My Top 5 Social Media Mistakes
I have fucked up in so many ways while learning to be a social media marketer. You may know the feeling — loading up the apps over and over, yelling into the void, watching motivational videos and trying so hard but it just isn’t working.
It doesn’t have to be that way. These days I am able to use social media as a productive tool, without stress or obsession. It feels good!
This article explains the five worst mistakes I made during my first 1.5 years of social media marketing, from January 2017 to today. I’m sharing these stories in hopes of nudging you towards a more mindful and healthy relationship with social media marketing.
1) Building On The Wrong Platform
Have you ever built and monetized a 3,000+ follower blog and then left it all behind after 18 months of work? IIIIII haveeeee.
It is not fun to realize that after 1,000+ hours of work and perseverance, you built your whole building on a shaky foundation. For me it was the blockchain network Steem, where I got deep into the community and worked my ass off only to realize that the core economics of the platform resemble a scam.
I’ve always heard the most basic advice of digital marketing to be that you should own your home page. That means setting up a wordpress blog, paying a little bit (less than $100 in my experience) for the first year of hosting, and doing the work of posting great content there even though it’ll take a long time to get traffic.
Even after my Steem experience, I was obsessing over other platforms. Instagram, Medium, and Facebook probably aren’t going anywhere any time soon, but they still don’t belong to me.
I’d be an idiot to repeat this mistake — and I almost did! It wasn’t until a month after leaving Steem that I finally got my stuff together and put up my own site at mattsokol.blog.
If you don’t have a “home base” page that you own somewhere on the internet, you have no solid foundation for all of your work. Like Tim Ferriss puts it — “you could have the most profitable business in the world built on an active volcano.”
PRINCIPLE 1: Create your own home base on the internet and point to it from all the social media platforms. A simple wordpress blog with a few blog posts is plenty to start.
2) Listening to the Hustle, Ignoring the Patience
I was and continue to be a huge Gary Vee fan. I made a big mistake by selectively listening to his advice.
I heard the part about hustle and hard work. I was doing well in that regard, posting 3+ times per day on Steem and experimenting with a lot of Instagram and Facebook content at the same time. Honestly I was crushing it, following the exact marketing strategy Gary advocates for.
Except I didn’t listen to the part about patience. For one thing, Gary says it’ll take about 18 months to get anywhere even with all of the hustle. That seems to be true based on my 18 month journey from 0 to 3,000 followers on Steem — but I wasn’t using that patience in my own head. I felt disappointed every day when my posts would “only” get 50 views, or 6 likes, or whatever.
It’s easy to be impatient when my younger cousins get hundreds of likes on Instagram all the time. But it’s just a different world, even if I’m only 27, there is a HUGE generation gap between me (born in 1991) and those born in the mid-to-late 90’s.
And with enough hard work, it is clear that I can achieve all the success I’d ever want on social media.
PRINCIPLE 2: The harder you hustle, the more you should plan to be patient. Never try to cover up impatience with hustle, in fact, if you feel like you need to win today, take a day off immediately and journal/meditate on that feeling.
3) Tackling Too Many Platforms Too Quickly
Seeing the best social media masters distribute insane amounts of content across dozens of platforms can make you feel like you need to hit the ground running. It’s great to have content on Facebook, Insta, Twitter, YouTube, Medium, WordPress, Snapchat, and so many other platforms…
…but I can say from personal experience that unless you can invest a lot of money up-front on several employees to assist you, you’ll burn out fast trying to win every platform at once.
There is a big learning curve on each platform. You’ll want to spend 2–3 hours per day for at least a month just observing content and engaging with other people — not asking for any followers or spamming, just trying to learn. Charlie Munger is fond of talking about “micro-economics” in investing — like owning the only food stand at the airport — and a similar concept applies to social media if you pay attention.
I don’t care how hard you hustle, you can’t survive 10 hours a day of browsing and observing. And even 10 hours a day would only cover 3–4 platforms when you are starting.
In my opinion it is crucial to start slow. Right now I’m focused almost entirely on Medium and Instagram — and even then, Insta has the priority. Medium is actually a lucky coincidence, as I wrote an article for fun that got 400+ views and 50+% read-through with no promotion, sparking my interest to keep writing here.
Start slow. It’s better to win on one platform than to lose on ten. I’d advise adding no more than 2 platforms per every 3 months, and maybe only 1 per 3 months if you’re brand new to social media marketing as a serious discipline.
PRINCIPLE 3: Start with one social media platform, preferably a major one like Instagram or YouTube, and don’t use any others until you feel like you understand the first one pretty well and see some success.
4) Thinking That Low Engagement on a Post Means It’s a Failure
I used to cringe at myself every time a social media post “failed.” If I got below average engagement on a post, I saw that as a sign that I fucked up and needed to do better next time. It was a very self-critical approach.
Now I understand that the greatest social media marketers are trying new ideas every single day. There’s no such thing as a failed post as long as you learned something.
Everybody has a different style that reflects their own personality. Some keep it ultra-focused and businesslike, attacking a specific topic again and again from every angle until they’ve dominated the market. Others build more of a personal brand, showing off various aspects of their lives and weaving the core theme throughout.
Some love to talk politics, others stay politically neutral by design. Some share their families, others ask for privacy in that area and never show any family on screen (Gary Vee is noteworthy for keeping his family private, given how prolific he is)
Do what makes you happy, and create content that you are truly excited about. That way even a post “fails,” you can enjoy what you made and take solace in the new lesson you’ve learned.
Eventually, you may come to value the failures more than the successes. Repeating success can become easy, while learning always remains an interesting challenge.
PRINCIPLE FOUR: Consider failed posts a good thing as long as you aren’t repeating the same mistakes. Write down the key lesson or hypothesis that you’ve learned/developed after each “bad” post and give yourself a pat on the back for trying.
5) Checking Social Media Stats Like an Addict
Most people in the digital world are social media addicts. We all know people who, despite the most mindful demeanor or seeming self-control, just can’t stop checking Instagram every two minutes.
One of my good friends has now done two ten day meditation retreats, yet until a month ago he was a hardcore Instagram addict. It can get anybody. And if you’re trying to be a social media marketer, it is all the harder to avoid it because you can trick yourself into thinking the addiction is a productive habit.
Set clear limits for yourself. These will vary from person to person. I’ve done a strict rule of opening the app only once per day, and that was great for a long time. I also took more than a month off from all social media when I felt that I simply couldn’t balance it with my own happiness — a seemingly scary decision that cost me nothing and may have even injected a bit of mysteriousness into my social media persona. People were so excited when I came back!
Now I’m playing with new rules, treating the afternoon as my open window to do social media stuff and mostly avoiding it otherwise. It works for me because I’ve developed a lot of self control and awareness about how social media, productivity, and happiness play together.
If you are a newbie in social media marketing, I recommend strict limits. Give yourself no more than three sessions per day, and no more than 20 minutes per session. (The only exception is if you’re doing hashtag / comment outreach — which can be a 1–2 hour session once per day). Only expand from there if you have immense confidence that it won’t make you stress out.
When in doubt, take a day off. If that doesn’t work, take a week off. If that doesn’t work — perhaps take three months or more off and pursue other avenues. Marketing at the cost of your happiness is never worth it.
PRINCIPLE 5: Set limits, the stricter the better, to ensure your social media marketing does not consume more than 5% of your day-to-day mental energy.
Social media is the new TV, radio, and movie theater all wrapped into one. In 40 years kids will look at TV sets the way we look at public pay phones — wondering how anybody could have ever used one of those things.
If you think the change is going to slow down, you aren’t paying attention. Social media is the present and future of entertainment and education.
I hope that by sharing my mistakes, I’ve helped you to think more clearly about how social media marketing can work for you. Good luck and if you want to say hi, let me know here or on any platform (I’m always @heymattsokol) which of the five points in this article was most useful for you. Cheers!