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Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Time Event
2:05a
Two Sides to the Social Media Coin …
Scott Stratten is one of those guys that I “know” from Twitter … we've only briefly met, never talked on the phone, but I have had enough on-line exchanges with him that I don't consider myself a stranger. His previous book Unmarketing is one of my favorites of the “social media genre”, and I was excited to hear about his writing another. I contacted the good folks over at Wiley, and was sent an ARC of it. The book has an interesting design feature in having two covers, with one part of the book reading in from the front and one part of the book reading in from the back. Since I'm not sure how this is going to work in the edition as released, I'm going with the Amazon graphic over there which shows both parts of the book in one image.

One could describe Scott's previous book as a “philosophical approach” to social media marketing, which makes it the gem that it is (in that anybody can pick it up and get quality info from it). His new one The Book of Business Awesome: How Engaging Your Customers and Employees Can Make Your Business Thrive / The Book of Business UnAwesome: The Cost of Not Listening, Engaging, or Being Great at What You Do is more an application of its predecessor's philosophy to business settings, and is very much written to a business audience. This will no doubt mean that it will have a better reach into companies of various sizes, but at a cost of over-all accessibility (as there are a lot of people enthusiastic about social media who really couldn't care less about its use by business, as long as they're not getting spammed).

Again, this is structured as two books, one about people “doing it right” and another about people “doing it wrong”, and is largely built around case studies of these. If you've heard Scott speak, or follow his blog, some of these will be quite familiar (so familiar that in one case I thought he was repeating from Unmarketing), but they're all interesting and informative. Most of the chapters feature an example, and then some lessons to take from that. Here's one from Scott's experience at a Phoenix Suns game:

... This is where most customers sit, in the static mode. They are just there, not overly pleased, not overly angry. They just exist. Letting them sit there is the wrong mentality for brands to take. We shouldn't be looking at how many customers we have but at how many ecstatic customers we have. Static customers come and go very easily, not angry enough to tell you why they're upset – and not happy enough to have any loyalty. When we do things to shift them into being ecstatic, loyalty increases. Ecstatic customers are also more willing to tell you when they become upset, giving you an opportunity to keep them from leaving. Instead of a revolving door of static customers, create ecstatic ones and they'll bring people in the door for you.
There are a few bits here which I did not much care for … in three or four sections he, essentially, “hands the mic over” to somebody else, with reprints of other people's looks at similar material … these “break the flow” of the book, and make, at times, a radical shift in tone, without adding enough to justify their inclusion. I'm sure the author felt that these “were covered so well” in the included pieces that it was better to insert them than to paraphrase and otherwise spin them out in his style, but in nearly every case it felt like having to take a detour on the highway (especially the eight pages about a haunted house's web site).

Not everything here is based on case studies, Scott also goes off on a tangent or two, most notably on public speaking (which, of course, he does quite a lot of). I'd even suggested to him that he take the truly remarkable “Thirty Tips for Speakers” and make a promo piece out of it, only to discover that he'd already spun it off as an article on some other web site.

Obviously, there are two ways to approach this, either starting with “Awesome” (which I did, since that was where the copyright, etc. info was, so seemed more “the front”), or “UnAwesome” … and I suspect the reading experience is somewhat different depending on which end of the book you start out. The “UnAwesome” side is certainly a more, uh, visceral ride, with various levels of horror, Schadenfreude, and slapstick all weaving themselves in with the telling of companies and people who simply “were doing it wrong”. These go from the various abuses of Facebook (from invitations to events that you are thousands of miles away from to Zynga spam), to abuses of corporate/HR attempts at micro-managing social media, to idiotic misuses of QR codes (billboards on the highway or mail on the phone).

Speaking of QR codes, there are quite a few in the book, offering more info at the end of many chapters. I wish I could tell you what is on the other side of those, but most of the ones in the ARC lead off to a video that Scott made indicating that those were going to be put in right before the book went to press, so as to have as up-to-date info as possible in them. There are some, however, which go off to other videos and stuff … which I was able to watch. I've been hard on books previously that included QR or MS-Tag codes (especially before I got a smart phone), but I think the penetration of the technology needed to read them has gotten to the point where it's useable … and at least here most of the codes are accompanied by text versions of the URL.

While I don't feel that The Book of Business Awesome / UnAwesome is quite the classic that its predecessor was, it certainly is an entertaining, informative, and highly worthwhile read. This just officially came out a week or so back, so it should definitely be available via your local brick-and-mortar book vendor carrying business books, but (as usual) the on-line guys have it at a deep discount. There's a certain guilty voyeuristic glee in reading this (especially on the “UnAwesome” side) that should amuse anybody with an interest in the Social Media sphere, so I guess you really wouldn't have to “be in business” to enjoy it.


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