How to Not SUCK….at Being a Guide to Social Media

Like any social media analysis there are two things to consider: the content delivered and the approach in its delivery.  Malcom McCutcheon’s How to NOT Suck at Social Media has some solid ideas to consider, but McCutcheon’s approach is far from successful…for me.

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Before making any more negative comments on the book, I will begin by saying I blame my disappointment on my high expectations.  Going in I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I hoped it would be a book that would teach me something I didn’t know about social media – something I found informative.  Unfortunately this was not the case; the book was very short and basic, and lacked constructive evidence for its claims.  However, it is important to note that I do not fall within the walls of its target demographic, which is 30+ year olds looking to either start their own business or to re-vamp their already established business.  With the changing media landscape, the newest, trendiest way to do this is by implementing social media platforms and strategies.

A big hint this book is skewed older is in the way it’s written.  The simplicity is meant for someone who has not been exposed to these platforms enough to have an innate understanding of their functions and processes.  Since younger Millennials have practically grown up with these platforms, and older Millennials were experiencing them in their beta/pre-mature phases, a general overarching understanding is naturally established.

So while I didn’t find his book helpful, that does not mean others didn’t.  In fact what initially drew me to the book was its Amazon  rating – a coveted 5 stars.  Unfortunately I did not look into it enough to take into consideration that this ‘5-star rating’ was based on a total of seven reviews, and the likelihood that these seven reviewers could accurately represent a close opinion to my own were slim.  So I re-looked at each of these Amazon reviewers and began to analyze and judge them based off of the other books they had reviewed positively (4 star or above).  This clarified my worry. When books such as Is it Just Me Or is There Someone Else – A Guide to Catching a Cheating Partner, Bible Trivia for Kids, and One Minute Super Dad, are what they look to purchase on Amazon, I think it is safe to say there is some sort of difference.

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**Screenshot by Blogger**

Making this note is important as it is key in understanding the mindset McCutcheon took with his approach…even if I didn’t find it the most successful for myself.

But first I’ll begin with the positive…the actual content.  The four main goals he establishes early on are: “(1) To not suck, (2) To engage with your current and prospective customers, (3) To build your ‘tribe,’and (4) To network, damnit!”  When breaking it down he brings up some good points.  He encourages readers to have an active dialogue through these platforms, to “treat (customers) like friends” and “not appear to sales-y.”  He also motivates readers to “take off your marketing hat.  Put on your networking hat,” and to “never use the hard-sell.”

So what makes social media different from other marketing strategies; what makes it worthy of its own self-help guide?  Slater’s mention of disembodying, in “Social Relationships and Identity: Online and Offline,” and SNS’s irrelevance to physical location, is what makes social media so appealing to businesses.  McCutcheon clearly grasps this, as he encourages readers to take advantage of this growing social capital.  Nancy Baym, in Personal Connections in the Digital Age, mentions “social capital” as the potential resources in social relationships that can be converted for one’s benefit.  The different kinds of capital she mentions are “bridging, bonding, and maintained,” but the latter is of most relevance as it involves “social grooming.”  This is when one uses different acts to maintain social capital, and is exactly what McCutcheon encourages throughout How Not to SUCK.  This media multiplexity she also mentions is what allows us the ability to reach out to both strong and weak ties, or in McCutcheon’s case, these loyal brand followers versus potential brand followers.  He calls it his “tribe,” which is “the amount of people who you have an influence on across social media channels.”

We can also look to Anthony Giddens, British Sociology scholar, and his mention of social as a “reflective project of the self” and the “reflexive” nature of SNS’s as important tactics McCutcheon brings up.  We see this with the many ways he encourages business owners to take advantage of a wide variety of social mediums, such as, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.  Giddens also encourages authenticity throughout, something McCutcheon mentions is key to establish over all of these different platforms.  However, something that I actually did find interesting is how he makes it clear that while a clear narrative should be established, one should also look to use each site to cater to different sides of one’s audience/brand outreach.  By this he means those who follow on LinkedIn might differ from those who follow on Pinterest.  This leads us to Liu’s thoughts on taste performance and presentation, and how there are different approaches one can take.

Overall it is clear that McCutcheon’s main point is to create a relatable brand voice to appeal to followers and help grow social capital.  But what is interesting about McCutcheon’s book in relation to these social media terms is that many of these were theorized in relation to social media as a personal tool, whereas McCutcheon takes a business approach.  In the past this might have been strange, but this just further exemplifies that social media is a tool that is blurring the lines (had to throw it in there) between personal and professional boundaries.

But while this is all good advice for those unfamiliar with SNS’s, for those of us who are familiar this is all common sense, making his book seem repetitive.  His delivery also worries me, as some of his good points are overshadowed by his informal writing style, making him seem less credible.  His use of the word “suck” seems juvenile, and can come off amateur.  Below are some examples that caused me to question his authority and respectability:

– “We’ve already covered goal #1, and that will ever be your primary goal – to not suck.”

– “The idea here is to do the opposite of what most of us failed to do in high school: be the popular kid.”

– “You can with ow.ly, but its an extra $50. Nickel and dime, man.”

– “You can keep up with some of those trends on our blog at http://bossanovainteractive.com or by following our social media channels, where we share lots of other articles on the subject written by smart people in the industry.”

While social media is making brand marketing more personable, I felt his writing style didn’t meet a happy medium between casual and professional – which made it a little frustrating to read.  If a 20-year-old found it came across a little too casual, what would a 30-year-old business owner think?

What also leads me to question his authority is the fact that his companies social media accounts do not appear to be ‘successes.’  The low numbers for the company might merely reflect in the nature of the business.  By this I mean the company might look to help other companies with digital strategy, but doesn’t necessarily have a strong following from the general public since its B-to-B.  But if this is the case it should be clarified, as he makes it seem like these links are proof of the exact success he promises for his readers.  Then again my definition of ‘success’ could completely differ from his – another reason I know I am not the right target demographic.

Facebook: 284 Likes

Twitter: 189 Followers

Linkedin: 16 Followers

Pinterest: 17 Followers

tyn205 mentions the author’s disclaimer, where McCutcheon makes it clear he is not a social media expert and this book is a beginner’s guide for businesses.  Like her, if I had read this prior to beginning the book I would have been less disappointed.  However, in terms of  Baym’s social discourses of technology, where tyn205 believes him to be taking a social shaping approach, I, like aimee212 believe he is taking a Social Construction approach (SCOT).  This is because his whole book centers around how to take these technologies and use it to ones own advantage.  His step-by-step guide is to allow newbies the ability to begin to understand how to use these different platforms for one’s own benefit.

However, I think that a social shaping perspective might have benefitted here, as sometimes we do not have complete control.  Getting reach and successfully building a following can be very difficult, especially since it is impossible to guarantee tweets and posts will be seen.  The same goes for billboards and newspaper ads, but what makes these technologies different, is how quickly they work and how quickly they change and evolve.  While most work is the administrator’s responsibility, it is difficult to pinpoint success without giving these platforms a decent chunk of the power.

But overall while I wouldn’t recommend the book, he does get to the important point of the matter: that social media is key.  He tells readers, “you’ll be drug into social media channels whether you want to or not through customer reviews.  It’s better to be an established, experienced player on the field than a rookie on the defensive.”  Lucky for him he follows his own advice, as I learned when he passive-aggressively favorited this tweet of mine:

Image Even though his personal twitter also doesn’t have as many followers as I would deem ‘successful’ (not that I am calling my own twitter successful either), I cannot say he doesn’t know how to use the medium.  For all we know, he is  lurking our csmt13 hashtag or our wordpress blog as we speak!

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