social media (mostly Twitter). It took only a few months of time, and I spent no money other than the $1500 for my website.

Get in the trenches…..

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Katie Martin February 29, 2012 at

It is definitely true that getting into the blogging world is very different from getting into previous work arenas- it often doesn’t come with business attire everyday, downtown offices, or passing on business cards. But I do think that trying to do a little bit of research about your industry is not a bad thing. I mean, maybe reading 10 books about social media is a bit much, but maybe reading one or two about the basic principles of blogging, or seeing what seems to be the most effective social media source out at the moment would be a good thing to do and wouldn’t keep you from “just jumping in” for very long. I do applaud this “Lisa” girl for going at her goal with a focused and business-minded attitude, but it does seem like she has a slightly skewed perspective of the career she is about to get into. I hope she does well, because she is obviously very gung ho about succeeding!
What made you get interested in blogging?

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Marcus Sheridan March 1, 2012 at

Hi Katie, thanks for taking a moment to stop by and leave this comment.

I agree that some research is necessary, but I think the order is best like this: research->action->research->action….instead of research->research->research->research->and research some more and then…..action. :)

As for what got me into blogging, I think it all comes back to the fact that I love teaching. It’s in my blood. :)

Thanks again and have a great week,

Marcus

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Anton June 4, 2012 at

Well, any specialist just has to keep it balanced when it comes to self-improvement. A “theory+practice” works well. I mean, one should not read books on blogging, but grammar and stylistics textbooks and apply the knowledge captured from it in real life experience.

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