Category Archives: Book Reviews

Social Media Book Reviews Galore!

Below you’ll find every social media book I’ve ever reviewed on this blog going back to 2013! Woah, that’s a long time ago!

Portfolio building activities in social media: Exercises in strategic communication By Karen Freberg (Book Review)

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

Review of Portfolio building activities in social media: Exercises in strategic communication By Karen Freberg

Last summer, Dr. Karen Freberg [Twitter | LinkedIn] published her social media textbook, Social media for strategic communication: Creative strategies and research-based applications, to great fanfare.

Since then, her textbook has skyrocketed up the Amazon charts for social media textbook best sellers. The buzz generated has been well-earned as Karen has been more than an inspiration for those of us teaching in the social media space. She has been a leader, advocated, and supporter to so many of us, including myself.

Indeed, the book has already received so many rave reviews, including a shout out by @PerezHilton:

https://twitter.com/kfreberg/status/1115289755955150850

So I want to do something different. In this post, I’m going to review the workbook that accompanies Karen’s textbook. That workbook is titled Portfolio building activities in social media: Exercises in strategic communication. The workbook is meant to go along with the textbook, but it also can stand alone as a series of assignments that professors can use in social media classes or in classes where a social media assignment is desired.

Portfolio Building Activities in Social Media by Karen Freberg

How is Portfolio Building Activities in Social Media by Freberg Structured?

The workbook is organized into 13 brief chapters, with each chapter providing a series of activities or assignments that professors can use in class. The chapters range from ethics and legal issues in social media (Chapter 2), to social media monitoring, listening, and analysis (Chapter 5), to social media writing (Chapter 7), to paid media, budgets, and campaign evaluation (Chapter 10).

Chapters 11 and 12 offer dives into social media specialties such as sports, non-profits, and global social media. And chapter 13 looks into the future of social media.

How are the Chapters in Portfolio Building Activities in Social Media by Freberg Organized?

Each chapter is a compilation of related assignments. The assignments are detailed and to the point. For example, in Chapter 3, which is about personal and professional branding, the first assignment offers a brief rationale for the assignment, discussing why personal branding is important. The assignment asks students to write a reflection paper both examining their personal branding goals and analyzing their current online persona. In a follow up assignment, students are asked to build out their personal brand. As I’ve blogged about before, I was inspired by Karen’s first book to build a personal branding assignment for my students. Thus, I was glad to see that Chapter 3 of her new workbook builds upon that assignment! I’ll definitely be using this updated assignment in the workbook to modify my personal branding assignment. I personally really liked the table Karen provides on page 13 of many social media certifications that students can complete and the way this tool can be used to help students decide which certifications are right for them.

Chapter 4 reminds me of a thorough enhancement to an informal activity that I do with students in my social media class. An assignment in that chapter asks students to identify several job positions presently available in social media and guides students through a process of evaluating those positions. The students are then coached into reaching out and networking with professionals working in these positions.

Later chapters get into analysis of social media campaigns as well as analysis of the appropriateness of different social media platforms for a given set of goals. There are great strategic planning assignments in Chapter 6.

But, what I find particularly impressive with this text, is he way that Karen so successfully provides assignments for both the broad, strategic elements that students need to learn to the detail of content creation topics like writing and style (Chapter 7) and curation (Chapter 9), to the audience targeting, and analysis skills students need to develop (Chapter 8), to the evaluative measurement (Chapter 10) skills necessary in today’s results-driven world.

Should You Read Portfolio Building Activities in Social Media by Freberg?

The workbook is chalk full of great assignments. It really makes me wish I had more than 3 credit hours to work with to teach a social media class, or that I had a second social media class, because there are so many great assignments in here that I wish I could squeeze into my current social media class. If you’re like me, and your class is pretty full, you could still benefit from this book by using the assignments to enhance your own assignments. I will definitely be doing that.

It is truly impressive to see in this workbook the way Karen distills her breadth of knowledge about social media into actionable assignments that are detailed, all-encompassing, and easy to convey to students.

And there’s one last thing that I thought was really cool about this book worth mentioning – actually, it was one of the first things I noticed and loved when I started reading through this workbook: The workbook contains perforated pages. This way your students can rip the assignment to work on. I love it!

In short, if you haven’t checked out Portfolio building activities in social media: Exercises in strategic communication by Dr. Karen Freberg, and you teach social media in any capacity, I strongly encourage you to do so. It’s a quick read – just about every page from cover to cover is an assignment that you can readily incorporate into your classes. Of course, the accompanying textbook itself is marvelous and I recommend checking that out as well. But, even if you already have another textbook that you use in your classes, you cannot go wrong to explore this workbook as ancillary material.

Congrats, Karen!

– Cheers!
Matt

Reviews of Two Resources Often Discussed on this Blog Published in JPRE: Social Media Campaigns Text and Meltwater Software

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

The semester is right around the corner! Classes start for us next week.

I had an amazing and very busy summer with travel to 3 continents: Europe, Australia and South America. In addition, it was so great to see many great friends and people whom I truly admire at AEJMC in Washington , D.C. I cannot truly express the depth of the admiration I have for all of the people who’ve worked so hard to advance the field and who’ve truly made AEJMC PRD such an amazing  educational opportunity. I left AEJMC inspired. I just wish I had more time to chat with everyone.

I recently had the opportunity to write and have published 2 reviews for the Journal of Public Relations Education.  Each review explored resources that I have discussed on this blog. So I thought I would share my reviews in case they are able to help readers get more information about either resource.

Book Review

The first review was of Dr. Carolyn Mae Kim’s social media text: Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing.

You can read the review below or see the review on the JPRE website.

Here is a separate review I wrote of Kim’s book for this blog.

Software Review

The second review I wrote was of the Meltwater Social Intelligence Software.

You can read the review below or see the review on the JPRE website.

If you’d like to see more about what I’ve written about Meltwater on this blog, here are 2 posts I recommend. First, here’s how I used Meltwater last fall in my social media class. Second, this post discusses an assignment that uses Meltwater to pull down data.

I want to thank the editors and staff of the Journal of Public Relations Education for the opportunity to write these reviews and for all of the hard work that went into editing and publishing them. It is an honor for me to have these two reviews published in the journal.

I hope everyone’s semester is off to a great start. I hope you are feeling energized for the academic year ahead. This past summer, I took a bit of a (much-needed) break. I’m energized to be back and look forward to learning from everyone this year!

– Cheers!

Matt

 

 

A Roadmap for Teaching Social Media by Karen Freberg (Book Review)

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

As many readers of this blog know, I’m a major fan of Dr. Karen Freberg and her leadership and work in the field of social media education.

Last year, Dr. Freberg published A Roadmap for Teaching Social Media: All the assignments, rubrics, and feedback you’ll need to present a strategic social media course. So, of course, when this book came out, I had to get my hands on it.

This book is unlike any other book in the social media space that I know of presently. It is not a book that you assign to your students to learn about social media. It is a one-stop guide for professors with just about everything you would need to know to build a social media class from the ground up. And it is awesome.

Freberg covers key considerations that I’ll break down into 2 parts. The first part of the book deals primarily with publicity and public interaction surrounding your class, and the second half of the book focuses on assignments and rubrics that you can use in the class.

In the first part of the book, Dr. Freberg reminds us: “First, build self-confidence and project that you KNOW what you are doing. If you walk into the class with any self-doubts, the students will be able to read that in a hearbeat” (p. 11).

I like how Dr. Freberg gets the reader thinking of the important but often overlooked consideration of branding your class. After all, if you’re teaching a social media class, your students may be engaging with the public online. She touches on tips for building a hashtag for your classes (something I’ve honestly not done a good job of remaining consistent at) to foster interaction between yourself, your students, and thought leaders. Even if you have your social media class built and feel you don’t need any additional tips or assignments to enhance it, the book is valuable for the wider lessons in here for personal branding for professors. That is, in branding your class, you are branding yourself as a professor. And doing so can open many opportunities for you (e.g., networking opportunities, requests to speak, etc) as well your students (e.g., guest lecturers). There are also great time management tips that will help any professor dealing with the flood of information and the rapid pace of change that social media professors deal with on a day to bay basis. This section of the book then goes on to discuss social media etiquette for students and tips for inviting and working with guest lecturers.

In the latter half of the book, Dr. Freberg provides an in depth look at several valuable assignments that you can incorporate into your social media class. This includes an online reputation assignment, a social media strategy assignment, and more. A sample social media class syllabus is provided as well. The assignments include detailed explanations, instructions and rubrics.

There is much in this book that I found useful and am in the process of putting into practice. For example, I adopted the assignment and tips on personal branding from this book for my public relations principles class. I want to get my students thinking about personal branding early on, and this book and a panel I attended last fall at the PRSA Educators Academy Super Saturday inspired me to take the leap.

Altogether, a big congratulations and thanks to Dr. Freberg for creating this helpful resource.

I hope you found this post helpful. If you did, please share it. It means a lot.

-Cheers!

Matt

How You Are Influenced By People You Don’t Know, Backed by Science (Book Review)

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

Review of Connected: How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do by Christakis & Fowler

We’ve all heard of six degrees of separation. The idea, proven through the research of Stanley Milgram, is that any one person is connected to another through 6 or less other individuals.  (If you’d like to see this idea in action, play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon where you can find if any actor is connected to Mr. Bacon through 6 degrees or less). But to how many degrees of separation does one person influence others?  Here’s a hint. It’s not 6.

connected-book

As educators in the social media space, we talk to our students about online influence and the great powers that thought leaders can have to diffuse ideas or realize the adoption of those ideas among social networks. But, while important, talking this way is in a sense, shortsighted.

We know that ideas spread not simply in a two-step flow, a la Paul Lazarsfeld’s groundbreaking research (way before Facebook!), but through a multi-step flow (or, later, diffusion of innovations) through a network of connected individuals.

The book Connected: How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do by Christakis & Fowler is a fascinating exploration of the role of social networks in the spread of everything from happiness, to perceived value in the marketplace, to sexually transmitted diseases, to my favorite example: la ola (the wave) at sports games.

But it is not simply ideas or diseases that spread. Who we are connected to has many subtle yet powerful influences on our lives: from who we marry, to how quickly we solve problems, to whether or not we’ll vote, to why we would act altruistically at the expense of ourselves, to why men benefit more from a marriage than women, to much, much more. And that is the central thesis to the book. While we like to think of ourselves as independent and autonomous, Christakis & Fowler take a sledgehammer to that notion. We are, as the authors put it, Homo dictyous (“network man”).

Reason to Read Connected by Christakis & Folwer: An Interest in Social Networks

Interest in social network analysis is on the rise in communication scholarship. Recent years have witnessed a growth in the analysis of large data sets of social media data (e.g., big data) to understand connections and the spread of ideas. As I’ve said before on this blog, this is an area I personally need to delve deeper into. And, I believe that’s true for all of us aiming to teach our students to thrive in the social media economy. Strategic insights can be gained by understanding social networks and we’re seeing a greater emphasis on that both in research and in professional applications.

Should You and Your students read Connected?

The book is a thorough and accessible look at social network theories and research. While this isn’t a ‘must read book’ like Made to Stick, I would suggest this book to anyone as we all live in a networked world. The book has given me a much greater appreciation for my place within the different social networks I’m apart of. It’s been one of my favorite reads of late. and I absolutely recommend it. Educators and scholars interested in a deeper appreciation for social networks would enjoy and truly benefit from reading this booth.

Should students read this book? This is a very readable, incredibly informative and sometimes humorous read that I believe students would enjoy. I would love to have my students read this book. However, I likely won’t use the book in my classes – at least for the classes I currently teach – simply because there are too many other books I want my students to read. But, this book would be great for any class specifically about social networks and more broadly for theory classes. It would be a great read to add to a data analytic course exploring online social networks.

Though the book is primarily about offline social networks with a chapter dedicated to online networks, Connected could be used as a suggested or supplementary reading in a social media class if the professor wants sufficient time or depth given to social networks (see my lecture and activity on social networks for my Social Media class).

Connected and the Three Degrees of Influence

So back to our initial question. While we all may be connected by about three degrees of separation, through how many degrees does one have influence on another? The authors’ research indicates that influence generally travels three degrees. They state: “Everything we do or say tends to ripple through our network, having an impact on friends (one degree,” our friends’ friends (two degrees), and even our friends’ friends’ friends (three degrees)…. Likewise, we are influenced by friends within three degrees but generally not by those beyond” (p. 28).

Which begs the question: How are you influencing your friends’ friends’ friends?

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

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

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)

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

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

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

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 Sherry Turkle book

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.

Social Media Book Review: Jab Jab Jab Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuck

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

Jab Jab Jab Right Hook Book Review

Finding great social media books to use as texts in a social media class can be a challenge. The space is constantly changing and there is so much we need to teach our students.

Personally, I’m always looking. That’s why this summer I read Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuck. Here are 2 areas where the book excels.

jab jab jab right hook vaynerchuck

1) Emphasis on the “jab”

The jab in this case is your social content that does not aim to sell or promote a product. It is the content that builds the relationship with the audience. The basic premise of this book is that in order to hit your customer with a “right hook” to knock them down (i.e., get them to buy), you have to set them up with a lot of little jabs. It is these jabs – pieces of content that are native to the platform and speaks to the interests of your followers – that get them to pay attention to you. Gary’s argument, then, is that the reason most people get social media wrong is because they try to advertise on social media. Since everyone hates being advertised to, people don’t pay attention. In other words, most people try to take old approaches from other mediums and apply them to social media.

If, on the other hand, organizations provided value to their followers – via jabs – then their followers wouldn’t mind a little sales or promotional message – right hook – every once in a while.

This is an important lesson we are all seeking to teach our students. I’ve often spoken about things like the “80 20” rule. The boxing analogy makes it tangible for the reader – and I think students will easily relate to this.

So the question becomes, how do you create great jabs that customers are happy to take on the chin? It is this question that the book seeks to address. Vaynerchuck addresses this question with chapters on various social media channels with primary focus on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

2) Mini “Case Study” Examples

At the end of each chapter is a long list of specific social media posts from various companies, big and small.  Gary deconstructs each social media posting, which is published in full color so you can see it how it would be on the screen. He explains the pros and cons of the post for that social platform. Also, he provides specific insights on how to improve the post. These detailed examples are great for anyone learning how to create better content. The advice is actionable and supporting reasoning is provided. I learned some great pointers from these sections of the book that I had not considered before. And I believe it has helped me create stronger content for myself. And, I’ve incorporated a few of his points into my lecture.

These examples along make the book worth a read. They have a great potential to help students learn how to make better content. In other social media books I’ve read or browsed, I have found a dearth of specific, clear, helpful examples to support what the author is seeking to teach. This is where Gary really adds value to the reader. He takes the time to get into specifics on post after post so that the reader isn’t left with just sweeping claims of what to do.

Most students understand how to make social content – since they create it and are around it all of the time. But my experience is that it can be very difficult to teach students how to make better content. I love this book for this reason!

The Verdict: Would I Use This Book In My Social Media Class?

In short, Yes. However, I didn’t adopt the book this semester. The biggest reason is that the due date for submitting our fall readings was during spring semester. I’ve always hated that policy though I understand the need for that much lead time. But, it tends to stifle my ability to find something new that I love and add it (When I’ve tried to throw a book on the syllabus as a required reading that wasn’t available in the bookstore in the past, students have not been too happy). So I added this book as a recommended read on my syllabus.

Of note, Gary has a “I’m not going to sugar coat it for you” style that is a part of his brand.  I mention this because it may not appeal to all readers. But, I can see a lot of students finding this style appealing as opposed to the more staid writing styles that prevail in most texts that make their way into the classroom.

I would not use this book as a standalone. It doesn’t offer a lot in the areas of analytics, for example. It is a book on how to create content – as the title suggests. So, I would suggest coupling it with other books and readings. In short, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is a useful addition for its emphasis on the hows of creating great content and why the advice provided is effective. It is a worthwhile read for both students, professors, and practitioners.

Books I currently use in my Social Media class:

  1. Likeable Social Media by Kerpen – this is a book I have used for several semesters and love. (there is an update version that I have not yet had time to read – the one linked here – that students have told me they really are enjoying).
  2. Your Brand, The Next Media Company by Brito  – this book is a little more challenging of a read for some students. But it is a great book and my second time using it.

What books do you use for your social media class? I’d love to know!

Book Review: Return on Influence by Mark Schaefer

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

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?

0830-klout

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

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

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

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