“How To NOT Suck At Social Media” Book Review

In Malcom McCutcheon’s book, How To NOT Suck At Social Media, the author delves into the many different social media platforms, in hope that business owners will use such outlets in order to improve their brand image and success with consumers.  McCutcheon cleverly breaks down the onset of the book into different goals, which creates a clear outline & focus.  The goals are: 1. Don’t Suck, 2. Engage with your current and prospective customers, 3. Build your “tribe,” and 4. Network, damnit!  Although offering mostly brief statements when regarding these goals, McCutcheon does give some good advice throughout.  One of the most important statements he make is that “Social media is all about building relationships,” as relationships are at the core of every business venture.  Further on, the book transitions into descriptions of some of the most prominent social media sites: Facebook Pages, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Yelp.  Through exploring the technical affordances of each site, McCutcheon offers the reader both the positives and negatives, in a simple format.  Perhaps the most critical information offered by McCutcheon lies in the later segment of the boo, Key Tactics, as this is where he provides personal insight learned from his many years in the marketing world.  These insights range from “Never use the hard-sell” to “Post frequently, but don’t overdo it.”

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I have to admit, when first seeing the title of the book, I was pretty intrigued, as it seemed like it would entail witty and insightful content.  However, once I began plowing through the book, it came across more as a manual, rather than a book which offers the latest trends, case studies, and general awareness of social media.  Although the book is marketed as “A Beginner’s Guide For Business Owners,” it seems to be targeted at those who fit into an older demographic, perhaps 50 and above, as it truly is an introduction to social media.  Due to this realization, Stiz has concluded that the book will likely be effective only with those who have simply never come into contact with this realm of the Internet.  We feel that the common reader is the average joe, who resides in rural areas existing mainly in “Middle America,” since business owners found in these markets typically rely on long-lasting personal relationships, rather than innovative marketing tactics, which can be achieved through social media.

Although How To NOT Suck At Social Media offers a brief overview of the world of social media, McCutcheon does touch on some critical ideas.  This can be exemplified by the segment titled “Separate you, the person from you, the business/blogger.”  Throughout this chapter, the author emphasizes how professionals should separate their personal profiles from their business profiles.  McCutcheon states: “If you own a business or operate a website, your followers should not know your religious or political views unless your website/business has to do with politics or religion.  This statement directly relates to the idea of context collapse, which is discussed in Marwick and Boyd’s article “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately.”  In their piece, the authors state: “Like many social network sites, Twitter flattens multiple audiences into one,” which makes “it impossible to differ self-presentation strategies, creating tension as diverse groups of people flock to social network sites.”

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In order to prevent tensions from arising, social media users must adopt tactics, such as posting material “they believe their broadest group of acquaintances will find non-offensive,” otherwise known as the lowest common denominator effect.  Perhaps without even knowing it, McCutcheon touches upon this tactic, as he states how “Separating your life from your business on social media channels allows your brand to remain a neutral entity that is friends with as many people as possible.”  Even though this may seem like common sense, I’m sure there are business professionals who believe it’s acceptable to project their political/religious beliefs, in hope that this will bring consumers together, which is why it’s important that McCutcheon drills this into the book.  A prime example of this is when Chief Operating Officer of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, made controversial comments regarding same-sex marriage back in 2012.

Perhaps the next best part of the book is the segment titled “Share just a little bit of you, the person.”  Although this seems to challenge the ideas presented in the paragraph above, McCutcheon effectively explains why this is beneficial.  The author states how “as you get to know your followers and show that you care about what they’re posting, they need to also get to know you as more just a faceless business.”  This can be easily achieved through posting photos from “your most recent vacation” or “from the holidays.”  McCutcheon advises his readers to “Just be sure to make these selective shares something that has a broad appeal,” which connects back to the lowest common denominator effect.  The segment also relates to the concept of “authenticity,” which is discussed in Hugo Liu’s work titled “Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances.”  In his study, Liu found that social network users commonly post content that “breaks from form,” as it entails “atypical details” of one’s life.  By focusing on how business professionals should post atypical content once in a while, McCutcheon will likely make his audience seem more authentic & personable, which could ultimately translate into better sales, and a more lively band image.

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Throughout much of the book McCutcheon seems to take on a social constructionist point of view.  By outlining goals for the reader and supplying them with adequate tools to sign up for social media sites, it seems as if he truly wants his readers to jump into the world of social media and take advantage of any tool they can.  Although offering a clear focus, I’d have to say McCutcheon falls short when it comes to backing up his claims with case studies and scholarly work.  This can be exemplified when McCutcheon expresses how it may be beneficial to create consistency across all platforms.  This crucial piece of advice could have easily been enhanced by bringing in quotes from Sarah Banet-Weiser, who discusses brand-identity in her article titled “Branding the post-feminist self: Girls‘ video production and Youtube.”  McCutcheon could have also furthered his points on creating strong relationships by including details from scholarly works that focus on strong and weak ties.  Overall, however, the book is a simple read for the intended audience (likely those 50 and above) and should truly help them find their way in the, sometimes, overwhelming world of social media.

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