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There Are No Shortcuts to Success in Social Media A social-media expert can't give you the secret to their success in five minutes, so don't ask.

By Ann Tran Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

"Hey, can I pick your brain for a minute?" Be honest: When you hear that question don't you cringe a little bit because you know this isn't going to be a quick chat but rather a painfully long conversation?

Most of the time, the people asking the question don't realize that it borders on being rude. It's well known that it's impolite to ask a doctor you've just met about your aches and pains, so why is it okay to ask another professional to give her skills away for free? It's not.

You are an entrepreneur, trying to make a living. I get that -- so am I. But my time is not free. I too need to pay the bills.

Related: 11 Unusual Social Media Tips to Drive Branding, Clicks and Conversions

I have been in social media for four years. The last two years I have invested a lot of my time in educating myself and honing my skills. So the answer is no, you can't just "pick my brain" and become a social media expert. We cannot take a shortcut to learning social media, just like you can't shortcut your way to being an expert in any other job or industry. I can't tell you everything you need to know in a short conversation.

Hard work, dedication and respect will bring success, just like in any other industry. Here are quick pointers.

Realize social media is not just about socializing. In addition, when you are on social media, you have to be a writer, speaker, photographer, marketer, videographer, curator and engager. Some people may wear even more hats, including producer, editor, artist and so much more. These are talents and skills obtained over years of reading, studying and fine-tuning the craft.

For instance, someone asked me to take over their Instagram account for a few days because they felt it needed a face lift. I took a quick look and noticed their photos were not sharp. The content and captions were visual, but it lacked brightness and clarity. Using the right tools as a photographer is important. It takes time to master these skills. Artistry and experience cannot be transferred. Discover your own essence and uniqueness and let this be attributable to you.

Related: How to Handle Social-Media Criticism

It's all about give and take. Respect people's time and don't ask to pick their brains. It's not just a hobby, it's how they make a living. Treat people with respect and it will be returned. It's that simple.

Stay current with trends. For me, staying current with the pulse of social media means spending at least two hours reading articles each day on all the various social highways. Each channel offers a diverse passage and approach. Don't stick with only one platform. You have so much access to the thoroughfare, so take advantage.

In addition, I drum along with the beat of technology, as tech and social media are intertwined: We use technology and apps to assist us in our social media day-to-day activities.

I also stay current by attending conferences that benefit my knowledge and share this information with my readers and potential clients. Indeed, I find speaking with different social media communities broadens my insight of a world that I may have not time to explore.

Practice. As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect. Missteps and blunders are appreciable when you learn from them. Hone in on the lessons and move forward and onward. Don't obsess over it, just stick with your gut feelings next time or try a different approach.

Approach people only after experience under your belt. Social media is not necessarily easy, and it never stops changing. You have to keep up with social trends, be nimble and embrace yet another social platform. It takes a lot of time to absorb the new channel, plus process the technical aspects of using it. Only once you have experience under your belt, should you approach someone. These people will be more apt to sit down with you and talk about specific issues, as they know you have already put in the time and work.

Related: How to Correct 3 Major Social-Media Blunders

Ann Tran

Social Media Consultant

Ann Tran is a respected social media consultant, travel social marketing strategist, influencer, and sought-after speaker at social media and technology events.  Ann helps brands understand and use the power of digital media and online influence to build their business. 

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