SUCKS TO SUCK (How to NOT Suck at Social Media Book Review)

The good old adage don’t judge a book by its cover aptly applies to the book How to NOT Suck at Social Media albeit with reverse effects because while the cover and title might lead the reader to believe that this book does not suck, one can make a strong argument for the contrary. Suck may be a bit of a strong word especially considering the weight it holds for the author Malcom McCutcheon, but it definitely doesn’t rock either. The downfall of this novel owes itself to its brevity and the fact that McCutcheon himself is no SNS expert as he points out in his disclaimer. Situating my perspective and critique of the book with that caveat in mind definitely lowers my expectations, but that still does not make up for the fact that the book leaves much to be desired. The concept behind the book is a powerful and important one and the book itself is a valiant effort by McCutcheon to explore the world of social media and guide a new business. On the other hand, it appears to simply be an aggregation of information you could Google about these SNS sites flourished with humorous tidbits and personal examples that could read as shameless promotion. Of course, it is only natural for him to use his own company, but it also creates a bias and boxes in his work when case studies that could include success stories and failures would nicely demonstrate why his suggestions are worthwhile. Moreover, he could specify how the different sites he highlights could best cater to different kinds of businesses such as a local bakery vs. a small boutique.

18687775

The book’s purpose as the title suggests is with the intention of guiding it’s readers through marketing on social media but in a manner that is contrary to traditional marketing and “hard-selling.” This book can best be summarized by the four goals it seeks to achieve coupled with the six tactics McCutcheon employs and the swift nature in which he runs through the different SNS sites. The goals are as follows: 1) To not suck, 2) To engage with your current and prospective customers, 3) To build your “tribe,” and 4) To network, damnit! One of the best things about this book is how seamlessly it reads because by not delving into complicated territory, it is easy to follow even when skimming which the author actually suggests you do. He grounds the simplicity in the fact that although the concepts are straightforward that it doesn’t make them any less valuable. The most sound and worthy advice are given through his mantras such as “the intentional separation of you, the person, from you, the business owner or blogger.” There seemed to be a consensus among GroupIV that McCutcheon’s emphasis on this separation is akin to Erving Goffman’s discussion of the frontstage vs. backstage and impression management. When it comes to social media, it is easy to harness control over signs given off and therefore preserve a pristine frontstage. The frontstage would be all the public information about the business on the SNS sites while the backstage would be brought forward in an effort to avoid being a “faceless business” by demonstrating a bit of the person’s personality. Striking this balance is key to building relationships with potential customers.

WhileJenny, Aimee and Michelle make strong arguments for why the book fits into a social construction mindset, I like Shivonne understood the book as promoting a social shaping view of technology. As Nancy Baym defines it in Personal Connections in the Digital Age, social shaping is the middle ground because it suggests a symbiotic relationship between the user and the technology. McCutcheon enters the discussion of these SNS websites by telling the reader how utilizing the technological affordances awarded to them they can help their businesses grow their social media presences and therefore their brands. Inherent in taking advantage of these affordances is understanding how to build your “tribe.” The concept of the tribe can also be understood as Caroline Haythornthwaite’s discussion of strong, weak and latent ties as was agreed on by most of GroupIV including Katie and Eric. By making an effort to build a relationship with those who follow you, you can achieve a weak tie through actions as simple as liking a post while a latent tie might be someone who follows you but with whom you haven’t had any interactions. Strong ties would be reserved to those who you’ve actually become friends with. Building this tribe also works into what Marwick and Boyd call “social grooming” which entails demonstrating a concerted effort in becoming the “popular kid.” These strategies can also help build what Goffman and Lim, Vadrevu, Chan and Basnyat term as facework. For example, if two companies were to network with one another, they would create mutual face, which concerns the image of the relationship.

Screen shot 2013-12-02 at 7.33.41 AM

One of my main trepidations about this novel arise out of whether the author can be considered credible and justified in making this guide based on the minimal success he has had in his own social media expenditures measured by the amount of likes/followers/ video views him and his company Bossanova Interactive have on the specific sites he mentions. That being considered, he probably wrote this book with the intention of gaining credibility and expanding his own “tribe” and less as a way to make money. Nevertheless, if you want to tell your reader how to build a tribe, you better hope it translates into your own life. The desire to become a commodity people want to consume and the necessity to self-brand that McCutcheon alludes to is extrapolated by Banet-Weiser in Branding the Post-Feminist Self. As a business, you need to be more than a consistent brand but one that is unique and multifaceted. In addition, McCutcheon stresses the importance of being consistent across platforms and this concept best fits into Giddens discussion of narrative. By putting in the time and effort it takes to create detailed profiles on these platforms and keeping them up to date as McCutcheon requests, the business can also face head on the challenge of surveillance as argued by Humphreys in Who’s Watching Whom. Surveillance entails an asymmetrical power relationship but maintaining a narrative and actively deciding what to share publicly can offset that power struggle.

The nature of the book does not necessarily call for him to back up his findings with a plethora of authors; however, having that backing would add a sense of legitimacy as well as allow McCutcheon to better bring his ideas to fruition. None of what he has written is incorrect or misleading nor does McCutcheon set out lofty goals, seriously one of them is to not suck, but his manner of executing them suffers from over simplicity and a lack of follow through. All things considered, CSMT isn’t the ideal reader for this book; however, as McCutcheon himself says all users should be able to gain something from this “resource.” The imagined audience as Marwick and Boyd call it is who he refers to as business owners new to social media, but this is not an excuse for which to limit the scope of the book to that small subset of people. I would consider CSMT more or less the nightmare reader in this situation not because we would be his parents or potential bosses, but because we can see past the pretty logos and cute quips to criticize the book for what it lacks. As a CSMT participant, you will not leave this book enthralled or enlightened, but instead reassured in your own knowledge and understanding of these sites.

Overall, I consider this a good beginner’s guide that is bursting with potential, but one that has not yet reached the heights the social media world requires of it.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s