Social Media for (not such) Dummies

Social Media for (not such) Dummies

Sarah’s question:

“Hi Bruce,

I have a personal question regarding social media. In a nutshell, I’m working to hone my social media skills; keeping up with the ever-changing industry and learning everything there is to know so that I can become an expert in the field. I want to know everything! But, as you know, it’s an extremely overwhelming industry and there is no textbook that is available to teach you everything. I’ve been hearing a lot about these social media certification courses, but I’m not sure that they’re worth the money. So I wanted to talk to an expert (you!) about your thoughts on this.

Thank you in advance,


My response:

“I don’t know much about these certification courses, Sarah, but I can’t imagine they’re particularly helpful unless perhaps you’re interested in learning programming.

Instead, building your own robust online social media (SM) presence would be your best way to keep up-to-speed on the practical realities and changes in the space.

I’ve had clients tell me they want to learn about SM but they don’t want to actually do it — what they’re looking for is the book they can read that’ll show them what to do. Their question is simple: what book should they read?

My answer is that learning SM is like learning to swim (SwiM, get it?). You can read all the books you want on swimming but if I row you out into the ocean and throw you over board, you’re not going to be able to swim very well, are you? And I can even toss you the book but if it’s not made of Styrofoam it’s not going to help keep you above the water either.

The way to learn how to do it is to do it.


I do recommend you attend various conference and seminars — that’s where you’ll find people who are passionate about staying ahead of the bleeding edge in the technologies and who will be able to help you. Maybe you should even read some great books (The Viral Loop or Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, for example) about what others have done. But at some point you’ve just got to say ‘What the hell’ and jump in with two feet.

Open an account on WordPress and start a blog. Learn to upload it and monitor it. Promote it on Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and LinkedIn. Figure out how to upload video. Repurpose your text as video blogs (VLOGS) and create your own channel. Figure out the difference between YouTube and Vimeo. Look into SlideShare and Quora. Start building lists and email your posts to your followers using Listrak, Constant Contact, MailChimp or some other email-marketing provider. Figure out how to reduce your spam complaints. Analyze your click-throughs and unsubscribes. That’ll teach you more about SM than any certification class ever will.

Don’t feel overwhelmed. Remember that you don’t have to do it all at once but you do have to do it. Otherwise you’ll just be sitting on the sidelines, books in hand, watching the world pass you by.

Don’t know if this is what you wanted to hear but it’s my truth. I hope it helps you.

All my best,



By |2014-03-30T11:05:43+00:00March 30th, 2014|8 Comments


  1. Sebastian Rusk March 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    EXCELLENT post Bruce! I could not agree more!

    You NAILED IT right here:

    “You can read all the books you want on swimming but if I row you out into the ocean and throw you over board, you’re not going to be able to swim very well, are you? And I can even toss you the book but if it’s not made of Styrofoam it’s not going to help keep you above the water either.

    The way to learn how to do it is to do it.”

  2. Mark Levit March 31, 2014 at 8:59 am - Reply

    Especially liked your advice about not trying to learn it all at once.

    Another tip or two: try to figure out which social media your most likely audience uses. That’s where to start and, maybe, stay.

    (Having spoken with mainstream journalists, Twitter’s key. With the downsizing of the news business, journalists monitor and communicate via Twitter to stay informed and exchange information.)

    Also effective, learn from people with substantial social media “tribes.” Chris Brogan and Peter Shankman may not know it, but I’ve been in their “classrooms” for years. I started personally following them as a curiosity, well before I took a dive into the new media. Who you follow ought be governed by your interests. Otherwise the exercise is a chore and we all have enough of those!

    Another book recommendation: PLATFORM by Michael Hyatt.

  3. Aaron Wormus March 31, 2014 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Right on! I have a couple of other pieces of advice that I always give out.

    1. If you are just doing social media for your work you’ll never succeed. You’ve got to do it for yourself (and love doing it) as well.
    2. Find someone who feel manages their social media in a way that connects with you on a personal level. Do what they do!
    3. If you want to communicate with REAL PEOPLE, then under NO circumstances talk about Social Media on Social Media.

  4. RUDY VILA April 2, 2014 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    Nice one Bruce. Too many “Social Media Experts” out there selling snake oil. Best way to swim is to jump in. Don’t forget the “B” side of SM though which is measurability. Ninety nine percent of all these so called experts say “huh?” when asked about such things as reach and ROI.

  5. Kristin Arnold April 2, 2014 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Ditto for Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform. I am also using and that enables me to see what my tribe is up to in the social media space (because it’s all about conversation, not just posting).

  6. Paul Pugmire April 5, 2014 at 10:32 am - Reply

    Superb. Spot on.

    I’d particularly like to note paragraph 7, “Open an account on WordPress…” This one paragraph is the best, most pithy summary of how to start and what to do that I’ve seen.

    Well done.

  7. Jeff Schweiger April 9, 2014 at 10:41 am - Reply

    You hit the nail on the head. I have been telling my kids for years, you know, the kids that know everything, that you should just listen to what I am saying and also when other people are talking. I have always said that maybe you know about the topic the person is talking about but maybe, just maybe, they say something you did not know. So, if you are just quiet, don’t interrupt and listen, you might just learn something. I have always found, that no matter the age, you can always learn something for someone.

  8. Marissa Harvey April 9, 2014 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Hi Bruce:

    I know exactly what you are going through. It is frustrating. I am learning (like you) to take a deep breath and “just breathe”….it is an effective tool and will probably make us live longer.

    I am convinced that with email, facebook, twitter, texting, blah, blah, blah…..the average person has the attention span of a gnat. I submit that the audience wasn’t taking the advice because they didn’t hear it! I’ve been in meetings where I have laid out strategy specifically outlining steps for execution, only to have half the people in the room ask questions (literally verbatim) about what I have presented. Most were too busy checking email, texts, etc. on their phones and didn’t see where I had explained what they were asking. This led me to request that management ban cell phones from major presentations. It helped a great deal.

    Another reason may be that most of the audience was looking for ways to promote themselves or their businesses, and not really to get information on how to generate web traffic.

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