Social Media and Simplicity, Part 4: Learn
Muhammad Saleem is a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.
This post is part 4 of 10 in our groundbreaking series on how freelancers can use social media and the principles of simplicity to build their business.
Day 4 – The Fourth Law of Simplicity: Learn
Knowledge makes everything simpler.
It seems paradoxical that achieving simplicity would be such a laborious and complex process, but it’s true. Simplicity rarely comes naturally and we have to learn how to achieve simplicity in our daily routines and how to live by its principles.
There are entire industries and business models built on simplifying the learning process and teaching people how things work, how to do things, and lately, step-by-step guides to performing certain activities online or using web 2.0 sites and technologies. Even this site simplifies for it’s expansive audience the process of getting started as a freelancer, how to price yourself, finding freelance jobs, dealing with clients, and remaining productive as a freelancer from day-to-day.
So let’s take a look at the importance of learning.
Learn That You Must Learn
The first time you look at any social media site, it will seem unnecessarily complicated to you.
What does it mean to Digg a story? What does it mean when someone says my site got Dugg? Why should I want to get to the front-page or even participate at all? No matter what the site is, in 99% of the cases, you won’t be able to sign up, log in, and immediately understand why the site exists, what value it provides, and how to most efficiently take advantage of the tools you’re given.
No one simply signs up for Facebook and immediately knows what to do. However, no matter how complex a site or service is, if you make a one-time investment and take the time to learn what it has to offer, your eyes will immediately be opened to how simple the tools seem once you’ve learned how to use them.
We are often hesitant to learn from others or by reading a manual because we feel that it patronizes our abilities and intelligence. The fact of the matter is that the learning-by-doing approach often takes much longer and will waste your time, whereas the learning-by-reading or learning-from-the-experiences-of-others approach is a much wiser investment of your time. The first step to using your time wisely is to learn and acknowledge that you must learn, and the best way to learn is from others that have already been there, and then apply that to yourself.
Learn How to Learn
A rather straightforward question you have to ask yourself is this: would you rather fumble through a newly public site and try to spend hours trying to comprehend the site, or would you rather do the following:
- Read someone else’s review of the site or service and decide if it is a good fit for you.
- If you determine that it is a good fit, i.e., provides a unique value proposition for you or for your business, read someone else’s step-by-step guide on how to best use the service.
- Subscribe to experts in the niche and keep up with their findings, tips and tricks as you get deeper and more involved in what you’re doing.
There are plenty of early adopters who will sign up for private betas of sites before they launch to the public and write about their experiences. This creates a natural division of labor and eliminates the need for you to go through the same process. Cut to the chase by letting the early adopters make the ‘decision to act’ for you. This way, when you do decide to jump into the pool, you’re well aware of your surroundings and well equipped to utilize them.
For example, here’s my manual for social media participation.
Learn That You Don’t And Won’t Need To Know It All
Learning is an ongoing process. No one knows it all and no-one can know it all. There are experts, but even these experts learn new things every day. I subscribe to dozens of blogs in my niche and read several different books every month to keep up to date on what others are saying. One of the ways to make your social media life simpler is to acknowledge not only the fact that neither you nor anyone else knows it all or will ever know it all, but more importantly, to acknowledge that you don’t need to know it all.
Focus on what’s important, learn and understand what’s important, and continue to learn as you go forward. One of the main reasons many people blog is to share the knowledge and wisdom that they have gained through their experiences. Don’t feel that having to learn from others diminishes you in any way. Instead, acknowledge that it pays to read the manual. Ultimately, learning and understanding is the best way to remove complexity.
For simplifying the rest of your life, check out John Maeda’s Blog.