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Are Your Social Media Efforts Driven By Purpose, or By Fear?

JumpingTen years ago, Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life took bookstores by storm and sold more than 32 million copies in 10 years. It simultaneously held the number one spot on the four major bestseller lists, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Publishers Weekly.

Rick’s message struck a nerve with millions of readers –  readers who discovered that living a life with purpose was more satisfying and rewarding than merely going through the motions.  When it comes to life, relationships, business, even our goals and dreams, we have two options: we can live with intention and purpose. Or we can be motivated by fear.

When it comes to social media for your small business, we have the same choice. We can jump in with purpose and passion, or we can let our fear make us hesitate and miss out!

And yes, I realize how we live life matters a great deal more than how we navigate social media. But if fear is holding us back from growing our businesses, chances are it’s affecting other areas of our lives as well.

Am I Doing It Right?

In 1997, Gary Vaynerchuk launched to help grow his family’s wine business. In 2006, he had an idea. He purchased a domain and a video camera and taped the first video blog episode of Wine Library TV. One year later he had more than 15,000 daily downloads and 100 comments on each show. The show exploded over the next five years and catapulted their business – and Gary – into the social spotlight.

As a result, Gary has become a mogul in the social media industry by founding VaynerMedia, a social media brand agency, in 2009. He’s written three must-read books on social media: Crush It, The Thank You Economy, and his latest book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy World.

When Gary started Wine Library TV, he didn’t know what he was doing. All he had was an idea, a compelling desire, and what some call an “unrelenting passion” for wine and people. In his own words: “All I wanted to do was to build a community, and I felt the other stuff would work itself out.”

Gary did something many of us haven’t done yet: he overcame the fear that tells us if we can’t do it with “excellence,” we shouldn’t even try.

This is a challenge for so many of us.

And with good reason!

We are surrounded by amazing examples of people making it happen with incredible creativity and seeming perfection. But the truth is, we all start somewhere.

We All Start Somewhere

When I started my first blog, The Homeschool Encourager, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  I simply wanted to offer encouragement to other homeschool moms via the internet. I built a site using MS Frontpage (there was no WordPress or Blogger yet!). I had a clunky site (by today’s standards), sent hundreds of emails each week using Outlook, and with no social media or today’s technology ended up with more than 1200 readers within 24 months. People connected with what I was writing, and with no other avenues to receive continued support, they signed up in droves. (Ok, maybe not droves, but they did sign up!)

The point is that I started with what I knew. I didn’t have access to the content, blogs, and expert advice we have today. What I did have was the same thing Gary had: the desire to build a community and a passion for something I cared about. The rest worked itself out.

As the Homeschool Encourager, I was focused on my purpose and passionate. I even felt adventurous in what I was doing. To my knowledge, no one had done this before. I was pioneering something new and innovative. These motivations outweighed any fear I might be doing it wrong.

Today, I know a whole lot more. But am I better off? Are you?

Unlike those early days, when I was forging ahead despite not really knowing what I was doing, I’m stuck.  In fact, I’ve been stuck for the past few years, nearly paralyzed by the fear that I’m going to fall short of the example of others. I’m sure many of you can relate!

Somehow we’ve lost our sense of adventure, our unrelenting passion. We’ve let our fear of doing it wrong keep us from doing anything at all.

If we return to our original purpose, our passion for what we do, then we’ll find the courage to make it happen.

We will be more concerned about connecting and helping others than how perfectly polished our brand is. It takes guts. But we can do it. We can dare to forge a new inroad to a yet unreached people group: our tribe.

“That’s great, Sue,” I hear you thinking. “But what if I start where I am, put myself out there – and no one notices? Or worse – what if no one cares?”

What If No One Notices?

I’ve been an admirer of Jon Acuff’s blog for many years. When he started “Stuff Christians Like” in 2008, he was an unknown, untested guy with a great sense of humor and a heart to challenge the silly behavior of  church-going people. He had no idea if anyone would even read his blog or understand his unique style. He didn’t know how people in the church (his main audience) would react to what he was putting out there.

When Jon attended his first social media conference, not one person attended his workshop! He later shared a photo on his blog of him sitting in a room filled with empty chairs. I still keep a copy of that photo in my office for inspiration.

Today more than four million people read Stuff Christians Like. Jon has written a number of popular books including Stuff Christians Like, Quitter, and Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average & Do Work that Matters, and he now speaks to thousands of people at conferences across the country.

Maybe you, like Jon, are afraid no one will read your blog or buy your products or services. Maybe your past experience haunts you because you have written posts no one read and shared updates that no one responded to. That doesn’t mean your message isn’t needed.

I read recently that adversity is the universe’s way of finding out if you are serious about your dream, if you are willing to press on regardless of the struggle. Maybe your past or present experiences are just that – the universe simply is testing you to find out what you’re made of.

Make up your mind today that your fear of rejection won’t keep you from putting yourself out there. Work to find people you truly connect with, knowing you do have something to offer them. As Seth Godin says in Tribes, “There are tribes everywhere now [and] every one of them is yearning for leadership and connection.”

Be bold! Your confidence will be the very thing that draws people to you.

What If I Build a Tribe And Then Let Them Down?

We don’t have to look far to see many examples of people and companies who have built their tribes, only to make serious blunders when using social media for their small business. Just Google “Social Media Disasters” and you’ll see what I mean.

Amazingly enough, there are still companies and leaders out there who don’t get that social media is about building relationships. Some of them are starting to figure out that two-way communication is actually a good thing. Dell is a good example. Love them or hate them, they have finally learned to tap into the social media stream to improve their brand and their products.

When it comes to company profiles, the general public may seem less than forgiving. But when it comes to building authentic relationships online, people are more forgiving than we give them credit for. As they get to know you, and understand that you are there to add value to their lives, they’ll want to be a part of what you are doing.

The old adage is so true in the social media for small business world: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If people see you as authentic and caring, they won’t be repelled by imperfection. In fact, they will probably become more loyal and supportive as they see you struggle and grow in order to do what you believe in.

We need to let our tribes see that despite these fears, we are willing to add our own unique value to the world.

When others see our willingness to step out, to fail, and even to make fools of ourselves, we will find ourselves at a place where we can truly influence others.

What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen?

This is always a great question to ask, especially when we are afraid of trying something new. Take a minute to answer the following questions, and you may be surprised to find that dipping your toes into the social media stream is not actually as scary as it seems. We learn more when things don’t go perfectly or turn out the way we expected.


  • If you try but don’t do everything perfectly, what’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • What if you start engaging and no one responds? So what?
  • If you build a strong following and then let them down, what would you do next?

“Success is a series of small risks.”

This is so true in social media! Every time we share our story, we are taking a risk. We are risking rejection, ridicule, even failure. But failure won’t kill us. Some say it will make us stronger.

Take Purposeful Action

If we want to be taken seriously – and play with the “big kids” – we’re going to have to put down our blankies, be bold, fearless and take purposeful action.

The following social media for small business challenges will help you move past fear, focus on your purpose and help renew your confidence and passion.

Challenge #1: Write a paragraph about your purpose. Incorporate this into the “About” page on your blog and your social media profiles to remind yourself and others why you do what you do!

Challenge #2: Find pictures that represent your passion or create a Pinterest board and fill it with these pics. Display these where you will see them every day.

Challenge #3: Reach out to someone you respect on social media. (HINT: if it scares you to death, you have the right person!) Ask to interview them for your blog or to have a virtual coffee date to ask a couple of questions. Be sure to thank them profusely and share some social love then they respond.

Challenge #4:Read about one of the social media pioneers mentioned in this article or another leader whose story inspires you. Write a blog post or social media update about what you learned from their example.

Challenge #5: Attend a conference, seminar, or webinar on a topic that intimidates you. For instance: Google Analytics, affiliate marketing, or even Facebook or Pinterest.

Don’t let the fear of imperfection, rejection, or failure keep you from striving for success. Focus on your why, your bigger purpose. This will give you the courage you need to leave fear behind and become the leader you are meant to be. Be inspired by those who have gone before you, rise to the challenge, and become an inspiration to others!

About Sue Brage

Sue Brage helps business owners, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations build better communications and increase their online influence.

52 thoughts on “Are Your Social Media Efforts Driven By Purpose, or By Fear?

  1. Wow, Sue, this article was definitely on point!! I am one of those who believed for a long time that if you cannot do it with excellence, then wait until you can. And because of that thinking, I floundered in my business for more than a year. My mindset is changing and I will definitely work on your challenges this week! Thanks for sharing!

    • Clarissa, it definitely begins with a mindset shift. It takes courage to do things imperfectly, knowing we could fail, look foolish, or worse, let others down. But we have to be willing to take risks if we are going to get where we want to go.

      Good luck with the challenges…you can do it!

  2. This is a really great post Sue. Putting your head above the parapet online in the most puplic way possible is scary. You are so right though that actually unless you do something really stupid (unlikely given the level of competition for most stupid thing online!) then the worst that can happen is that you get ignored for a while. It is important to remember that people love to see a success story taking shape and if some of your early efforts are less than perfect at least people can see that you are a genuine person. That is a very valuable thing these days. It is so important to be approachable when building a community and if you are too perfect you will scare off the most important people – the people you can help and who will always be happy to list you as one of their “friend”.

    • Hey Martin! Well said…it is scary to be vulnerable. I think we feel we need to have all the answers to be credible or considered an “authority.” It’s ok to admit we are still learning along with everyone else! Thanks for the comment and for sharing the post!…

    • Adrienne, we need to remember that what we are doing IS important. Not only to us, but to others we will be able to influence or help in some way. That makes it worth fighting for…thanks for sharing.

  3. This is so timely. Sometimes I’d like to give up because it seems that nobody’s reading my message or even engaging in conversation in social media. But thanks to this! It has definitely boost my confidence.

  4. Oh, boy! This is exactly the message I needed to hear, especially today. I’m scheduled to give my very first presentation as a paid speaker. Even though I know that I’m good at and enjoy giving talks, that people love my programs, and that I’m passionate about my topic – I still struggle with fear.

    I’m not afraid of public speaking. I have fear of the unknown, of success, and of not being good enough. This fear is the single largest issue holding me back in my business. Which is such a shame, as there are a lot of people that want to learn what I have to share.

    Thanks for this great article! I’m going to print it out and use some of the suggestions you provide.

    • Debra, how exciting! And understandably scary at the same time. For me, it seems to boil down to my own feelings of self-worth. We have to finally settle the issue that we are awesome and have value to add to the world. And then remind ourselves and each other of that fact when fears gets in our face! I believe in you…you will do great! Be sure to let me know how awesome it went later… =)

      • Hey, Sue! The program went just great! No problems at all, and it was received well.

        But it’s kinda weird. I feel a bit strange actually earning decent money for this talk, as I’ve given it for free nearly 20 times.

        But maybe my feelings will work themselves out better once I recuperate from doing this talk. I have disabilities, and although I love public speaking, it leaves me really wiped out!

        Thanks again for sharing your article.

        • Debra, glad to hear it went well. I remember when I got my first job as a staff writer…I couldn’t believe I was actually getting paid for my dream job! It was a weird feeling, but I got used to it =). Hope you get some rest, I’m sure you were a great blessing to your audience!

  5. This post is a great way to kick off the week. I have used most of your challenges except #3. This intrigues me as I sometimes feel I am out of my league in the realm of life/spiritual coaching with so many big names out there. There is one person whom I would love to talk to and now I am going to add contacting her on my list of big things to do for my fledgling blog. Thank you for this uplifting message!

    • Carolynne, you are welcome! Thanks for connecting…I’m sure you will get a favorable response from your contact. Good luck with everything…think big! You can do it…

  6. Hi Sue

    What an inspiring message you share. I thought that it is only me who is fearful of both the unknown and dipping a toe into the social media waters until everything is absolutely perfect. Then I read the feedback comments from others saying exactly the same thing. I tried writing a few blogs last year and spent hours on them. Result-no response and immediate disillusionment!Why bother? I thought that nobody is interested in what I have to say.
    Your writing opens an entirely new perspective and now I am really eager to engage, using my current skills. No matter how basic they are.
    Thank you for the motivation.

    • Duncan, I think we can all relate to feeling scared and even intimidated. Remember no matter what our own skill or experience level, there is always someone coming along behind we can help! When we keep our eyes on others and how we can serve them, it keeps us going. Hang in there…you will make it happen!

  7. Great stuff Sue – we’ve got to fight for our ideas. No one said it would be easy, but if we believe in them enough, then we’ll keep pushing even when its hard or a little scary. And you’re right – most of the time things work out well in the end!

  8. This post has the feel, “this was written personally for me.” This is very encouraging message, especially about social media. Don’t give up is the message, eventually someone will hear your voice.

  9. I’m a recent beginner in creating online. Although I’ve had my share of success offline, I haven recently found myself doubting the value I have to offer. Just lately I realized that I have been afraid to create something that doesn’t work or put some conversation out there on a blog that no one needs, wants or responds to. After reading your post I see that regardless of how many times I create or how long it takes, the only way I can learn and grow is to “be in the soup” so as to speak. If I take myself out of the game, which is a daily recurring thought, I won’t have the opportunity to fail, to learn and eventually succeed. I have to use failure as a tool to learn not use it to feel like I’m not enough. So thank you so much for reminding me of this.

    Carolynn Ross

    • Carolynn, great points! Being in the soup isn’t always fun, especially when we know others are watching. Michael Hyatt talks about three types of bloggers, the Sage (the expert), the Sherpa (the guide) and the Struggler (the one who is learning alongside their readers). Each of these is a valuable role! I need to remind myself that I don’t have to be the expert or have it all together to make progress…

      Link to Michael’s post:

  10. Great post, Sue. I remind myself all the time that Fear is a writer’s #1 worst enemy (or any entrepreneur, really). Thanks for reminding me that PASSION is more important than PERFECTION. Especially with technology. Thank you!

  11. Hi Sue,

    I find this so empowering. In a nutshell, it all begins and ends with our core beliefs. Once we establish a positive, motivating core belief, it drops down into our hearts and we can take that passion and move mountains.

    I love your ‘purposeful action’ tips. They feed that passion, constitute motivation and most of all…lead us OUT of fear with action.

    GREAT job! I’m ready to face that dreaded social media giant head on.

    Thanks so much.

  12. Thank you so much for writing this post. Its so interesing that I decided yestereday that today I would not let my fear hold me back, and get back to being motivated and forging ahead; then I look in my inbox, see the email for this post, and thought YES I MUST READ THIS!

    I was a bridal designer for about 5 years, I won a grant and presented my collection at a NY Fashion Week show in 2011. I had customers (and some repeat clients) and I was making great money at my fulltime fashion design gig and money on the side with my bridal line, ready to become a full time designer/entrepreneur. And then in one day in the matter of a couple of hours my life changed completely. Long sad story short, I woke up on my 31st birthday to find my 3 day old only son and second child had passed away in his sleep. This was August of 2012. My world CRASHED and I mean CRASHED. I lost all hope, drive, motivation, everything. I’ve been trying since then to get it back. I’ve become a part of the Baby and Child Loss community, a club no one wants to belong to, and the thing i noticed is the sad hopelessness of the situation. But inside of me is that girl who took a nearly 3 day bus ride from the East Coast to Southern California to attend design school (without any parental support, and like $5 to survive on) all my bleongings with me. The same girl who tirelessly pounded the pavement and searched for jobs, who up and moved to NYC with just a prayer and a glimmer in her eye. I lost so much of me that sad day, and reading this article really hit home. I used to be fearless. Nothing could stop me. For the last nearly 2 years, EVERYTHING could stop me. But I’m tired of that. So I started a lifestyle brand of girl’s hair accessories, and I sub alot of different Social Media Marketing gurus newsletters, and watch/attend webinars when I can. I started trying to write a book on surviving child loss, as well as writing a coup;le of blogs that only a few random people read about my passions: dealing with child loss, arts and crafts with my kids (I have a 4 month of rainbow baby girl now) and lifestyle and a blog (one post written to date) on Social Media strategies I’ve come across. I am also working on graphic design (self taught) and so many other things, but this post made me realize why I was so fearful, because success is scary. I’d have to admit I am the lady whose baby died, and who subsequently started a business to celebrate him so everyone will know his name. That scares me! The fact is my son’s death made me realize we can’t really plan or count on anything. And that ALSO scares me. But so what? I’m pretty impressed by this article and I just have to say that for the #3 challenge, I’d like to interview you Sue Brage. Anyway thanks so much again for this article, it speaks volumes to me! Be blessed.

    • Dani,
      I don’t know what to say…I can’t imagine what you have been through. But I am proud of you for putting your heart and your story out there in the hopes it might help others. I would love to connect with you…please email me or contact me through my site. Thanks so much for sharing and I’m glad the post encouraged you!

  13. Sue your article is liberating. I read an article somewhere that it’s not enough to post something on your blog and relax, hoping everything works out. You have to ask friends and connections to share and kinda spread the the link through social media and the Internet. I felt scared as some of my connections and acquaintances have thousands of followers on twitter and are quite active on Google+. I was worried they’d look down on my work and nervous of making a fool of myself. Turns out it’s fear and many people esp writers experience this. You just taught me and others reading your post to just do it anyway.’ Rejection is part of it and who knows…a lot of people may actually like your idea.

    • Shingi, you are spot on! We just have to be willing to do it afraid, and if we remember why we are doing what we do…and who we are trying to help, it makes it easier. Good luck!

  14. Thank you SO MUCH for this post! You pretty much addressed all my fears and why I need to feel them and proceed anyway. I love the challenge and I will be starting that today. Again thank you Sue for your brilliance!

    • Kristina, thanks for commenting! It’s comforting to know others are just as scared as we are, but they do it anyway! That’s a major difference between those that make it happen and those that don’t…keep up the good work!!

  15. Hi Sue, I enjoyed every aspect of your article. I have already rewritten my purpose and I have read a little about Jon because he is new to me. I am aready aquainted with Rick and his book because we had to do this at church and I read about Gary and his wineLibrary. You have given actionable challenges and these are great ; I did two from the five. Thanks for your sharing because you have even given me a” am kick”, I have toyed with the idea of interviewing a celebrated person and now you have offered this challenge. This means that I should really be brave and do so. Ipreparing a paper on parenting so I would like to have your imput because you seems to be a faith based person. Thanks for that gentle”kick” Will contact you soon.

  16. Marlene, thank you for the kind comment. I am so glad you found the post helpful and encourage you to reach out to that person. I have found even the “celebrities” are approachable and open when contacted. Good luck and I look forward to hearing how it goes… =)

  17. Sue, this was a great article. Thank you for sharing it, as it put a lot of my fears into perspective. I have had a huge fear of doing something wrong to lose my whole following. I need to just keep going and push through. Thank you, again, for this fantastic blog.

  18. Thanks Jessica! Of course we have to use wisdom in what we do, but we have to push past our fears and put ourselves out there if we are going to connect with people. Something we learned in the Scavenger Hunt, right!? Good luck!

  19. Gosh, Sue… it’s almost like divine intervention having come upon your amazing, articulate, inspiring, and actionable article! It must be really dusty in here because my eyes are watering up. I’ve sat on my best intentions for so long out of fear of failure and looking ridiculous. My business’ facebook page has gone unaltered for at least a year and my other social media engagement has been sporadic at best. I read “Crush It” when it came out but wasn’t in business at the time (I guess it’s time to dust off my copy and re-read it).

    Thank you for such a kind and loving kick in the seat! I promise to follow through on your four actions in the next 24 hours.

  20. I’m just starting to build a plan and do the research to create a presence online. Although I’m not there yet but in the process of moving forward, I can see that Social Media is a big playground that I will have to learn to play in. I’m pretty fearless when it comes to learning or trying new things and not easily intimidated so I’m actually very excited to learn all I can about incorporating the Social Media mix into what I create online.

    Your article is a good reminder when we face fear or intimidation to forge ahead anyway and be open to learn in the process. There will be challenges I’m sure but those challenges can be just as exciting as what I envision my creation to ultimately be.

    Thank you,


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