Now, the Social Media world moves very fast, and I'm sure that this would have been one of my go-to books when it came out in 2010 … but this is painfully dated in 2014. I did not notice, until after I finished reading this, that there had been a new edition released in 2013 … which would likely be much more up-to-date, and explains why this edition (heck, my copy was even author-signed!) had dropped to a penny.
That said (plus one other caveat that I'll address later), I really enjoyed this book … I even liked its rather unusual format of rounded borders and out-of-the-lines graphic inserts and text boxes which work quite well here. However, section-by-section, it's hard to not react to the dated material, thus making this a difficult book to do a fair review of. Of course, in a book like this by a competent author/practitioner as Kabani, one can't help but have “evergreen” material to anchor one's focus, and she starts off with a definition:
To activate this, she presents a “framework”, using the acronym “ACT” to define three components of online marketing: Attract, Convert, and Transform. You attract the random stranger, convert them into a consumer (of your information), further convert them into a customer (by making a sale), by then involving the customer in your brand, you transform them into a tool for further attraction.What is online marketing? Online marketing is the art and science (dare I say the Zen?) of leveraging the internet to get your message across so that you can move people to take action.
Now, this model gets a bit convoluted, but I'll try to just hit the high points here … in the “attract” phase, “you need a great BOD” - Brand, Outcome, and Differentiator. You need to have a Brand identity that could ideally be summed up in one word. You need to define the Outcome that you're helping your customers achieve. And, you need to have something that makes you stand out in your niche, a Differentiator.
In the “convert” phase you take strangers and make them consumers, and (hopefully) take consumers and make them customers.
She next asks the question “What's the Best Conversion Tool?”, and you can tell this was written before Facebook took over the whole online universe, as she is solidly suggesting one's own website. Of course, in the years since this was written a whole lot of people simply shifted over to Facebook pages, only to find that they weren't able to reach anybody unless they paid the piper. Obviously, the advice here is SOLID, just oddly anachronistic … she notes: “Remember, social media is not a selling tool! It is an attracting tool.”People become consumers when they subscribe to your blog, get on your newsletter list, or merely join your Facebook group … They are consuming your information. At this point they have converted. They are no longer strangers. …
Offering people a sample of your work – whether through written content, pictures, or videos – can also lead them to buy from you.
Ideally, the formula works like this:
Consumption of Valuable Content + Time = Client (Customer)
In the “transform” phase she has two points: “1. You have to do a good job.” and “2. You have to use your success to attract more success.” … with the further note that social media is an excellent vehicle for sharing stories, which establish your expertise with “social proof” that then helps to attract more prospects.
The next chapter deals with web sites, blogs, and SEO … but, again, in 2010 contexts … some of this is “basic” but other bits are not so “now” … I'm sure this part of the book got updated in last year's edition. In this she also introduces another acronym – EMS – which is what your website needs to do: Educate, Market, and Sell. This then leads into a chapter on Social Media Marketing, which is fairly basic (bullet point: “Respect Other People Online” … ya think so?), before launching into a look (one chapter each) at the three main platforms she recommends: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. To give you a taste of how “vintage” some of the info is here, the chapter head for Facebook notes its “300 Million” users … compared to today's 1.32 billion users. So much has changed on each of these platforms, that it was cringe-worthy most of the way through those chapters … obviously this was something that would have been updated in the new edition – but it's hard to keep up with moving targets like those. Same thing for the chapter following, on on-line video … solid core ideas, long eclipsed info on hardware, software, and services.
OK … up top I mentioned another caveat about this book that I'd get to later … I guess this is as good a place as any. In various points in the book, the author promises that there's going to be constantly updated information on the book's website. In fact, she refers to the web site as a “living version” of the book “with continuously updated content, video extras, MP3s, and more”. However, when you go to the specified URL there is NONE of that there … just a promo for the third edition of the book and various of the author's other services. If this was a “promise” made 10-15 years ago about maintaining a site, that would be one thing … but this edition came out 4.5 years ago. Sure, I got this used for a penny plus shipping … but I felt abused by not having updates on the promised web site. Maybe her publisher nixed “giving it away”, but so quickly abandoning that promise is sort of a contrary thing for a social media guru to be doing.
Anyway … next comes a very useful chapter on “Creating a Social Media Policy for Your Organization”, which focuses on a 10-point plan for making sure you don't get in trouble with social media, your staff knows what they can and can't do, and how things will play out if situations do go wrong. A final chapter on tools (again, somewhat dated) follows, which closes with three points about setting this stuff in motion: 1. Strategize first. 2. Be human. 3. Have patience. (with details on each … good over-all advice). The book closes out with a chapter of Q&A (of variable usefulness), and 11 “case studies” featuring companies and organizations that are a very odd collection, which makes me assume they're “friends and clients” of Kabani's.
The Zen of Social Media Marketing would have no doubt been one of my favorite books on the subject back in 2010, had I encountered it then, and perhaps the Third Edition is as useful now as this would have been at that time, but a mere 4 years down the road, this is very dated, and the broken promise of the no-longer “living version” on the web leaves a very unpleasant impression. I'll just leave it at that.