BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

I keep having to remind myself, "it's a textbook" ...

This was another of those books that came to me from the good folks at Wiley as a review copy, no doubt in anticipation of being featured in my The Job Stalker blog over on the Tribune's “Chicago Now” site (which I figure it will be next Monday). This is the fifth book in their “New Rules of Social Media” series, three of which I've been happy to get for review (why I didn't see the other two, I don't know!). I was informed, following a somewhat middling review of Get Seen that these were being designed for use as text books, which goes a long way to explaining why they are considerably less engaging than other books in the Social Media sphere, and I have since gone into reading these with that particular piece of info in mind.

Which brings me to a bit of a conflict. I have heard and read numerous rave reviews and commentary on Ann Handley & C.C. Chapman's Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, and yet I was unable to work up much enthusiasm for it. I mean, it certainly is a good book, and might well be an excellent entry-point for somebody otherwise clueless about Social Media, but it lacks life … just as there is a world of difference between a historical survey of the French revolution and Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, this, unfortunately, seems as flat as the former when stacked up against something like Scott Stratten's UnMarketing! Of course, if one reflects that one is “reading a textbook”, this might be expected, but I still don't know where other folks' excitement comes from.

In any case, Content Rules is a very solid book that walks the reader through various aspects of the Social Media landscape, and is illustrated with examples of how several companies have used the techniques under discussion to achieve successes. At its best, this is a “framework” for developing a Social Media strategy, featuring numerous lists and checklists for putting one's “we should be doing some of this social media stuff!” desires into a clear plan. First of these are “The Content Rules”:
1. Embrace being a publisher.
2. Insight inspires originality.
3. Build momentum.
4. Speak human.
5. Reimagine; don't recycle.
6. Share or solve; don't shill.
7. Show; don't just tell.
8. Do something unexpected.
9. Stoke the campfire.
10. Create wings and roots.
11. Play to your strengths.
Not surprisingly, these are also the chapter headings for the first section of the book, as the authors discuss each of these “rules”. This part is somewhat “philosophical” in that it's explaining why these “rules” are “rules”, but it also has several very handy lists, ranging from this one about one's audience:
1. Whom are you trying to reach?
2. Where do they spend their time online?
3. How do they access the web?
4. What are they craving?
5. What do you want them to do?
6. What content do you already have?
... on to a twenty-five point list answering the question “What Do I Talk About When There's Nothing To Say?”!

The second part of the book is “The How-To Section”, which has chapters on blogs, webinars, ebooks/whitepapers, case studies, FAQs, videos, podcasting, and photos. Needless to say, this is the “meat” of the book, with overviews of these assorted vehicles, a look at why they may or may not be good for your situation, and step-by-step outlines of how to use each (and even a fill-in-the-blanks template for setting up a blog, for the writing-averse). A third section looks at the efforts of 10 organizations, large and small, with a chapter each on how they solved a particular problem by using Social Media, including an “Ideas You Can Steal” feature highlighting key techniques. A final fourth “section” (it's only 3 pages long) gives you URLs to web-based additional content an a “12-point checklist” for Social Media.

Again, there's nothing wrong with Content Rules, and many people are very complimentary towards it, but it never quite grabbed me. If you're a Social Media practitioner, this is likely to be less-than-inspiring, but might be a good book to drop on the desk of a boss/colleague who's a “non-believer”, or to send to a potential client to spark some ideas. There were a few bits in here that I bookmarked to go back to for some ideas, but it's not likely one that I'm planning on re-reading.

As this is brand new, you have a pretty good shot at finding it at a brick-and-mortar store that carries Social Media sorts of titles, but Amazon has it (at this writing) at a fairly substantial (37%) discount which makes it quite affordable. If you're looking for an introductory book on Social Media, either for yourself or for somebody else, this would be a very capable primer, but mind my reactions if you're familiar with the field and looking for a rah-rah book to get excited about.

Visit the BTRIPP home page!

Tags: book review
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