Hard to tell which one is the world famous explorer!

Four Key Steps To Becoming A Social Media Pioneer

I am a father of three whose adventurous weekend outing is a trip to the dump and the Bedford Public Library. Mike Horn is a world-renowned explorer (to be fair he is a father of two!) who has swam the length of the Amazon River, circumvented the Equator without any motorized transportation, and did a solo crossing of Antarctica. You may not think we have a lot in common. But Mike has taught me that if we take risks in our own fields than we too can be pioneers worthy of an eagerly anticipated social media feed.

Hard to tell which one is the world famous explorer!

Let me explain.

Over the last several months I have turned to Instagram every morning looking for an update from Mike Horn. Horn and fellow explorer, Børge Ousland, have spent the past 90 days crossing the Arctic Ocean beginning in Alaska and ending in Norway.

On Mike’s Instagram account, some combination of him and his team has been posting first-person updates on his progress. It has been like watching an action movie unfold in real-time on social media. Mike and Børge were running out of food and were still hundreds of kilometers away from the rendezvous point with Mike’s ship, Pangea. They weren’t going to make it. So the team was able to get another boat, a true ice breaker, to meet them closer. The boat also carried two additional explorers who would leave the boat and ski toward Mike and Børge to meet them sooner with extra food.

Honestly, I didn’t know how it would end. Would there be a successful reunion or would an Arctic storm come in and spell disaster? Fortunately, the two pairs of explorers met successfully and made it back to the boat.


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A post shared by Mike Horn (@mikehornexplorer) on

As I write this, the boat is stuck in the frozen water but everyone seems confident that they will find their way out and Mike will be able to hug his two daughters soon.

Why am I writing all of this? Because this experience has reminded me of a few important lessons on social media and the fact that you don’t have to traipse across the Arctic to be a pioneer.

Take risks

I do not know Mike Horn. But I follow his every word because he is doing amazing things. Even though he is not running a startup or investing in seed funds, I learn so much from what he writes. Through his experiences, he deepens his perspective on life.


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A post shared by Mike Horn (@mikehornexplorer) on

Think about the above post. The two of them literally spent the day battling frostbite and walking in a circle. Yet Mike remains so composed and knows that if he gives up or stops he will (literally) die.

We can all relate to the heart of what he is talking about. And it is through that connection that we get so much value. I often feel like I’m running in a circle. How do I persevere? How do I change the situation so I can continue moving forward?

This is why I try to follow as many different, interesting people on social as possible. I can always find some element I relate to that makes me better. And that’s really social media at its best.

It’s also why I want to try to do more cool things in my life. Probably not extreme adventures. But I want to take more risks on marketing campaigns, put myself out there more. In doing so, I will fail and I will learn and I will share those insights so as to save you a trip to failure town.

Be authentic

Prior to posting something, I often spend an embarrassing amount of time obsessing over word choice and debating whether to publish at all. Mike’s post often have typos and rambling thoughts. But as I read them, I imagine his actual fingers, shaking from the cold, typing on a keypad and suddenly those typos come to life. The reason they add value and don’t detract is because they’re an authentic part of Mike’s story.


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A post shared by Mike Horn (@mikehornexplorer) on

In the above post, he talks about a near disaster. There is no glamour. Just a bad situation and how they made it less worse.

People get excited by others willing to do what they are afraid of. If I listen to the above advice and try new things, I need to be honest with what happens. If I can do that then I believe people will begin to invest in my struggle, as I have done with Mike.

Post Consistently

I look at my own social feed and I see long absences between sharing anything of value. As I look at a lot of great startups doing amazing things I see that their feed remains empty too. When I see this I immediately think of all my personal excuses. Then I remember Mike Horn. The guy was in the Arctic Ocean and still found a way to post every day! If he can do it, so can I (of course, I am referring to social posting not crossing the Arctic Ocean. I can NOT do that).

If you’re doing all of the above then the consistent posting is not vanity. You’re not just doing it because you love hearing yourself speak. You’re cultivating an audience that is interested in what you have to say. You owe it to them to communicate. If Mike posted that he had one day left of food and the rescue team was three days away and then…. He stopped posting.

I’d go crazy! I’d think he was dead! Of course, this is extreme but if you’re doing social right your audience does begin to care about the journey you’re taking them on. So don’t leave them wondering if you’ve been devoured by a polar bear.

Find your team

If you’re constantly exploring new things, being authentic with your results and cultivating a strong audience, then you not only have a right to post frequently on social media but you have an obligation to share your knowledge.

If you can’t do it yourself, for whatever reason, then get help. Mike’s crossing of the Arctic is a testament to the endurance of human beings and their Herculean ability to thrive, alone, against any and all adversity. But even he knew he couldn’t do it alone. He had a logistic team that helped every step of the way. It didn’t detract from the experience. If anything it helped.

If you’re a CEO, then no doubt there is someone on your team who is good at social and wants to help you. Find them. Figure out a way that works for your team to produce good, authentic content on a consistent basis and then go do it.

I will admit I am good at giving advice but much worse at actually following it. It’s not easy! But neither is crossing the Arctic. But if Mike Horn has taught us anything, he has taught us that we are all capable of so much more than we think.

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