September 18, 2013

Are you surfing the social media wave?

surfing-the-wave

Photo by JD Lasica

Hang ten and ride that wave for years to come

Target audience: Marketing professionals, entrepreneurs, PR professionals, businesses, social media specialists.

Chris AbrahamSocial media marketing and digital PR consultants spend too much time paddling and not enough time surfing. Let me explain. It’s my opinion that social media and digital marketing strategists spend so much time paddling ahead of the breaking wave that they never benefit from the ride. Put in simple terms: None of the consulting money, jobs, or gigs live too far along the bleeding edge. I was selling search engine optimization 10 years ago but SEO only became legit and de rigueur 18 months ago.

I was selling online reputation management back in 2005 but ORM really only became an essential crisis strategy a few years ago. I was so far ahead of the wave that by the time the wave came around, I was exhausted from paddling!

Be careful! You might be such an early adopter that you call death on each meme, platform, trend, and social network just before it becomes The Next Big Thing — sort of like rejecting the band you discovered in that dive deep in Brooklyn, the band you love, just because it finally got booked at Madison Square Garden.

Here’s a hint: There’s no real money in risk. You might think that being cutting edge with regard to tech, social media, communications channels, and advertising is the best differentiator, your secret weapon.

It’s not true.

You might have very few competitors for that space, but you’ll also have very few clients who are willing to write checks toward unproven channels.

First mover advantage: Risk but rewards

I grew up in Hawaii, see, so let’s use surfing as a metaphor. Surfing is tricky and has much more to do with timing and being in the right place at the right time than anything else — even more than how strong your lats are or how hard and fast you can paddle.

Here’s the secret about surfing. Surfing’s surely not about getting ahead of a wave, and it’s definitely not about chasing down a wave that’s already passed you. It’s about dropping in on a wave.

The perfect timing is exactly when the wave is cresting, before it breaks, well before it crashes.

Surfers don’t catch breaking waves, they catch cresting — catchable — waves.

waves

Beginners chase uncatchable waves, hoping to either paddle hard enough to make it to cresting or they’ll catch breaking — and sometimes crashing — waves.

Obviously, don’t miss the wave; but even missing a wave is fun. There’s a lot of fun to be had catching crashing shore breaks. There are plenty of crumbs cleaning up after markets that are well past their prime — in fact, there are still thousands of people who support obsolete tech. Typewriter repair shops, print shops, printer repair teams, vacuum repair shops, tutorials on CDs, and so forth. However, it’s really hard to make money from a market that doesn’t exist yet.

They call this the first-mover advantage and it’s a grind. There might well be lots of reward, but it’s a very risky proposition.

Look to become an expert in something that’s cresting right now

Being the savviest, smartest, or most curious kid who has his or her finger on the pulse of what’s happening now in the Valley or in deepest, darkest Brooklyn may well be a recipe for bankruptcy and destruction unless you’re able to persist through the calm between sets or you’re able to use marketing, PR, buzz, and publishing to kick start that wave into existence.

Become a stone cold expert in something that’s cresting right now and catch that wave. If you play your cards right, you’ll ride that wave for years.

That smart money says that in a country of over 316 million Americans with 273,785,413 people online with access to a world of 7.1 billion people, including 2,405,518,376 global Internet users, there’s plenty of work to go around — whether you’ve timed it perfectly and dropped into the most amazing tubular wave or are just splashing around in the surf, forget the cutting edge!

Another advantage of spending your time on top of the wave, rather than well ahead of it, is that you won’t have to work so hard.

Instead of creating a wave out of whole H20, you’ll be able to benefit from everyone else’s hard work and, with just a little bit of salesmanship and some mad skills, a staff with practical experience, and tools that were made especially to service this sector, you’ll soon be printing your own money!

And just think about all the best salemen: They’re still selling widgets. And think about all the movie producers: They’re selling the same superhero stories every couple of years, remade.

And, think about your teachers in elementary school, high school, college, and grad school: Very little innovation outside of a couple bells and whistles, for the most part!

You should do the same thing. Become a stone cold expert in something that’s cresting right now and catch that wave. If you play your cards right, you’ll be riding that wave for years. And, if you’re smart, you’ll make the sort of adjustments to keep that wave going for a solid decade, just like me.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to. I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all. But I think you’re moving too fast.

Hang ten, social media marketing rock star! Don’t worry, there’s a new generation of businesses, clients, and staff who will need your savvy insights and benefit from your experiences for the foreseeable future, as far as the horizon stretches.Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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