Paragliding and Social Media aren't typically thought of as the same, but when you consider that both are activities that combine art and science, things start to make sense. 

I recently spent some time observing people at the Torrey Pines Gliderport in San Diego as they participated in the absolutely amazing and beautiful sport of paragliding. 

However, after watching and talking with some of the guys it made me think about how their success was similar to what was needed to make a successful social media experience so I decided to take some notes to share.

Anyone Can Do It - but Practice is Necessary to Prevent Dieing

Just as virtually anyone can open up a Facebook page and post an update, virtually anyone can strap a parachute to their back and jump off a cliff. Unfortunately, the result in either case is almost certain failure. As such, it is critical that when considering your social media strategy that you select someone with the training and experience to do it right.

While a failing Facebook page or Twitter handle may not seem as bad as breaking your neck after a hard landing on the beach, doing social media incorrectly results in lost time at best and the alienation of your customers and penalties by the FTC at worst.

It's Easier to Do it Together

Another important lesson that we can learn from paragliders is that they don't do it alone. While many that I watched were single-person experiences, almost everyone had someone helping them at some point - measuring the wind, packing the chute, or simply watching from the sidelines ready to share stories after the experience.

Social Media is the same way. While almost any person can "do it", the best of us enjoy the support of our friends to provide advice, share tips about new tools and trends, and then at the end of the day to share "war stories" about successful campaigns - as well as those

It Works Better in Some Places Than Others

To succeed with paragliding one needs a good wind with strong updrafts. Similarly, with social media marketing, your efforts will work better for some businesses than others and not every location is equally effective for every business.

For example if you are the owner for a hotel on the beach in San Diego, your primary social platforms may include Facebook, Instagram, and TripAdvisor. However if instead you are a financial consultant looking to reach new customers you might focus on LinkedIn instead.

When it Works, It's a Beautiful Thing to See

One thing that was clear from watching the people paraglide was that the result was beautiful to observe and from what I heard from the people returning from the experience it was even more amazing gliding over the ocean. Similarly, a successful social media campaign is amazing to watch.

However, it is important to realize that there will be failures and that's how you learn to do better. By having a plan including goals and a measurement plan at the outset you can increase the odds of success even more.

If You are Ready to Learn - There is Someone Ready to Help

Finally, while both activities may seem daunting initially, it is important to realize that there are people ready to help. Whether it is a social media agency like Flow that can provide coaching or complete community management services or friends on message forums, there is no shortage of people willing to help those who are interested in learning.

Furthermore, while there are experts and novices in both paragliding and social media - no one is ever finished learning.