Spot Stupid without Reading a Whole Blog Post (Hint: Kill the Ninja)

I’m not sure who’s an expert about social media. But I’ve figured out a few tips to steer clear of stupidity.

1. Shun Gurus, Ninjas, Rockstars
They should be translated as follows:

  • Guru = “Windbag”
  • Ninja = “Novice”
  • Rockstar = “Marginally competent”

How did ninja – an elite assassin and/or practitioner of ninjitsu – come to mean “someone who is good at social media”? In this context, shouldn’t a ninja be someone who is good at destroying reputations?

A friend of mine got a call from her daughter’s kindergarten, claiming the girl had been lying. Seems when they ask the kids in the class what their dads do for a living, the daughter says, “He’s a ninja.”

Long pause from mom on the phone. Then mom says, “Well, what do you call someone who teaches ninjitsu?” (And unless that’s what you do, best to stop it now before you meet a real ninja.)

2. List-Based Headlines Announce Weak Content
Y’know, like “iPads, Facebook, Pro Wrestling and You.” Or “Three Tips Anyone Can Use to Muck up a Headline.” It’s a sure indicator that the author doesn’t have anything new to add to the topic or even a coherent idea.  I stopped reading these (and writing them) cold turkey, and life has only gotten better.

List headlines may good for SEO. But since people make all purchasing calls I’m part of, it’s a no-brainer to default to writing for the humans who pay the bills, rather than the search algorithm that’s trying to  ignore over-optimized drivel.

3. Follow Your Own Path
Beware of any blog written according to the Problogger/Copyblogger formula for success. Jason Cohen has a great post at his blog A Smart Bear explaining what this formula is and why he’d rather get a root canal than follow it. This formula is perfect for people who have nothing to say. The only reasons for writing like this are because you’re lazy or you think your readers lack a clue.

4. Don’t Study “Authenticity”
If you want to be authentic then just say what you have to say and stop wondering if you sound authentic. If you’re worried about sounding authentic – whatever that means – then you have a bigger problem: Figuring out who the hell you are. An authentic person just is. Maybe your authentic voice is that of a stuffed shirt. That’s OK, as long as it’s a stuffed shirt with real information. If you don’t have the information then, again, SHUT UP.

5. Avoid the List’s End
Be extra-skeptical of any post that has five, seven, 10, or 15 items. Real life doesn’t work that way, even if marketing wants it to. Generally, a list like that has been padded out. And that last item will be real short and self-evident. Like this one. ;>

9 Responses to "Spot Stupid without Reading a Whole Blog Post (Hint: Kill the Ninja)"

  • Natalie Sisson

    October 20, 2010

    Hi Dave

    Thanks for this candid post with Ninja qualities. You just stopped me writing a list post!

    I agree it’s a formula that works but also that yes it cheapens content because ultimately it’s not knew, cutting edge or original.

    The thing is sometimes people like formulas that work. And sometimes there are 10 things that I want to point out but I promise to be more remarkable and original.


  • Alice

    October 22, 2010

    Great post. It comes back to the whole content is king again – SEO is not more important than content, I really like that .
    But small nag, what’s really buigging me is your moving Twitter feed to the right. I am sure its breaking all sorts of usability rules and I had to re-size my browser to avoid having it on screen. is there an option to pause?

  • Dave Wieneke

    October 22, 2010

    Hi Natalie,
    Thanks, I agree – and expect to have some number of 2011 predictions that I’ll make in a list post later this year.

    You rock, and I look forward to reading your stuff – even when its in list form!


  • Dave Wieneke

    October 22, 2010

    Hi Alice,
    I’m glad you’re ready to go Ninja hunting. Thanks for the praise.

    I’ll see what I can do about making the dancing twitter feed adjustable….or dismissalbe.

    Meanwhile I hope you’ll keep coming back on egging me on about SEO needing to be in the service of an actual user experience. There’s a big difference between structuring data so engines can get to it. and many SEO efforts where are really attempts to fake the signs of satisfied users.

    I’ve seen teams get better at faking happy users than satisfying real ones. And only trouble comes from that! ;>


  • Adam Zand

    October 25, 2010

    List about why lists suck. Meta 😉

  • […] this sounds familiar, it It may be time to tell your SEO ninja, guru or rockstar (or their disciple in management) to “Try marketing, its useful to the […]

  • […] In five years we’ll look back and realize that this was a simpler day. A lack of established business models and rules gave some the belief that a free Hootsuite account, a mantra of “Just do it” and being “open and authentic” would make them a social media ninja. […]

  • […] see if we can deflate some of the language in our ninja-rich industry. The smug-fest lived off its own inflated words, maybe we can spare social media, […]

  • Chel

    April 6, 2013

    Thanks Dave for the laugh at the end of #1.

    And for giving me a different perspective of lists and quitting bad content cold turkey. I’m happy to say I’m starting to search out sources that aren’t in my regular reading lists and am finding that I am learning more as a result. 😀

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