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Agile and precise, packed with skills of stealth, quick reactions, passion, and specialist tactics for whatever the circumstances demand. This generally sums up what people imagine ninjas to be all about and, in digital marketing, everyone wants to be one, in one form or another.

But what pointers do you need to follow to train yourself to engage in the ongoing battleground of social media?

1. Preparation

You need to do your homework. It’s no good rushing in, without a clue about what your overall business goals are. 

Once these have been established, then you can figure out what place (if at all) social media has in helping reach your objectives. Leading on from this, it will also become easier to identify key areas of engagement and therefore allow you to focus on the areas that will be of greater benefit. Econsultancy’s Social Media Template Files contain a strategy guideline that you might find useful as a starting point. 

2. Patience

As the adage goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same thing applies to any social media activity: it generally takes a fair bit of time to establish a positive presence. 

In creating any online presence, levels of trust need to be established. Especially given that social media generally requires a two-way engagement between users and your organisation, it could take a while before you begin to see your objectives being met. 

Be patient and don’t panic. If your strategy is solid, then you’ll start seeing results

3. Weapons

Your chosen social media weapons should be selected by your strategy, objectives and overall business structure. Don’t use something just because it looks cool. For example a blog may be a lot more beneficial than using Facebook in delivering regular updates to your users, or Twitter as a customer service platform may be more help than user reviews. 

There’s a lot of choice out there, but more importantly, there’s also a lot of advice to help you choose what might be best and how to use it effectively

4. Stealth

Sometimes it works to your advantage to keep things quiet. If you’re planning to engage in social media, it can often help to start off small and find your feet, otherwise you might end up looking extremely silly. This is why it’s important to treat social media as a process of evolution. Why spread yourself across twenty different channels badly, when you can easily manage only a couple with great results? 

5. Honour

Protect your organisation. Carefully monitor what people are saying about you both directly and indirectly - and think before you act. This applies to both responding to users and to your general social media activity

6. Aggression

Don’t be shy. Be active, go to events, network online and offline, ask questions. Experiment (carefully – see point 4). If Rome wasn’t built in day, it was almost certainly built with a bit of backbone. Being aggressive in social media doesn’t necessarily mean intrusive or threatening... it can equally mean being bold and dynamic. Which direction of aggression you take is up to you. 

7. Cunningness 

Be tactical. More often than not, organisations join a social media channel because they see their competitors there... but they fail to establish whether it’s working or not.

Observe where others are going wrong and step in with a better approach or side-step it altogether. For example, a financial institution is more likely to have better engagement through LinkedIn, than it by jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.

8. Skill

Practice makes perfect. Hone your social media skills by continuously educating yourself, reviewing your existing strategy and performance and by experimenting. (See point 6). 

9. Calmness

Things can go wrong. And they often do.

Not panicking is the key to success. It doesn't matter if a user is being negative (or even your own staff) or your social platform has crashed, things can be rectified. 

10. Style

Social media is pretty cool. And it can make an organisation or a business look good... but making a half-baked effort will backfire.

If you have all the right foundation points in place, you can carry off a stylish social media presence with ease: there's a lot of companies already doing it, so there's no excuse. 

What points did I miss? What tips or pitfalls can you add to the ninja school of social media? Leave your comments below. 

[Image by jonathanb1989 via Flickr, various rights reserved]

Jake Hird

Published 30 September, 2009 by Jake Hird

Jake Hird is Econsultancy Australia's Director of Research and Education. Follow him on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn or see what he's keeping an eye on via diigo

126 more posts from this author

Comments (14)

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SeoNext

Great post

I think a good source of extra revenue is to combine a blog with an affiliate program like the one Amazon is using. That way you can refer to books, articles and items, and if your readers buy any of those, you will receive a share.

about 7 years ago

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Roger Harris

Cool! Love the concept. I am banging away against the over-used notion of social media as a cocktail party. It is more like a battle.

What use is a ninja in a cocktail party? 

One thing I would add is your bit about weapons might include tools. What self-respecting ninja would be without his (her?) shuriken? In social media, the equivalent might be a great tool, such as Hootsuite, which allows you to manage Twitter posts.

about 7 years ago

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Morgan Polotan

This is a good post on guidelines to entering the social media space. I would also add #11 Measure ROI. Once you have clarified your goals and established your strategy, how do you know you are achieving you are objectives? You need some way to track your progress so you can evaluate your marketing effectiveness. How much traffic to your website are you getting from social media platforms? How much of that traffic is qualified and converting into leads, and then paying customers? It does no good to get to the Digg home page and get 10,000 hits to your website, none of which are at all interested in buying your product/service offering. A good basic tool to measure this (Roger mentioned it above) is HootSuite, which tracks the click throughs on links you Tweet. A more advanced and comprehensive tool would be Hubspot.com, which is a one-stop solution for measuring your inbound marketing effectiveness.

about 7 years ago

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Oscar Del Santo

This is a well-written post and there is much to be learnt from it.

I wish, however, that we could use other more peaceful and less military metaphores. Engaging in the social media is - in the best of cases - not about fighting or conquering but about adding value and participating in the conversation.

about 7 years ago

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Kathy Herrmann

Jake,

Love your article and found myself agreeing with each of your points. Couple of thoughts to share...

With my first blog, I wrote and published in private for 3-4 weeks while still keeping my blog in stealth mode.  It gave me a chance to test drive the real world of creating content on an ongoing basis. And it helped me set realistic expectations.

One of the lessons learned after creating several blogs...Create content at a rate you can sustain, whether that's 1 article per week or 1 per month -- and that's true of any content.  A slower pace will take longer to build an online presence, but doing it quickly serves no purpose if it burns you out.

Great point on #6 Aggression.  I used to have a "quieter" online presence.  Nothing like having lead generation responsibilities to get over that! If you do a good job in stimulating interest in yourself, then people will want to know what you're up to. Big part of the secret to stimulating interest in yourself is the same online as off.  Show as much or more (geniune) interest in others.

about 7 years ago

Jake Hird

Jake Hird, Director of Research and Education at Econsultancy

@Roger – Thanks, good point about tools. I didn’t really want to start identifying specific tools for specific purposes though, as the list would be enormous. Cheers for bringing up the subject though! 

@Morgan – Again, another great point. I figured that measurement didn’t really sit too well with the ninja analogy, but there’s a couple of links I included that cover this subject, the best being under the Patience section (2). 

@Oscar – Offence isn’t intended. Being a “ninja” is just an expression that seems to be banded around lots (at least in the UK) that indicates skill in a particular area. 

@Kathy – Thanks for your comments, glad you found it a good/interesting read! :-)

about 7 years ago

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Evan

Sounds like me to the T!!!!

about 7 years ago

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sewage pump

This is the first time I heard social media ninja,learned a lot

about 7 years ago

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John Bottom

Nice post Jake. A fresh spin, which is always welcome. I see Oscar's point about the metaphor, but isn't marketing always phrased in fairly warlike terms? Campaign? Targeting? Hits? Someone once told me this was because marketing, as we know it, began in the post-war years and was dominated by ex-soldiers. Then again, Oscar, maybe you are right after all in that social media marketing is really about getting on with people and winning them over, rather than fighting them. All good thought-provoking stuff, thank you both. John

about 7 years ago

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Phil

sensationel article :) I like the phrase: "social media ninja"

about 7 years ago

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jan

Please use spell check when writing. Lots of mistakes. Not very professional.

about 7 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@jan - I just corrected one typo. I can't see any others. Would you care to point them out?

about 7 years ago

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RA

You have two number 9's and no number 8.

9.  Skill

9.  Calmness

about 7 years ago

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Andrew

Love the line ; As the adage goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. A great tip for the young ones who want to be rich in one night.

over 6 years ago

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