Tag Archives: media

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: The New Community Rules

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The Twitter Book and The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, though they were both written for social media users, could not be more different. While The Twitter Book focused on the everyday use of Twitter, The New Community Rules approaches social media in general from a marketing and communication point of view, studying its usefulness in building brands and online communities while explaining how to leverage its power every day. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and the low price makes it a bargain.

Case studies

Author Tamar Weinberg was smart to include detailed case studies, the ammunition of all marketing debates and discussions. Most books cite examples that support the points they are making, but I thought the case studies in The New Community Rules stood out by the amount of ink devoted to them and the insight each one provided. The “Motrin Moms” campaign cited on page 48 stands out in my mind because not only is it a detailed case study but it’s actually an example of a company making a mistake in cultivating social goodwill. I’m glad such mistakes are brought to readers’ attention so they can learn from them. In contrast, some books not only focus on successes but focus on their own successes (Conversational Capital is a prime example) and make the book a self-serving advertisement more than a learning experience.

But is it right?

It’s hard to judge if the new community rules found in The New Community Rules will work for everyone. The rules are thorough: Tamar covers bookmarking, blogging and microblogging, social media and regular media (video and pictures) among other things. The rules are also backed with evidence as detailed above, and that above all things gives The New Community Rules an authoritative voice. I don’t think these rules will work for everyone in all situations, since such a broad and subjective field is hard to pin down. Some social marketing impresarios may debate some things said in this book. But I wholeheartedly recommend it for marketing professionals who want to gain a better grasp of the gears powering online communities and social media.

Conclusion

The New Community Rules is a substantial book: almost 350 pages, black and white with a great deal of text. This is not a fun-looking book with a lot of color pictures (which is what The Twitter Book is). But it can be an excellent read for marketing professionals or budding social media mavens who want to grasp the impulses behind the social Web and need the hard evidence to back it up.

The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web
Tamar Weinberg
Published by O’Reilly
US$24.99
Rating: 9/10

BOOK REVIEW: Three Books On After Effects CS4

I usually review books separately, but today I’m reviewing three books that cover Adobe After Effects, the video compositing software that’s popular for both special effects and web animations. It’s very rare to find a book that’s suitable for novices and experts alike, and for a complicated application like After Effects it’s best to learn with a variety of training sources. Here we look at three, all from Adobe Press:

Classroom in a Book

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The “Classroom in a Book” series is project-oriented and suitable for novices and intermediate users. I found this to be true in ActionScript 3.0 for Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book and it also applies to Adobe After Effects CS4 Classroom in a Book. Knowing the fundamentals of working in After Effects CS4 is helpful, though the book covers some of the basics in its first pages.

I was surprised to see some advanced topics covered in Classroom in a Book, such as 3D, motion stabilization, Mocha, particle systems and Timewarp. This is only a sample of advanced After Effects topics, but that is enough to challenge some readers and entice them to some more advanced books. One of the strengths of Classroom in a Book is its broad appeal to readers with a variety of skill levels.

Classroom in a Book is well-designed and the projects are interesting: a couple use illustrations from professional illustrator Gordon Studer, giving the projects a professional feel not always offered in training projects. If you are just getting into After Effects, or have been using it for awhile and want to fill in the gaps in your training, Classroom in a Book is a good selection.

Visual Effects and Compositing Studio Techniques

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This book has been around for years and is updated whenever a new version of After Effects is released—the current author, Mark Christiansen, has written the last four editions. Studio Techniques is a more advanced book that focuses on visual effects and compositing techniques, so it is more specialized than Classroom in a Book and applicable for some industries (video, TV, special effects) than others (web design, multimedia). You could go through your entire After Effects career and never need to know color keying or morphing, though these techniques certainly make for more interesting results and for some industries they are essential.

Just like Classroom in a Book, Studio Techniques is well-designed. The included CD-ROM has two extra chapters on scripting and JavaScript, both of which are valuable for advanced users. There are some example projects on the CD, which are walked through in the book, but it’s important to know that this book is not really project-based like Classroom in a Book. The projects are there for illustration but a lot of the knowledge is to be gained simply by reading. Some scripts and trial software complete the CD, but there’s no index for the scripts so you have to read the book to know what they do.

Despite some of these little quibbles, Studio Techniques is a great book that has filled an important niche for years. Mark’s writing style is very good and the content is excellent. Pick it up if you want to get into visual effects with After Effects or expand your general After Effects skills.

After Effects for Flash

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Studio Techniques serves a niche, and a large niche at that. After Effects for Flash/Flash for After Effects serves a smaller niche, the intersection of After Effects video with Flash animation and ActionScript. But it’s an important niche, and even more important now that Adobe sells both products and has made integration a key factor of CS4. I’m very excited to see this book in the marketplace, and it’s written by Richard Harrington and Marcus Geduld who are both familiar to readers of Layers Magazine.

After Effects for Flash was written for both After Effects and Flash users, and the authors naturally could not guess what skill levels their readers would have with both applications, so the first 90 pages comprise a general introduction to both applications. This is fine but it also means a quarter of the book is beginner’s material. However, the rest of the book makes up for it with some very nice projects for intermediate and advanced users. After Effects for Flash focuses more on projects than Studio Techniques does. The projects provide a mix of Flash and After Effects projects, but overall they seem to skew more toward After Effects projects that produce content or improve upon SWF or FLV output. This makes the book ideal for multimedia artists and web designers.

Conclusion

All three books are well done and have a place in the After Effects user’s bookshelf. Each one serves a specific audience and covers aspects of After Effects and Flash, so I leave it up to the reader to decide what books he/she needs. After Effects for Flash is a special case because it has such a specialized focus that it seems to be applicable to all skill levels but only to those working with an integrated After Effects/Flash workflow.

Adobe After Effects CS4 Classroom in a Book
Adobe Press
US$54.99
Rating: 9/10

Adobe After Effects CS4 Visual Effects and Compositing Studio Techniques
Adobe Press
US$59.99
Rating: 9/10

After Effects for Flash/Flash for After Effects
Adobe Press
US$54.99
Rating: 9/10

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

youtube

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

Get 15% Off of All Rosenfeld Books

Rosenfeld Media logo

I just finished reading a great book called Web Form Design by Luke Wroblewski—the review will be publishing here soon. But Louis Rosenfeld and his company Rosenfeld Media were also kind enough to grant all Designorati readers a 15% discount to all products sold at their website, RosenfeldMedia.com.

Simply order from the website and enter the code “DESIGNORATI” when placing your order, and you’ll score the 15% savings.

Rosenfeld Media is a relatively new publishing house, and according to their website their first books published just last year—but they have a good stable of authors and highly regarded advisors. Web Form Design is the first Rosenfeld Media book I’ve read, and I was very pleasantly surprised (more on this in the review). I’m looking forward to reviewing more of their offerings, and in the meantime I encourage you to visit them if you work in the fields of user experience design, information architecture or related disciplines!