Five reasons why social media is like … skydiving

You may not think that an extreme sport such as skydiving has a lot in common with social media, but you’d be surprised.  In fact, there are five key similarities.

It terrifies people

I’ve been skydiving.  It was the biggest thrill I’ve ever had.  Freefalling for what seemed like 20 minutes was the biggest buzz but even as I tell people that story about what it is like to plummet to the earth the person listening to the story goes white as a sheet.  Their hands tighten, their knuckles tense and they grip whatever it is they’re holding as tightly as possible.

I’ve seen people give the same reaction when I’ve suggested their company fully embraces social media.  Usually in management, but others are so terrified by the freefall and the element of danger that they run a mile whenever the subject comes up.  They have been educated to believe social media is all danger, no buzz.  Just like skydiving.

Because there are lots of stories in the mainstream media that shows the dangers and nothing else

You only ever hear about skydiving in the news when someone’s chute doesn’t open and they make a mess of themselves on landing.  Or a tandem jump went wrong and a first-time skydiver met their maker.  Or an experienced skydiving instructor doing his 500th jump, played the odds once too often and now he’s no longer with us.   It’s simply not news if someone jumps out of a plane and lands safely.

The mainstream media is no different with stories on social media.  It’s all about privacy issues or safety of children or it’s a paedophile’s playground.  You rarely hear about single owner businesses opening up new markets via social media or schools building a community for the families of their international students.  There are precious few stories that are positive.

You need to prepare properly

When you are skydiving, you pack everything more than once.  For the more nervous skydiver, that number is closer to 100.  You are making sure that if anything goes wrong, you’re prepared for it.

Social media should be, but rarely is, no different.  You need to prepare for 10 or 11 things that could go wrong so, if they do, you are ready.

Because the first 15 seconds can be exhilarating but the feeling doesn’t last.

When you first step out of the plane and jump, it’s like a adrenalin rush generating by pure falling.  The feeling is exhilarating, refreshing and terrifying.   But once your chute opens and you glide down to earth, that rush is over.

I have worked with many organisations who have said, ‘we’re now on Facebook!’  The first two weeks, they posted often and regularly responding because it was fun.  Then the first 15 seconds ends, the novelty wears off and it’s not fun any more.

Because once you land, you want to do it again.

I’ve worked with countless clients over the years in the social media space and their response when something in their social media program worked says one thing: let’s do it again.

I’ve worked with Government clients who see the response to the videos we made for them.  They want to do more.  Schools have gathered enrolments through Facebook and want to know how to keep them coming.

It’s no different to when I landed the first skydiving jump. My feet hit the ground and I wanted to go straight back up there.  If you do social media well, the feeling can be the same for you as well.

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