BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

The CliffsNotes to social?

Last fall, I'd noticed Neal Schaffer posting a lot out on social media channels about his new book, Maximize Your Social: A One-Stop Guide to Building a Social Media Strategy for Marketing and Business Success, so I hopped on email and requested the good folks at Wiley to send me a review copy. While I got around to reading it fairly quickly, for some reason it's been languishing in the lower levels of my to-be-reviewed pile, until coming up now, a couple of months down the road, when I'm getting caught up on that backlog.

I really prefer to review books within a week or so of finishing them, so this isn't as “fresh” as it ought to be … fortunately, I do have something like a dozen bookmarks in it, so I've got points to reference.

The over-view of Maximize Your Social is pretty straight forward … it is, as the subtitle suggests, a “one-stop guide”, which pretty much means it's trying to be “soup-to-nuts” in the Social Media sphere. But this is a relatively thin volume (especially if compared to Lon Safko's massive Social Media Bible), around 200 pages to cover 18 subjects, so it presents more breadth than depth, generally speaking.

Of course, this is not inherently a bad thing … if one were an “old school” marketer, and managed to “miss” that whole Internet thing and those Social Media sites the kids were messing around with, this would be an easy to digest walk-through of pretty much every element of social media marketing. And it's not just for the clueless, as it has condensed into it a vast lot of tips, tricks, and hidden goodies that even seasoned social users might have missed (I don't believe, for instance, that I'd run into Facebook Insights before reading about it in here). One thing that I've already “borrowed” is his “four buckets” model for blog content – a company decides on four areas or themes that it would like to promote via Social, and comes up with one blog post each per month, thereby (fairly painlessly) keeping up a once-a-week posting frequency, while maintaining some variation in topics.

The focus is very much on setting up marketing strategies, and there are numerous “how-to” sections that give at least the main points on things like doing a “social media audit” that is certainly from the consulting side of Schaffer's business … and probably not the first thing to come to mind for most people looking at expanding into the niche. He's obviously taken his own “cheat sheets” for things like Facebook engagement, with a list of five easy-to-execute ideas to build response on that platform, and worked them into the individual parts of the book.

The first quarter of the book does basic “backgrounding” on Social Media and how to use it in a marketing program. This then moves to specifics in the next quarter of the book with chapters that look at ways for “Maximizing” (his current branding concept) presences on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, as well as blogs and “visual” channels such as Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, etc. Now, there is a vast lot of information in these chapters, but it is necessarily briefly dealt with, as all six of those chapters only span 66 pages.

The last half of the book is really rather heavy into nuts-and-bolts of running social campaigns, which he casts in a PDCA “Deming cycle” of activities. These chapters break down as follows: “Determining Staffing Roles and Responsibilities”, “Onboarding Your Social Media Strategy”, “Managing the Risks”, “Creating Your PDCA Workflow”, “Integrating Your Social Media Strategy”, and “The ROI of Your Social Media Strategy”. In these he digs down pretty far into detail for how to set up teams, and even gets into Altimeter's research on typical distribution of resources (decentralized, centralized, hub and spoke, multiple hub and spoke, and “dandelion”) and expounds further on those he sees as the main three models.

He also includes materials from other experts … from a 7-page paper on Social Media Guidelines, a 5-page look at Google+ and SEO, on down to half-page pieces on “social media experimentation”, etc. Some of these are expert-level advice and context, and quite valuable … but they take up nearly half the page count of the second half of the book.

At one point in Maximize Your Social, Schaffer notes that he has a sales background … and I think this explains a lot about the tone of the book. There's an affection for structures like the “PDCA Workflow” and less so for the creatives who would usually be handling social programs, and a “let's cut to the chase” sort of a feel here which reminds me of some network marketing “big dogs” I've known. On a lot of levels, this is an opposite approach to Social than say, Dave Kerpen's “Likeable” model, or Paul M. Rand's focus on becoming “recommendable” … it's about how to get one's business from point A to point B, without necessarily caring about the process.

As I mentioned, there is LOT of useful material here, even for those who have been in Social for a long time … but it's so condensed that it almost feels like reading the CliffsNotes on the field. The target audience for the book is clearly business managers/owners who want to make use of these new marketing tools, but have no idea how to start. If you're in that category, this would be a great way for you to jump into it. If you've come to Social from another angle, however, this has the potential to irritate. I appreciated the information flow in this, but was ultimately so-so on the book. It's only been out a few months, so the business book vendors no doubt still have it on the shelves, and, as usual, the on-line big boys are offering it at a discount. Again, this is not a bad book, and it would no doubt be a great intro for folks in the MBA ranks, but it occupies a particularly “sales-y” niche compared to most others dealing with social out there.

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Tags: book review
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