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7 Social Media Lessons from Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid

Posted on Sep 8th, 2010
Written by Lee Odden
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    social mediaNote from Lee: This guest post comes to us from Frank Strong, the director of Public Relations at Vocus & PRWeb.

    When The Karate Kid was released in 1984, social media had yet to be conceived.  Even so, we can still learn a great deal from the way a character like Mr. Miyagi simplified what might otherwise be considered complex challenges.   He was a master, a student, a mentor and a friend – all characteristics that might have made Miyagi successful in social media.  To that end, I offer seven Miyagi insights we can apply to social media:

    1. Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle…
    …sooner or later get squish like grape. Miyagi’s philosophy was one of commitment – if Daniel was to learn karate, he had to commit to doing it right.  Social media should be undertaken in the same way – commit.  If you want to be effective in social media then don’t consider it a part-time job or an additional duty.

    2.  Wax on. Wax off.
    Miyagi taught Daniel through hard work and repetition.  Though it appeared to Daniel he was being used as cheap labor – waxing Miyagi’s old cars – he actually was learning basic karate blocking techniques.  Social media is similar in that the best way to improve is through practice and hard work. Sure – you can read about social media best practices – but there’s no substitute for experience.

    3.  Don’t forget to breathe
    “Breathe in through nose, out the mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don’t forget to breathe, very important.”  Sixty-five percent of marketing executives find keeping up with social media trends “at least somewhat challenging.”  Social media is relentless; it never sleeps.  Todd Defren recommends setting “a reasonable pace.”  Miyagi might have called this breathing.

    4. Balance is key
    Daniel wanted to learn how to punch, but when he asked Miyagi about it, his teacher responded, “Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?”  It may be tempting to sign up for every new social media service that comes along – and there’s certainly no harm in experimenting on the side.  However, focusing on a few social media sites you know are frequented by your stakeholders may well be a better approach.  “First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine.”

    5.  Now use head for something other than target
    It’s a social norm: social media tends to reject commercialization.  If the only thing you Tweet, bookmark, or post is your own content, you might wind up doing more harm than good. It’s better to engage in the conversation, earn the trust of your community and offer content for the purpose of value rather than sales.  It may seem counterintuitive, but people buy things from people and organizations they trust. They’ll check you out in due time: trust the process.

    6. Don’t know. First time.
    After asking politely to have them removed, Miyagi used a karate chop to take the tops off a row of bottles a nefarious rabble rouser had placed on his truck.  In wonderment, Daniel asked how he did it.  “Don’t know.  First time,” Miyagi responded.  There’s a first time for everything, even for the experts.  Perhaps Brian Solis said it best when he noted we are “forever students of new media.

    7.  JCPenney $3.98
    Miyagi was too humble to have cared how many followers he might have had on Twitter.  He would have cared more about perfecting his technique.  Instead of studying karate to build his reputation, he practiced karate for karate’s sake and his reputation took care of itself.  Perhaps Miyagi’s philosophy here too is applicable:  when Daniel asked Miyagi what belt he held (as in black belt), the master responded, “Canvas. JCPenney $3.98. You like?”

    If Miyagi had an eighth point it would be this:  “Banzai!”  In other words, have fun!

    If you’re planning on scheduling or sending out a news release or a social media news release this week, here’s a nice surprise for you: Get 25% off PRWeb’s Advanced or Premium services: visit this special offer page. The offer is good until Friday, Sept. 10th.

    After I asked Frank if he would be open to doing a guest post, I thought it might be of interest to our readers if PRWeb offered a discount on their news release distribution services, since they’re so popular amongst search marketers and PR professionals that read this blog. I checked with Frank and he was able to make it happen on pretty short notice. Thank you Frank!