Book Review: The Zen of Social Media Marketing

By Shama Hyder Kaban

The title of “The Zen of Social Media Marketing” suggests that it is a philosophical approach to social media and marketing, but it’s title is misleading. While it may be thin on philosophy and introspection, it is a decent beginners “how-to” book that teaches readers about successful online social media strategies and ways to leverage social media tools for any size business.

It provides insight into how and why social media works; how it’s used to drive traffic to your website; guidelines for using Twitter, FaceBook and Linkedin; suggests tips for how to save time and energy while implementing a social media marketing plan; and provides insights on leaders in online marketing and entrepreneurs.

The book is an easy read because it uses non technical language. It’s best suited for people who are are looking for a general idea about social media marketing and how to get started.  For those who are more advance and are already familiar with various tools and platforms, it might be a waste of time. This book didn’t take long to read and was not as detailed as I would have liked it to be.

The book was written by Shama Hyder Kaban, a young entrepreneur who started her online full-service web agency right out of grad school with very little resources.  According to her website, 100% of her client relationships were the results of online efforts.

Perhaps the most useful way to describe her book is to break it down into a simple outline with the key information from each section:

Chapter 1
Talks about Online Marketing Basics and how traditional marketing has evolved over the years–where TV, radio and print are “one way street” marketing.  Kaban compares traditional marketing to today’s tools–where the audience are more engaged and informed.  She points describes the intersection of TV and tools like FaceBook and Twitter.

One take way from this chapter is the Framework for Marketing online (ACT):
A = Attract (Get attention or stand out. Bring traffic to site)
1.  Your brand – summed up in one sentence
2.  Outcome – Sum it up in one line
3.  Simple – Help your clients make more money
4.  Differentiator- What makes you different from your competitors?

C = Convert, convert people into consumers and customers.
1.  Consumption of Valuable Content + Time = Client. The more qualified the buyer, the fewer the returns.
2.  Best conversion tool, you website. FB, Twitter, Blogs can’t act as substitutes. You don’t own your social media profiles and contact list. You can convey only so much information on your profile with social media outlets. Keep in mind, social media is not a selling tool! It is an attracting tool.

T = Transform, social proof is the theory that we are more likely to do something when we see others doing it.
1.   If your service or product doesn’t deliver, you are out of luck.
2.  Tell a story. This involves telling your customers’ story—the story of what they achieved through your service or product.

Chapter 2
Talks about websites, blogs, and Search Engine Optimiztion
It starts off with explaining why a website is important and how it’s the online equivalent of your office. People expect that your website will match their perception of your business, and that it will serve to educate, market and sell (described as “EMS Theory”). It also makes a point that blogs are websites but websites are not necessarily blogs–and describes how the functions of each can be mutually beneficial.

Chapter 3
Talks about social media marketing and why it’s a good idea. Kaban lays out three strengths of Social Media Marketing:
1. Social media sites are where the people are.
2. Trust in advertising is eroding. We trust our friends more than we trust what TV is telling us.
3. Social communities are breeding grounds for interaction.

Chapters 4-6
These chapters go in depth about the leading tools for social media marketing, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Kaban makes a compelling case for why companies should use these tools. For example, she lays out the case that Facebook has more than 500 million active users and constantly growing. She shows how to navigate through Facebook and what each part does (profile, groups, pages/fan and events). The chapters about Twitter and LinkedIn follow the same format, and will provide novice readers will a good overview of how the tools can be leveraged for connecting with the public.

Chapter 7
Kaban suggests that it is a good idea to incorporate video into your website because it is the fastest growing Social Media sector. A significant portion of what people seek online is video based content, and with the success and penetration of websites like YouTube, video has become an essential tool.

Chapter 8
Kaban makes a very strong case for Creating a Social Media Policy before getting too far along. She says that it is important to “strategize first”, and that before you create a single profile, you should map out your overall strategy. What will you use to attract? What will you use to convert? What will you use to transform? Social media marketing is a long-term strategy; be patient and you will see results.

Chapter 9
The last chapter provides a decent summary of the whole book — and continues to make the case for using social media tools to attract more business, and connect will more users. Kaban makes the obvious point that behind every Twitter name or Facebook profile is a real person. The goal is to connect with that person.

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Book Review: The Long Tail, Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More

Reading this book reminded me a lot of reading Paul Graham’s article “The Other Road Ahead.”  Both pieces are a bit on the older side, but posit theories and observe and report on trends that have become essential to today’s internet landscape. In Graham’s piece it was the rise of cloud computing and SAAS, for Chris Anderson it’s the demise of the hit.

Anderson is best known as the Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine. In his role as tech reporter and trendspotter he noticed a certain fracturing in the modern market and the rise of specialty items and niche entertainment choices. As the cost of creating, storing, and distributing content has reached nearly zero there has been an explosion of available products. But what’s more interesting is that the demand for these products is also exploding.

In the October 2004 issue he published an article called “The Long Tail” which was developed into this book (of the same name). It was first published in 2006 and updated in 2008.

The crux of the book is best demonstrated in these three graphs:

They are a bit hard to read at this scale (click through for a slightly better size), but essentially they demonstrate three things:

  1. While the greatest demand (here measured in play-count on the music subscription streaming service Rhapsody) is for a relatively small number of products, there is still some demand for even the least popular product–the tail never reaches zero.
  2. Online retailers can offer infinitely more products than physical stores (as there is nearly no additional cost to take on niche products in addition to the bestsellers.)
  3. Online services are making real money by offering products that are impossible to carry in brick-and-mortar stores. (In Amazon’s case in this graphic, 57% of their sales are from products that are are beyond the scope of the average Barnes and Noble.)

The demand for niche products and the disparity between online and physical stores is only growing, there is huge potential to grow a business on the idea of “selling less of more”. The majority of Anderson’s examples are entertainment products, but he also notes identical patterns in services such as Google (“the Long Tail of advertising”), eBay (“the Long Tail of products and merchants”) and Wikipedia (“the Long Tail of knowledge”).

One of the most valuable chapters outlines “the secret to creating a thriving Long Tail business:

  1. Make everything available.
  2. Help me find it.”

Later in the book, Anderson puts particular emphasis on the power of a service’s recommendation engine, it’s not enough to just offer every conceivable thing, you have to guide your users “down the tail” and help them discover the niche content that is precisely relevant to their interests.

In the epilogue, he gives the perfect nutshell of the theory: “(A) if you can dramatically lower the cost of production and distribution, you can offer far more variety; (B) given more variety, and the tools to easily organize it for individual taste, people will increasingly revel in their differences rather than settling for their commonalities as in traditional blockbuster culture.”

Anderson is a gifted writer first and foremost–the book is well-written, inspiring, and is flush with real-life data and incredibly helpful graphs. While some of his examples can be repetitive, and the core ideas may be less revolutionary than they were five years ago, I found myself constantly relating them to more recent innovations and trends, as well as thinking about how they applied to my own work.

If you have a particular interest in the future of entertainment online (as I do) this is a must-read book. But, I would highly recommend that absolutely everyone take the time to read the original article from 2004, which is still available on Wired’s website. 

You can also get tons more information about the Long Tail, and the audiobook of Anderson’s more recent book Free for free on his website: http://www.longtail.com/


Will the Real Tribe Leader Please Stand Up!

Tribes - Seth Godin

This book review was supposed to be about The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki… but I just couldn’t. Ok… maybe it is a New York Times Business Bestseller. Maybe it is right-on and full of amazing case studies. But I wouldn’t know because I could never get past page 40. I felt like I had already gotten the point just by reading the forward; crowds are smarter than the individual and there are tons of examples of this in our society, got it. Unfortunately, every example or point thereafter just led me straight to some good old shut-eye.

After months of trying to get into that book, I finally realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. So I threw in the towel and opted for a much more engaging read. The switch was actually inspired by a speaker that we had a couple of weeks ago in our Wednesday class, Jim McCarthy, Founder of Goldstar.com. When I asked him what one resource he would recommend that we read as APOC students he said Seth Godin. Surprisingly, despite having heard of him, none of us had read any of his books yet and Tribes just happened to be on the suggested reading list.

Well… Seth Godin is my new hype man! I read the book in a matter of hours. It was quick and the examples were poignant, but most importantly it left me inspired. For all of us who have an entrepreneurial bug, and even for those that don’t, Godin’s distinctions of what leadership looks like and what it takes to effectively build a tribe and spur a movement is enough to get anyone off of the couch. Here are some of my take-aways:

  • Godin’s Definition of a Tribe: “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”
  • There are tools being developed everyday to help us to effectively gather and lead the tribe. The internet makes this much easier than before, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Ning, etc.
  • Three shifts have happened in our modern society that are enabling change:
  1. People want to work on something that they believe in.
  2. Organizations are getting that the old industrial revolution concept of creating widgets just is not profitable or inspiring anymore.
  3. Consumers are starting to spend their money on things that matter and things that they believe in.
  • All that we need to live out this change is for someone to boldly LEAD us in a new direction!
  • Godin states that “Heretics are the new leaders,” because they make a ruckus.
  • Leading is no longer about mindless management and following a protocol. Leading is about the Tribe; it is selfless and guided by a bigger mission, it is about assuming responsibility and admitting when you are wrong, it is challenging the status quo and not “getting stuck on stupid” (or playing today’s game by yesterday’s defunct rules). Leading the tribe is about freely allowing for connection on a shared interest. Most importantly it is about listening.
  • Without a leader there is no tribe or movement and there are three things that a leader needs to create a movement:
  1. a story that captures who we are and what we are collectively working towards
  2. a way to connect with the leader and other tribe members
  3. some action statement to achieve this shared goal
  • Our current marketplace demands innovation and wants change—they want new fresh ideas and ways of solving problems.
  • Yet, despite wanting change we never really do it! Why? Because of the “F” word, FEAR. People are constantly looking toward the “Bureau of Idea Approval” to gauge whether they should move forward. As humans we are afraid of the criticism and the BIA usually does a good job of killing ideas off.
  • The crowd is fickle – it subscribes to mediocrity because it is safe and it will align to stop you if you deviate from the middle line.
  • However, the truth is that none of us are content settling. We don’t want to be the “Sheepwalkers” in an organization (“outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them brain-dead jobs and enough fear to keep them in line”). We want to ignite the fire, to be the catalyst for change and creativity. Studies have shown that this leads to happier people. But we get stuck.
  • Heretics and true leaders talk themselves out of this fear. It’s not that it doesn’t exist for them, the mission and their FAITH is just big enough that it outweighs the fear of being criticized.
  • So, if you could in fact move past the “F” word and the grips of the “BIA”, Godin offers up the following “how to’s” for creating your own Micromovement. There are 5 key elements:
  1. “Publish a manifesto (this unifies members and gives them something to spread)
  2. Make it easy for your followers to connect with you (e.g. Facebook or Ning)
  3. Make it easy for your followers to connect with one another
  4. Realize that money is not the point of a movement (the moment you try to cash out is the moment you stunt the growth of your movement)
  5. Track your progress (do it publicly and create pathways for your followers to contribute to that progress)”
  • And to successfully create this Micromovement you must adopt the following 6 principals:
  1. “Transparency is your only option
  2. Your movement needs to be bigger than you
  3. Movements that grow, thrive
  4. Movements are made most clear when compared to the status quo (those that push in the other direction)
  5. Exclude outsiders (not everyone is on your team)
  6. Tearing others down is never as helpful to a movement as building your followers up”

Godin ends the book by saying that there is no “one” way to build or lead a tribe. Every tribe is different and has different needs from their leader. He offers few “how to’s” but mostly just delineates the characteristics that separate the wheat from the chaff where leading a tribe is concerned.

Ultimately, the current conditions are ripe for serious changes to happen in our world. It is simply up to each of us to decide whether we will step up and lead this change or not. I leave you with these three favorite quotes from the book and his TED talk which sums the whole deal up pretty nicely in under 20 minutes:

  • “People are most easily led where they wanted to go all along.”
  • “You have everything that you need to build something far bigger than yourself.”
  • “…we have an obligation to change the rules, to raise the bar, to play a different game, and to play it better than anyone has any right to believe is possible.”

Rock on Seth Godin and let’s get on it people!


The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuck

I was originally attracted to this book because Gary didn’t have a lot of knowledge on social media, but he intuitively knew that it was important for his business to participate, so he did. Through trial and error, time, and continued effort Gary’s business and blog grew.

Gary starts The Thank You Economy by using an example of an experience he had when he was a teenager working for his dad in his liqueur store. A customer came into the liqueur store wanting to use a coupon he’d just gotten for a purchase he made a week earlier at the store, but the store manager wouldn’t let him. Gary knew that this wasn’t the right decision and they’d probably just lost a customer and possibly more if this man complained to his friends.

Gary doesn’t believe you should focus all of your attention on the squeaky wheel or cater to every complaint, but social media is making the world smaller and business should treat people as individuals who live in their neighborhood. And by doing this you not only create a loyal customer, but you’re helping someone to become an advocate for your brand and this is the main focus of the his book. Gary uses a variety of brands and business sizes as examples and the tools they used or should have used to help them accomplish this.

The Thank You Economy is a light and easy to read book, but it shows how he applies social media to his businesses and became more successful because of it. One point and analogy he uses throughout the book that I found helpful is that social media is like running a marathon and not a short sprint. You may not notice immediate gains, but through trial and error, time and continued effort you will find you’re ahead of the competition.


Book Review: Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins.

Decker’s a Replicant.


“The older American folk culture was built on borrowings from various mother countries; the modern mass media builds upon borrowings from folk culture; the new convergence culture will be built on borrowings from various media conglomerates.”
– Henry Jenkins

“My name is Legion: for we are many.”
– Gospel according to Mark, 5:9

In Convergence Culture, USC media guru Henry Jenkins analyzes a shifting cultural landscape and dissects the current particulars regarding audience interaction with mass media. Jenkins uses a hodgepodge of examples drawing from sources such as television (Survivor), film (The Matrix), fiction (Harry Potter), and political campaigns (Howard Dean, Barack Obama) to investigate the nature of modern media and how its axis has shifted radically to allow for remixing, re-interpretation, canonical deviation, and culture jamming on terms established by fans instead of producers. Jenkins also looks at how these practices have influenced producers and media itself.

Jenkins states in the introduction that “If old consumers were assumed to be passive, the new consumers are active.” Example after example presents the new vistas that affordable digital technology and transmission media have opened, and the takeaway is that while “old” media fans could only consume, modern fans can easily reciprocate with their own interpretations of pop culture if they should so choose. Media dispersion, canonical deviation (“Which version of Blade Runner is definitive?!?”), and the nature of knowledge communities are explored in a multi-tiered analysis of what it means to be a fan in the age of configurable media, Facebook, MMORPGs, and Photoshop.

Read the rest of this entry »


Social Media is a Cocktail Party (and you’re all invited)

Social Media is a Cocktail Party

By Jim Tolbin Feat. Lisa Braziel

Ok, so the title’s a little cheesy. Overall, however, the running metaphor of a cocktail party serves as a good illustration of the shift in power on the web. No longer are we willing to attend a party where our pompous, rich friends (the big brands) brag about their own achievements to no end, all the while stuffing own their agendas down our throats. Social media allows every Internet user to have an equal voice at the party, and, as such, you must follow proper party etiquette as to not offend your hosts. Some of the most useful party tips include:

1. The party goes on with or without you: Whether your brand is making social media efforts or not, you can be assured you are being discussed and critiqued. So would you rather have some tipsy party guests gossiping about you behind your back, or join the party and enter the conversation?

2. When you first arrive, listen before you speak – Nobody likes the loudmouth guest that interrupts. Listen to the conversations being had, and only offer an opinion if you have something constructive to say.

3.  Go with the flow – This isn’t you’re a party; you are a guest. Don’t make it all about you, or nobody will want to mingle in your circle. Continue with conversation threads naturally.

4. Consider the venue – a cocktail party at your friend’s house is not the same as one at the Ritz. Dress code and conversation will vary greatly between the two. Consider the party you are attending so you know how to act and speak.

5. It’s not your party – Once again, people don’t want to hear about how great you are. Instead, they’d rather have a meaningful two-way conversation.

6. Don’t be fake – Everyone has that friend that smiles a little too wide and laughs a little too hard at a not-so-funny joke. People can smell a fake a mile away, be genuine in your conversations.

7. Share even when it doesn’t benefit you – Have meaningful two-way conversations. If you help someone out, it would only be polite of them to reciprocate.

8.Don’t drink too much – Don’t be loud and obnoxious, or you will find yourself an early exit to the party. Just as in online discussions, people will have a pretty short leash for an obnoxious party guest.

Tobin comes back to this analogy persistently throughout the book (that’s only chapter one), but establishing this metaphor is important for his driving point, which is the world of brand management is changing drastically. No longer can big brands bark orders at their customers, but they must treat them with respect. This change represents an entire industry shift, and Tobin contends that no firm really gets it: PR firms are too traditional, social media firms have a hard time measuring results, and optimization firms are more about playing the game than having a conversation. Tobin insists that the next successful brand managers will combine all three of these skills.

Another very unique feature of this book is that after every chapter is a related blog posting by Tobin or Braziel, both of Ignite media. In this way, Tobin makes good on the interactivity that he preaches so highly, as he encourages his readers to read and comment on the online versions of these sentiments. Check out Tobin’s blog here.

All in all, the most valuable lesson to be gleaned from this book that is not offered in such readings like Clay Shirkey’s Here Comes Everybody or Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s Groundswell is the valuable metaphor that social media is in fact an ongoing conversation, and it is therefore crucial that you mind your manners. Apart from that, if you’ve digested similar readings (Shirkey and Li & Bernoff), I’d say you should probably pass on this one, especially because hearing the same case studies on repeat (you know the ones: Dell Idea Storm, Honda brand mismanagement, the “Will it blend?” viral videos) becomes a bit tiring. If you’re not familiar with such works, you got some catching up to do, and it couldn’t hurt to start here!


MOBILE COMMUNICATION AND SOCIETY – A Global Perspective

By Manuel Castells, Mireia Fernandez-Ardevol, Jack Linchuan Qiu and Araba Sey

Mobile Communication and Society by Castells, Manuel, Qiu, Jack Linchuan, Fernandez-Ardevol, Mireia, 9780262033558

Review D. Bandini

I chose this book for three reasons: first it was about mobile communications, something I hope to get stronger in; second because it was written by a Chair of Annenberg; and third because it was available in the library. As I was narrowing a choice, it was hard to find a book that was copy written recently, as this was published in 2007. This was not the best choice for the simple reason it is chock full of early mobile stages, but most data doesn’t go past 2004. Between 2004 and 2011 there has been a major mobile revolution. The part I am most interested in, of course. But it did go to great lengths and exhaustive research to nail the actual facts and figures of mobile globally up until 2004. No small feat. It is indeed a dense research book.

There are 12 chapters in the book. I will skim through them for you. If you love facts and figures and numerical statistics you will love this book. I like smart phones, video games, and new technology. I should have listened to Clint’s suggestions.

  • Opening: Our Networks, Our Lives

Americans should be proud. We really adopted mobile technology faster than other countries. I did not know there were mobile phones in 1976, but there were 44,000. By 1990 there were 5 million. America basically had competing networks on different standards, similar to what we see today. This actually slowed our adoption rate outside of business use quite significantly. Europe adopted one standard (GSM, invented in Norway) for most countries and their cell phones surpassed their land lines years before ours did. At the time of this book printing Asia was still developing. Singapore had the government to thank for the push into mobile as it is a partner in manufacturing and distribution. I could go on and on with more facts, but basically what really opened up cell phones to most countries was either — the standard, the pricing via competition, or the ability to pay as you go. The pay as you go made it possible for poor countries to have a phone and a lifeline they would normally not have.

  • The Diffusion of Wireless Communications in the World

This is a look at who is using cell phones and why. Long distance workers were quick to adopt the technology like truckers or field workers. For field workers, it would take them a year to save to buy a pay-as-you-go phone, they would get patchy service and they spent most of their money on their phone which often was stolen because it was a status symbol. I love the imagery of the accessories the phones first came with, the belt clips and colored snap-on covers. This chapter shows how different demographics use the phones in different ways. Adults used it to talk, teens to text. Texting took off in a big way everywhere except America because most of the phone companies were not willing to open their services up to other carriers for a long time.

  • The Social Differentiation of Wireless Communication Users: Age, Gender, Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status

I love the imagery of the accessories the phones first came with, the belt clips and colored snap-on covers. This chapter shows how different demographics use the phones in different ways. Adults used it to talk, teens to text. Texting took off in a big way everywhere except America because most of the phone companies were not willing to open their services up to other carriers for a long time.

  • Communication and Mobility in Everyday Life

In this chapter he discusses the pros and cons of being available at any time. How mobile phones can define class. He talks about families being able to coordinate better through the mobile phone and manage their personal lives with more flexibility. Learning mobile phone etiquette when out and about.

  • The Mobile Youth Culture

This is hilarious. He talks about texting again, quite a bit and how it has morphed into its own language. He goes over personalization of phones. His examples are ringtones, photos, and video games like “snake.” Like snake‼ He also discusses how phones with cameras have been used to bully and humiliate teenagers at the hands of other teenagers and what the cultural ramifications means for this new technology. Wi-Fi is also introduced and debated.

The world is getting smaller. Reaching out and touching someone is more cost effective and easier now. No more busy signals, always a voicemail or text.  Because a mobile phone is not connected to a desk or a wall, it feels free. There is a different experience. Public places are now places that private personal interactions are made via mobile. New social patterns emerge through timeless connection possibilities. Response time can be shortened.

  • The Language of Wireless Communication

He again explores SMS and MMS texting and messaging. He talks about how caller ID has changed the way people call each other and pick up or do not.

Here is explores using mobile technology to rally people together. No doubt he was onto something. Little did he know that Twitter was coming. He points out several major political shifts partly attributed to mobile technology including the ousting of President Estrada in the Philippines, the electoral defeat of the Spanish Partido Popular, the voting power of Korean President Moo-Hyun and protests of the Republican party all organized and distributed via mobile texts, messages and calls. The mobile phone can affect big political change. Security, Wi-Fi, satellite phones are a few other topics.

This goes into economics of emerging and developing countries. He discusses how mobile phone affect the digital divide between countries with advanced technology and those without, pricing and how the poorest pay the most of their wages and get the worst service. For some countries the mobile phone is the only way they will ever discover the internet at all.

  • Conclusion: The Mobile Network Society

Mobile phones have a revolutionary impact on our society of 2004 and prior, no doubt. I wish I could learn his thoughts on the mobile technology of today! The revolution feels like is barely just getting started!