Social Media is like Learning How to Fish

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This is my metaphor. Just something that I thought off. Don’t kill me for it. Social media or social networking sites like twitter or facebook is like learning how to fish. It takes time and patience. I’ve received a lot of emails and direct messages about influence and building a presence on twitter or facebook QUICKLY so why do I relate it with fishing? I’ll tell you why later, There are two types of fishing

Business Fishing – Business Purposes – Earn Money

For businesses, they go into twitter or facebook because they heard that they can get a lot of fishes (followers). They create an account and then notice that none of the fishes are biting. None of them are “taking their bait”

Sure there are like so many fishes in the sea but they’re not getting the results that they want.

So they learn how to fish properly and the proper techniques of fishing and soon they got a few bites (engagement) because the fishes are responding to what we’re doing. Since they’re using a proper technique and bait to fish them.

At first they thought that all they need to do is buy a fishing rod (register an account) go to twitter and facebook (sea and pond) and they’ll be able to do well. In the end, they realized that they got eaten by sharks (people who got pissed and blocked them)

So why does some brand are able to do so well?

I always see brands as those huge ships where we see in the sea. The already have the proper equipment like their ships and bigger equipment to catch those fishes. Since most of their team is experts, they are able to cut short their learning curve and catch more fishes.

They use radar (monitoring tools) to check where the fishes are and put their bait there to get better results.

Update: Thomas Marzano left an interesting comment below. He said brands should put aside the rod and jump in and swim with the fish until they follow the brand everywhere. Like a shark. Love his analogy. Thanks Thomas.

Mine would be fisherman should put their feet in the water and allow the fish to nibble on them. Sort of like allow the fishes to see the entire side of the fisherman. Guess both works? What do you think?

On the other hand if you’re new, you thought the best way to catch fish is to wait and talk to yourself while waiting for the fish to bite. Sorry but that doesn’t work! Not on twitter of course.

Engagement Fishing – People who loves it

Now engagement fishing is what I like to consider someone to fish for the fun of it. It’s not like business fishing. They meet fisherman, engages with them and build a relationship with them Will it take time? Sure! How do they build a relationship another? They talk to then and connect with then.

They won’t get to know another fisherman if they just sit near them and talk to themselves. Instead they sit beside the other fisherman and get to know them. They might have something in common and things will go from there

Okay! What I am trying to say here is that there is not shortcut in social media. You might want to catch as much fishes as possible but if you don’t learn some basics. You might get eaten by piranha’s instead.

My way is to build as engagement as much as you can. Make sure that they are related to your niche. If you’re a fisherman, find other fisherman, I do recommend finding other people to follow too. Maybe farmers etc. After all, you’ll never know what type of feast you can get.

If you’re on twitter for business purposes, start using your radar (twitter search) to find your fish. You can’t just go in the middle of the ocean and cast your net.

photo credits: by kasperbs

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  • Thomas Marzano

    I love your analogy Aaron! and a great way to bring forward your view on social media dynamics and how to best deal with this if you want to achieve a certain goal. It being either business or pleasure!.
    What I would like your perspective on though is the combination of the two goals… Big brans are obviously searching to do business and use channels such a social media to get their message out and gain interaction and engagement with their customers.
    So… Why Brand are on Twitter? => To do Business … How will Twitter grow a Brands business? => Through Engagement….
    Your thinking?
    Great Article!

    Best Thomas

  • Aaron Lee

    Hello Thomas,

    Thanks Thomas, glad you like the analogy. Indeed its business or pleasure, I guess like me and you, we use for both of the purposes.
    Yes! I would agree with your statement. Yours would be a further elaboration of this entire blog post. Brands are here to do business and they are engaging with others to do that. Thanks for putting that up. Almost forgot about that. Was thinking more into the fishing metaphor.


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  • Thomas Marzano

    Maybe if Brands want to fish, the need to put away the fishing rod, and jump into the water and swim with the fish first… until they follow the brand everywhere it goes… :)
    Like a shark!

  • Robin

    Hi Aaron! Love the fishing analogy! Im reading thru this and Im thinking….who is using the fish finder and who is fishing by intuition? (agrument I used to have with the exhusband) I fished intuitively….I do social media the same way. Which is why I clicked on this link that I found in twitter :) Im off to share it in my pond.

    Have a wonderful Sunday!

  • Aaron Lee

    Hi Robin,

    Glad you like the analogy. Glad you fish intuitively and got here. You must have felt my twitter aura. Kidding. Thank you for living a comment. Appreciate it.
    Have a wonderful Sunday ahead.


  • Jeff Shuey

    Great post. I like the fishing analogy too. I like your point about engagement fishing. I heard a great story about “How to Learn Engagement Fishing” on Friday by Dr. James T. Brown at the Nexus 2010 event in Bellevue.

    He mentioned he fishes in Florida and that a lot of other anglers come from different parts of the country to fish in the same area. Dr. Brown mentioned that the non-local fisherman often use the tried and true techniques that work in their “home fishing waters” and find that they don’t work in the waters off Florida. So, the questions from the anglers to the captain of the charter boat are rather pointed and accusatory. The captain repeats what he told them before they set off … that fishing in these waters is different. He even goes as far as using the anglers own rods … with the proper bait and technique … and proceeds to catch fish. The captains goal is NOT to make the anglers feel bad (after all they are paying to be on his charter boat). His point is … You need to do two things … Fish where the Fish are AND Use the right tools and techniques. The end result is … the anglers are happy because they caught fish … they might even be happy because now they know how to be successful fishing in a new area.

    The point is … Having the right location is not enough. Having the right equipment is not enough. Having the right technique is not enough. Putting them together … sometimes with the help of a local expert (charter boat captain) … is the way to insure you catch the fish you are looking for.

    Thanks for this post and for getting me to think it thru a little more too. Also, thanks to Dr. James T. Brown for the story.

  • Mike Jensen

    I really like your analogy, as someone that love to Fly-fish and is also involved with business and social media, it was easy for me to relate. I’ve had notes on this for some time, so this might just give me the kick to put it together for a post of my own!

    Anyway, one thing that I thought of related to this analogy is around preparation. Most fisherman put in a lot of work to prepare to go fishing; scouting where to go, what they are biting on, or IF they are biting at all. Similar to Social Media, know where the fish are biting before you invest the time and energy to go there. Maybe that “lake” wasnt stocked this year, or maybe that “river” is closed for the season. Maybe your favortite lure isnt what the fish are eating…and you need to have other things in the tackle box.

    Bottom line, be prepared and open to change. As Jeff pointed out, maybe consult with an friend or expert in the space to get some tips before you drive out and start fishing!

  • Aaron Lee


    That is an amazing story that you’ve shared with us here. I would say Dr James T Brown story is exactly what I wanted to write here but his story is amazing and you explained it with great detail. Thank you for taking the time to write this lovely comment and share with all of us here. You certainly got a “like” from me for that. Hope others will get to read this too. Otherwise I’ll update it as soon as I wake up tomorrow.

    Love the summary of the story “Fish where the Fish are AND Use the right tools and techniques”

    Thank you so much.


  • Pat Heffernan

    Good analogy, Aaron, though I suspect you’re not someone who’s spent a lot of time fishing. Now I myself know little about the sport of surf fishing where people stand along the shoreline, or saltwater charter boat fishing, so perhaps they talk with each other then. I do, however, know many lovers of freshwater fishing, and it is usually verboten to talk while fishing, or even much afterwards.

    So, for what I might suggest could be called ‘passion fishing,’ your analogy still works because freshwater fishing shares the following in common with social media:
    * You must be patient. (You cannot hurry the fish.)
    * You must go where the fish are.
    * You need to offer what the fish want, when and how they want it — and this changes regularly.
    * Quality is more important than quantity. (Catching and releasing one good-sized salmon, trout or bass is the goal — not hooking dozens of sunnies.)
    * You expect to ‘give’ without always getting. That is, you love the sport whether or not the ‘fish are biting’ that day.

    You get my gist. Great post, as usual.

  • Aaron Lee

    Good day Pat,

    Indeed I’m not someone who spend ANYTIME at all on fishing. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.
    I love the passion fishing analogy. Its always great to see how one little idea and spark so many ideas by adding yours into them.

    Your passion fishing is indeed in common with social media. Love it.
    Thanks for taking the time to share your thought. Appreciate it a lot.


  • Aaron Lee

    Good day Mike,

    Thanks glad you like my analogy too. Like mention to Pat above, its great to see how a little idea can spark into some so big thanks to involvement by everyone. Thank you mate.

    Love the be prepared and open to change, kinda like what social media is, its always changing and I guess the tools now here would be facebook and twitter and othr social networking tools (lake, sea, ponds) Love the analogy. So happy to see the idea expanding. Maybe all of us can write a book call Social Media Fishing and gather everyone’s analogy eh?


  • Anonymous

    My analogy to branding in social network is like fish farming, you start a farm (twitter or facebook) then use one fish to breed with another to make more fishes (followers of followers) then feed them with food (conversation & jokes & feedback & help if required) and then they breed more fishes.

    However, these fishes knows if you are sincere or not if you put automatic feeder in the farm edges they will avoid you.

    If you reveal too much hooks in your food (links) they will be scared off and avoid you (or block)

    There are always bad fishes that contaminate the farm (bots,SEO marketing folks, spams) so weed them out and makes sure all fishes are healthy (Real humans)

    Then put a small hook but with extraordinary bait (super content with valid reason to share) and the fishes not only BITE the hook but call all their fish friends to bite as well!! (Retweet)

    But after catching a few, stop fishing and start feeding again with the food manually (Real you not automatic feeder) then build up more rapport with them 😀

    One day you realized you are also one of the fishes you farmed and breed a happy family of fishes & (brands) with never ending sources of food.

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  • Matt Kelly

    Great post and metaphor! Social Media is like fishing! You have to use the right lure, in the right environment, and be patient. And as my Grandfather who took me often used to tell me, you have to be quite while fishing.

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  • Justice Wordlaw IV

    This is an amazing post Aaron. I enjoy the fish analogy and how you really explained how getting in there with the other people and engaging with them and really trying to build a relationship with them is important. That is a key thing to do when really trying to build a bigger following and also have people grow along with you.

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  • Elise M

    hmmm lots of fishing metaphorical posts these days 😛

    I love fishing. My dad has been running a pro sportsman fishing club for 25+ years and actually just went down to the states for a big steelheading trip last week. A complete stranger saw how much of a professional caster he was that he actually went up to him (waders and all) and asked if he could stand beside him in the river so he could watch/learn how to cast so well.

    I think this helps prove the point you wrote about… engagement and learning from others. Like you said… if you’re a fisherman, find other fisherman! It’s the only way too reel in the big catches!! 😀

  • James Etue

    I’m sorry to say this but your text is so full of poor grammar and misspelled words that i cannot take your content seriously…I highly recommend you proof (or have someone more skilled proof) your work. Sorry, but that’s the way it reads.

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  • Ehalsey1

    Love the metaphor Aaron! Great subtlety in your analogy. Specifically… liken it to fly-fishing; getting your feet wet in the Stream, while angling! You must be at one with the fish you intend to catch! The glistening sun reflecting off the stream is amazing when you are willing to wade out into it.

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  • Mike McCready

    I’m not a fisherman, but I get your analogy. I think it works well. I remember trying to go fish at a local lake when I was a kid and not getting anything. I got frustrated and quit. The same is true for social media, people may try it, not get the results (no fish) and quit. That’s the worse thing they can do. If you’ve ever seen a fishing moving, you’ll know it takes patience. So does social media.

    Great post.

  • Vibram Five Fingers

    Thank you for another great article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.

  • Garret Dickhoff

    Hi, for some reason when I place your feed into google reader, it won?t work. Can you give me the RSS link just to be sure I?m using the most appropriate one?

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  • Medicine Ball Exercises

    Thanks for some quality points there. I am kind of new to online , so I printed this off to put in my file, any better way to go about keeping track of it then printing?

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  • Used Transmission

    That’s the great article! I just pass ‘n read it, two thumbs up! 😉

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  • Mike Pilley

    I felt like I did a little engagement fishing with you the other day–and it worked! Thanks again Aaron for all you do.

  • Gloson

    Thoughtful post Aaron. You seem to be becoming an expert at analogy.

    fishes = followers
    bites = engagement
    buy a fishing rod = register an account
    twitter and facebook = sea and pond
    sharks = people who got pissed and blocked them
    radar = monitoring tools

    SERIOUSLY? 😛 Nonetheless, great analogy. (Y)

    You got a typo though btw -“People who loveS it”. =P

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