Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee by Alan Barra

As a warmup to next week’s meeting on Sports and Social Media, I thought a few reflections from one of the greatest baseball players of all time would be appropriate.

Last week, I started reading a book called “Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee” and am amazed by how much I have learned about Yogi so far.  I am only up to page 70 in the book, but I am already convinced that Yogi is (was) the best catcher who played the game (sorry Bill Dickey and Johnny Bench).

While I am not a Yankees fan, I am a baseball fan and the book is a fascinating read so far as it traces Yogi’s roots from a boyhood in St. Louis (Joe Garagiola grew across the street from him) to minor league baseball teams in Norfolk and Newark to a short stint in the U.S. Navy (he was at Omaha Beach on D-Day) and then as a 21-year-old rookie for the New York Yankees in 1947.

So, who knew his real name is Lawrence Peter Berra?

And can you believe that his first year salary with the Yankees was only $5000 (doesn’t A-Rod make that in 5 minutes?) and he had to work in the hardware department of Sears in his off-season?

While thinking about the impact Yogi has made on the sport of baseball, I imagined the impact that Yogi would have if he had been talking about social media instead.  Yogi was and still is a colorful personality who is well known for his malapropisms and for fracturing the English language.  So, I have taken a few of his famous quotes or “Yogisms” and interpreted them as if Yogi was really talking about social media.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

This Yogism is a perfect analogy to social media.  Implementing social media successfully requires a lot of experimentation to test what will work in a specific situation and what won’t work.  With the social media landscape changing so rapidly, Yogi is urging us to remain flexible as something that worked last month may not work next month.  So, if you come to a fork in the social media road – take both forks and keep trying.

In baseball, you don’t know nothing.

And in social media, most people don’t know nothing either.  There are many people who claim to know it all and there are many people who say they are practicing social media when they aren’t.  Yogi is telling us to keep learning and pushing the envelope.  If you think you know it all, then you have stopped thinking.

Social media (or baseball) is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.

Implementing social media is not just something you think about or do once and move on.  In other words, social media is like putting Rogaine on a bald man’s head – you have to keep at it on a daily basis.  Yogi is telling us to put in a strong effort on the strategy and pre-game preparation, but then you must actually put in the same or greater effort on a daily basis out on the playing field.

If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?

Likewise, you can’t stop people from not visiting your website or participating in your community.  Baseball teams have to field a compelling product (i.e. a winning team) if they want fans to come to the ballpark.  In the same manner, Yogi’s advice is that companies need to provide a compelling reason for customers to visit their website and to interact with them in today’s competitive environment.  Are you interacting with your customers and prospects – or just talking at them?  Are you providing multiple ways for customers to find you online?

You can observe a lot by watching

There is a lot to be said for lurking.  Most of what I have learned about social media came from seeing what worked for other people and then testing it myself.  Social media is so new and is transforming so quickly that most people have learned their craft through on-the-job-training.  Yogi compels us to keep observing and pay attention to what is working (or not working) for others.

Finally, I want to leave you with a final Yogism and with a few links to explore:

And remember…

The game isn’t over until it’s over.

…so play hard all nine innings!

[note: this post originally appeared in my Social Media Musings blog]