13 Tips for Running a Social Media “Half Marathon”

In May 2015, I ran my very first half marathon. The same race, Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon, is just days away from happening again. This year, I’m only running a relay portion of it. However, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share a post I wrote following the completion of last year’s race. It explains 13 social media marketing lessons I learned while running 13 miles. Enjoy!

As a kid, when I was in the car on a long road trip with my parents and I asked how much longer we had, they’d answer in Winnie-the-Poohs.

“Three more Winnie-the-Poohs.”

When we got down to one Winnie-the-Pooh, I knew we were close.

The Winnie-the-Pooh TV show lasted 30 minutes. I loved it. And it was the best concept of half-an-hour my little self had back then.

Breaking time down into Winnie-the-Poohs just made things sound a little more bearable.

For example, in 2015, I ran for four solid Winnie-the-Poohs.

Two hours of straight running.

Even with a little Hundred-Acre-Wood magic — that still sounds painful. (Only slightly true.)

Running my first half marathon was a long-time goal of mine. I finally decided to make it happen May 3, 2015 at Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Half Marathon. I raised $500 for a local charity and finished the challenging, uphill course with a time of 2:12:42.

I trained for 16 weeks leading up to the race and learned a lot before, during and after it. But not just about running. I found many of the lessons also help me as a social media marketer. And, lucky you, I’ve included the 13 tips here so you don’t have to run the 13 miles to figure them out.

Run, Adam, Run.
Run, Adam, Run.

1. Train regularly
I trained for my race several times a week. I made time for it no matter what. This is important for social media marketers too. Set aside some time each week for professional development. You can find many free webinars, blogs and podcasts available on sites such as Social Media Examiner.

2. Don’t do it alone
I found a great local running club that helped me stay on task. Teams can be effective for social media too. Build one that is committed to the same mission as you are.

3. Have a plan
I followed a training schedule leading up to my race. That’s just as important as having a good social media strategy. If you don’t have a social media strategy — create one.

4. Set SMART goals
Whether they’re your goals for race day or for your social media strategy, make sure they’re SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

5. Test your plan
My running coaches made it clear nothing should be new on race day. Test everything on training days leading up to the race. Same goes for a big social media campaign. Working out the kinks ahead of time is essential to success.

6. Track your results
I tracked and logged important data while I was training. I recorded my pace, distance, elevation, calories, etc. You should keep tabs on your social media metrics too. Use free tools such as Facebook’s Insights or Twitter’s analytics dashboard for starters. I also like Iconosquare for Instagram data.

7. Be willing to make changes as you go
While it’s important to have a plan — it’s just as important to be flexible. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to adjust. During social media campaigns, feel free to swap out keywords or images that aren’t performing well.

8. Use the right tools
My wife bought a Garmin GPS running watch for me shortly after I started training. I also ended up with a running belt and special water bottles. I relied on the experts to recommend the perfect gear. For social media, find out what others are using and what is right for you. My favorite social media management tool is Sprout Social.

9. Be ready for ups and downs
Some days you just have a bad run. Just like some days your social media numbers will be low. None of it means the end of the world as long as you learn something from it and use it to strengthen your strategy in the future.

10. Don’t give up
There were many times during training runs, and even on race day, I wanted to just stop running. You can hit a wall as a runner. But I found if I stuck with it long enough to get past the wall, I was stronger on the other side. Apply this idea to difficult or frustrating days in social media.

11. Know inspiration can come unexpectedly
Just before I started to climb the biggest and longest hill on the course, I saw a woman running beside me suddenly dart into the crowd where her husband and child were cheering her on from the sidelines. She briefly kissed them both and rejoined the race to tackle the hill. Her inspiration motivated me too. I wasn’t expecting it — but was so glad it came before the big challenge. While you’re creating content for social media, keep your eye out for unexpected inspiration. Emotion is a great way to connect with and engage your audience.

12. Stay calm
It’s easy to get anxiety before a long run or during it if something doesn’t go quite right. Social media is fast paced and ever changing too. But remembering your training and strategy in both situations can help reassure you.

13. Have fun
While you’re running and while you’re managing social media — remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Hopefully that’s because it’s something you love. Let that excitement show.

And if the going gets really tough – just remember – you can always start counting in Winnie-the-Poohs.


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Learn more about the author.

Opinions are my own. This post does not necessarily reflect the views of my past or present employers.

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