“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.” —Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee’s most famous quote is perfect advice for communications practitioners scratching their heads about how to react to the growing excitement about Google+. The philosophical origin of Lee’s quote, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, provides equally relevant age-old wisdom on incorporating Google+ versus sticking with Facebook and/or Twitter.
Just be water my friend:
- Water always flows downward to the ocean. Always keep your pulse on your target audiences: their needs and how they consume information. Like flowing water, follow your target audiences using the tools they—not the geek crowd—prefer at the moment.
- Water retains no constant shape, morphing to fit any receptacle. While the essence of your communications strategy, like water, does not change, it needs to enable you to effectively cultivate relationships in different situations and surroundings. How? Using fluid tactics that change to fit the social media platform at hand. Keeping your strategies constant and tactics fluid helps you avoid “shiny-object syndrome” and activity without accomplishment.
- Water shapes its course according to the terrain, seeking the most efficient and productive path. Just as water demonstrates natural flexibility as it changes to conform with the boundaries that contain it, you need to be able to alter course on a dime and find creative ways to get your message out in any terrain. To paraphrase Lee, you need to sometimes “flow” and sometimes “crash.” To paraphrase Tzu, you need to keep your opponents guessing by being prepared and doing the unexpected. This requires flexibility and a constant willingness to experiment. It also means remaining teachable—learning from communications experts and case studies—but never copying their exact tactics, which can quickly become overused.
The bottom line? Choosing your battles wisely, skillfully governing the terrain you pick, and experimenting thoughtfully based on disciplined strategy are crucial skills of a successful warrior. For recklessness in the battlefield, ignoring the ground under your feet, and failing to modify tactics can spell D-E-A-T-H. In the realm of social media, that translates, at the very least, into obscurity—the loss of your online supporters to other organizations over time.
P.S. Once again thanks to tech diva Naomi Williams of DigitalFanGirl.com, I received an invite to Google+ last week. I, however, was on vacation until Sunday, so I didn’t get my thoughts together (and my Google+ listening started) until this week.
What do you think of Google+ and being water?