Category Archives: Book and Article Reviews

Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing by Carolyn Mae Kim (Book Review)

As I mentioned in a previous post about my Social Media class, this semester I’ve adopted Carolyn Mae Kim’s new textbook: Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing.

To put it simply: I’m so glad that I finally found a book like this.

social media campaigns kimKim’s book is among the most thorough and clear book I have read in terms of providing an overview of how to research, plan and execute a strategic social media campaign. For me, it is the end-to-end guide to help my students through understanding the process from start to finish.

If you’re familiar with strategic communication campaign planning, you’ll know key elements discussed in this book – from background research and audience analysis to goals, objectives, key messages, strategies, and tactics. And Kim does a wonderful job of explaining them to students in clear,  to-the-point language. Further, she does a wonderful job tying them directly to social media planning.

Because my social media class is situated after the principles of PR course and before our campaigns class, I believe this book is going to provide a strong transition from exposure to these concepts in PR that will help students build towards mastery and execution of these concepts in the campaigns class (In the social media class, I provide background research as well as the class campaign’s goals and objectives – though the students do complete their own social media audit and audience personas).

While there are many gems in this book, here are a few highlights that jump out to me.

  1. From the beginning, the book talks about how social media strategy needs to align who the organization is and why they exist. This should be a point of emphasis in any social media training.
  2. Social Media Listening – The second chapter on listening provides a comprehensive plan for developing and executing a social media listening plan. A strength is that students can complete much of what Kim discusses using free social listening or analytics tools because the concepts can carry across platform. The instructions for analyzing share of voice, for example, can be easily done in a spreadsheet program.  Here, Kim has inspired me to integrate teaching students to calculate SOV into my research class for next semester.
  3. Brand Persona – Chapter 3 gets students thinking about building the social profile of the brand and key considerations such as brand persona and voice (relating back to point #1 above).  We talk about these concepts in my class – and I think the way Kim explains them really rounds that out.
  4.  Content & Engagement – In discussing how to create engaging content that the audience will love, Kim goes beyond case studies as examples into key concepts of credibility, trustworthiness and more to explain to students tactics for achieving desired brand positioning related to these concepts.
  5. Chapters 5 cover implementation of your social strategy. Many tips and tools are discussed from creating an optimal content calendar to using alerts and harnessing social listening dashboards. But the book also covers important considerations such as crises and the inevitable social media fatigue audiences will feel.
  6. Chapter 6 covers evaluation. This chapter provides a great discussion of the intersection of social metrics and key outcomes related back to your campaign’s objectives.
  7. Lastly, I like that this book is concise while packing essential information. It is digestible, tightly written and everything ties together. An someone who puts a lot of emphasis trying to show my students how everything connects between my classes, I love that. And in an age where we are seeing many students who aren’t reading class texts, it’s all about packing a punch in an approachable package.

I’ve been teaching social media campaigns for 3 years, and I’m excited about the important details I picked up from this book. In several cases I found myself jotting notes of things I ways I plan to use things from the book to enhance my class or wishing I had the time and space in my class to integrate key concepts we simply don’t have time to discuss in the course of a semester. I’m very glad that my students will get a chance to read this book and get exposure to those things we don’t get to during class time.

-Cheers!

Matt

 

Must Read Book: Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (Book Review)

There are books you want your students (and everyone else who works in communication!) to read, and there are books they must read.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip & Dan Heath falls into the must read category. Here’s why:

made-to-stick-heath-heath

Made to Stick addresses the challenge of getting ideas across in the age of content barrage. In the hyper-connected social world, we need to take to heart the communication skills the authors address in this book.

The book advocates that communicators focus on SUCCES – or building ideas that are Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Stories.

Of course, some of these ideas you’ve heard elsewhere, like the power of storytelling. You’ve probably heard about consumer identity before, such as this Seth Godin quote PRNews posted to Instagram recently.

made-to-stick-stories

But, there are important reminders, great examples, tips, and even exercises for helping you not just talk the talk about creating stories with your students, but jump in with them as they create memorable messages.

Here’s a quick rundown of the SUCCES model.

Simple = core idea+ compact (few words).  Think of proverbs like “waste not, want not” – rules of thumb that help guide individual decisions. Simple ideas aren’t dumbed down. They are made accessible.

Unexpected – Common sense is a waste of breath.Yet, we see it all the time, especially in employee communication. Think training manuals: “Try to defuse conflict…”  The idea has to be novel and break conventional wisdom. One of my favorite phrases from the book is: “Imagination is flight simulation for the mind.” Think about how true that is and how it brings existing schema together. But saying, imagination is practice is simple but it is not unexpected and not concrete.

Concrete – Make abstract ideas (e.g., statistics) concrete. Don’t simply tell, show by putting the person into the experience.

Credible – Your wisdom of communicator credibility gives you a start. But the book offers more than what typically comes to mind, such as spokespersons and influencers.

everything-is-awesome

Emotional – Emotions make people care.  As Josef Stalin once said, “One death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic.” Focus on individuals, they are easier to relate to. Interestingly, our overuse of certain terms deludes their emotional impact. The authors call this ‘semantic stretch.’ If everything is awesome, nothing is awesome (Sorry Emmet from the Lego movie). New phrases are sometimes needed to reboot  emotional connections.

Stories – Creating stories can be challenging. But, there are many inspiring stories all around us. Professional communicators often fail to see them. The book cites the Jared weight-loss story and the  “Subway diet” ad that made Jared a household name years ago. At the time, Subway had a competing ad campaign about the number of subs that were low in fat (stats). No one remembers that.  But the story of the “Subway diet” and Jared almost never saw the light of day were it not for a few persistent people. The book talks about effective plots and finding the story.

This book goes hand in hand with what we are working to help our students do. or, as the authors put it, get people to: Pay Attention, Understand and Remember, Believe and Agree, Care, and Act.

Using This Book In Your Teaching:

Students are more distracted than ever. You better bring the superglue to your classes.

Educators themselves, Heath and Heath provide several examples of how these ideas can apply to the classroom.  In fact, there is a section in the back specifically for teachers. Read this book to help you make your classes a bit stickier. It sure helped me.

Using This Book In Class:

There are many ways you could incorporate this text. It could be used in an intro course, a persuasion course, or any number of other courses where students will get to apply what they are learning in the book into class exercises or projects. I’m thinking about making it a required text in my Strategic Campaigns class next year. Ideally, I’d like to get these ideas into their hands earlier in their schooling.But, for me, the book just seems to fit best in that class. It’s going to be a fun addition and I think the students will really benefit.

While reading the book last semester, I would come into class and start talking about topics from the book like “Creating mystery.” I’d stand before my students as they worked on their campaign proposal pitches and talk about how they can build stronger hooks for their pitch. In creating campaign themes and slogans, we talked about SUCCES.  These were off-the-cuff. Next year, I plan to integrate specific ideas into the class and plan activities for students to apply concepts to deconstruct real world examples as well as build their own messaging.

I’ve also used reinforcement from this book in my professional work outside the classroom.

Whether you use this book in your classes directly, use it to reinforce what you already know or learn new ideas, apply it to your own professional communication, or use it ramp up the superglue in your classroom, I think you’ll find it a worthwhile read.

This is the best book I read last year. It’s a must read for communication professionals, professors, and students.

-Cheers!

Matt

Lego characters property of the Lego Group. Book logo property of Random House.

 

Book Review: Alone Together by Sherry Turkle

Alone Together Sherry Turkle book

 

Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle is not the sort of book I tend to review on this blog. I usually talk about books that you might find useful to integrate in university classes aimed at teaching about professional uses social media and related subject.

Alone Together, on the other hand, is a cautionary tale.

This year Alone Together is the Common Reading book here at Shepherd University. And, as a member of the committee, I had the chance to read it.

The book is a detailed review of years of Turkle’s research from her time exploring the early days of artificial intelligence as a graduate student at MIT up through contemporary times where smart phones, video games, and virtual worlds have become a conduit for our interactions with others.

The book can be divided into two parts: The first half explores the growing intrusion of of A.I. into our lives and its effect. Turkle takes exception to the dominant narrative that robots – from Furby’s intended as play pals for children to robotic pets designed to serve as companions for the elderly – are inherently positive. This is the “expect more from technology” part of the argument. Turkle asks why is it that we are wanting robotic pets instead of genuine friendships, or even pets? Why is it that many are hoping one day to have robots that can care for the elderly or serve as love interests?  And what’s the cost for both the individuals these technologies aim to serve and society as a whole? The book traces the progression towards humanizing technology, increasing expectations, and shifting attitudes towards accepting technology as capable of ‘thinking’ on towards capable of ‘feeling.’

The second half of the book is about ‘why we expect less from each other.’ This, of course, is tied to why we expect more from technology. A large part of this portion of the book is the various ways in which we are hoping that technology can serve to take away the pains, discomforts, or awkwardness of dealing with others. Break ups over text-message, Second Life romances with persons we’ve never seen or met offline, and using IM or dating websites to flirt, are all examples of this. Another theme is how we construct our identities and craft an image of ourselves through Facebook (or blogs such as this 🙂 ). A major theme that touched home to me, is streamlining and efficiency. For example, because we are so busy, it is more convenient to text or email to get things done. There’s no time to sit and chat – both parties are busy. We’ve got to get straight to the point. I admit, this is a behavior I am very guilty of. Efficiency and maximizing productivity are things I highly value. I often find it much more effective to email about work-related things.

With the rise of social media, and tools like Skype, there is such promise for connectivity. We can extend our senses across the world, as McLuhan stated. Yet, are we taking time to be with others? Or, are we blasting away messages into space, like Tweets that no one will read because we feel we need to have a consistent presence? But, the more we post the more content there is, and the greater the competition for the attention of those we want to reach.

It is an unknown place we are all rushing towards (And, I admit, that I took a detour once or twice while writing this blog post to check Facebook and Twitter).

It is fair to say that our society has become optimistically obsessed with technology. And, I am not exception to that. After all, this is a blog about technology and how we can 1) use it as a tool to teach our students, and 2) how our students should learn and understand it to advance their careers and, I hope, seek fulfillment in their careers.

In terms of the purpose of this blog:

We are wise to remind ourselves that just because we call something social media doesn’t mean that we are using it functionally for social purposes.

Turkle is skeptical of technological optimism. And, for that reason, I thank her for the opportunity to put my own relationship in technology on review.

Have I been using social media socially? Or, have I been using it as a broadcast platform? Is it bringing me connections, enrichment, and the opportunity to help others, enrich others, and build lasting relationships? (A recent article, explored that social relationships are and always will be a major predictor of happiness and well-being. Turkle’s work is cited in the article).

We talk a lot about ‘engagement’ on social media as a key metric. But, what are we measuring when we measure engagement? Are they simply behaviors or lasting emotional connections and relationships?

If you’re interested in a journey exploring our complex relationship with technology, this book is a worthwhile read. I believe we can only gain by exploring and reflecting on our own relationships and biases about technology.

Book Review: Return on Influence by Mark Schaefer

I’ve read several of  Mark Schaefer’s books  – Born to Blog (see my review) and Toa of Twitter. And I’ve loved them all. Return on Influence is no different.

I considered Return on Influence for my fall 2015 social media class. But ultimately decided not to use it because I had 2 other great books I wanted to use: Likeable Social Media and Your Brand: The Next Media Company (Thanks to Karen Freberg for bringing Your Brand to my attention). Still, I think it is a great read and recommend it for a class. In fact, two of my students have read this book and both highly enjoyed it. There’s a high chance I will be implementing the book next Fall.

ROI

A Quick Summary of ROI

In ROI, Schaefer explores the notion of the citizen influencer and how social media has empowered everyday citizens. While we’re all familiar with this concept, the book explores the concept of influence with an aim to help one understand why we’re influenced, the type of person who influences us, and how influencers can be identified and leveraged.

Schaefer does the reader a solid by reviewing Robert Cialdini’s seminal work on the subject of influence, Influence: Science and Practice (Cialdini’s book was a favorite of mine in college. I highly recommend it). Specifically, Schaefer explores authority, likeability, consistency and scarcity, as well as social proof and reciprocity. He relays how these concepts relate to “your personal power and influence” online.

Towards the middle, Schaefer delves into the controversial industry of influence scoring, focusing primarily on Klout. He looks at the spark behind the company and provides a history of how the company came to be. Klout was an idea that few believed in when it was conceived.

Klout helped usher in a new era of influence marketing – the primary focus of the book. While influence marketing grew up with Jell-O and Tupperware, quick, easy, accessible social scoring by Klout and its competitors have proven a game changer. From TV shows to cars – the author provides several cases of companies harnessing Klout to identify influencers in a specific market niche, build relationships, and drive desired outcomes. Best practices are discussed. There are some very creative examples here and Schaefer helps the reader see just how powerful citizen influencers can be.

Of course, we’re all wondering – how do I raise my Klout score? Schaefer explores factors that influence Klout scores, those that try to game the system, how the system has evolved in response, and the pros and criticisms of how Klout scores are ranked.

In fact, a healthy portion of the book is dedicated to exploring criticisms and shortfalls with social scoring. After all, social scoring is still very new. The book ends with an exploration of the future of social scoring and some sobering thoughts on potential societal impacts of social scoring, asking whether such a system merely perpetuates of ‘rich get richer’ mentality.

Are we but the total of our Klout score? And if we are, is that a good thing?

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A Few Thoughts on Using this Text in the Classroom

While buzz around Klout and other social scoring services seems to have died down a bit, there is much to learn from Return on Influence. Whether our students go on to use Klout scores to identify influencers or not, they stand to benefit from understanding the vital role of influencers in diffusing innovations on today’s social web.

If you participate in the Hootsuite University program, you can teach students to search Hootsuite by Klout score. Reading this text would greatly enhance their understanding of how Klout works.

As my students know, I’m a Paul Lazarsfeld fan! I discuss the notion of opinion leaders and the two-step (multi-step) flow of communication in my more introductory courses. I discuss diffusion in my social media class. And my campaigns students identify key influencers as part of their projects. As such, ROI is a natural extension of this part of their education, bridging tho idea of opinion leaders with the social web. In fact, I’ve discussed online influence and social scoring in my social media class. But students have expressed that they struggle with this concept. In this way, the text would add a great deal of value.

Lastly, throughout the book, a number of other familiar topics such as social capital and the strength of weak ties are discussed that may help students gain a better grasp on these subjects. I believe these important concepts of social networks are foundational knowledge in a social media class.

Taken together, Return on Influence is a great read for anyone wanting to learn more about the world of social scoring and its role in influence marketing today.

What are your thoughts on Klout and social scoring?

-Cheers!

Matt

Why Do Academics Blog? Mysteries of 21st century academia!

Hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving break!

A recent article published in Studies in Higher Education asks: Why do academics blog?

Hmm. I guess it seemed obvious. Why does anyone blog? Fame, fortune…? Then I got thinking. Yeah, why do academics blog?

Of course, as an academic and a blogger, I had to read the article. It is titled: “Why do Academics Blog? An Analysis of Audiences, Purposes, and Challenges.

Articles such as Why Academics Should Blog by McGuire at Huffington Post, say that people should blog for a number of reasons as “the point of academia is to expand knowledge,” and the hard to accept but admittedly true: “because some of your ideas are dumb.”

Of course, there are other reasons too, like promoting your ideas and that your blog is part of / and builds your reputation. The authors of the research article wonder if this is in fact true – why do academics blog? By investigating 100 academic blogs  via content analysis , the authors produce an interesting look inside the real reasons why academics blog.

This got me thinking about why I blog.

Why do I blog?

When I created this blog, I spent lots of time working on who I was writing for, and how I wanted to name my blog. I attempted to articulate that in my “About this blog” page. I’ll summarize:

Social media education is a new and emerging field. I want to be a part of that conversation.

To expand:

I teach social media. I have a vested interest in growing with the field. To be great at my job, I need to grow, change, adapt. I need to constantly learn. So, I want to learn and reflect on what I learn.  But I believe I can also help the field grow. I want to share my knowledge.  Maybe by talking about my experience, I can help other educators, or get people thinking about social media education. And too, I want to meet others with similar interests and goals.

How has a Blog has been helpful to me?

Oh, this list could go on and on. So here are a quick few:

  • I’ve met great professors who are great people – before I blogged, I was on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. And I’d connected with some folks. It wasn’t until I began blogging that I really began having meaningful conversations with other academics. As I shared my knowledge, experience, and areas of interests, an amazing thing happened! Other people have learned about me, who I am, and what I have to say and what I am hoping to learn. Doesn’t that make it easier to connect and build relationships?
  • I’ve been asked to participate in events – from research to Google+ Hangouts, new opportunities to grow, learn, and enhance in the field have been presented to me by awesome people I never would have met (see item above).
  • It has given me a chance to reflect – I’m the sort of person who learns by talking things through or teaching them to others. 
  • It has helped me grow my other social media – I believe that when people see you have a blog, they see that you are participating in the social media conversation at a deeper level, and thus are more likely to follow and engage you on sites like Twitter. I’m not sure if the blog signifies a level of credibility, or that they anticipate gaining more from you because you have a blog. But, I have certainly been much more interactive with folks on social media. And if # of followers on Twitter is important to you – those metrics have grown significantly!
  • It has given me a chance to help others – and I love to help others! I’ve seen a lot of folks looking over my syllabi and assignments, and it makes me feel great that something I have done may inspire them in what they teach!
  • My own place to share my research – I first created a professional website when I was in grad school using Sharepoint. I then moved to WordPress, but the page was static. Having a blog is so much more dynamic, but I still use by blog to post my CV, research, and so forth. I’m always excited when I see people looking over my research or searching my research on Google and finding my site.

I hope you enjoy the research article!

Why do you blog? How has blogging opened opportunities for you? Are you thinking about blogging but haven’t started?

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

– Cheers!
Matt

photo – creative commons, opensourceway

Blog Better with Born to Blog by Schaefer and Smith (Book Review)

I owe this blog to the book Born to Blog: Building Your Blog for Personal and Business Success One Post at a Time by Mark W. Schaefer and Stanford A. Smith.

For some time before starting Social Media Syllabus, I’d thought about blogging again the way I think about getting back in shape to play lacrosse again or making homemade bread like Kelin and I used to – as a distant and improbable ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ scenario. I had started a blog briefly in graduate school, but being too busy, I shut it down. And honestly, my first blog lacked focus and intent. I hadn’t really thought through who I was writing to and why they should read my blog. I just wanted to blog and so I began. Needless to say, it didn’t go anywhere. Isn’t that the case with so many blogs?

So when I got my hands on Born to Blog after first hearing about Schaefer’s Tao of Twitter, I was excited and anxious. Clearly I wasn’t “born to blog,” I thought, reflecting on my first blogging failure. So I wasn’t really planning on starting a blog again. But a few chapters later I found myself plotting out Social Media Syllabus and telling myself, ‘this time it will be different.’

The book Born to Blog offers readers 3 important things:

  1. The “how to” and motivation to become a successful blogger
  2. A clear understanding of the value of blogging
  3. A roadmap for planning, launching, and maintaining a successful blog.

The first part of the book focuses on motivating the reader and explaining what it takes to become a successful blogger, emphasizing the 5 common types of bloggers: dreaming, storytelling, persuading, teaching, and curating.

Readers are encouraged to determine what type of blogger they are and to harness their strengths to be themselves (not surprisingly, I found myself to fit the ‘teaching’ type). The writing style makes the book approachable and friendly. The reader can tell that the authors want to help, want you to be successful, and want you to not only have the knowledge to succeed but feel that you are capable of succeeding at blogging. The authors offer a number of great examples of brave bloggers sharing their story as well as their own personal anecdotes. This book is not filled with hype or promises that your blog will be successful. There are many out there selling snake oil in the social space.   There are no illusions or “get rich quick” schemes. The plan the authors put forward clearly requires a great deal of work and commitment on your behalf. Mark and Stanford are clear that blogging is a marathon, not a sprint, telling the reader they will need tenacity and encouraging them to “not give up.”

Secondly, the authors concisely explain the value of blogging for a business in clear terms. The focus of the book is primarily on the use of blogging as a tool for business, a la content marketing. (There is a brief section in the back on personal blogging that I wish was placed earlier in the book).  In this section, the authors tackle many of the common questions or concerns that companies face from “How often should we blog?” to the possibility of negative comments, or maybe worse no comments at all!, to potential legal issues

While the book isn’t quite as in-depth in terms of offering advice on how to create a content plan and calendar as Content Rules, it offers a great overview and enough to get you started. The authors do a strong job in the middle section of the book tackling important issues surrounding finding and nurturing blog contributors, developing a content plan, uncovering valuable content within your own company your readers want, and more. Readers should keep in mind that this is a shorter book tackling blogging specifically. I would recommend Content Rules, a book we’ll be using in my Writing Across Platforms class, as a supplement to this book.

I appreciate the emphasis on the theme in this book that blogging is a journey of personal growth. As bloggers, the authors remind us that we cannot expect to be perfect. We are constantly growing, learning, and hopefully improving. I have used Born to Blog as a guide and have turned to the book on many occasions for help with questions I’ve had along the way.

if you’re looking to get into blogging or improving an existing blog, whether personally or for a business, I highly recommend this book. I plan on using it for my social media class this upcoming fall (see social media syllabus. You can also learn more about the class) as the text for our class semester-long blogging assignment. I hope the students will find it as approachable, motivating, and informative as I have!

Do you have any great books you recommend for bloggers? If you’ve read Born to Blog, what did you think?

If you enjoyed this post, please share. Cheers!

– Matt