Walk, jog, or sprint?

The great and terrible thing about social media is the speed and ease with which it allows you to share information with people.

There are moments when I celebrate how easy you can capture a moment and post it to social media. I'll take a photo, edit it, write a caption, and hit 'post' within the span of two minutes, and have hundreds - even thousands - of people see and engage with that content in an instant.

Then there are other moments when I rue the day social media was invented. I'll write a tweet I think is going to awe the masses and have astronomical reach, and instead, I'll end up tweeting misinformation or misquoting someone... and then four people retweet it before I can delete the content and repost.

I'm fortunate enough to say that none of the mistakes I've made using social media on behalf of an organization have been catastrophic, but I am unceasingly conscious of how easy it is for one terrible tweet or status post to do irreparable damage. 

And this consciousness, some would call it anxiety (I probably would), has forced me to generate a "philosophy of social media speeds." Which is to say, I've come to understand that there are three general approaches to social media.

You can walk, you can jog, or you can sprint.

If you choose to walk, it means you're going to be slow out of the gates. Whether it's because you're being too particular about what you're posting to have it delivered in timely fashion, or because you have no idea what you're doing and still trying to figure out whose 'face' is in which 'book,' choosing the social media walk basically results in being left behind.

If you choose to sprint, you're on the other end of the spectrum. You treat social media like the wild west, you use your iPhone like a revolver, and you shoot anything that moves. If you choose to sprint, chances are you know social media well and feel capable enough using it to post content without proof reading it or thinking all that meaningfully about what you're sharing. Doing so might allow you to lead the pack for a brief span of time, but it may not necessarily mean you are leading well. With this approach, typos, lack of clarity and quality, and misinformation typically abound.

If you choose to jog, you aren't falling behind or being swept up in the speed of social media. Instead, you're maintaining a steady pace and able to take the best from the sprinters and the joggers. You think meaningfully about what you're posting and make sure to proof it before you do; you're scheduling your posts in a timely fashion so that, although you may be a few minutes behind the sprinters, you're ultimately going to create more engagement, because you're posting content at the best possible moment and making sure that your content isn't irrelevant or thrown together.

Explaining the approaches this way almost means that I don't have to write which one I believe is best for social media, but I'll write it anyways to drive the point home.

If at all possible, choose to jog when you're using social media, especially when you're producing and communicating content on behalf of an organization. Although it may seem counterintuitive because it appears everyone else is reaping the rewards of approaching social media like a 100 metre sprint, I can say for certain that social media is not a 100 metre sprint; it's a marathon, and the people who choose to jog are the people who end up leading in the end.

So don't be like me and learn the hard way. As much as possible, try to jog when using social media. And sure, there may be times when you have to sprint - because that's the nature of the game - but when you do sprint, sprint well, and make sure you go back to the jog when it's time to go back to the jog. 

Else you're going to use up your social media stamina and end up passing out (i.e. failing miserably).