Book Review: How to NOT Suck at Social Media


How to NOT Suck at Social Media- A Beginner’s Guide for Businesses and Bloggers by Malcom McCutcheon is a guide that explains how businesses should manage their social media on different social media platforms. McCutcheon also emphasizes how businesses should keep separate their personal profiles and those of their actual businesses. This book is most likely aimed towards an older audience with the intention to use social media for business purposes and building a brand for themselves, such as businesses and marketers. Therefore, all of the topics that are discussed in this book focus on what is appropriate in terms of what businesses should and should not do on social media, and the emphasis on keeping personal matters separate from business matters. Such topics involve sets of four goals and six key tactics, respectively, that McCutcheon believes that anyone, but mostly his intended audience of businesses, should take if they just do not want to “suck” at social media. A few social media platforms that McCutcheon touches upon in his book are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and Pinterest.

McCutcheon’s Four Goals:
1. To not suck
2. To engage with your current and prospective customers
3. To build your “tribe”
4. To network

This book was not by all means poorly written in the grammatical sense. In fact, McCutcheon applies a very conversational tone to his writing. This tone contributes to making the book a quick and easy read. However, there is a certain extent to which an author can try to relate to or communicate with his or her readers, and McCutcheon pushes it by saying in the beginning of the book “It’s okay to read in depth but, if your eyes begin to glaze over at any point, you should feel free to skim through this book.” Skimming certainly implies that not every piece of written information is important, which McCutcheon is basically admitting to. Nonetheless, he makes a number of useful points and arguments across his book in terms of just very basic steps that he believes businesses should take in order to be successful on social media. He provides brief summaries of several relevant social media platforms of today, thus simplifying the process for businesses that have no idea where to start in the vast world of social media.

However, this is not to say that I have a positive outlook of the book.  Good writing does not necessarily mean great content. Throughout the book, I noticed that McCutcheon regurgitates old information, old in the sense that much of his book had to do with both setting up appropriate profiles and employing basic tools on certain social media platforms that he found were necessary for businesses to create, but these platforms have been around for a while. These instructions can also be easily looked up on the Internet for free, so I personally believe that the cost for this e-book was overpriced for what it is actually worth. McCutcheon also creates way too many redundancies that contradict one another within the book. For instance, in the beginning half of the book, he emphasizes how crucial it is for businesses to maintain a social media presence that does not overlap with that of their personal lives. However, in the latter half, he attempts to take back what he had previously said by stating that in fact, it is acceptable to portray personal aspects of one’s life in his business profile in order to relate more to the followers of the business. But what I found to be the biggest contradiction of all is the fact that while McCutcheon repeatedly talks about not revealing a personal side to one’s business, he goes ahead and publishes pictures of his own SNS profiles in his book. By doing so, he is personalizing his own book that he has originally published for marketing purposes.

Based on the content in this book, however, McCutcheon touches upon a number of concepts. In terms of Nancy Baym’s major social discourses in her book “Personal Connections in the Digital Age,” our group came to an agreement that McCutcheon goes about the social constructionist approach. As Aimee best puts it, “McCutcheon argues that how we use SM for our businesses can shape expectations and assumptions about professional social media use..He also believes that the users of the technologies have the power to determine how others will use them and how [this] use can then vary in the future.” In addition, by elaborating on the process of “building a tribe” on social media through the acts of investing one’s own time into posting, favoriting, or retweeting one’s followers in order to receive mutual attention, McCutcheon is talking about Baym’s concept of weak and latent ties. A business cannot know most, if not some, of its followers on a personal level; thus, maintaining these weak ties that have the potential to become strong ties in the near future is a very important part of keeping a stable social media presence.

In addition, McCutcheon talks about how important it is for a business to make a good impression of itself on social media because once it is ruined, it is extremely difficult to maintain a positive social media presence ever again. He compares social networking with followers to meeting a stranger in real life in order to emphasize how important it is to give off a good impression anywhere one goes. Thus, he is unintentionally relating to Erving Goffman’s idea of frontstage and backstage performance regarding impression management as discussed in Marwick and boyd’sTo See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter.” A frontstage performance “involves presenting a seemingly authentic, intimate image of self while meeting fan expectations and maintaining important relationships” (Marwick & boyd 140). In the case of a business, it must present a positive yet relatable side to itself that proves to its followers that this business is, in fact, run by actual humans. On the other hand, by stating that it is okay to reveal some personal aspects of these humans behind the businesses, McCutcheon is talking about the backstage performance in a more controlled setting, meaning that businesses can purposely show specific, yet positive, authentic aspects of themselves in order to demonstrate a more favorable image.

Needless to say, I was overall not impressed with the direction that McCutcheon decided to travel when writing this book.Whereas he probably had good intentions on publishing a how-to guide on using social media sites for those who feel incapable of doing so as an entity, the superficial advice that he provides in the book ultimately backfires as these goals and key tactics have not been proven to be successful. Had he provided more visual examples or possibly even conducted research on the success rates of his tactics aimed at businesses, this book could possibly be a very beneficial guide for even those outside of McCutcheon’s intended audience. However, this book definitely has the potential to be expanded upon, and maybe if McCutcheon decides to publish another one, but this time with tactics proven to be successful and phrases that do not just consist of “how to not suck,” I may give it a chance.


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