Perfecting Social Media Skills Through Triathlon

August 31, 2010  |   Marketing,Social Media   |   Jameson  |   0 Comment
Perfecting Social Media Skills Through Triathlon

Anyone that knows me knows that there are two main buckets that I focus my time every day.

  1. Social Media: I’m a geek at heart and am obsessed with understanding the latest web tools that are influencing how people communicate, build and manage relationships online.
  2. Triathlon: It isn’t uncommon for me to spend 15-20 hours per week of my free time training for endurance sports events. It is my biggest passion outside of work and keeps my mind fresh. Most notably, I’m currently training for my first iron distance triathlon next week. (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run)

At first you may think that these two passions are polar opposite. A geek and a jock in one? In reality, over the past five years, I’ve honed the skills necessary to not only be successful in each endeavor individually, but also prepare me for the inevitable challenges of the other. 

Goal planning

In triathlon training, every workout has its purpose and is diligently designed and scheduled to meet specific short term and long term goals. No training session, whether it is a 2 mile jog or a 135 mile bike ride goes without examining the short term goals of the day as well as stepping back to understand its role in brining me one step closer to the final goal.

The same is true of social media marketing. A solid understanding of the workflow necessary to complete a task, as well as how that finite task plays into the larger picture, is an essential skill to be successful. Whether it is driving Twitter conversations, inbound links or developing a blog content calendar, anything done without a focus on the value that it brings to the entire program is a waste of mental energy and physical resources.

Risk management

The risks associated with 55 mph mountain descents on a bike with little skinny tires all while negotiating traffic, road conditions and wind direction doesn’t really need to be explained. The balancing act between speed, performance gains, safety and injury prevention is constant. I’ve become able to pretty accurately determine how much training volume and intensity my body can handle without crossing the line to cause serious injury while building fitness.

Every single piece of content created through social media channels we manage on behalf of clients opens another opportunity to impact our client’s reputation, spark controversy or incite customer response. No action is every taken or any “submit” button is ever clicked without assessing all of the potential risks and rewards of engaging through social media channels.


Endurance events are all about pacing. It doesn’t matter how fast you can tick away the first two or three miles of the race if you can’t sustain that pace all the way until the finish line. It takes a constant evaluation of your energy output to make sure you don’t dip into the red and have to shuffle your way to the finish line, or even worse, call it quits and grab a cab back home.

The social media equivalent of pacing is scalability. It doesn’t benefit the agency or our client to recommend marketing strategies that simply can’t be sustained because of inherent restrictions that we know about internal approval processes or available resources, we are just digging a deeper hole for the both of us.

Community building

Especially in training for my iron distance triathlon next week, I’ve come to the firm realization that while I’ll be out there racing alone and am solely responsible for generating the power to bring myself to the finish line, I could not have even made it to the starting line without the support of my friends, family and coworkers. They have made countless sacrifices to give the opportunity to meet my athletic goals.

Community building is a root skill of social media marketing. This is where a background in psychology drives success just as much as an understanding of the tools themselves. Being able to aggregate a disconnected group of individuals to not only share the same goal but stay in regular communication and work in unison can sometimes feel like trying to eat Jell-O with chopsticks. Patience, determination and focused execution are key.

Program Analysis

One of the biggest fears of many triathletes is of stepping to the starting line without being prepared to push yourself through the course and to the finish line. No amount of mental grit and gusto will bring you to cross all 140.6 miles if your training hasn’t prepared your body to handle that level of abuse. Because of that I am constantly evaluating speed, heart rate and nutrition among various other factors in my training to determine not only that I’m progressively getting faster and stronger, but that I’m on track to be at the fitness level that I know I need to have come race day.

The same is true for how we approach ongoing social media programs. It is not all that dissimilar from traditional marketing programs. Benchmark setting, continuous analysis, refinement and continuous improvement is the name of the game. We don’t recommend the tactics that offer us the largest profit margins or utilise the latest social media tool that we’ve been itching to test out. With frequent and transparent measurement and analysis our clients know exactly what is working, what isn’t and how close we are to that finish line.

Embracing the Unknown

Also known as: Boldly go where no man has gone before. Triathlon challenges my body to endure challenges that it has never faced before and builds the confidence to do it all over again.

Likely the biggest challenge of social media marketing is building programs and utilizing tools that no one has ever attempted before That is simply the nature of the business. The web is moving so fast that you cannot rely on mirroring your competitor’s case studies and expect to be successful. Rather than remain fearful of the unknown and all that has yet to be tested, we’ve trained our minds to think strategically enough to confidently step into the dark unknown with a clear marketing plan.


Outside of this list of skills that I’ve developed through working in social media and challenging myself through triathlons, I’ve also come to learn that there is immense professional networking value in my personal athletic adventures. From fellow triathletes that I meet while training referring business my way to the numerous times that I’ve met other endurance sports fanatics at local networking events, I rarely go more than a few weeks without seeing the recurring business value of my personal investment into the sport.

It also doesn’t hurt that while golf has been the dominant businessman’s sport, triathlon is slowly nipping at its heels. If you don’t believe me, believe Fast Company and Bloomberg.

Photo Credit: Eric Willis

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