Learn, do, learn, do, learn, do

This is Day 6 of the Your Turn Challenge, an initiative to practice the art of shipping by writing one blog post every day for a week.

Day 6: Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself.

I’ve always been the kind of person who liked to be prepared. I don’t think anyone has ever said, “Winnie, you should have prepared more for this.”

When I’m doing something new, my typical plan looks like this: learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, do.

I realized that it’s overkill to prepare so much for certain things, and that it’s actually a way of hiding from taking action. So I’ve been making a conscious effort to take action sooner.

I want my process to look more like this: learn, do, learn, do, learn, do.

When the Your Turn Challenge was announced last Thursday, I realized that I didn’t know how to use Twitter as well as I thought I did. In previous roles, I had managed people who did the day-to-day of Twitter, so I knew enough to set high level goals, but I never actually interacted with people on the platform despite having an account for 4 years.

The idea of actually having to tweet myself was a little scary. Twitter seemed so…so…public. And permanent. Yes, new tweets come in and push old ones down, but my tweets would be on my page forever. If they were bad, someone could look it up and see that.

I wouldn’t have time to learn as much as I needed to in order to tweet with confidence with Your Turn Challenge participants who I wanted to meet and talk to on this platform.

I asked a few social media savvy friends some questions I had. I read a few articles. I had a general grasp. But without actually doing any tweeting, it was hard to really know what I didn’t know.

On my first day of using Twitter, I retweeted 35 posts in a row within a few minutes. I thought retweets were like “likes” on Facebook, and I liked what those 35 participants had said.

A friend noticed and told me, “You’re flooding people’s feeds - they might unfollow you for that. You should use the Favorite button instead.”

I was really glad he told me. Then I started to feel guilty for making the mistake that I did. I thought, “If only I had just read more about this before starting, this wouldn’t have happened. If only I had asked my friend about this, I could have avoided this mistake…”

Then I surprised myself. I told myself that unlike before, this time I wasn’t going to continue down that path of beating myself up.

I learned the lesson. I learned when and what to retweet. I learned that including both links and hashtags is useful. I learned how to trim content to fit 140 characters (I’m still working on this one).

More questions came up as I started doing, and then I would look up answers or ask people.

I reached out to a Your Turn Challenge participant, who then showed me the ropes on Twitter. Since then, Joyce and I have become friends. She has an uncanny ability to craft awesome tweets and trim them to fit the word limit.

If you’re scoffing, let me tell you that this is no small feat. I was talking to another marketer friend today and we both reveled in the art of a well-crafted tweet packed with insight and worthy of favorites.

I’ve learned a lot from Joyce - I’m lucky that she’s generous with her knowledge. I would never have thought that a stranger would be willing to patiently explain and encourage me to try, so that’s been surprising too.

It’s uncomfortable to do the “learn, do, learn, do” approach, even if the action is small and I can go back to learning to take the next step forward.

It feels risky. I don’t feel ready and I want to read more about something before doing it, so that I can do it perfectly the first time around. I’m glad that this time, I let myself make mistakes on Twitter. It wasn’t as risky as I had built it up to be. 

I tweeted more in the first 10 minutes of the Your Turn Challenge than I had in the previous 4 years combined, and I also learned more in those 10 minutes than I had in the past 4 years when I didn’t tweet anything.

By the second day, I had gotten a sense of the unspoken rules and norms of Twitter. I started noticing tweets I liked and incorporating those elements into my own tweets. I’m still learning about the platform and am not a power user. But even in my week of tweeting more often, it’s empowering to know that I now have Twitter in my toolkit as a marketer and better understand how it works in execution as well as in theory.

Yesterday I put out a tweet and a few minutes later, I realized that I could have written it better. My old self would have agonized about this and maybe even deleted it.

My new self thought, “You know what, I’ll just retweet a similar message later and it’ll be okay.”

And it turned out to be okay.