Skydiving into the Social Web

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Higher Education, Marketing, Research, Social Media, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts | Posted on 01-06-2010

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A couple of months ago I had a spare day on a client trip.  I went to on Tripadvisor.com to see what there was to do in Wollongong, Australia.  The number one result?  SkyDive the Beach. I decided to take the plunge and it was pretty amazing. (Video here.)

I’ve reflected back on that event many times in the past weeks, thinking of the rush, the thrill, the adrenaline (and more importantly, the landing!). I believe that skydiving can be a great metaphor for how we jump into the social web and use it. Stick with me.

Skydiving

Tandem Skydiving starts with some initial training.  Here’s how you jump out of the plane, and here’s how you land.  That’s it. Nothing can truly prepare you for what’s about to happen in a few short moments.

From there, you take a slow, spiraling plane ride up to 14,000 ft and you begin to see the world from a much broader view. Before you know it, you’re getting shoved out of a plane and you’re free-falling at 120+ miles per hour towards the earth.  You do this for about 9,000 feet, and then, hopefully, your parachute deploys.  It’s a violent jerk that lasts for a few seconds.  Your head is still spinning, but you start to feel a sense of calm.  And for the next 5,000 feet, you’re gliding and gently coasting through the air, still taking in the scenery, but from a much smaller perspective. You view of the world shrank from 15,000 to 5,000 feet.   You then zone in on your landing point, the end goal, and begin floating towards it.  You pull the strings to line yourself up, you get closer and closer, and you finally touch down to the ground, reaching your goal.

Social Web

The Social Web is a lot like Skydiving.  First, you hear about it. (We’re pretty much all past these first few stages, so reminisce for a bit.)  You look into it a little, and it seems fun. You sign up for it, and search around for some initial training.  Blogs, podcasts, and books provide you some general information of what you can do and what to expect.  But like skydiving, nothing can truly prepare you for what’s about to happen.   For example, there are intrinsic values of community managers and marketers that aren’t easily trained.  Like skydiving, a lot of learning comes from doing.

So you become ready to take the plunge.  You’re at the top, with your 15,000 foot view of the Social Web.  (And someone has probably shown you an image of the Social Media Landscape, a Conversation Prism, or an Ohio State Social Media Butterfly at this point.)  You have this great view of what’s possible, and you’re able to see it all.  It’s overwhelming, but thrilling.  It’s daunting, but it seems doable.

Next, you jump.  The freefall begins.  Your heart is racing, the new sites, tips, tricks, blog posts, links, tweets and tools are flying by you faster than you can consume them.  The first 9,000 feet go by so quickly you hardly have time to take it all in. You’re scrambling to make sense of what’s happening with it all.

Before you know it, your parachute springs opens at 5,000 feet. You now have a much smaller view of the world, a more targeted view. Your end goal is closer and much more visible, and you’re able to focus on it and move towards it more carefully and methodically by pulling the right strings in the right direction.

Where are you at in your jump?

I’m going to assume that for most of you, the parachute has deployed or you’re ending your initial free-fall.  You’re able to breathe a little more and you’re not looking at the 15,000 ft view of the social web anymore.  You’re down around 5,000 feet, focusing on a smaller landscape of tools and sites to work with.  Are you focusing on the goals more carefully now? Do you know where you want to land with your project?  And when you get there, are you ready to take it all on again?

If you haven’t deployed your parachute yet, maybe you’re thinking it’s time to settle in and focus on a few that work best. If you’re still freefalling, you might still be trying to decide how much is manageable and where it all fits in.  Regardless of where you are, know this:  many others have gone before you, many others will jump after you.  And for the most part, we’ll all survive. :)

Oh, and one more similarity. For both skydiving and the Social Web, you’ll definitely run into someone who says “I cannot believe you are doing this. You’re ridiculous.” Ignore them. Both are a blast. :)

Comments posted (5)

Thanks, Brad, for your thoughtful analysis. As I type, I am plunging – waiting for the parachute to open. In everything I have read regarding social media lessons learned, the first decade of this century has been about “consumer adoption” of social media. This new decade is about marketing adoption so now that we have “crowd sourced”, how do marketers capitalize on their following? At UMass we continue to expand our reach and engagement to various audiences which are important to our university via social media. Hopefully, the chute will deploy and we will have a smooth ride landing on our feet (or at least not crashing to the earth). Enough analogies, if there are any strategies we are overlooking, please let us know. Best to all for a happy new year. @UMassAmherst

Hey Brad,
Nice piece, great video!

Yes, the jump into social media can be very exhilarating. But as you point out, most of us survive, even if we miss our marks from time to time. Great thoughts and great post!

That’s a great analogy Brad. The time off deciding is really past, it is time to jump in. In the spirit of your analogy, jumping into the social web does not come with out risks, but if the risks are calculated and you are prepared, you will be fine.

If people never did anything because it was risky, most of the inventions or explorations of our time would not have happened.

Great post and good to read a post from you again.

Thanks, Brad heyy perfect video

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