How to Use Social Media for Beginners

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How To Not Suck at Social Media: A Beginner’s Guide for Businesses by Malcom McCutcheon is a book of tips for small businesses about how to best use social media for business purposes.  McCutcheon hopes to help businesses best use social media through his four goals and six key tactics.  However, the book lacks some key concepts making it seem more like a basic instruction manual that could easily be found on each website he mentions.  Despite being a little overly simple, the book is very well organized into main sections such as goals, setup, and key tactics. Besides the setup part being unnecessary, he hits the surface on some interesting topics we touched on in class in his goals and key tactics sections.

Although somewhat obvious, McCutcheon’s book was very clear on his four goals. The first one, “to not suck” is the most important in my opinion because it is the title of the books and it also ties in with the other goals and key tactics.  One way he suggests to not suck at social media is to stop playing the marketing role and “put on your networking hat” (142).  The example he gives of marketing on social media is when he follows someone on Twitter and receives an automatic direct message about the company that he just followed.  This relates to his second goal “to engage with your current and prospective customers” because if you’re sending out the exact same message to everyone you probably aren’t engaging with your customer on a level they are likely to connect with you on (218). Additionally, if you don’t interact on that connecting level, you can’t accomplish the other two goals of building your ‘tribe’ and networking, damnit!”.

In order to achieve the four goals listed, he also clearly lists six key tactics.  The first one I found to be most beneficial because it is useful even for people familiar with social media.  His first tactic says, “Separate you, the person from you, the business/blogger” (537). This advice is relevant to everyone and could have been heavily supported by the idea of context collapse. Without using the term context collapse, McCutcheon touches on a tactic used to avoid it.  According to McCutcheon, you want to “remain a neutral entity that is friends with as many people as possible, regardless of their beliefs” (569).  Remaining neutral is also an idea in Alice E. Marwick and Danah Boyd’s I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately who call it tweeting to the “lowest common denominator” (Marwick and Boyd 122).

Since the goals and key tactics were all very related and all connected to reaching your customer on a certain level, McCutcheon could have included a mention about ties to strengthen these points and their importance.  Caroline Haythornthwaite in her Social Networks and Internet Connectivity Effects mentions different levels of ties. As Rebecca said, McCutcheon “should have explored the importance of ties maintained across multiple platforms”.  He also could’ve explored what ties a business should be aiming to achieve with their customers.  Is a weak tie a person who is still willing to buy your products? Or do only strong ties actually make purchasing decisions?  This would’ve helped because it would give businesses something concrete to aim for.

The simplification of social media in McCutcheon’s book leads me to believe it was not intended for people of our generation.  As our group agreed on in class, the audience McCutcheon had in mind must have been members of an older generation and people who don’t use social networking sites for their personal use. To someone of our generation, this book would be impractical because most of it was instructions we would’ve already understood from having personal social networking site accounts.  This book would only be helpful for people who are not familiar with the Internet or social networking sites.

If the book were intended for the older audience we think it is, it would make sense why McCutcheon included a part on the importance of social media sites for business.  If you’re not familiar with the Internet you might not know why McCutcheon’s book is relevant.  He explains that creating social networking site accounts for your business is important because even if you don’t create the presence, your company will still end up on the Internet. And if your company is going to be on the Internet regardless, it is better for you to be in control of the presence. He explains this by saying “you’ll be drug into social media channels whether you want to or not through customer reviews” (211).  I agree with this explanation but I, Joey, Jasmine and Allegra  think some arguments such as this one would be more convincing had he incorporated the idea of self-branding more.  After reading this, I think some new readers might wonder why it is so bad to not be in control of your business’ online presence and to have other people’s reviews be the main source of judgment for your company.  This is where a discussion of branding would be helpful.

In Branding the Post-Feminist Self: Girls’ Video Production and YouTube, Sarah Banet-Weiser talks about branding on the Internet.  The importance of being in control of your company’s online presence can be explained by a quote in this reading by Catherine KaputaKaputa proposes “if you don’t brand yourself, someone else will, and it probably won’t be the brand you had in mind” (Banet-Weiser 16).  This would have explained why you personally want to put your business online instead of someone else.  If you don’t put your business online, you are not in control of what people say in their reviews and their negative reviews could lead to a bad brand image.  For the author’s benefit, it would have helped for him to incorporate branding in his argument and also put this as the very first thing he discussed.  Reading this at the very beginning of the book would enlighten reader’s why they needed to read this book in entirety even if it is just instructions.

In my opinion, McCutcheon’s book was too simple making it less useful for business owners.  However, for someone in an older generation who hasn’t previously used social media, this book has the potential to really aid them.  The book is short, simple, easy to read and organized clearly into goals and tactics. If the book was meant for the unfamiliar internet user, then I think this is the book.  If it was meant for young people of our generation, I would suggest incorporating some more complex topics such as the ones we discussed in order to better explain the the topics covered in How to Not Suck at Social Media.

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One comment

  1. […] have received slightly negative feedback from my digital native peers such as Tara, Chelsea and Courtney, some claiming it to be too “basic” or […]

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