With Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Engaging in Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media, the inimitable Liana “Li” Evans has provided the definitive handbook for social media marketers. From her no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point opening chapter on the basics of social media (“It’s Not Easy, Quick or Cheap”) through the final chapter on “Putting It All Together,” Evans tells anyone brave or foolhardy enough to venture into social media marketing not only what they want to know but more importantly what they need to know.
As she notes in her introduction, Li’s book is organized around four main themes:
Research: start by using search and social media monitoring tools to discover where your customers and prospects are congregating. Don’t automatically assume they use the most popular social networks. This saves time, effort and money in the long run, but it’s a step too many companies skip over.
Strategy: it isn’t just the tools you’ll be using, but also establishing goals for what you’d like to achieve in social media, and allocating time and resources to do the job.
Involvement: understand that everyone in your company has a stake in social media success and most of your employees are probably already members of at least one social network. Explain your goals and establish clear guidelines for any mention of the company on social media sites. This presents misunderstandings (at the least) and enlists your people beyond just the marketing and PR groups.
Measurement: as Li notes, “Measurement comes in many different forms, from website traffic to the number of retweets your content is getting.” Though measuring direct ROI is challenging, a successful social media program should increase engagement with customers and prospects, provide direct website traffic and increase branded search traffic. Choose metrics that make the most sense for the tactics you’re employing, and monitor results to determine which activities to increase and where a change of course may be needed.
Li really “gets” social media from the social, search and business perspectives, and this shows throughout the book. I wore out a highlighter on this one, but here are a sampling of representative quotes:
“The difficult part of finding success in social media is dedicating the resources and time to your social media strategy. This hard work behind the scenes makes the ‘overnight’ successes seem so easy.”
“Participating in social media isn’t just about creating a page, making a blog post, posing a question, or tweeting. You can’t just ‘leave your mark’ and expect success…Members of social media communities are no longer swayed by a coupon for 10% off or an invitation to try a new product. Instead, they want to connect. That is why social media marketing is not a quick process—it takes time to nurture relationships into conversations and create those solid, trusted connections…these real conversations lead to real relationships,and those trusted relationships lead to referrals and sales. These real conversations also produce some of your most loyal fans and greatest evangelists.”
“Diving into social media without a strategy in place is the best way to set your company’s efforts up for failure.”
And those are just from the first chapter. Li addresses social media at all levels, from grand strategy to nitty gritty tactics. She provides an excellent taxonomy of the social media landscape, categorizing the different types of social media tools into:
- • Social News Sites (Digg, Reddit, Kirtsy, etc.)
- • Social Networking (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.)
- • Social Bookmarking (Delicious, Diigo, Bmaccess; the distinction from social news sites is s bit blurry)
- • Social Sharing (YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, etc.)
- • Social Events (e.g., Eventful, Meetup, Upcoming, etc.)
- • Blogs
- • Microblogging (Twitter, Jaiku, Identi.ca; Li helpfully notes that “the power of microblogging for a business can be huge, if you add personality into your Twitter stream and not just allow it to be automated.” Amen!)
- • Wikis (Wikipedia, hundreds of specific topic-focused wikis)
- • Forums and Message Boards (the oldest and second-most commonly used forms of social media)
In chapter 3, Li notes importantly that “with social media, there’s no direct click to purchase.” Too many companies focus only on measuring the traffic back to their own site driven by social media, rather than focusing on and valuing the engagement on social media sites themselves. Sure, social media can in some cases drive lead generation and even direct sales (so can PR), but that isn’t its strength or its primary purpose. Confusion over these measurements has fueled the social media ROI debate. Her detailed descriptions of what can be measured on each type of social media site alone is worth the price of the book (at least).
And there’s so much more. Chapter 6 details the importance of social media conversation. Chapter seven provides an excellent outline for a corporate social media policy. Chapter seventeen notes the importance of providing not just a policy, but social media training for all employees so that the understand the policy, the power, and the potential dangers of social media. Chapter 19 addresses the “personal branding” issue that many companies struggle with in social media. Chapters 36-39 present a great outline of web presence optimization, though Li doesn’t use that term.
It’s difficult to find anything to quibble with in this outstanding book, and what quibbles there are, are minor ones. Li comes down a bit hard on PR agencies; true, most of them are ham-handed when it comes to social media, mass-blasting out press releases to bloggers (Li offers an excellent guide to conducting blogger outreach the right way in chapter 11) and generally treating social media like a broadcast channel. But the best ones take the time to understand their clients’ businesses, help craft social media policies and plans, and can even productively engage on their clients’ behalf. In chapter 14, she drops the phrase “social media campaign,” though this may have been an inadvertent slip; she demonstrates throughout the book a clear understanding of words that shouldn’t be used with social media.
Finally, as wonderful as the book is, its a tad long. For example, she devotes six pages to why companies shouldn’t rely on interns for their social media strategy or execution. Her advice is spot-on, but shes beats this fallacy beyond death. She states that “link baiting isn’t social media marketing”—which is true, though it doesn’t mean that link baiting is an unethical or ineffective tactic. In chapter 37, she almost seems to defend the insidious nofollow tag, which has outlived whatever useful life it once had and should be banished. Particularly in social media, let the community decide what content has value and what is spam.
Minor quibbles aside, Social Media Marketing is an essential handbook for anyone involved in business social media, or anyone who manages those people. And in fairness to Li, in chapter 31, she questions how “social” Seth Godin’s blog is; a gutsy but admirable move. She gets the details right as well as the overall strategy, noting that “it’s no longer ‘traditional’ versus ‘online’ types of marketing. Smart companies realize that it’s all integrated marketing now.” That may be the most important point of all; companies can’t afford to ignore social media, but they also can’t treat it as a silo. The smartest companies integrate social media tightly into other marketing and PR efforts. And the smartest social media marketers will be those who’ve read this book.
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