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John Wooden’s Greatest Quote for Social Media

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Picture: Cover image of “The Wisdom of Wooden,” available on Amazon.

Coach John Wooden was a great man and a great coach.

From 1964 to 1975, his college basketball teams won 10 national championships with four of those being undefeated seasons. It’s an unprecedented level of success before or after.

But he didn’t view himself as just a coach. One of his goals was to prepare his players for life, not just athletics, and many of his players remember him the best for this. He was also known for his salient, wisdom-imparting quotes which were referred to as “Woodenisms.”

One such quote relates very well to the social-media activity of today. No, he didn’t speak it about social media, but it’s still very fitting.

Here’s the quote:

Never mistake activity for achievement.

Think about that for a second. Can you see how it relates to social media? Yes, it’s very appropriate. Let’s talk about how.

How this quote applies to social media

It’s fitting for social media because a lot of people are investing time and money in social-media networks but are not quite sure why they’re doing it.

They dash from one social network to the next, thinking they’ll go out of business if they’re not on every single social website.

But the problem is that they don’t know how each one is helping them. They’re not quite sure what benefit is derived from activity on Facebook, and they have no idea what exactly is going on in the Twittersphere.

In order to avoid mistaking activity for achievement, companies need to answer at least answer one simple question about social media. They need to answer the question of why.

The importance of answering why

So let’s go ahead and ask the question: Why are you on Facebook? What about Twitter? And Google+? What’s your purpose for being there? What are you trying to accomplish?

Are you trying to drive traffic? Are you building a platform? Are you using it for customer service? Or are you simply trying to get ranked in Google?

The real question businesses need to answer is why they’re on each network. Without answering why, there’s no way to move forward and make progress because arriving at a destination requires knowing where you’re going.

And in case you’re having trouble coming up with an answer, I’ll give you an easy one: If you can’t think of any other reason, just say you’re on a network to learn more about it. You’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to learn more about them and to see how they can benefit your business. (This answer works initially, but you it shouldn’t be your strategy forever.)

At the very least, it gives you a reason to be on the network, but it also means you need to be learning. You need to be using it and becoming comfortable with the network language. You need to learn how to send tweets, reply to tweets, and retweet. You need to become social-media fluent.

But if you don’t know why you’re on a network, then there’s a very good chance you won’t accomplish anything. You’re business will be a ship without a rudder, and you’ll very likely be mistaking activity for achievement.

Let’s ask the question again: Why are you on Facebook? Do you have an answer? Do you know why you’re using it?

So again, I’d like to ask the question: Why are you on Facebook? And Twitter? And Google+? What are you trying to accomplish? Are you on them because everyone says you have to be, or are you on them to accomplish a certain business goal?

Even if the goal is to get more Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ followers and fans, at least you have a goal. You may not know why you need more followers and what benefit it will provide, but having a goal helps you know what direction to steer the ship. And at some point in the future, those followers may come in really handy.

So what are your social-media goals? Do you feel like you know why you’re on each network, or are you floating around without a clear course? Leave a comment to discuss your situation, or send a message to set up an appointment so we can talk about how to set clear social-media goals for your business. And don’t forget: Never want to mistake activity for achievement.

  • Melanie Kissell

    Exemplary advice, Joseph!

    Sloshing around on social media venues can be a real time sucker and oftentimes totally unproductive.

    The temptation for business builders to jump on the next and the next and the next social media platform is great. But spreading yourself too thin is never a great approach. I wish the developers of these doggone sites wouldn’t make them so alluring! ;)

    The “why” of anything you set out to do in business or in life is always the most vital question. If you can’t answer the “why”, simply don’t proceed.

    Love the name, “5 North Marketing”. The “5 North” sounds like a freeway that leads to Sacramento. :)

    Super post!

    • Joseph Putnam

      Thanks, Melanie, I’m glad you like the advice. And yes, “5 North” does in fact come from the 5 North freeway running through California. You figured it out!

  • Dan Paley

    Great post, Joe. Coach was ahead of his time. I also agree that 5 North is a cool name.

    • Joseph Putnam

      Coach Wooden was either ahead of his time, or his advice is timeless. Maybe a little of both.

  • dee4dit

    Hi Joseph!
    Long time no talk. :) I like your article. And the quote is so telling! I know the why, but I don’t know how to find the time! I’ve not taken the dive yet because I know I really don’t have the time to give social media what I hear it needs. And when I do dive in, I’m only choosing one. Probably Twitter. I’m not one to go after every new shiny thing, but I know I need to be out there some, representing D.I. Telbat. This quote just verifies that I’m on the right track in my thinking, though. Thanks! Dee

    • Joseph Putnam

      Hi Dee,

      You’re right on with your comment. It’s easy to chase after the latest, shiniest, newest social network which will only spread you out too thin. My advice is to pick the ones that make the most sense for your business, and limit yourself to a handful that you can manage well. If that’s only Twitter, then it’s best to just do Twitter and do it well than be all over the place with every network. Seth Godin is a great example of this. He’s not on Twitter, and I believe he’s also not on Facebook. But he does have the number one marketing blog in the world run by only one person. Why? Because he focuses his energy on that. It’s better to do less things extremely well than too many things poorly.

      Thanks for the comment, and it’s good to hear from you!


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