How to NOT Suck At Social Media: A Review

Malcom McCutcheon’s How to NOT Suck at Social Media was certainly a book I was excited to read…I mean, I’m a millennial, of course I don’t want to suck at social media!  However, once I began to read the book, I came to realize McCutcheon’s book is more of an instruction manual for social media for those very foreign to the concept.

How to NOT Suck at Social Media is very well organized in its structure and very user-friendly when it comes to the material.  He starts off with the wrong way businesses use social media; or rather, how to suck at social media. He uses examples from twitter, such as AT&T’s insensitive tweet on September 11th, or when a business sends an automated direct message. After quickly discussing how these are wrong, Malcom McCutcheon gets down to the main points this book will teach you.

  1. Don’t Suck
  2. Engage With Current and Prospective Customers
  3. Build your “tribe”
  4. Network, damnit!

After debriefing on these goals, the writer goes into how to set up one’s business on social media. This goes to the extent of explaining the different social media platforms and how to choose your name for them.

The “strategy” section of this guide is where one would expect to extensively learn the “how” part of “How to NOT Suck at Social Media.”  McCutcheon sets up the following key tactics for a business’ success on the worldwide web:

  1. Separate you, the person from you, the business/blogger
  2. Never use the hard-sell
  3. Show interest in your followers
  4. Bring value to your followers
  5. Share just a little bit of you, the person
  6. Post frequently, but don’t overdo it.

After briefly explaining these key tactics, McCutcheon concludes his book by urging people to follow his business Bossa Nova Interactive on social media.  In fact, the writer seems to do a lot of plugs for his company in the e-book.  I found this to be a bit hypocritical, seeing as he opened the book with telling the reader to avoid marketing when it comes to social media.

Honestly, I did not gain too much from this book. It was very basic material for someone who has grown up with presenting themselves on social media and a bit redundant for a student studying social media strategies. In fact, taking this course might help McCutcheon increase his level of understanding in social media strategies.

For instance, two different tactics are “separate you, the person from you, the business/blogger” and “share just a little bit of you, the person.” These two key tactics are completely contradictory (admittedly, McCutcheon does acknowledge this.) Here, it seems McCutcheon is trying to make the reader aware of context collapse. Context collapse is the idea that infinite types of audiences will see what you post or tweet, not just the ideal audience.  In Alice E. Marwick and Danah Boyd’s “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately,” they further discuss the concept of context collapse– Twitter has “flattened multiple audiences into one (…) the requirement to present a verifiable, singular identity makes it impossible to differ self-presentation strategies” (Marwick & Boyd 121).  McCutcheon seems understand the tip of this iceberg concept—that your consumers don’t want to know where you are vacationing and your personal friends don’t want to feel solicited with e-coupons. This would create a networking and marketing nightmare.  Shivonne Ramprassad touches upon it in her notes: one’s content should be appropriate for the audience. If #groupIV were to help McCutcheon edit these key tactics, we could combine 1 and 5 into “be aware of context collapse- the ideal audience for your business is not for your personal life.”

Another example where some research in social media strategies might help McCutcheon is with his references to one’s “tribe.” According to the writer, “tribe” referes to “the amount of people you have an influence on across social media channels.” Personally I have never heard of this term “tribe” in regards to social media and I think what McCutcheon is truly trying to address here are social ties. In her article, “Social Networks and Internet Connectivity Effects,” Caroline Haythornwaite introduces us to the different types of social ties we come across. We have strong, weak, and latent ties with others.  To put it simply, strong ties are “best friends” on social media. Weak ties would be someone who simply shares a class with you. Latent ties are relationships yet to be built. While latent and weak ties have somewhere to grow to, strong social ties are ideal, especially for business. McCutheon urges his reader to build one’s tribe, in other words build strong ties online. He urges the reader to “take a genuine interest in the people that choose to follow you.” Haythornwaite seems to agree with this statement. She writes, “Overall we find that, when asked, online participants themselves report strongly held, close ties with others that are as important to them as any offline tie” (Haythornwaite 136). Agreeing with McCutcheon, this explains that a strong online presence is equal to, and can even benefit, a strong offline relationship.  (This is something fellow groupIV member aimee212 points out in her book review notes.)

While I myself did not gain too much from this e-book, I will not say it is a useless manual. My Social Media Strategies class was simply not the ideal audience for this book. “How to NOT Suck at Social Media” seems more fit for someone in over the age of 40 who is looking to start an online presence simply for marketing and networking reasons.  One might consider it “Social Media Networking for Dummies.” However, the one true irony that stuck with me through this entire ebook was that neither Malcom McCutcheon nor his business Bossa Nova Interactive have over 200 followers on Twitter. As pointed out in tyn205’s notes, there is a disclaimer to the book that McCutcheon does not consider himself a “social media expert.” However, I think our group would have looked for a different book had we known this disclaimer previously.


screenshot taken by author


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