Malcolm Gladwell said in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success” that it takes about 10.000 hours of learning and practice to become an expert in a given area. It’s true that it takes lots of time, effort, energy and many times luck to become an expert in your industry, but how about those who doesn’t have that much time?
Let do some math here:
Let’s say that your job happens to be the thing that you want to become an expert in. You work 9-5 doing your job so you get 45 hours of learning and practicing in your field. That means it’ll take you more than 222 weeks to meet that rule. This means that it’ll take you exactly 4.6 years to become an expert in your industry (that’s if you didn’t take vacations and assuming that you stay always focused mastering one task at a time).
The previous example was for people who want to become experts at their own jobs, but what about the person who already has a job and wants to become an expert in another area part time. How much time it’ll take them?
Tim Ferriss, the author of (The 4 Hour Work Week and recently The 4 Hour Chef) has a completely different opinion about this subject!
Phew, feel relieved?
Today, I’m bringing you a technique that’ll make you learn things faster and become an expert without obviously spending 10.000 hours or even paying thousands of dollars to become one. I don’t believe that much in shortcuts, but I don’t consider this technique to be a shortcut. It’s just a smarter way to focus on important things that will form the major cornerstones of your understanding.
This is not intended for copying other people’s stuff or obsessing over their work. It’s only meant for you to understand the process so you can improve upon it.
The technique is called Reverse Engineering!
Reverse Engineering is basically breaking something complex to smaller parts so you can analyze them and understand how the whole thing works. It was mainly applied to hardware and software, but more and more fields (like Biology) are beginning to exploit the power of this technique.
In software, if you wanted to reverse-engineer a certain program, you have to start with the binary code (which is the simplest or smallest building unit) and build your way up to forming a more human readable code that will result in understanding how every function in the program works. This will lead to seeing the whole picture and understanding how these functions work together to execute certain tasks.
In our crazy world which is social media marketing, the process of reverse engineering works exactly the same. It relies on 3 main principals, but before we go through those principals, you first need to identify the most successful brand in your industry (in terms of social media use) and start to apply the following principals to understand their strategy faster and improve on what they’re doing:
This part consists of breaking the whole strategy into small, manageable and easy to understand chunks. If you’re just starting out with social media marketing, then it’s almost impossible to see and understand the big picture, so breaking it into small parts will help you better understand the reason behind each of them.
This first principal is meant to disassemble the strategy to its smallest and simplest actions like: platforms they’re using successfully, posts on their Facebook page, Twitter, blogging, sending email newsletters, posting a video…etc. You need to write every action the company is doing on every social platform. This is fairly easy in today’s web because almost everything is exposed publicly. You can like their page, follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their newsletter to gather more information. This principal is not meant to understanding the how or the why of each action, its only purpose is identification and discovery.
Experts usually look at a strategy from the top. They have the big picture outlined in front of their eyes. All they have to do is to design specific tasks that all work together to achieve that one big goal, whether it is more sales, more brand awareness…etc. In the case of someone new to this field, you need to start from the bottom, and build your way up to reaching a point where you can see the whole picture as well. This will not only save you time, but also lots of trial and error of trying to figure out everything yourself while it’s been figured out already by other experts.
2- Analysis Of Core Components
This consists of taking those small actions that you’ve gathered and putting them under a microscope to see how each one functions and how they all work together to produce a better outcome. This includes the frequency of which the company is posting to each social platform, the response that each action has brought, the type of the message that is being posted (photo, quote, infographic, technical, funny…etc).
This principal is meant to understand the how and why of things. It is meant to uncover how each action performs in terms of outcomes. Why it performs the way it does. If they’re posting a video or a podcast, analyze it to see why people like it. Does it provide value, does it have actionable information, is it entertaining, does it follow a template that you can use or improve upon, does it have a ratio of information VS promotion, how does their cross promotion works, do they transcribe it, why…etc. Once you understand the reason and outcomes of their actions, you can easily improve upon them and bring something more powerful to your audience.
The analysis phase requires lots of time in order for it to take an effect, but it won’t be compared to the 10.000 hours obviously
You don’t have to understand how the whole strategy works yet, because all you have to do at this stage is just analyzing core actions the target company is implementing on each asset or platform they’re using. This way, you can uncover their strengths as well as their weaknesses.
3- Assembly And Assignment
This is the part where you use the previous components to write their entire successful strategy or even a better one. In this phase, your job is assigning tasks to different categories and designing your own social media marketing strategy. It’s like writing documentation to a software or hardware. You have all the parts of the puzzle and now you’re just organizing and tying things up so you or your team can understand it. You can use the strategy steps I’ve written about previously as a model to assign existing tasks and even introduce your own tasks and ideas. When you assemble all the different components together, you’re going to end up with a proven to work strategy that is designed for your own audience.
The process of reverse engineering needs lots of details in order for it to work. Books could literally be written on the subject of reverse engineering designs and strategies. However, when you have the cornerstones of the process in hand, you’re going to follow along the way easily and it won’t surely take you 10.000 hours to take a peek at the BIG PICTURE
I don’t like copying other people, I like to figure out everything myself!
I personally don’t like the idea of stalking people in your industry trying to figure out what, how and why they’re doing what they’re doing. It could be a huge waste of time and a creativity inhibitor. I’m a strong believer that if you focus on your own business and try to come up with new idea, you’re going to become the model that other people strive to copy. However, if you’re just starting out and you don’t have lots of time or knowledge to design your own strategies from scratch, you can use this as a base model to jumpstart your campaigns and then improve as you go through introducing your original ideas. It’s better to start with a proven to work/successful strategy in hand then to start with hundreds of question marks that’ll probably need 10.000 hours to be answered. Your choice!
And don’t worry, even so-called original ideas aren’t that original. They all originate from somewhere else. They can’t be born in a vacuum. We borrow most of our ideas on a subconscious level even without us being aware of it
Have you used reverse engineering before, what are your thoughts about this? I’ll appreciate your comment!
Image Credit: jurvetson