Book Review: Social Media Marketing For Dummies

A few weeks ago, I received a request to review Social Media Marketing For Dummies (affiliate link) from a publicist at publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc. To be honest I was dubious about the book, but name of the author – Shiv Singh, Vice President and Global Social Media Lead at Razorfish – caught my eye, so I agreed to take a look.

Social Media Marketing For DummiesBottom line up front: I was pleasantly surprised. How surprised? Well, my copy is now dog-eared and I made plenty of notes as I went through – something I didn’t expect to do.

The Good

  • Excellent overview: Singh presents an excellent overview of influencer theory, key social media trends and integrating social media marketing (or social influencer marketing, as Singh repeatedly calls it) into the marketing funnel.
  • Strong on integration: One of my sticking points in general is the integration of traditional and new media tactics. Throughout, Singh goes to pains to hammer on the importance of integrating the various marketing disciplines to ensure success. His points around integrating social media into the corporate website ring especially true to me.
  • Good principles: Social Media Marketing For Dummies outlines four “rules for the game”:
    • Be authentic
    • Operate on a quid pro quo basis – give back to customers
    • Give participants equal status
    • Let go of the campaign – participants will control much of your program
  • Simple, practical tips: One of the hallmarks of the “For Dummies” series, Singh’s text is chock full of useful pointers.
  • Pragmatic on measurement: While the section on measurement itself is brief and somewhat vague (but hey, there are entire books on measurement so what do you expect), I enjoyed Singh’s perspective – that while measuring social media itself is pretty easy, tying it to business objectives can be the real challenge. Still, there are plenty of general tips and pointers to useful tools.
  • Well targeted: While I’ve mentioned the entry-level targeting of some books as a negative in previous reviews, it’s largely because I had expected them to be slightly more advanced. When it comes to a “For Dummies” book you should know what you’re getting, and in this case you do. One note, however: while the book does cover social media marketing from several perspectives, it is primarily written from an advertising perspective.
  • Easy to read: From start to finish, Social Media Marketing For Dummies is an easy read. Written in plain language and well structured, it’s a book you can speed through from start to finish, or consume in easy-to-digest sections depending on your need.

The Not So Good

  • Already out-of-date in parts: One of the problems with providing such specific tips is that some will become out-of-date quickly. The YouTube tips, for example, state that videos on the site are limited to five minutes in length and 100Mb in size, whereas the limit was raised from 1Gb to 2Gb this July.
  • Occasionally weak case studies: People familiar with the social media scene may be puzzled by some of the choices for case studies. The much maligned Skittles website, for example, is cited as a good example of a brand engaging in social media, while other examples are declared successes with little supporting rationale.
  • Weak on public relations: While Singh does tip his hat to the public relations profession (with some complimentary words), the section on PR is brief, with no discussion of the potential for PR to play a leading role when it comes to social media.

The Takeaways

Singh leads the reader through a simple, logical flow:

  1. Getting social with your marketing – big-picture basics including fundamentals in influence marketing, the marketing funnel and social media principles.
  2. Practicing SIM in the social web – preparatory steps such as developing your firm’s social media voice, identifying influencers and reaching people through the major social networks.
  3. Old marketing is new again with SIM – how to work traditional marketing tactics, including your web presence, advertising, mobile and employee communications, into your social media efforts

The book is well summarized by one of the last chapters, which outlines ten best practices to follow in social media:

  1. Open up your brand to your consumers, and let them evolve it
  2. Develop a [social media] voice without silencing other voices that support your brand
  3. Respond to everything, even if it means you’re up all night
  4. Think beyond the obvious and use [social media] to evolve your business
  5. Focus not just on social media but on social influencers
  6. Structure your marketing department for this social world
  7. Take your organization with you, from the CEO to the field representative
  8. Conduct many small tests frequently and build on each one
  9. Capture every single piece of data that you can
  10. Make mistakes, but make every effort to correct them as well

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, I was very surprised by Social Media Marketing For Dummies. While this book has its flaws – an overly strong focus on advertising and weak case studies among them – and it’s clearly focused on an entry level, I still found it to be a rewarding read. I took way more away from reading the book than I expected – especially when it came to marketing-focused online tools. I would recommend Social Media Marketing For Dummies to any marketers who are new to the space and looking for practical tips rather than the theoretical overview provided by most other books.