Tag Archives: marketing

BOOK REVIEW: The Social Media Marketing Book

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I’m used to the 600-page behemoths O’Reilly publishes on topics like font encoding and search engine optimization, but the company has also been publishing small, horizontal-format books in the past year on topics like Twitter and now social media. The Social Media Marketing Book is one of those small books, roughly 220 pages with half of them full-page illustrations. I think it’s a good review of social media websites, marketing strategies and community best practices but it’s not as thorough as other books out there, such as Friends With Benefits.

The Social Media Marketing Book has a very broad overview of the social media world which I like—there’s too many types of social media, such as blogging, social networks, media, news and forms, and even virtual worlds which are not covered as often as something like Twitter. This book surveys them all, so it delivers the big picture better than most books. The downside is, with its small size, no one product is covered in fine detail. Twitter, which has had entire books written about it, is covered in less than 20 pages here.

Because of its broad focus, I do not think this book scores very well as a marketing handbook. I expected quite a bit of case studies, strategic ideas and general tactics for each type of social media but sometimes this kind of information is just not there. The section on ratings and reviews, for example, does not delve too much into how reviews can help your business—but it does offer general tips for specific websites like Yelp. This is also beneficial but doesn’t drill as deeply into strategic marketing as I’d like it to.

If you take it for what it is, The Social Media Marketing Book is a good social media overview book. I should point out some sections are more detailed than others and you can score some very good tips not usually known. I’d recommend it for social media users—not necessarily marketing professionals—who want to begin learning how to leverage social media for their businesses.

The Social Media Marketing Book
Dan Zarrella
Published by O’Reilly
US$19.99
Rating: 7/10

BOOK REVIEW: Friends With Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook

friends-with-benefits

Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo’s Friends With Benefits is one of many books on the market about “social media,” that mishmash of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other websites that connect us and our personal content. I’ve reviewed several books about social media and Friends With Benefits was a surprising standout for its blend of research and insight.

Many books on social media provide an overview of the main products, such as Facebook; explain how to use them; and list best practices and/or case studies from a marketing perspective. Friends With Benefits spends fewer pages explaining how to use the tools and more pages on historical overview and marketing best practices, which makes it a good resources for marketing professionals, especially those who haven’t embraced social media yet. Chapters are devoted to topics such as metrics, net etiquette and building a pitch—all things that many social media mavens either know naturally or don’t pay enough attention to, but are on the top of marketers’ minds.

The book is well-written: Darren and Julie have a writing style that’s matter-of-fact but still conversational and funny at times. The language sounds like it’s been copied from a spoken presentation. I like the design too but I always prefer a book printed in color, even when there aren’t many pictures. Friends With Benefits is built like a textbook when other social media books like The Twitter Book have more interesting formats and pages in color. However, this isn’t the only social media book without color.

I really enjoyed reading Friends With Benefits: the book has solid insights backed with research and some great case studies. I also find the writing style makes it accessible to everyone, though it may be a little more traditional than some other social media books on the market. This makes it ideal for marketing professionals who don’t mind the raciness of the title.

Friends With Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook
Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo
Published by No Starch Press
US$24.95
Rating: 9/10

BOOK REVIEW: YouTube: An Insider’s Guide to Climbing the Charts

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Producing successful online social media is such a conundrum—producing quality content is one thing, but how do you create something that the online community will make viral? The stakes are higher now that marketing vice-presidents have noticed the power of online social media: companies are producing promotional videos for YouTube and Facebook profiles, hoping people will latch onto them and adopt the brand promise.

So how do you capture this kind of viral devotion? In the case of YouTube, it might make sense to buy YouTube: An Insider’s Guide to Climbing the Charts. It’s written by a YouTube heavyweight (Alan Lastufka, once one of the 100 Most Subscribed Comedians on YouTube) and an expert on do-it-yourself video production and promotion (Michael W. Dean). Lisa Donovan, a “YouTube star” who parlayed her video bits into a short run on MadTV, says this is “the only YouTube book worth getting.” So the pedigree is there for YouTube: An Insider’s Guide to be a true classic, with unique techniques you won’t find anywhere else.

Proven principles for success

The truth, which the book demonstrates very well, is that the path to success is really based on two simple principles: quality content and quality promotion. YouTube: An Insider’s Guide devotes a lot of pages to storytelling, video direction, shooting, editing and the fundamentals of producing a video people will want to watch. The information in this section is solid but I didn’t really learn anything I didn’t know already—readers who are already experienced producers will not be particularly thrilled by this section.

Fortunately, the majority of pages are dedicated to Alan Lastufka’s deconstruction of YouTube and techniques for YouTube-specific promotion. I learned that YouTube has its own culture and community of users, and by adopting the community one can end up being adopted themselves. Key techniques such as commenting, leveraging third-party social media, the YouTube Partner program and video responses are all covered; very few are covered in depth, but there isn’t a whole lot of depth to begin with. Alan says just enough to make readers dangerous with YouTube.

The author’s rants

YouTube: An Insider’s Guide falls short in some respects. I liked Alan’s writing style, which was authoritative yet fairly informal, but Michael Dean sometimes came across as somewhat…odd. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in Chapter 14, “Closing Arguments,” which has almost nothing to do with YouTube and everything to do with Dean’s ramblings about what’s wrong with the Internet, why C-SPAN is better than any news show, what’s wrong with the world, what’s wrong with “The Man,” and how to life life right among other topics. Now I’m all for personal manifestos, but not in a book like this. The other thing that bothered me a little was the book’s dependence on a handful of YouTube celebrities (Lisa Donovan, Kevin Nalty, Hank Green and a few others) to show the celebrity potential in YouTube. It seems the same seven “celebrities” are discussed over and over, and I had heard of none of them until I read YouTube: An Insider’s Guide. I’m not sure “celebrity” is an accurate word to describe these YouTube users, and it makes me wonder if true fame is achievable within the confines of YouTube.

Conclusion

I recommend YouTube: An Insider’s Guide for anyone looking to start up and promote a YouTube channel with quality content—a casual YouTube user could get some good information by reading this book as well, but it is really written for content creators. There aren’t many books out on the market about YouTube, and this has perhaps the most knowledgeable authors of the bunch so it’s a great buy.

YouTube: An Insider’s Guide to Climbing the Charts
Alan Lastufka and Michael W. Dean
Published by O’Reilly
Rating: 8/10
US$29.99

BOOK REVIEW: Six Rules for Brand Revitalization


Six Rules cover

Six Rules for Brand Revitalization is a portrait of McDonald’s and its marketing from 2002–2005, when Larry Light (Global Chief Marketing Officer for the company and now a brand consultant) helped revitalize McDonald’s brand across the world. This revitalization is the case study that runs throughout Six Rules and is the basis for Light’s and Kiddon’s six-rule process for doing the same revitalization for most any brand. I personally am not sure McDonald’s has overcome the various strikes it has against it (quality, nutrition, customer service) but I’ll leave it to readers to judge the validity of McDonald’s as a brand success.

A mix of technical and anecdotal

I am always up for a good marketing story, and the McDonald’s story in Six Rules is a good one. All the necessary elements are there: a strong brand reduced to a weak one, oblivious executives replaced by progress ones with new ideas, and finally a well-executed strategy returns the brand to its former glory. The story in Six Rules ranks right at the top, in both McDonald’s descent into brand confusion and its eventual rise (if you believe the book).

There are many marketing books on the shelves with these stories, and Six Rules stands out for being focused almost exclusively on the McDonald’s story. This is not a combination of multiple stories as Jim Collins’ Good to Great was: the McDonald’s story is the only real example in the book, and it runs throughout. I actually enjoyed this deep focus on one complex example, and I was glad to see this focus on Light’s former employer did not crowd out the necessary text about the concepts behind his work at McDonald’s.

There is actually a good deal of technical information designed to deliver McDonald’s results for one’s own brand:

  • Concepts such as the six rules and the formula for value are drawn out in charts and equations. The brand pyramid is a particularly effective visual aid.
  • Each chapter ends with a “Do’s and Don’ts” section that outlines the key actions and pitfalls encountered throughout the McDonald’s story, and they are general enough to be applied to anyone’s brand difficulties.
  • It should also be said that McDonald’s is not the only case study in Six Rules: several other brands do make small appearances, such as Swatch, Apple, FedEx and others.

Inside and outside

A lot of marketing books focus on the ways companies market outward: advertising, packaging, social media, public relations. Six Rules takes it an important step farther by also examining what Light did to build the brand inward: encouraging employees to buy into the new brand promises, training new employees about the brand promise instead of the minutiae of employment, and developing a company culture that in return would express the brand’s promises in every customer interaction. I know first-hand that this is one of the most important aspects of marketing and also one of the least acknowledged or most poorly executed. Marketing tools can bang out a message or a promise as much as you want, but if the customer doesn’t get that promise when interacting with the company then it’s all for nothing. Light gets it right by paying close attention to this vital aspect of brand revitalization; anyone reading this book should pay the same close attention to this.

A story with no pictures

The McDonald’s brand revitalization story is remarkably full of interesting characters (Jim Cantalupo, Charlie Bell and Light himself) and changes in architecture, packaging, Ronald McDonald and other visual elements of the company. Therefore, I am disappointed Six Rules does not have any pictures! The book is slim despite being over 200 pages and it feels like a textbook instead of a storybook—textbooks are good, but the McDonald’s story is such an important part of Six Rules and the book design and execution serves the theory before the story. This is both good and bad.

Conclusion

Six Rules for Brand Revitalization is a very good book, and I recommend it for any marketing professional who works in the field of branding. There are many books like it on the shelves but its unique story about McDonald’s makes it stand out, and Light does a great job translating his personal success into principles and rules that anyone can apply to branding situations of any kind.

Six Rules for Brand Revitalization
Larry Light and Joan Kiddon
Rating: 9/10
Published by Wharton School Publishing
US$24.99