BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

And in this corner ...

I've been quite a fan of Gary Vaynerchuk's previous books, Crush It! and The Thank You Economy, both of which I felt were “game changing” and major “philosophical” statements about the social media field, and how that has been driving an evolution of business models in general. As I noted in my previous reviews, Gary isn't some academic sitting on the sidelines and pontificating on what's what, he's been building businesses down on the street, first taking his family's liquor store and creating a significant on-line wine distribution organization from it (largely on the back of his web videos), and, more recently, creating his own social/digital agency to put into practice what he's been preaching beyond the wine world.

So, when I requested a review copy of his new Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World from the good folks at Harper Collins' Harper Business imprint, I was sort of expecting the same sort of rah-rah, get out there and change the world, inspirational vibe that I'd gotten from the previous titles. And I was initially disappointed that this book was not “vol 3” of what Gary had put out previously. This was not the football halftime talk to get the team battle-ready, but something else … more tactical, more specific.

As one can get from the cover/title, the central analogy at work here is social media as boxing, where one works one opponent (here, slightly uncomfortably, one's audience) with a series of “targeted jabs” before trying to land that big right hook. The tone here is Gary leaning into the ring to talk to his fighter (the company) and telling them to land a few dozen body blows and other “jabs” ... very technical, very nuanced, and very platform-specific. And, frankly, I kept waiting for it to get to the big stadium rock anthem level, and was disappointed when it wasn't “going there”. However, at one point the light went on, and I started to “get” what Gary was doing here … which, again, is very different from his previous books.

The first sixth of the book discusses the broad strokes of how the messages of the previous books have come across, and setting up the focus of this one … I think this bit puts it into a good framework (although that ellipsis I put in the following represents a gap of about half a page):
      Marketers are constantly asking me for a fixed storytelling blueprint, something that delineates the optimal number of jabs before it's appropriate to throw a right hook. That blueprint doesn't exist. Social media storytelling is as sweet a science as boxing, requiring constant experimentation and hours of observation. … A fighter will concentrate on trying to hit his opponent's body if he learns that the competitor is reluctant to get hit there. But the next guy he fights might not be afraid to get hit in the body, so he'll have to change his approach.
      Similarly, each platform is unique, and requires a unique formula. What works on Facebook won't necessarily work on Twitter. Stories told through pictures on Instagram don't resonate the same way when told in an identical manner on Pinterest. Posting the same content on Tumblr as on Google+ is the equivalent of the tourist deciding that since he can't speak Norwegian he'll just speak Icelandic and it will do. That's stupid. Both languages share similar roots and are spoken by tall, gorgeous blondes, but aside from that, they're totally different. Today, getting people to hear your story on social media, and then act on it, requires using a platform's native language, paying attention to context, understanding the nuances and subtle differences that make each platform unique, and adapting your content to match.
He goes on to further focus that advice on mobile, given the ever-increasing importance of the small-screen, and then moves into a section which defines “outstanding content” as that which follows six rules:
  1. It's Native

  2. It Doesn't Interrupt

  3. It Doesn't Make Demands - Often

  4. It Leverages Pop Culture

  5. It's Micro

  6. It's Consistent and Self-Aware
There are some really dramatic side-by-side comparisons in the first section of what is “native” on a platform and what's not. This foreshadows much of the rest of the book, where examples of brands that are doing it right are put up against brands that aren't and the good and the bad picked over with a relatively fine-toothed comb. Oh, and if you want to make Gary happy … put pictures in your posts and put your logo on your picture … you get the feeling that his head was exploding over and over here like a animated .gif from Scanners over this point!

The bulk of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is going platform to platform and looking at things that brands, from small local operations to mega international household names, have posted. There are a few where Gary gives unqualified kudos, but most are picking things apart and giving blow-by-blow “what they should have done” commentary. The chapters go “Storytell on Facebook”, “Listen Well on Twitter”, “Glam It Up on Pinterest”, “Create Art on Instagram”, “Get Animated on Tumblr”, and then one on “emerging networks” which includes LinkedIn, Google+, Vine (on which Gary's quite active), and Snapchat. Each of the main chapters starts with a history of the platform, when founded, how many users each has, some trivia (like the Twitter bird's name being “Larry”), growth, acquisitions, etc., then moving into an over-view essay on how the platform “works” within the social media universe, before going into the specific examples where he pulls apart large numbers of items, discusses what right/wrong with them, and then offers up general statements, with a closing “list” of “Questions To Ask About Your [platform] Content”. Most of the advice here is pretty specific, such as this for Instagram:
Go crazy with your hashtags: Hashtags matter here, maybe even more than they do on Twitter. In Twitter, the hashtag can sometimes be the sprinkle – a dash of irony, a smattering of humor that you use once,maybe twice per day. On Instagram, hastags are the whole darn cupcake. You can't overuse them. Putting out five, six, or even ten hashtags in a row per post isn't a bad way to communicate.
The book closes with a few summarizing chapters (and one added at the last minute when Instagram introduced its videos), which tie back into the boxing analogy and the suggestion that
“Content is King, Context is God, and then there's effort … without effort – intense, consistent, committed, 24-7 effort – the best social media micro-content placed within the most appropriate will go down as gracelessly as {Douglas losing to Holyfield}”.
Once I “got” the level at which Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook was operating, I quite enjoyed it … it is incredibly detailed, and picks apart existing campaigns so that the reader can avoid making the same mistakes. Picking up this book is like hiring a top-notch coach to be sitting in your corner, in this case Gary Vaynerchuk telling you to punch here and not there, when to go for the jaw and when to duck. This is brand new, just being officially released this week, so it should be coming through your local brick-and-mortar book vendors with business/marketing sections in a big way right about now, but the online big boys have it at a very generous 40% off of cover at the moment. I was surprised to have gotten a hardcover edition of the book, following up on the ARC edition I'd initially been sent, but I think Harper made a good call on it, as the “finished” book is far more impressive, with full color photography and high quality paper throughout, making it quite a good deal, even at full cover price! I can't imagine anybody doing any level of marketing in the social media sphere not getting a solid benefit from this book … it's sort of the “practical workbook” to put in place the “philosophical” calls to action in Vaynerchuk's previous books.

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Tags: book review
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