How To NOT Suck At Social Media: A Critical Review

In his book How To NOT Suck At Social Media, Malcom McCutcheon attempts to educate people about the best and most effective ways to use social media to promote their businesses, companies, or professional blogs.  He strongly advocates for social media users to engage with both current and prospective clients in a friendly manner to promote their businesses in a light way, rather than marketing directly and using the “hard sell.”  McCutcheon also believes that networking and building a “tribe” by liking, commenting, and retweeting followers creates a positive image for companies, which can lead to growth and expansion of businesses.  Moreover, he affirms that professionals on social media should strive to “bring value to your followers” and post frequently while not overdoing it.  McCutcheon also finds great importance in maintaining a very similar brand and ideology across multiple social media platforms, which works to help business owners or professional bloggers gain a solid reputation on social media, which can then translate to a great reputation beyond the Internet.  Finally, McCutcheon advocates for separating most of one’s real life personality from one’s business persona, but keeping just a small amount of personality so that potential clients can connect beyond merely the professional level. 

Though McCutcheon makes some helpful and intelligent points, he often provides brief and more on-the-surface advice due to the short length and perceived audience of the book.  McCutcheon aims to provide a how-to guide for using social media sites in a professional way; however, he spends a great deal of the book explaining how to set the sites up and utilize the basic tools that the websites offer.  Therefore, when analyzing McCutcheon’s text, it is most helpful to examine his general advice and guidance with using social media, rather than the large portion that he dedicates to instruct business owners and professionals how to set up profiles on various social network sites.  In addition, there are a number of points where McCutcheon’s arguments can be further enhanced and elaborated upon with the use of theses made by other social media experts, many of whose articles we read throughout the semester. 

When McCutcheon discusses building a “tribe” by liking, commenting, and retweeting followers, he is inadvertently writing about Nancy Baym’s idea of “weak ties” and maintaining these weak ties in order to benefit a business.  As also discussed by Michelle and Christine, in order to “groom” these weaker social ties, business owners or professionals are supposed to build trust, signal attention, and create expectations of reciprocal attention.  By interacting with followers and those who “like” the page, professionals signal that they want their tweets and posts shared in order to gain a larger audience.  In addition, it is important to consider Baym’s concept of media multiplexity.  In order to create stronger ties with individuals (and potential customers), it is crucial to be on many social media sites, so that clients will see your company often and get a better feel for what your company or blog strives to do.  If a prospective client can interact with you on a variety of social media platforms, there is a greater chance that they will remember your company and subsequently want to purchase your products. 

McCutcheon also touches upon Anthony Giddens’ idea of authenticity on social media when he discusses showing a glimpse of your personality and personal life on your professional twitter. Giddens explains that in order to cope with chaos, people try to create a “stable and coherent narrative” of the self, and this idea definitely applies to businesses as well, since business owners must work hard to present extremely similar personas across all social media sites, according to McCutcheon.  These ideas can also be better understood through Zizi Papacharissi‘s concept of performativity on twitter and through Erving Goffman’s concepts of impression management.  As discussed by Tara and Katie, business owners and professionals need to be concerned with their front stage region, acting professional and friendly while interacting with their “tribe.”  A professional performs their identity through “patterns of conduct” which intentionally put forth a certain image that companies want their clients to have about their products or brand.  However, McCutcheon believes that it is crucial to show your “tribe” a glimpse of the backstage region, even if it is manipulated (meaning intentionally showing your audience something that they might not think a company or professional would show them).  McCutcheon believes that showing a small amount of the backstage can go a long way, as clients and potential customers want to know the person behind the brand so that they can connect or relate on a more personal level. 

Maurizio Lazzarato’s concept of immaterial labor also applies well to McCutcheon’s discussion of social media practices as they pertain to the success of businesses or professional blogs.  Lazzarato affirms that there are certain activities that can produce “cultural context” for a commodity that is for sale, and creating a certain social media presence for a brand certainly can achieve this.  By forming a consistent brand across many social media platforms, one’s company could speak to a certain type of taste or gain a specific cultural value.  And though working on social media sites might be considered free labor and be a more voluntary aspect of running a company or store, it definitely can produce beneficial financial results through the use of affective labor (producing personal connections and relationships with the “tribe,” which make them want to spend their money on whatever product or service you are selling). 

Though Malcom McCutcheon’s book How To NOT Suck At Social Media provides some helpful advice to business owners about how to engage with their followers on social media sites, it is brief and therefore does not really delve into the issues on a more critical level.  However, some of McCutcheon’s points can be better understood when supplemented with more in-depth social media research.  Because of this, McCutcheon’s book can help the most basic beginners, but is not extremely helpful to those who are fluent in the functions of social network sites.  

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