Leadership and learning how to run your own business will no doubt always be a juggling act. Managing expectations (both your own and of others) and scheduling your time and energy to keep pressing on is a scheduling feat of epic proportions. The trick is learning to adapt as quickly as you fail. And to do that, you really have to own your failures, like a boss.
Warning, I'm about to get personal for this post. Most everyone who knew I wanted to start a company, even years ago, urged me to do it under my name specifically. Whatever the service or product I would offer, they wanted it to be under the brand of Christie St. Martin. While I know that works really well for a lot of people and I absolutely see the potential and ease of building a brand I am directly connected too - it just wasn't my path. Not anymore. I did that for years and for me, it came with the sort of personal anxiety I let rule my life and this time I wanted to pick and choose the moments to have my personal life be highlighted.
I found my passion was to help other people personalize their brand story and I no longer wanted to be the face of anything in such a direct way. Spotlight was apparently my Kryponite. Which baffles people who meet me because I come across as very outgoing and comfortable in the spotlight. I love to talk but I strive to be more like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, doing great magical things for others. Probably not the best example but you get my point.
Branding under my own image would have been MUCH easier. Simple even. I wouldn't have to worry about my tone or voice or what sort of things I could post alongside tips and tricks of the trade. Many in my field have slayed their industry by making their image their brand and I am so happy that works for them. I've been doing it so long, it seems like it would have been the natural thing for me to do too. I could have utilized my own social networks directly and continued to build the brand I created years ago when I started my first website that brought me jobs working for VH1's Best Week Ever or the Los Angeles Times when I was in my early 20's. Not choosing to go that route often feels like a personal failing to me. C'est la vie.
I am committed to the idea that I can keep my personal life for the most part at a distance from the company I created, in order to help others find their spotlight. I can pick and choose my moments to share. It's funny how people change over time and how our experiences shape us into the adults we become. I know for a fact, I used to love the spotlight and felt often the most comfortable with putting my voice out there online for anyone to judge but that's just not a thing I feel remotely comfortable doing anymore. Maybe it's a new mom thing. I am learning to own that personal truth. Making the best out of it and finding new ways to adapt with a double black diamond learning curve.
Which all, tangent aside, brings me back to utilizing failure for your company and how it can help you more than hurt your social media game. Part of what I encourage my clients to do and what you should do for yourself (regardless of whether you become my client) is to just EMBRACE THE FAIL. Look back on your lack lustre attempts at a social media campaign or the blank slate and empty accounts you neglect because you feel uncomfortable starting and get comfortable with the situation. They just didn't work. Own it.. but ask yourself why?
Love your failure. Live and breath it in like the glorious life lessons they are. It's how you find your rhythm. Your magic. It could be something as silly as sitting down with a glass of scotch and looking at your post performance over the past 3 months. You might see something you posted only two weeks ago and immediately recognize it was not in line with your business. Maybe your gut knew in the moment but you wanted to try something different. You committed to a decision, a change. Did it feel inauthentic even after convincing yourself it was worth trying? Maybe you had community engagement with it? TIME TO SCRAP IT. Let it go. Learn. Move on. And be proud you gave something different a shot but you'll listen to your gut next time.
Regular social media health check-ins, whether with me or with yourself, are VITAL for growth and finding the success you want for your business online. Start-ups, self-starters, makers, any new business venture goes through these lessons and it's no different with your social media campaign. Sometimes you'll have daily failures - until you course correct yourself out of deep water. Denying failures is not going to help you succeed.
One of my last jobs before deciding to fly solo (and then creating Firefly) was for a tech company that was a never ending roller-coaster ride of emotion. But through all of our company's failures, most of us came out of it stronger, smarter and more balanced than when we began. My former company spent a lot of time and energy being too scared to take chances. They would build a plan, spend hours and hours nodding their heads on video chats, feeling confident and when it was about to go, they would scrap it before letting that vision take shape. And that set them back their social media growth potential for years. They didn't trust their own judgement or the people they hired enough to let risk truly take flight. Oddly enough, the words of "embrace your failure" were uttered all the time. They believed and encouraged us to fail but they didn't live and breath mistakes the way I want you to feel is okay to do.
If you're in a position to hire a social media manager to run your account - fabulous! Hire someone you are inspired by. Hire someone who thinks differently than you but understands your company's vision. Make sure they master your brand. They live and breath your company's core values and vision. But then, breath and TRUST them to do something magical for you.
Oh if you aren't ready to hire someone full time and you're taking it all on yourself, when you go to examine something like your Facebook dashboard... BREATH. Relax. Take notes and make a list (I'm sort of a list freak. I'm sorry but also not sorry).
1. What were your top performing posts?
2. Is there anything similar about them?
3. What was in them that you think people really connected to?
4. How can you make that happen again and improve upon it?
5. What went wrong? Is it obvious? Are you baffled? *It's important to take some time with this one.*
6. What was the hardest part of your social shares this month? *Content creation maybe? Topics? Time to build a plan? Maybe it's a few issues. Write them down*
7. Where is there room for improvement?
8. Did you stay committed to your social content like you told yourself you would?
It is okay to fail. It is okay to ask for help. It's okay to learn and grow. I believe that people for the most part are incredibly kind and forgiving with others but are way too hard on themselves. Your online followers (if already built up) will understand your need to pivot. Tell them you're shifting and adapting your brand vision online. Honesty will make them cheer you on, not question your motives. Perhaps you really made a mistake online. Own up to it and your followers. If you need more time to create a content strategy and you think you've bitten off more than you can chew, announce you're taking a social hiatus. Tell them you'll be back when you're ready. You can adapt and change your social game if you allow yourself to fail and learn.
Be easy on you, okay? The internet isn't going anywhere. It will still be here when you're ready to bring your A game.
Christie St. Martin
Chief Firefly Officer