“How to NOT Suck at Social Media” Book Review

Malcom McCutcheon‘s How to NOT Suck at Social Media is sort of a ‘how-to’ book intended to help new or older businesses older businesses, who do not have a social media presence, with their entrance into the social media world and guide them on “marketing” their business without really marketing. It’s clear McCutcheon aims to teach them the do’s and do not’s, as well as to teach the difference between one’s personal social media presence and professional social media presence.

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He begins the book with the section describing how and why businesses tend to ‘suck’ at social media, and uses AT&T’s September 11th incident that Jasmine wrote about, as an example of ‘sucking,’ which I found to be a great example that I wish there were more of throughout the rest of the reading. He states that the main reasons for a business to suck at social media are because they’re late adopters of the medium and tend to see it as a marketing channel as opposed to a networking channel. I agree with all of this.

But then he goes on to describe the four goals of the book:

  1. To not suck.
  2. To engage with your current and prospective customers*[anyone you want to be interested in your business, your cause, or your blog].
  3. To build your “tribe” [also known as your following].
  4. To network, dammit!

This is where I begin to feel a bit uneasy with the text, because although I like his candidness, that first goal seems to be entirely to broad. What does it mean to ‘suck’ at social media? He gave the AT&T example, but that’s just one instance. I may know what it means to suck at social media, and most likely so does the rest of our class, but as a book targeting businesses new to the social media realm, I highly doubt one example of a huge brand like AT&T making an oopsie is going to give a targeted reader a complete understanding of ‘sucking’ at social media.

He continues to describe the social media platforms, something I would imagine would be extremely helpful to a social media newcomer, as they can get a feel for what platforms would work with their business the best. I just wish he spent a little more time on the importance of Yelp! as reviews are make or break for business, and the site tends to be the go-to place for said reviews. Moreover, I agree with Jennifer that Pinterest may not apply to all, but not because it is mostly image-based (Instagram is photo-based, yet I feel nearly all businesses can benefit from that platform). I feel that Pinterest users tends to be a very niche audience, however if used correctly and creatively, it is possible for a business who probably wouldn’t be associated with that specific platform, to utilize it by manipulating their content on the site to cater to that audience while still maintaining the core of their business image. That being said, I find it odd that McCutcheon would say YouTube should be utilized by all, even if they don’t have much experience with video, and even suggested that they post PowerPoint presentations if that be the case.  Again, maybe I’m judging too harshly as the wrong demographic for the book, but I think it’s fair to say that no one goes on YouTube to see a five to ten minute video of PowerPoint slides.  I think if you’re gonna use YouTube, you should use it to its full potential and be creative with it, and some businesses just can’t do that so it’s okay to skip out on it.

I definitely agree that the book tends to be extremely basic, therefore rendering it pretty much useless and not so helpful.  However, I also believe Christine made a huge point  when she expressed the idea that the book seems to be skewed at an older audience, especially since “younger Millennials have practically grown up with these platforms, and older Millennials were experiencing them in their beta/pre-mature phases.” This is further fueled by the fact that the book has actually received five star ratings on both Amazon and Goodreads (although a closer look at the reviews may suggest that not all are genuine), so maybe I was too quick to judge. Maybe.

However, while the book tends to be simple and basic for the most part, McCutcheon sometimes gets too involved into the technical aspects, and I got lost at times while reading, especially when he discusses BBSes and dedicates an entire section to RSS. It could have been just me, but I’m thinking if I was able to get even a little bit confused, how confused would people just being introduced to social media be?

Shivonne brought up an excellent idea when she suggested he wrote the book for credibility since he runs a marketing firm. I think that is extremely important to consider when reading this, especially since he tends to plug his business and use screenshots of his own business accounts (which Christine pointed as not very successful as they tend to have a low number of followers), instead of using other specific examples of businesses, as suggested by Jenny.

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Screenshot of IG account provided in the text.

Screenshot provided in the text.

Screenshot of Pinterest account provided in the text.

The book’s not a total waste; there are things McCutcheon discusses that I like and find to be helpful:

  • Yes, the use of direct automated messages is and should be a huge NO-NO. They are a huge turn-off and are considered to be spam, or as he says, “robotic, scripted junk mail.” Moreover, this is the first impression they have of your business, so they go from having no impression to automatically having a bad impression and possibly writing you off forever.
  • I like that he pointed out social media existed before the giants of Facebook and Twitter because sometimes people disregard this or just don’t know, and do not realize that as time changes, so do platforms and this is why it’s important to keep up with the trends.
  • He says that networking and using social media “must follow much of the same rules applied in real-world socializing.” I find this to be a perfect comparison because by using real-world rules of socializing, you’re more likely to be more personable and people tend to like that. It will bring great appeal to your business.
  • The previous point goes hand-in-hand with “never use the hard-sell.” It takes away the authenticity aspect that people like to feel. Right away, they see that you’re not being a person, or at least a personable business; you’re being a virtual salesman with a one-track mind.
  • My most favorite line in the book is “Social media isn’t an optional place for a brand anymore.” It’s getting to the point that if a business doesn’t have at least one social media platform presence, it’s pretty much that tree in the forest that fell when no one was around.
  • Several tips that are extremely useful when starting social media accounts: try to use the same name across platforms (with the aid of namechk), to do the “radio test” with the chosen name, and the use of HootSuite to see all your social media feeds in one place to help better manage.

Although many people saw McCutcheon’s approach as more of Baym‘s concept of  social construction of technology (SCOT), I agree with Jenny that his approach can be seen from both a SCOT perspective and a social shaping perspective.  As Aimee states in her post, McCutcheon goes on about  we “can shape expectations and assumptions about professional social media use” through the way we use it, and that “users of the technologies have the power to determine how others will use them and how use can then vary in the future.” However, those who see his approach as more of social shaping are also correct because in a way, we are using these platforms based on the way they let us use them. It’s the reason Facebook is different from Twitter, and those two are different from Instagram.  If they all didn’t have different technological affordances, then they would all be the same platform.

I also agree with Christine’s application of Giddens’ idea of “reflexivity” and Slater’s “disembodiment” to the reading. It’s important to note that self-branding methods and techniques such as reflexivity, in which social media allows people to change their own brands, can be manipulated to fit a business. Moreover, I find the idea of disembodiment to be extremely significant in the case of businesses on social media because it extends their presence to more than just their physical location. The physical location is basically irrelevant, unless it’s something like a pretty far restaurant. If it’s a local restaurant, or a store states away, chances are with their social media presence, they are accessible to you, and they may offer delivery/shipping. But the point is probably wouldn’t have known about them if one of their social media accounts didn’t pop up on that Google search.

Overall, I find the book could have been much more insightful, especially considering in the introduction McCutcheon states that anyone of any skill level would come away from the book with something useful, which I guess is true considering I came away with new knowledge that Pinterest offered a business page. However, the fact that he was able to use the AT&T example showed this book to be fairly recent, so I just find it odd that it felt like it was written at least a year or two ago, rather than just a couple months ago. If I had to give a general opinion of the book, coinciding with it’s price point, it would match the thumbs down on the front cover.

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