Courage Under Fire

It’s a shame Mel Gibson turned out to be such a douchebag. A few obvious train wrecks aside, he’s had a hell of a career and played some interesting characters. One of my favourites was his portrayal of Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, in We Were Soldiers.

Hal Moore is something of a legend in the US military, both as a hardened combat veteran and an inspirational leader of men. I’ve read a number of pieces by and about him over the years, and recently came across an audio clip of his – Four Principles for a Leader’s Conduct in Battle.

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When I first heard this clip I was reminded of some of the many excuses I’ve heard over the years from clients who understood and appreciated the importance of social media but weren’t ready to take the plunge – it’s too risky, too complex, too expensive, not a priority right now, we don’t have the time, the comms team won’t allow it, my dog ate it… Sound familiar?

It’s hardly an original idea to suggest that the wisdom of military leaders has relevance in the business world – business sections of bookstores are packed with analyses of Musashi, Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, and that’s just for starters. But for what it’s worth, here are a few thoughts I’d offer the keen but reluctant, would-be social media marketer, based on Moore’s observations.

1. Three strikes and you’re not out: No matter how well you plan and prepare, there will always be unpleasant surprises. A great idea will miss the mark and flop. Someone on your team will say or do something stupid. You will encounter haters, trolls, and the genuinely unimpressed. This is all normal. It’s something we all face. Don’t let it get to you.

2. There is always one more thing you can do to influence any situation in your favour: You don’t have to jump in with both feet and do everything at once. In fact, doing too much at once is pretty dumb. It’s better to do something than nothing, so start out by doing one thing and doing it well. And when you get the hang of that try something else, and so on and so on. I’ve long been a fan of agile approaches to strategy and planning, and I still can’t fault the logic: The easiest way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, starting with the tasty bits and leaving the asshole till last.

3. When nothing’s wrong, the only thing that’s wrong is that nothing’s wrong: Per #1, above, things invariably go wrong at times. Problems that sneak up on you are harder to deal with, so you’d better be on the lookout. Listening and analytics tools like Radian6 and Omniture may seem expensive, but will save you a whole lot of hurt (provided you actually do something with the insight you gain from them). Trust me on this.

4. Trust your instincts: Much of this stuff we call social media is ephemeral. When the opportunity to say or do something arises, it won’t be there for long, so it’s important to develop the ability to act quickly and appropriately – a quality I sometimes refer to as ‘digital wit’. This requires training and resourcing (human, financial and infrastructural), and more than a little trust. By trust we’re not just talking about providing a little latitude from corporate communication protocols. We also need to willingly accept that some of the things we try will fail, and that’s ok. Rather than retrenching when things don’t go according to plan, we face up to the facts, deal with them, and move on.

And I guess if that doesn’t work you can always show ’em your war face.

Tracking Hosted WordPress Blogs With Google Analytics

The only thing that really bugs me about using a WordPress-hosted blog is the auto-removal of Javascript from posts and template elements (widgets). They say this is for security reasons, and since I haven't paid dollar-one for four years' use of what is actually a very good blogging platform, I'm not going to make too much of a fuss about it.

Much of the day-to-day stuff that would require Javascript can be done using custom tags and widgets – embedding video, Flickr galleries, RSS feeds and the like. Analytics, on the other hand, is kinda frustrating. The WordPress forums are full of people wanting to know how to deploy Google Analytics to hosted WordPress blogs, and the answer is always the same – you can't. GA requires the embedding of a piece of Javascript on every page. WordPress hosted blogs strip out Javascript. Thus, Google Analytics is a no go.

Or is it?

I found this site a few weeks ago, while looking into some Facebook reporting issues – a rather simple app that allows you to embed a hosted image in a Facebook page, and which runs the Google Analytics tracking script each time that image is requested. On a whim, last night I thought I'd see if it worked with my WordPress blog, and whaddya know – it did!

It's far from perfect – for example, each unique image can only report on one page at a time (i.e. the whole blog is counted as one page), as Javascript would be required to dynamically pull in the filename and post title – but it's a hell of a lot richer than the standard WordPress blog stats. If you want to know what your most popular posts are, you can get that info from WordPress, but for everything else – unique visitors, top referrers, visitor demographics etc – Google Analytics seems to do just fine.

It's early days, and time will tell if the data I'm seeing is accurate or useful (hopefully both). Looking good so far though. Give it a try and let me know how you get on, hey?

Tracking image generator:


I’ve had a few people ask about implementation, so here goes:

  1. Create a new Google Analytics profile for your hosted WordPress blog
  2. Grab the Google Analytics ID for your new profile (looks like this UA-3123123-2)
  3. Complete the form here – – to generate your tracking image code. Copy this to your clipboard.
  4. Log in to your WordPress console, and then go to Appearance -> Widgets
  5. Create a new ‘Text’ widget, and drag it to your sidebar.
  6. Paste the tracking image code into the body of the text widget. Leave the title blank.
  7. Save and close the text widget.
  8. Done!