Charles AtlasAs I navigate this still nascent thing we call Social Media, especially as someone who works with businesses to help them build an online presence, I find myself pondering how many of us approach Social Media, especially Twitter.

I see a lot of abandoned accounts. I see “marketers” and agencies offering Social Media packages that include “one tweet per week” or “five tweets per week”. And I scratch my head. Do we really think that works? Does it make a difference?

Then I started thinking of analogies, and had some conversations with a few people about this, including my friends Rachel Strella and Andi Cumbo, and the thought that came to me was that when you approach Social Media tentatively; when you approach it half-heartedly, you miss out on the benefits.

In fact, you might be doing more harm than good, in that you THINK you are “engaged in Social Media”, when in fact you really aren’t.

Think about it: five tweets a week.

That’s one per day, Monday through Friday.

And then I made the leap from Twitter and Social Media to working out, and this is what popped into my head:

One tweet per day is the equivalent of doing one jumping jack per day.

If you were to start working out and exercising, would you be satisfied with one jumping jack per day?

And would just doing one jumping jack every day do anything for you?

Here are several reasons why you need to commit to exercising your Social Media muscle:

1. If you don’t, you’ll never get healthy – Any doctor will tell you that in order to get and stay healthy you need to get some form of exercise. For me, this is mostly a good 2-mile walk with the dog everyday. Not much, but it’s something. Just sitting back and doing nothing isn’t the healthiest of options. I’m not saying Social Media is for everyone, but I do believe that if it is used properly, and is approached with the proper mindset, it can help your business become healthier.

2. If you don’t, you’ll atrophy – You know the old saying: use it or lose it. Not using your muscles doesn’t mean you’ll maintain the status quo. You’ll actually get less healthy as your muscles atrophy. You will lose tone and functionality. Again, Social Media might not be for everyone, but the same old marketing methods might not work as well as they used to. Things are much different now than they were twenty years ago, let alone three years ago. The tools of Social Media are there at your disposal. Take advantage of them so that you don’t fall behind. One of my pet peeves is businesses that don’t even have websites yet, particularly restaurants. If I can’t find you online and get the information about you that I need, chances are I won’t be sending any business your way. Atrophy.

3. If you don’t, you’ll get sand kicked in your face by someone who does – Remember the old Charles Atlas ads, where the 90-pound weakling got sand kicked in his face by the buff dude? You might not be exercising your Social Media muscle, but your competition is. While they are improving, you might be falling behind. Social Media can give you an advantage over others who aren’t using it (or using it properly). Tap into that. If others exercise those muscles, and you don’t, you’ll be the 90-pound weakling.

4. If you don’t, you’ll never get that hot guy or girl – OK, maybe you don’t want that hot guy or girl, but you do want customers. In order to attract customers you need to be…well…attractive! Exercising can help you tone and shape your body. By exercising your Social Media muscle

5. If you don’t, that muscle you have will turn to fat – One of the worst things you can do is to start exercising, and then stop. If you build muscle, and then stop, apparently that muscle can turn to fat, or so I’ve been told. Don’t start something if you don’t plan on following through. This is one of the problems with Social Media. The tools are free, and it seems easy to start. Too easy. Because you can just start, and then keep it on the backburner. And it stays on the backburner. And then you’re stuck with a Twitter profile, or Facebook page, that looks as though it should be covered in cobwebs. Never just jump into Social Media because “it’s there”. You need to have a plan in place to carry it through. It’s not something you try, it’s something you do.

Having said that, here are six tips to help you better exercise your Social Media muscle:

1. Start slow -No just gets up and runs a marathon. You start by running shorter distances, building up your endurance, and eventually getting to the point where you can run a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, etc. You do NOT need to jump in to every social platform out there and just go nuts. Don’t start by blogging every day. You’ll most likely never be able to maintain. Start with one post per week, and once you get the feel for it, move up to twice a week. Don’t jump into Twitter and just start tweeting 24/7. Sign up and watch. Listen. Then slowly jump into the conversations once you get a feel for it. Everyone has their own pace. Find yours and build up to a comfortable level that works for both you and your customers. Remember, one jumping jack a day might be a good start, but it won’t get you anywhere over time.

2. Make the commitment -I talk about this a lot. Like anything else in your business, Social Media is a commitment. Map out a plan. Figure out where you are going to start, and where you want to be a month, 6-months, a year down the road. It’s not a campaign. There is no expiration date. Once you decide to do it, you need to follow through. Nothing worse than seeing a neglected blog or Social Media page. In my mind that’s the equivalent of a storefront with chipped paint and broken glass. It tells your customers that you don’t care about your brand. Make the commitment and stick with it for the long haul.

3. Work through the pain – The hardest part of exercise of any sort is getting started. I’ve been told that for anything to “stick” you need to work at it for about 3-weeks before it becomes a habit. If you start lifting weights or running, you’ll be using muscles you haven’t really used before. There will be pain. You’ll get to a point where you just want to stay in bed or find something else to do. Believe me, I’ve been there a hundred times in my life. And I usually give up. But if you can stick with it, and work through the pains and difficulties of the early stages of Social Media, it will suddenly click. In fact, not only will it become a habit, but it will become fun. Runners love to run. In some cases it’s an addiction of sorts. You need to get to the point where you love Social Media, and it is no longer work.

4. Cross-train – One thing any personal trainer or doctor will tell you is to mix it up. If you are lifting weights, you need to work on different muscles and different types of lifting each day, rather than doing the same thing over and over. You want to be fit and well rounded, not just buff in one area. How you use Social Media today might change for tomorrow. Doing the same thing over and over gets old, both for you and your customers. Mix it up. Add variety to how you do things. Don’t be one-dimensional.

5. Don’t expect overnight results – If you run or work out, odds are you’ll wake up the next morning looking exactly the same, and weighing exactly the same, as you did the day before. And maybe even the next day. When you create a television commercial, you can sit back, look at it, and be proud. And you may even see some results rather quickly. But there is no real satisfaction for an amazing tweet. One status update on Facebook won’t have thousands of customers beating down your door. This is SOCIAL media. The idea is to be social. Social isn’t something you do once. It continues. You build it and cultivate it. If you approach it with the proper mindset, you WILL see the results, but this will more than likely be a cumulative thing that happens over time, not overnight.  All the more reason to stick with it. Eventually you’ll look back and be amazed at the progress you have made.

Are you ready to exercise your Social Media muscle? What tips do you have to help other stick with it and become healthier?