What Bruce Lee Could Teach You About Social Media Marketing

October 9, 2016 Social Influence 2 comments


Source of image

Do you know legendary Kung Fu megastar Bruce Lee is still rocking it on social media even though he died 43 years ago?

Famed for elevating the status of Asians in action movies, the acclaimed Hong Kong American actor, martial artist and filmmaker is well known for his unique blend of signature martial arts moves and sagely wisdom.

Recognised by Time Magazine to be one of the 100 most influential people in the 20th century, Bruce Lee is still ranked today as one of the top martial artists of all time. Thanks to the diligent work of his daughter Shannon Lee, his philosophical musings, inspired writings and body of work are immortalised on the Internet.

(Unfortunately, the recent movie Birth of the Dragon supposedly modeled after his life became an attempt by Hollywood to “whitewash” Asian actors. But I digress.)

Beyond having a well-developed Wikipedia page, Bruce Lee also has an official website, podcast (hosted by Shannon), Facebook page (almost 22 million fans), Instagram account, and Twitter account. That’s not counting the thousands of fan websites, social media fan pages and accounts created to honour his legacy.

So what can you learn about social media marketing from the gritty world of martial arts?

#1 Invent, Innovate and Improvise


Bruce Lee’s kicks are legendary and lethal (courtesy of Brain Pickings)

Born in San Francisco yet raised in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee was actually a quarter white (his grandfather was a German). In an interview with his daugher Shannon, she revealed that he embraced both Western and Eastern writings, and infused both philosophies in his life’s work.

Bruce Lee was probably most famed for creating his own brand of martial arts called Jeet Kune DoTermed as an “eclectic and hybrid martial art” that is a form of Chinese Kung Fu without any form, Jeet Kune Do does not follow any fixed pattern. Rather, it works more like a philosophy with guiding thoughts.

In many interviews with the media, Bruce Lee revealed how his own approach to martial arts kept evolving and changing. He made it a point to constantly improve on his martial arts moves based on what he learned.

Are You Innovating on Social Media?

The world of social media is constantly evolving and changing. To succeed as a social media marketer, you need to constantly evolve and hone your craft.

Are your Facebook posts garnering likes, shares and comments? Are you timing your tweets right? Have you achieved the right blend of education versus sales content?

Like Bruce Lee, you need to constantly mix and match. Apply strategies from both industry leaders and outsiders. Tweak your “content formula” to sustain engagement and shares.

#2 Daily Focus and Practice


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Ruthlessly disciplined and rigorous in training, Bruce Lee was said to have practiced 5,000 punches in a single day.

An elite world class athlete, Lee could accomplish amazing feats of strength like two-finger push-ups for reps and his famous “one-inch” punches that could send an opponent flying. Lee’s approach to training was probably best represented by this famous quote from him:

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee

What’s Your Daily Social Media Practice?

Likewise, mastering the art of social media requires lots of blood, sweat and tears. With the competition nipping at your heels every single day, you need to adopt daily social media habits and practices.

Create a social media post specific to your business every single day. Comment on the posts of fellow practitioners in your industry, follow online fans, and share an insightful article or inspiring video related to your trade.

As Lee himself has said, knowing is not enough, you need to do!

#3 Find Your “Kung Fu” Master


Courtesy of Warrior Zen

I love the story of how Bruce Lee sought his master Yip Man (aka Ip Man of the Donnie Yen movie fame). According to records, Lee was just 16 years of age when he sought Yip Man’s training in 1957 after losing several gang fights.

(Apparently, Lee was so fiesty that Yip Man’s other students refused to train with him! Thus, Yip had to teach him one-to-one.)

Through Yip Man’s mentoring, Bruce Lee learned the martial arts form called Wing Chun. He also managed to temporarily stay out of trouble with street gangs. Eventually, Lee participated in organised competitions and continued to train with Yip until he flew back to America in 1959.

Who’s Your Social Media Marketing Mentor?

In the rapid moving world of social media, you need to have many Si fus or teachers to teach you the ropes. Leading purveyors of social media marketing include Michael Stelzner, Chris Brogan, Kim GarstGuy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuk, Mari Smith, Jay Baer and many others.

Alternatively, you may wish to sign up for a social media marketing training course, like this two-day workshop which I conduct. The advantage of such a programme is that you can get hands-on practice (remember point #2 above?) plus get access to reading materials, worksheets, and templates.

#4 Read and Write Regularly


Courtesy of Martial Arts + Action Movies

Do you know that Bruce Lee isn’t just an over-pumped beefcake? In fact, he had a personal house library of over 2,000 books!

From this and many other sources, we learn that Lee was “always reading, studying, incorporating, transcending and including whatever he was reading.” His voracious appetite for knowledge and improvement does not merely cover martial arts techniques alone. Instead, they included other areas relevant to his daily life such as making movies and living more meaningfully.

(Check out the complete list of books in his personal house library.)

That’s not all. Bruce Lee was also a prolific writer.

Thanks to Maria Popova of Brain Pickings, Bruce Lee’s writings on his notebook were recently unveiled to the world.


Courtesy of Bruce Lee Foundation Archive (via Brain Pickings)

According to Popova, Lee was a philosophy major in college who “fused ancient ideas with his own singular ethos informed by the intersection of physical and psychological discipline.”

He also had a tiny 2×3″ pocketbook which he filled with “everything from training regimens to the phone numbers of his pupils (who included trainees like Chuck Norris and Steve McQueen) to poems, affirmations, and philosophical reflections”.

Are You Reading and Writing Regularly?

Despite being an actor and martial arts exponent, Bruce Lee knew the importance of regular reading and writing.

What about you? Do you schedule regular reading and writing time into your calendar?

As a social media marketer, you need to be kept abreast of the latest developments in this space. Beyond following thought leaders and mentors, you need to also read and write regularly in order to establish a smooth cadence in content production.

#5 Learn From Your Opponent


Courtesy of Martial Arts + Action Movies

Legend has it that Bruce Lee hoped to fight boxing superstar Muhammad Ali one day. He watched endless footages of Ali in the ring in order to learn his style and adapt his footwork and movements.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the right never happened. However, Lee’s approach to studying his competitors is worthy of emulation.

Quoting from his thoughts on a good Jeet Kune Do (JKD) martial arts practitioner:

“A good JKD man does not oppose force or give way completely. He is pliable as a spring; he is the complement and not the opposition to his opponent’s strength. He has no technique; he makes his opponent’s technique his technique. He has no design; he makes opportunity his design.” – Bruce Lee

Lee’s ideas on matching his competition is further cemented by his quote below:


Source: AZ Quotes http://www.azquotes.com/quote/757118

Are You Studying Your Social Media Competitors?

Similarly, you need to consider who your “opponents” are in the social media spaces, and to see how you can “absorb” their attack and use it against them.

This could come from using social media monitoring tools (like Buzzsumo or Fanpage Karma), and studying the best practices of industry leaders. Beyond this, you may also wish to look for areas of weaknesses or gaps in the industry which you could exploit.

For example, if most of the incumbents in your trade create primarily text content, you could possibly dominate by enhancing your social media content with infographics and short videos.

#6 Create Your Brand Swag


Courtesy of The Kingsington Journal

Bruce Lee had lots of style and panache. Just watch any of his movies to see how much swagger he had.

According to this blogger, Lee had a disproportionate influence on the African American community because of his “smooth character, his catlike moves and his ability to speak to other characters without opening his mouth at all”. Unlike his predecessors in older martial arts films, Lee wasn’t one-dimensional.

When his on-screen opponent confronted Lee or try to land a punch or kick, Lee “might do some kind of cool flip into the air; brush his thumb across his nose and then do a hand motion to his opponent telling him to come forward for his inevitable butt whooping”.

Just check out this interview which Bruce Lee did when he was merely 24 years of age to see how much swag he had.

Is Your Social Brand Striking and Remarkable?

To stand out in the crowded and competitive social media landscape, your corporate, product or personal brand needs to have “swag”. Merely being “one-of-the-guys” isn’t going to get you anywhere.

Don’t believe me?

Just look at the top social media influencers around the world like Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Brogan, or Jay Baer. Every one of them have a unique personality which stands out from the crowd. They are outspoken with their views, and willing to put forward contrarian viewpoints challenging the status quo if necessary.

#7 Embrace Fluid Thinking


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Bruce Lee’s most famous quote has been widely used around the world. Remembered as the “water quote”, it defines his philosophy of adapting and bending oneself to suit any circumstance. Take a couple of seconds to read it below and let its wisdom sink in.

“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

Interestingly, Lee’s ideas seem to flow very well with the concept of fluid intelligence. According to Wikipedia, fluid intelligence or fluid reasoning is the “capacity to reason and solve novel problems, independent of any knowledge from the past.” 

Folks who have high fluid intelligence are able to “analyze novel problems, identify patterns and relationships that underpin these problems, and extrapolate these using logic.”

Be Like Water On Social Media

Going with the flow is an important ingredient of success in highly fluid digital and social media world.

With the relentless changes in social media and search algorithms, introduction of new tools, and rise of new modes of social media communication, staying still is not an option. You need to follow the ebb and flow of the social landscape, ride on new waves of digital technology, and analyse how consumers across generations.

As Bruce Lee would have put it, you need to “be water my friend”.

Are there other social media marketing lessons which we can learn from “The Dragon”? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.


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