Playing in the Sandbox


2467694199_9b3c70e614The social industry is one that is full of contradiction, opposing advice and best practices that can be obsolete in a month. Thus the best practitioners in this industry should be experimenting, creating, and thinking about better ways to implement the tools that have been created.

An interesting dynamic has developed amongst these practitioners/thought leaders: One group keeps learning and experimenting and is continuously being an early-adopter. The other group steps back from the race and teaches core concepts to a client  base. Both are vital to the continuation and growing acceptance of social as a valuable tool to be used by companies. However, which is the better path?

Is it better to keep questioning? Or start teaching? Can you do both?

You have to do both in order to be truly successful in implementing what you can provide for businesses. Being proficient in a tool or technique isn’t important unless you can demonstrate how it could be useful to others. On the same token: you can’t keep teaching the same lesson indefinitely.

Playing in the sandbox becomes paramount to your survival as a result. If you aren’t exposing your client base to new information, technology and practices you are doing them a disservice.

If  you can’t effectively take your clients from point A to point B with their pre-existing skill sets and tools you aren’t valuable to them. Period. They need to be pushed, helped and convinced of the merit of what you are preaching. (All while not *technically* being forced to implement these changes.)

Thus, you face a dilemma: Pander to clients or pander to the experimental early adopter crowd?

The ideal approach: Monetize your knowledge while still being able to accrue more of it. It’s almost like being at the craps table. You need to find the balance between when you should cash out or stay for another round.

Finding a balance between these two options is essential to maintain your sanity, client pool, and street cred. The best players know when to quit AND when to keep playing.

Photo Credit: Forever Photo

About the Author


Stuart Foster is a marketing consultant in the Boston area. He specializes in brand management, social media, and blog outreach. He authors a blog at and is a Social Media Strategist at Mullen.

Get social with Stuart at Twitter

Your Comments

  • Social Media Commando

    Damn Straight!

    I listened to Tim Russert describe his mentor, former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in the book ‘Big Russ & Me’ while driving from Detroit to Burlington, Vermont this weekend. Something that struck me is Russert’s description of Moynihan as being a terrific professor because of his insatiable curiosity and eagerness to learn.

    Social Media Experts can worry about being perfect, I prefer to invest my time learning, questioning, teaching, and executing effective strategies.

    Thanks for the inspiration Stuart, I enjoyed your post!

  • Stuart Foster

    Glad you enjoyed Joe. It’s definitely true…you have to keep learning, otherwise you will start to wither and die.

    Just a fact of life.

  • Sarah Wallace

    I agree with all the above points and I think the ideal client believes/trusts you and understands that you are guiding them while learning/exploring at the same time.

  • edward boches

    You are learning. And listening. Glad to see your new take on this stuff. Agree with the sentiment, as you well know, “If you can’t effectively take your clients from point A to point B with their pre-existing skill sets and tools you aren’t valuable to them.” Look forward to more of that being put into practice. Nicely crafted post.

  • Tamsen (@tamadear @Sametz)

    Change or die, right? The same thing goes with finding the delicate balance between teaching and learning.

    The best teachers learn while they teach (using their students’ questions to prompt further exploration of their own) and teach while they learn (which requires a fair amount of willingness to expose that which you don’t know).