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Constant adjustments: The reason sailing and social media management are kind of the same

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Credit: Katie Contos

For those who don’t know, I sail. That’s my boat, the Wild Goose, above.

Over the weekend, I skippered my first race. I’m usually the bowman, the guy at the front of the boat who launches the spinnaker (a big parachute) on downwind runs and yells at other boats to get out of the way.

Saturday was my day to take the helm, though, so I did. What struck me about skippering was how ridiculously exhausting it was.

During a race, a skipper’s only real job is to keep boat speed up. This is achieved by optimizing a variety of factors:

  • The shape of your sail, usually judged by how your telltales (little strings on the sail) are flying.
  • Your angle to the wind, which you can tell by the wind vane/Windex (assuming you have one) at the top of your mast.
  • The distribution of weight on the boat.
  • The … well, you get the idea.

I could go on, but the point is, while you’re steering the boat, you’re also checking all these things and more, and if you want to win, you’re checking them pretty much every single second you’re in the race.

If you’re a social media manager, you’re skippering

While I’m doing all this, I’ve got a little GPS unit next to me that tells me how fast the boat is going, so I know if the adjustment I just made sped the boat up, slowed it down or had no effect at all. Whatever it is you’re trying to achieve with your social campaign — that’s your GPS unit.

Whether you’re looking to increase pageviews, time on site or Facebook Likes, you should find the right metrics to measure that growth and then mess with how you present your content and see how those metrics respond. Somewhere in there is a strategy that works for you; you just have to take the time to fine-tune your approach and find it.

One more thing: When you think you can’t check your content’s performance any more, check it one more time. There are probably anywhere from several to dozens more people competing with you for the same audience, so the more time you’re able to put into your campaign, the better the odds are that you’ll find the golden nugget that’ll deliver the results you want.

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Related: Read Ian Lurie’s post on how Internet marketing and sailing have a lot in common

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