What rock climbing teaches us about social media campaigns

In an effort to shake up my workout routine, I recently got into indoor rock climbing. I figured it was a pretty basic sport, and my participation would go something like this:

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In fact, it's more like this (with breaks between to serve as belayer for my partner, of course):

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The sport is surprisingly complex (more complex than my meager flowchart skills can illustrate), and is as much a mental exercise as a physical one. Here are some of the things I've learned in my short time rock climbing, and how they can apply to social media campaigns.

Plan your route before you start climbing.

Seasoned climbers examine every wall before they attempt to climb it. Like chess players, they try to think a few moves ahead, so they don't get stuck.

In the same way, your campaign plans should include what to do if people don't participate as expected.

Check your own safely harness - and your partner's. 

Your safety in climbing depends both on your own harness' security as well as the security of your belayer's harness. They're responsible keeping you from falling, after all!

In the same way, make sure you're working with other departments and staff ahead of time, to make sure they're on board with the campaign, it won't conflict with other campaigns, and it will work in tandem with other organizational efforts.

Push, don't reach. 

Everyone thinks of rock climbing as an upper-body exercise, and indeed, I have pulled a LOT of muscles in my arms and upper back in my early attempts. However, as I learned in my beginner's class, this is actually a rookie mistake. You're supposed to be pushing yourself up the wall with your legs more than pulling yourself with your arms.

And just as you work from a strong foundation in rock climbing to make the work easier, you want to start a social media campaign by prepping your strongest community members. Identify your key influencers and ask them, ahead of time, to help spread the word and seed the conversation around your campaign. Give them as many tools as possible to make that job easier, but allow for them to put their own spin on things to help engage their followers in your cause. It'll save you a lot of effort once the campaign has started, because you'll be building momentum right from the start.

Hug the wall.

Another rookie mistake is to sort of "crouch" with your butt sticking out as you climb. As much as possible, you want to keep your whole body pressed against the wall. It makes climbing easier.

In the same way, you'll want to make sure during the campaign that your efforts remain in tandem with those of other departments. Schedule regular check-ins with key staff to make sure they stay in the loop, particularly if you have to move to plan B, C, or D. Don't let yourself get adrift! 

Let your partner know when you need some help.

Your belayer is an excellent resource while you climb, to help you solve puzzles as you encounter them. They have a better view of what's ahead than you do, after all! So don't be afraid to ask them for help along the way, particularly if you need them to anchor you for a moment so you can rest.

Social media campaigns often present challenges we haven't prepared for, but don't be afraid to ask for help! Even if you don't have any resources on staff, there are some great people and groups you can reach out to on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for guidance and brainstorming assistance.


Climbers: Anything to add? Post your thoughts in the comments!






"Rock climbing, Joel!"