Malcolm McCutcheon’s How to NOT Suck at Social Media is an interesting read in the recent trend of businesses creating a presence for themselves on the social web and the implications that follow. However, “interesting” (as it’s used here) is meant to be understood as curious and intriguing as opposed to its other definition: gripping and riveting. For example, it’s interesting why this book costs the high price that it does for the little information that it contains. This 79 page e-book-exclusive aims to teach readers how to correctly promote a business or campaign to a mass audience on a plethora of social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. Targeted at an older audience of late social media adopters (our group argues people aged older than fifty-years-old), McCutcheon writes in an extremely simplistic style as he details “how to easily get your business set up on 8 of the top social marketing websites this afternoon.”
While this book is not, by any means, free of flaws, it should be acknowledged for a few of the successes that it does achieve. First, as our group discussed, McCutcheon emphasizes the use of what Nancy Baym calls “social ties” (though he doesn’t use this particular, scientific term) in social media marketing. He says, “Even in cases where you are interacting with the people who you want to sell your products to, you’re not going to treat them as if they are customers in your store. You’re going to treat them like friends. That’s how you win.” This is a very key concept that McCutcheon notes and is very important in explaining the shift from marketing as it was done before social media and how its should be done now. Before, a billboard or an ad that flashed across the banner of a website had no interaction with the consumer and just threw a brand at the audience. However, with the reciprocal relationship that social media affords, McCutcheon is correct in urging businesses to make a greater effort in maintaining strong social ties that benefit both the consumer and the company.
Our group also noted that the author talks very basically about the concept of self-branding (further discussed by Sarah Banet-Weiser in Branding the Post-Feminist Self: Girls’ Video Production and YouTube) across multiple social media platforms. McCutcheon says while explaining username set-up on different networks that “Twitter has a much shorter character limit than Facebook, and while this isn’t a requirement, you might be interested in consistency across all platforms”. On the most simplistic level, he is talking about creating a brand that can be recognized and easily understood by an audience in order to successfully compete in the consumer market. While this drifts from Banet-Weiser’s point a little, it still holds the core kernel in that a user, in this case the business, is trying to communicate some image of itself for some commercial imperative. This is an excellent beginner’s tip as, from a consumer’s point of view, name recognition is key in creating a successful brand. If the business was known on the web by different names, it would be difficult for the consumer to form these strong ties through media multiplexity, making it hard to market the brand consistently.
However, this book seems to not be complete. It introduces concepts, but then lacks the details of each argument to fully support its tips. To begin, going off of one of his successes, he brings up social ties, but then stops before he can explain the effective use of social ties. How are businesses supposed to succeed when they only know that they should form these social ties and they don’t know when to cash in on the social capital that is gained from these friendships? This is an idea that Jasmine Yook and Tina Yu allude to while they were reading the book as well. Social capital, a concept that Nancy Baym expands upon while talking about social ties in her book Personal Connections in the Digital Age, is the embedded resources in a social relationship. These resources are what the marketers are going to want from their strong ties with the consumer, the resources of the exchange of money for goods / information. This is what the whole point of marketing on social media is about, yet McCutcheon skims over this and instead leaves the uninformed reader up in the air in regards to the purpose of his social-tie-tip.
Another concept that McCutcheon should have included in order to make his tips and arguments more holistic is how to get consumers to stay with the company; i.e. keep the page liked or keep the twitter account followed. He dedicates a large section of the book to setting up accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram, but what to do specifically when the accounts are already set up is only a few pages long. As our group discusses in our notes on the book and as Tiziana Terranova states in her reading “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy,” social media is full of free, immaterial labor that keeps it alive. Facebook would be nothing without the users who populate it voluntarily posting images and status updates to feed their friends’ curiosity. Facebook just provides the framework, the users provide the material. McCutcheon doesn’t explain the content that needs to be posted on these pages and feeds in order to keep the users engaged in whatever drew them there in the first place (another thing McCutcheon doesn’t really dwell on). This would help the reader out because claiming that it will make businesses “not suck” at social media, this would imply that it includes all aspects of social media and not really just set up with just a dab of information on usage.
Ultimately, while I feel the book has its’ flaws (the price being one of them), I feel that if used by the proper audience (late adopters of social media) and for the right purpose (specifically to set up the accounts on these sites) then the book actually will help business take a few steps in the right direction against the aforementioned sucking.