Social Media Lessons from Misadventures in Bread Making


A tail of two recipes and how I learned a better social media growth strategy. 

About a month back, my wife and I decided to make our own bread the old school way. This meant starting with nothing except flour, water, air and the abundant yeast all around.

Called “the starter” your goal is to attract and “feed” as much yeast as possible in order to grow your yeast in the flour and water so you can then turn that starter into something: a crusty, delicious, chewy sourdough.

As I thought about growing this bread starter (and messing it up as you’ll soon see) it got me thinking about growing my current online running business, The Run Experience. When you think specifically about growing your social media for business, the process is kind of the same.

We’re all trying to attract as many followers (i.e. the yeast – gross example but it works), and we do that by finding the right voice on the right platform (i.e. the right combination of flour and water) and then building that audience with regular feedings (i.e. the well-timed post or video).

And the similarities don’t stop there. Search bread making online and there’s so many different strategies, recipes and “growth hacks” it was overwhelming. I mean, what if we followed the wrong recipe? (and yes I was actually stressing about this, but doesn’t this ring a bell?)

So I chose what I thought to be the “best” recipe, started it and immediately panicked after 24 hours – a very short time – when nothing seemed to be happening. I went back online for another recipe to get the next “best” recipe going. You know, double my chances for “success.”

And this was my big mistake

Thanks to my impatience, insecurity in my bread making and lack of faith in the process, I was now following two recipes for two different starters, which means I was no longer doubling my chances for success. In fact, it only watered down my finite energy and focus for what was supposed to be a fun side project, in effect slashing my chances at success in half!

I then realized I’d tried to do the same things on social media by getting on more platforms, posting all the time to everyone everywhere in an attempt to double my chances for social media success.

You see, just like social media, bread making is as much about feel, commitment and attention to detail as it is about following any recipe.

But I didn’t really get that just yet. 

Inevitably I’d come home tired at night, forget to feed the starters, now plural because I’m an idiot. I’d pull out the different flours because each recipe required a different brand and a different mix of all purpose flour to whole wheat flour. Each also required different water because believe it or not one recipe called for 1/3 cup tap water while the other demanded 1/2 cup filtered bottled water (are you KIDDING ME?). Not to mention the different recommendations on storage, temperature, even how you covered it. Or rather, the varying different strategies people use to foster the fastest best growth.

It only took me one day to confuse recipes, in essence seriously messing up one recipe and seriously slowing down the growth of another.

That again reminds me of my social media battle. 

Even though I knew it would be best to consolidate and focus on just one recipe, I couldn’t bear to thrown an entire starter away. After investing so much of my time and effort, not to mention all that flour and water, I was loathe to throw that away and admit defeat even though its very existence only continued to distract me from my real purpose of making bread in this century with the other starter.

Anyways, my social media lesson is this. 

The next time someone tells you, “Snapchat is blowing up. You should really be on it,” “I just snagged 100 more Twitter followers following this strategy,” or “Did you notice if you like 10 photos a day, comment on five and follow three new people you can totally boost your own Instagram following?”

Pump. The. Breaks.

Ask yourself instead, “How much bread do I really need to make?” And what do you even need to make the bread for? And how many different recipes do you want to simultaneously follow, knowing each requires a similar amount of care?

Accept attention to detail, commitment and daily care on one platform trumps anything else. Also accept this important fact: For thousands of years we’ve all been baking bread without ever really understanding how or why this miracle works – think about it, turning flour and air into food!

So be a little skeptical of anyone who holds their social media recipe up on high for you to follow. In all reality, they’re successful through experimentation, dumb luck or a mix of both.

In other words they just so happened to find the right combination of flour and water, temperature and storage, feeding and baking, for their very specific time period and environment and available ingredients. Ultimately, even though we messed up our starter, what was a stress-inducing, confusing event turned into slowly accepting a somewhat natural phenomena that has multiple roads for success.

I think you’ll find social media is again kind of the same.

Nate Helming coaches strength and mobility for national and international-level road cyclists, mountain bikers, triathletes and ultrarunners at San Francisco CrossFit, as well as elite-level amateur runners and triathletes outside the gym. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and check out more of his videos and articles on his website,