Lee Odden

Social Media Marketing Expertise: Master the Half Pipe, Master of None

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, Social Media

Mastering Online MarketingThis is the second of my “workation” blog posts this week, so I hope you enjoy the brevity.

My oldest son is a relatively new fan of skateboarding and I’ve noticed some interesting comparisons with his advancement of skills to the experience of many social media marketers – or any new discipline for that matter.

To be clear, I don’t know much about skateboarding beyond the games of suicide and smear we played as kids, skateboarding down the hill by my childhood home. Think “Mad Max” on skateboards. There were no ramps, half-pipes or skateboard parks back then. Trust me, it was a very, very long time ago.  But the challenge of learning something new, seeing other accomplished skaters and the social aspect made it appealing and fun.

As with skateboarding, there are accomplished and highly promoted individuals in the social media marketing world that attract people to the promise of achieving the same. The appeal of  seeing others that are successful (or the appearance of success) plus the ease of online publishing has brought a deluge of “social media experts” to the web. Clearly, “expert” is a relative term.

As I’ve watched my son start practicing with his skateboard on a half pipe, it seemed hard at first. But after iterative improvements & watching others who obviously focused on developing their own skills, he got the hang of it. But in the scheme of things, mastering a single half-pipe means very little in the skateboarding world.

Credit to him that he’s never called himself an expert or even a great skateboarder during this formative stage. Not that I have a problem with that, people calling themselves “expert”, but I do appreciate the focus on growing expertise over grandstanding.  With each successful trick accomplished, he’s also realized that there’s still more to learn. And I’ve tried to reinforce that the learning will never end. When you’re really passionate about something, the journey of learning, testing, failing, succeeding, challenging and connecting with similar interests is where accomplishment comes from.

What does that have to do with social media marketing?  My 14+ years in the online marketing industry overall and more recently in areas like social media marketing are a passion and an opportunity for eternal learning. I am a student that will always seek to advance meaningful knowledge that can be used to advance success for my team, our clients and our online marketing agency.  For each thing mastered, there are many, many more ahead.

The industry changes. Customers change. Tools change and so does the level of competition as others advance their individual and collective organizational knowledge of social business. Knowing that things will change is really interesting to me and I enjoy working with a team and industry peers that feel the same way.

As a reader of this blog, I think it’s safe to assume you’re someone that is interested in learning and advancing your own skills.  I would hope that we continue to be a resource in this way. I would also like to think that our readers might buy into the notion that success in the social media marketing world is the journey not a singular destination.

Self professed social media experts that align themselves with superficial KPIs and social proof as business value are something to view with some skepticism. Your time is valuable and in an age of information overload, it can be tempting to follow the shiniest objects. I challenge readers to measure their exposure to social media marketing information sources to a healthy mix of: Subject Matter Experts, Research and MOST of all, your own hypothesis, testing and discovery.

Get ideas from watching others, but keep in mind that your most effective mastery will come from testing things out yourself. My son got great ideas about skateboarding tricks from watching others, but he certainly didn’t master anything until he tried those things himself. He also learns by testing new things and sharing those experiences with others.  Master your social media half pipe, then find another, and another and build your ability to adapt and evolve with new tools, industry changes and marketing problems to solve.

I guess I failed on the “brevity” promise for this post. But hopefully I inspired some thinking about how you’re advancing the social media marketing knowledge of your organization and for yourself.  Do you see social media marketing as something that can be mastered? How do you approach individual and organizational learning when it comes to the social web?

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (2 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)

Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. The main comparison between the two is that you have to work at it to be any good!

    And work hard too!

  2. @leeodden even though i had a halfpipe in my backyard.. it didnt make me the expert.. it just made my backyard full of experts.. =) 

  3. Avatar @LucileBaker says

    Totally agree, an expert cannot be in our fast-changing environment. This concerns any subjects or domains, but especially the web related technologies & strategies : it is moving so fast! The best ability is have is definitively to be a continious learner. (to my point of view, it is even more interesting than to be an expert, don’t you think so?). Thank you for sharing this comparaison with skateboarding, nice one!

    • The longer someone exists as a student, the more expertise they acquire. With this post I’m not saying many people don’t be come experts, I’m trying to emphasize that online marketing and social media marketing expertise is a journey because of change vs. a destination. I just wish I know more skateboard jargon to make a better metaphor 🙂

  4. Avatar Edwin Ivanauskas says

    “With each successful trick accomplished, he’s also realized that there’s
    still more to learn. And I’ve tried to reinforce that the learning will
    never end.”

    This is my favorite takeaway here, and I think it applies to just about anything.  Knowing this makes a person a much better student of whatever they do.

  5. Avatar IMpopstar says

    We must be thankful to skateboarding for taking kids outdoors instead of the perpetual 24/7 couch potato routine watching TV, gaming or emailing.. Yes, advancing skills is crucial and just like all great skills, practice makes perfect and having the passion to even start is more than half the pipe!

  6. The important thing is to always be hungry for more knowledge ! As long as you keep the hunger going, you are pretty sure to keep improving… both in skateboarding and social media marketing 😉

  7. Avatar TheSocialVista says

    When you’re really passionate about something, the journey of learning, testing, failing, succeeding, challenging and connecting with similar interests is where accomplishment comes from… couldn’t agree more. 

  8.  social media marketing just like any course can also be mastered, and just like when we are solving mathematical problems or doing scientific researches, it will take some time before we gain expertise in social media marketing. I think, for one be able to master the art of social media marketing, one must go through trial and error, because that way, we learn

    • Avatar Anonymous says

      True! the one who never fail can’t enjoy the real success… so to become the master of social media marketing one have to go through errors, fails and then only success comes (learning from the mistakes)…

  9. Great advice on learning from those before you.  This can especially be true about social media sites like Google+.  They were able to see what worked and what didn’t work with Twitter and Facebook and developed Google+ with those features in mind.

  10. Very good stuff.  True we must be learning new things every day even if at times we want to stick to our old ways of doing business.  Social media is certainly not going away so better to start mastering it now.


  11. G+ seems to have a lot of potential, but can it allow you to run for president? On Facebook you can start your own candidacy for president through our App. Even double rainbow guy did it! Read the latest feature in Mashable: http://on.mash.to/nrbLpC.

  12. Yes I fully agree with you by all means. I got a lot of infarmation from your blog, I will be visiting it often and also recommend it to my friends. Thank you very much

  13. Avatar Madison B. says

    What an important lesson in life…parenting… and of course, our profession. Thanks for the great read.

  14. skateboarding and online marketing… cute comparison.  I do both… I’ve been doing both for TWENTY YEARS and I can tell you… there is one difference… I don’t get injured permanently by online marketing.  I may make some mistakes, send out the occasional Tweet with a typo but I never end up with permanently damaged rotator cuffs like skateboarding did to my left shoulder.  dug your blog post, and reposted on our Twitter feed at @jpatrickjobs:twitter 

  15. Avatar shivigonesocial says

    Well to be a master of any profession be it social media or any other..requires continuous effort..its a life long process…mastering social media means mastering the art of communication with people in online medium..which can be mastered…it does not mean ..masters can not make mistakes and they have to perfect all the times..but overcoming mistakes is something that makes one the master…