How to NOT Suck at Social Media Book Review

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Malcom McCutcheon‘s book, How to NOT Suck at Social Media – A Beginner’s Guide for Businesses, is a guide for small businesses to best utilize social media to their benefit. He says that businesses suck at social media because these businesses are the ones are late-adopters and use social media as a means of marketing instead of networking, as he points out in his goals which are as follows: 1) to not suck, 2) engage with current and prospective customers, 3) to build your tribe, and 4) to network (“damnit!”). An important tidbit that McCutcheon mentions in his book is that businesses must get to know their followers and engage with them in order to build relationships that will ultimately benefit them in the long run. I believe this information is not only important just for small businesses, but for anyone that is trying to build their brand or expand on their brand. He continues on to describe the most popular social media sites which include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and Yelp. McCutcheon does a good job in organizing the book into different sections, making it easy to follow.

While his book does a lot of describing what these social media channels are and what their functions and benefits are, McCutcheon fails to really delve into what advantage these social media networks actually have on businesses maintaining relationships with customers. Much of what he has written can be further analyzed and explained thoroughly through the readings that we have discussed in #CSMT13. It would have been extremely helpful for McCutcheon to explain discourses and give examples for each mode of social media and how to really connect and engage with audience members.

He states, “take genuine interest in the people who choose to follow you,” which is extremely important; creating relationships with people often will lead to loyalty than if tweets or comments are simply ignored because it appears the company doesn’t care about its customers. As discussed with my group, GroupIV, audience engagement from Marwick and Boyd‘s “social grooming” was discussed in Tara‘s, Michelle‘s, and Christine‘s notes. Social grooming is exactly what it sounds like – maintaining relationships through social media through means of liking, sharing, retweeting, commenting, and anything else that shows audience or customers that you are interested and engaged with what they are saying. While these actions seem almost meaningless, by interacting with their followers and showing them attention, these businesses must maintain these weak ties. By responding to tweets, comments, etc, these businesses are ultimately building trust with their customers, making them feel important, thus building loyalty to benefit the company. Acknowledging customers from various different platforms is extremely helpful, which McCutcheon also explains in his book. He strongly suggests that businesses have at least more than one social media presence in order to expand networking. Because certain people are on some social media but not on others, Baym‘s idea of media multiplexity becomes important; the way the company should present themselves should be the same, yet different in order to engage customers all across the board.

Tiziana Terranova‘s “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy,” she discusses the idea of “free labor,” which is described as labor that is voluntarily given. Because of the nature of these social media networks, older companies are apprehensive about approaching this method of networking because there is no monetary incentive for them to participate. As Aimee stated in her notes, the importance of immaterial labor in the digital economy becomes apparent with the use of social media. She also goes on to talk about Lazzaratto’s concept of immaterial labor, which is defined as activity that produces the cultural content of the commodity. The most value comes from the people who provide this labor without being paid, and this work is what defines cultural standards, artistic value, fashion, and more. A subset of this immaterial labor is called “affective labor”, which is having the work produce affects in customers (connections, emotions, relationships) in order to have them either purchase products or become loyal followers. This again brings back the point of maintaining good relationships with said follower or customer base. Creating a relationship is probably the most important takeaway from creating a social media identity; these relationships later benefit the company or user in tremendous ways.

McCutcheon also talks about separating you, the user, and you, the company and keeping the two identities separate from each other while also disclosing some information from the private to public to show that under the business demeanor, there is an actual person that customers and followers are able to relate to. However, this also touches upon the fact that online networking and online interactions are usually inauthentic because of the idea of disembodiment, which is described in Don Slater‘s “Social Relationships and Identity Online and Offline” as the offline presence being irrelevant to the online presence. Online, identities are fluid and are able to change accordingly, which can vary from each social media channel as well. I agree with the idea that businesses should show some kind of “human side” to them, but it would have been helpful for McCutcheon to give some more in-depth information and explanation as to why this is important.

McCutcheon too much time explaining what the social media channel are instead of really elaborating on how to utilize these social media networks properly to a business’ advantage. I understood that the writing was geared towards the older, less tech-savvy individuals who own businesses with very weak social media presences; that audience would probably have found this information insightful, helpful, and a way to jump-start growing a social media presence. As Christine states in her notes, the added background descriptions of these SNS’s gave way to assume the audience was older than us, “social media experts.” Perhaps adding more details and more helpful hints for business owners to really “not suck” at social media could be added to any revised edition of the book. Most of the information is extremely basic and not so helpful because what was given were things that are common knowledge to the most of us.

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