How to Be An Improved Social Media Guide

Malcom McCutcheon strives to guide businesses to effectively use social media to engage with their customers in How to NOT Suck at Social Media – A Beginner’s Guide for Businesses. In his guide, he starts out describing the type of audience that would benefit from his tips, targeting his guide towards businesses that are often impersonal, “late-adopters, and see social media sites as marketing channels” (McCutcheon). Our blog post group arrived at a general consensus that his audience would be a more older group of business people who are not familiar with social media. Jennifer characterizes this group as the “older, less tech-savvy individuals who own businesses with very weak social media presences.” To put ways of utilizing social media in simple terms, McCutcheon introduces four main goals: to not suck, to engage with current and prospective customers, to build a “tribe” (the people who you have an influence on across social media channels), and to network, damnit. First of all, if McCutcheon’s guide is centered on these four goals, I feel that the first and last goal could have been better phrased. Actually, they can be taken out entirely since the main goal of using social media for business should really be focused on building relationships with customers. I think that McCutcheon was trying to be less serious to make his guide easier to understand and more entertaining to read, but for a book that is aimed towards businesses, using phrases like “don’t suck” and “damnit” just comes across unprofessional. Jen and I agreed over the informality of his book, with Jen attributing it to lack of information. Jenny goes further on the idea of saying more than “don’t suck” at social media by asking what exactly falls under that category.

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While he has great intentions in helping businesses make a mark with social media, McCutcheon falls short by spending a majority of his guide summarizing social media networks rather than the importance of what these networks can do to build a relationships with the customer. While the author highlights important functions of social media and the importance of taking a genuine interest in the customer or audience, he could have gone into further detail and given examples into ways of really connecting with audiences.

In order to do so, McCutcheon could have drawn from several social media practices. Nancy Baym, author of Personal Connections in the Digital Ageintroduces the concept of media multiplexity in which closer relationships use more media, bringing up strong, weak, and latent ties. Caroline Haythornthwaite also discusses this concept in “Social Networks and Internet Connectivity Effects,” stating that talking to people on certain media “revealed the unexpected result that more strongly tied pairs make use of more of the available media” (130). A majority of our group agreed that the importance of the types of ties and practices in how to build stronger ties is important when it comes to social media. According to Haythornthwaite, social networks are built by person-to-person connectivity, leading to the flow and circulation of resources among individuals within the networks. She notes that the weaknesses or strengths of these ties depend on the types of exchanges, frequency of contact, intimacy, duration of the relationship, etc. (127). I believe that McCutcheon’s guide could have been strengthened by focusing on what sorts of strategies related to exchanges, frequency, intimacy, and duration of relationships with customers across social media that businesses could use in order to further build their relationships. He could have introduced the types of ties between businesses and customers – latent being potential customers, weak being customers that are somewhat aware of the business or have briefly interacted with the business in the past, and strong being more devoted customers. And actively interacting with customers can turn latent ties into weak ties and further into strong ties which can reel in numerous customers and strengthen a business.

The great thing about the current digital economy is that most people are always online and have an active online presence. In “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy”, Tiziana Terranova describes the digital economy as a formation intersecting the postmodern cultural economy – media, the university, and the arts, and the information industry (35), and the collective network of human intelligence (37). By bringing up the idea the network of human intelligence is key in this digital economy, the author could have discussed how businesses can collaborate with their customers on social media to enhance the online experience for both the business and the customers while also building the brand. This can involve interacting with customers on Twitter or having fun and interactive marketing initiatives that involve the actions of customers, which can become a type of immaterial labor. Aimee discusses the importance of such immaterial labor in the digital economy in her notes with the importance of using social media to produce affects in followers so that they become connected to you and possibly your product and may potentially purchase your product.

Let’s step away from the importance of business to customer interaction and reflect on the content businesses should be posting on their social media sites. Tara, Jenny, Shivonne, and Aimee agree that the idea of frontstage, backstage, and impression management could be used in this guide. Aimee McCutcheon could have improved his guide by embracing Erving Goffman‘s idea of impression management that Alice Marwick and danah boyd discuss in ”I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience,”where “individuals habitually monitor how people respond to them when presenting themselves” (123). This alludes to the idea of performance while remaining a sense of authenticity, which Aimee mentions in her notes, that it is important to create a stable and authentic narrative across all social media platforms. This can be achieved through focusing on the frontstage and backstage, another idea by Erving Goffman mentioned in Marwick and boyd’s “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter,” with professional communications part of the ‘frontstage’ performance and intimate details about one’s life part of the ‘backstage’ (144). McCutcheon talks more about being personal and authentic with social media while still performing as a business. In my personal opinion, he emphasizes that there should be a balance, but he does not go into detail about the importance of authenticity. I think he could talk more about ways of being authentic i.e. effective ways of both displaying the frontstage and backstage to customers to be genuine with them rather than telling business to not suck or not overdo it on posts.

Malcom McCutcheon discussed key tactics of his four main goals like showing interest in followers and sharing a bit of the person behind the business. I feel that these points that focus on building a genuine relationship with the customer could have been the core thesis of his guide and really improve his proposed ideas since customers are the basis for the sustained success of any business.

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