“Perhaps the biggest mistakes committed by businesses, personalities, and brands in social media occur when people jump into social networks blindly without establishing guidelines, a plan of action, a sense of what people are seeking and how and why they communicated, an understanding of where people are congregating, a definition of what they represent and how they will personify the brand online, and the goals, objectives, and metrics associated with participation.” Albeit fairly late in the book, this sentence sums up the purpose of Brian Solis in Engage! One more book about Social Media, sure; but this one is one of the best written. It’s almost reassuring to read sentences that exceed 140 characters (or twenty words), and, while you can find all the trendy buzzwords and expressions on virtually every page, the author authentically tries to assist social media managers as they transition from the broadcasting age to the intricacies of a new form of netcasting architecture where both users and corporations exchange “social objects.” How well or efficiently can they do so? This book provides social media managers with the background knowledge and practical notions that they can leverage to design a consistent strategy.
The first half of the book surveys the world of social media in general, describing all the aspects of social interactions and their impact on corporate marketing and communication, as well as customer service departments. Traditional marketing schemas have irreversibly imploded under the pressure of a crowd represented in a “conversation prism” that factors in behavioral guidelines implicitly or explicitly set by the multiple socialization channels. So marketers must listen. What can they do with so much information? “Instead of inhibiting the pace and breadth of information flow, we must channel relevant details and data,” a task that does not only require “attention” (nice reference to Linda Stone’s Continuous Partial Attention), but also some understanding of applied social sciences or researchers’ and analysts’ categorizations (such as Charlene Li’s and Jeremiah Owyang’s Socialgraphics). Achieving a state of the art “unmarketing” to use a time-stamped word by Scott Stratten – i.e. rebuilding a marketing strategy from the bottom up – entails, for many companies, a serious reassessment of some entrenched marketing habits. Hence the resolutely didactic approach of the two parts of the book: “The New Reality of Marketing and Creating Customer Service” and “Forever Students of New Media.”
The second half of the book comprises four parts that detail the new responsibilities that come up with the potential of social media, and focuses more specifically on what a “new marketing” approach may look like. One of the most remarkable sections is related to “defining the rules of engagement.” It unambiguously shows to the skeptics that the social media revolution is not a passing phenomenon spurred on or controlled by influencers, but the reality of today’s computing, one of the incarnations of the social Web, and that it is set to transform every single company from the inside. The examples of IBM’s and Intel’s guide-lines (and its digital IQ Program) do not only demonstrate the forward-thinking intelligence of people like Bryan Rhoads or Ken Kaplan (also see my post about him earlier last year), but also the proactive approach of highly regarded companies as they define new roles and responsibilities to adapt to a new world. Digital intelligence is not simply the prerogative of a handful of gurus appointed to task forces or advisory boards, it will also be part of the job description of most employees in the close future if they want to be up to par with educated customers. The scope of the book stops here, but it’s clear that the social media revolution will lead to the reassessment of corporate cultures, employee empowerment methodologies, and linguistic and artistic skills. “Unmarketing” just like any vibrant “marketing” starts from within. Corporate stonewalling doesn’t have too much future.
End result: a serious book that gathers the Zeitgeist (and will bring many people up to speed with trends and idioms). Somewhat voluble, yet kindly extroverted and definitely useful if you want to create a social media plan.