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Train Like a Marine, Win Like a Marine – Lessons for Social Media Managers from One of The Most Successful Organizations Ever!

There’s a reason why the title of this article leads off with the word “train”. It’s because extreme training is integral to the Marine Corps culture. Marines endure weeks of perilous swamps and back-breaking hilly terrains as part of recruit training, and that is just the start of their long and difficult careers. It isn’t surprising that they excel wherever they go, during service and after. Driving this success is the marines’ strong and inspiring fundamental values, and we’d be smart to learn and apply them to things we want to conquer in life.

Here’s what you as Social Media Managers can learn from them:

Lessons 1 and 2: How to think on your feet, and how to adapt and perform in any environment

Social media marketing hurdles

Here’s how Neil Patel defines social media marketing: “It is the process of creating content that is tailored to the context of each individual social media platform, in order to drive engagement and sharing”. Create-Tailor-Multiple Platforms-Drive Engagement-Share – Five important and complex elements of social media marketing that social media managers need to deal with, on a daily basis, in a billions-strong, noisy environment. It isn’t easy.

As social media managers, there are two painful but necessary hiccups that you probably experience with your jobs.
1. ROIs, and
2. How to keep them high.

Are you efforts generating real revenue? After all, revenue is why you are doing what you do. Say you have a goal to achieve via social media marketing in a specific scenario, is the approach you choose the absolute best one? To ensure it is, you’ve got to be able to adapt to any scenario on social media and deftly create the best result in it for yourselves.

Beating the hurdles the marine way

There’s no better source of inspiration for strategic and result-oriented decision-making than the marines. They don’t quite get very many chances to get it wrong with their lives on the line!

How to adapt to situations

Here’s a very interesting story about Robert E. Lee, an exemplary marine, narrated by David H. Freedman in his Corps Values piece on Inc. Back in 1975, Lee was a second lieutenant directed to Vietnam post-war. His first mandate on landing was to take a ship carrying refugees and secure it from the remaining South Vietnamese soldiers who were hijacking ships and killing their crews. Although Lee wasn’t trained specifically on how to board and secure ships, he related the ship’s levels to floors in buildings and built his strategy- take the top floors and drop down on your adversaries, it’s also easier to deploy grenades when you have gravity on your side. In 1998 Freedman reported Lee as one of the marines’ toughest trainers, moulding new recruits into tough and able marines.

Train like a marine, win like a marine

So how do you get to thinking like that? Well, you gotta look into the little black box of the person you are trying to emulate, here, Robert E. Lee. What did he do to get that awesome?

Like Cal Newport says in his TED talk the boring but very real secret to success is simply deep work, or hard work, or painstaking, everyday effort, whatever you want to call it. In ex-marine Jon Davis’s opinion, most of the world doesn’t invest nearly as much as the Marine Corps does in training. Training is the secret to awe-inspiring skill, so training is what .

The crux of marine training is probably the intense focus on constantly pushing and improving the self. Just as Faisal Hoque has noted, there are several lessons in continuous self-improvement that we can learn from them.

The big idea

Train long, train hard. For the social media marketing version of training, you could start by voracious reading. Read a little more than you can every day, read from everywhere and read everything. Great ideas and epiphanies need fuel!

The social media marketing drill – Part one

Do this every day (1 hour)

1. Exercise your thinking (20 min): While reading, simulate social media marketing problems. Take a random blog or product, and try to figure out how to market it the most innovative way you can. Make it hard for yourself. Add restrictions, deadlines, complexities, try the ones you think cannot be done. Do this for 20 minutes every day. Train your brain to get better at thinking fast and smart.

2. Ideate (10 min): People who think out of the box can do that because they live out of the box. Like Mia Wasikowska as Alice says in Alice in Wonderland- the movie, try to think of at least ten impossible things before breakfast. Pushing your mind allows for radical, ground-breaking ideas to form when you really need them.

3. Stay on top to be on top (30 min): Identify all channels, platforms, businesses, people important to your job and follow them on a schedule. To be the best, you first have to keep pace with it.

Lesson 3: How to build real and resilient bonds

The motto Semper Fidelis, Latin for “always faithful”, makes the Marine Corps bond like none other. Being a marine is like living in a brotherhood built on deep and formidable connections.

Social media marketing is gradually evolving beyond “marketing”, you can’t just promote your brand anymore. It’s great news that brands are making an effort to get to know and really build relationships with their audiences. But building real and lasting relationships was never easy, so what can you take from the marines in this aspect?

Values that make for strong relationships

1. Value-driven purpose
2. Honour, commitment, integrity
3. Honesty
4. Eagerness to serve

You really have to ask yourself, what’s the best way to make it big as a brand? Maybe there are several ways, but nothing can replace “being truly useful”. Make yourself useful and the audience will come.

The social media marketing drill – Part two

1. Regularly remind yourselves and your teams of what your brand stands for, and of what you are promising your customers
2. Stay honest, transparent and true to your customers
3. Promise only what you can deliver
4. Treat every interaction with respect, be it with customers or team-mates
5. Make yourself useful to your customers and team-mates

For great returns, you’ve gotta have great investments

As Jon R. Katzenbach and Jason A. Santamaria have interestingly said, in their military inspired piece, “Over-invest at the outset in inculcating core values”. This was said in the context of investing in new recruits in your organization or team, a value that deserves more importance than it is generally given. Similarly, it is also beneficial if you apply the same to your marketing efforts. Infuse everything you do with your brand’s values and purpose, and the messages you send out will inevitably be more powerful and valuable to your audience.

Image credit: DVIDSHUB via