May 2nd, 2010


If you want to get technical about it ...

Wow. Talk about a HOT topic. OK, so maybe not in your universe, but off in the Twitter-centric zone that I've been operating amid for the past couple of years the concept of measurement of marketing within the Social Media sphere is huge, with many agencies (several of which have been repeatedly subjected to my resume) strongly focused on this. Needless to say, Jim Sterne's Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize your Marketing Investment is likely to cause quite a stir. This is another book in Wiley's “The New Rules of Social Media” series, which (like Get Seen, reviewed here previously) are volumes intended as textbooks for various aspects of the Social Media milieu. Of course, for the benefit of the FTC, I need to note that this was a review copy sent to me by Wiley ... however, I'm certainly glad they did, as this was a most fascinating read, and I would have been fairly unlikely to have picked this up as a “freerange” purchase.

This brings me to two things I should probably note about this book, it is somewhat textbook-like in its presentation, and it is very much a business book. It is not a light read and it really isn't for anybody who is uninvolved with the commerce of the new social internet. The author targets “the big three goals”: 1 – increase revenue, 2 – lower costs, and 3 – improve customer satisfaction … and he returns to these as touchstones throughout the book. As far as structure is concerned, the book is in nine chapters, each dealing with a particular aspect of the business use of Social Media: Getting Focused – Identifying Goals, Getting Attention – Reaching Your Audience, Getting Respect – Identifying Influence, Getting Emotional – Recognizing the Sentiment, Getting Response – Triggering Action, Getting the Message – Hearing the Conversation, Getting Results – Driving Business Outcomes, Getting Buy-in – Convincing Your Colleagues, and Getting Ahead – Seeing the Future.

Much like the previous book in this series that I've read, Social Media Metrics just screams to be an e-book, as it is chock-full of web material, either presented as screen captures or URLs. As much of a fan as I am of the “dead tree” model of data transfer, there were dozens of times while reading this that I wished I could click on the page and be whisked off to the material being referenced. Unfortunately, lacking this ability, I have a forest of small paper bookmarks rising out of the book, awaiting a few hours of leisure to manually make the transfer from ink-on-paper to the Internet!

As one can surmise from the progression of chapter headings above, this walks the reader from almost point zero (one would doubt that a total net newbie would pick up this book, and the author clearly shares this perception), with a definition of what Social Media is and in what forms it currently presents itself, through a very interesting list of “100 Ways to Measure Social Media”, and into the various steps, from Awareness to Engagement to Persuasion to Conversion to Retention, which are necessary for achieving one's business' goals.

The author is also very clear that this is a “snapshot” in time … referring to things that happened in the 90's as “last century”, and being very direct that his examples are what's happening now amid an unending state of flux as new technologies, new players, new approaches, new realities all bubble up to the surface. That said, there are dozens of remarkably useful examples provided here, companies, programs, web resources, etc., etc., etc. that would provide the businessperson eager to forge a Social Media strategy with all the tools currently at hand for the purpose. Extremely useful is the “Resources” appendix which collects together (via URL and description) a wide range of papers and studies from major universities and cutting-edge marketing groups such as Zocalo, Razorfish, and Ogilvy's 360°.

I have already recommended Social Media Metrics to several folks involved in this area (and told some Twitter folks that I'd seen them “name-checked” in here!), and that certainly goes for anyone reading this review. If you're looking to move beyond Social Media as Social Media and into the Business aspects of that market, this is definitely a book that you will want to check out. Again, this is a business book for business people, and is a textbook, not a “popular discussion”, but if you're in the intended audience, you will get great benefit from picking this up.

As this is brand-new (it's officially been out for less than a month at this point), it should be available via your local brick-and-mortar book vendor (although, with this narrow a focus it might not be everywhere), but at the moment Amazon has it at a rather remarkable 45% off of cover, which is a hard deal to pass up ... if you're in "the Social Media business", this is something you're going to want to have at hand!

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And now for something completely different ...

What can you really say about a book like On Guerrilla Warfare by Mao Tse-tung? It has at least three things going against a broad discussion … first, it is “a classic”, generally placed in the same category as Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, etc., second, “we know how it came out” (the book itself is written mid-struggle against Imperial Japan) leading to speaking more about things other than the book when discussing it, and finally, it's not that much of a book, being fairly short and not very specific. This is almost a philosophic treatise, looking at how Guerrilla Warfare fits within various struggles (military, political, societal, etc.), rather than a manual dealing with the execution of a guerrilla campaign. A more tactical volume kept coming to mind while reading this, that being Abby Hoffman's Steal This Book, which is arguably more of a “guerrilla manual” than Mao's book. This is long on the over-all place of guerrilla actions within Mao's war, and short on “in situations like A, B, and C, you will likely want to set X number of charges at Y rail facilities, accompanied by Z distracting actions” (which would have made for a much more interesting book).

Instead, this talks of how guerrilla forces can be assembled, used in conjunction with standard armies, how they need to interface with the local peoples, and their utilization of existing geographies and situations. All of this is within the context of the war against the Japanese invaders of China. The book was initially written in 1937, and Mao's communist forces were just one element within the military and political spectrum. The introduction (written by translator Samuel B. Griffith of the USMC) notes that at this time Mao, although having obvious “bad intentions” towards them, was making a point of showing a “united front” with the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek and the book focuses primarily on the “liberation struggle” and less on the political front. It is interesting, however, to note (in the sections dealing with group organization) the importance given to “Political Officers”, one of which was assigned to every command level.

The introduction is a key part of this book (taking up 1/3rd of its pages), having been initially written in 1940, just a few years after the book had been published in China, and it appears to have been an official Marine Corps analysis of Mao's book. Mr. Griffith later added, in 1961, further commentary, which put Mao's theoretical material into the context of eventual Chinese history, as well as looking at what developed in Cuba and Viet Nam.

One of the more evocative passages was when Mao was discussing the odds of success with guerrilla operations:
China is a country half colonial and half feudal; it is a country that is politically, militarily, and economically backward. This is an inescapable conclusion. It is a vast country with great resources and tremendous population, a country in which the terrain is complicated and the facilities for communication are poor. All these factors favor a protracted war; they all favor the application of mobile warfare and guerrilla operations. … Thus the time will come when a gradual change will become evident in the relative position of ourselves and our enemy, and when that day comes, it will be the beginning of our ultimate victory over the Japanese.
Much of why the Chinese communists fell away from their Russian brethren arises in these perceptions; Mao understood that the China he was born into was not prepared for an industrial workers' uprising, but that the power had to come from the rural peasantry. The focus provided by the Japanese invasion allowed Mao and his cohorts to strip away the feudal and colonial influences, and create their own brand of communist regime.

On a personal note, I found a few things somewhat amusing about the book, on various levels. First, within the book, there are organizational charts and Public Relations departments are a major function, often with as many officers in place as the intelligence staff (hey, I could get a job!). I also found it amusing that (when I added this to my LibraryThing collection) I discovered that I'd had a hard cover edition of this from back in the days of my reading a great deal of military history. And finally, I found it “interesting” that, of all the books that I'd ordered from the Barnes & Nobel after-after-after holiday sale, this was the only one (out of 13 books) that was shipped separately (hmmm … did it have to get registered by Homeland Security before delivery?).

The present edition of On Guerrilla Warfare is from Dover (although not one of their “thrift” editions), and has a fairly reasonable cover price (although I got this for under two bucks), so if you're thinking of getting this, you might want to keep it on the "bump up to $25" list, as paying shipping on the new/used guy's copies would take this pretty much up to cover anyway. This certainly is an interesting look at a particularly chaotic bit of world history, but if you're not particularly fascinated with that sort of material, this probably isn't for you.

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