While some of us are a little tired of discussing “the conversation” about the conversation, others are just now beginning to examine potential of social media. For example, a former student called last week asking me to recommend social-media books that would get her up to speed. “Jessie” graduated before SM made it to our classrooms and was busy starting a family while the phenomenon was unfolding
I chuckled at first, remembering this tweet from Paul Baker. Ain’t it the truth? But late adopters are a sizable group, and as I told Jessie, books are a good place to begin the catch-up process.
Because I’m an educator, people pose the cursed “book question” all the time. It sucks, because it means I have to read a lot of books that do little to expand my knowledge base or worldview. But reading the literature, for me, is sort of an occupational hazard.
The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, by Tamar Weinberg, is a fairly comprehensive overview of the social-media and its many components. You’ll find plenty of how-to advice, resource listings and useful examples. At 350 pages, think of it as a handbook, not a one-sitting read. It may be the best “step one” for anyone entering the social web. My advice to Jessie: Start here.
The New Rules of Marketing & PR, by David Meerman Scott, does a great job of recasting the role of media relations in the 2.0 world. Now in its second edition, New Rules is a breezy read, and includes examples and some basic “how-to” advice that anyone in the media-relations role can use immediately. I don’t agree with all of Scott’s advice about “going direct” to readers with news releases, but I’m not the most agreeable guy, am I? Anyone new to the social web should read this book. Anyone who does media relations should read it, too.
Goundswell, by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, explains the 2.0 phenomenon, then offers advice on how companies can benefit from it. Lots of good cases in this book, which is well written and tightly edited (at least by pop-business-book standards). Groundswell‘s focus on “the relationship” vs. the technology is the book’s greatest strength.
Though I doubt Jessie has time for 3 more books, I sent a follow-up email suggesting The Cluetrain Manifesto, The Long Tail and The New Influencers. Cluetrain remains the seminal work in social media for business, and is surprisingly relevant after 10 years. The other 2 books, both from 2006, broke new ground in their time and remain useful teaching references. I’ve not read Gillin’s latest, Social Media Marketing, as I must escape the marketing topics for a while.
I didn’t write this post looking for additional suggestions, but you’re certainly free to offer them. I wrote this post because I’m frustrated that NOT ONE of the 2.0 books I’ve recommended offers a balanced look at PR in a 2.0 world. All are focused on marketing, and on PR only to the extent that it serves marketing. It’s no surprise that the books are written by marketers, or by consultants who serve them.
Regular readers know I get incensed over those who treat marketing and PR as a single concept. They are not. Do they often work together? Yes. Do they often pursue common outcomes? Yes. Should they integrate their efforts to reach marketing goals? Of course.
But to treat PR as a subset of marketing, as these books generally do, reveals an ignorance of the literature and the practice of public relations. I don’t blame the authors, as they come at SM from the marketing perspective. But it does raise an important question: Where is the definitive, balanced business book that focuses on social media for public relations? If it’s out there, I haven’t found it.* (By “balanced,” I mean one that doesn’t just extol the virtues of SM, but also explores its weaknesses and limitations.)
Quit your bitchin’ and write it! I suppose I’m in a good position to write such a book, as I have a decent knowledge base in SM, and I know where to find what I don’t know. But I haven’t the energy, the patience or the time to do it. Nor do I have the incentive.
It’s impossible to keep up with all the titles in SM, but I do what I can. I read 4 of the more popular SM books over the past 5 weeks. If the weather stays warm and the cross-country ski snow disappears, I’ll tell you about some of them.
Until then, please pray that Mother Nature turns down the heat. The book reviews can wait. The ski season cannot.
* Two more books sit on my reading stack, and both look promising. They include Online Public Relations, by David Phillps and Philip Young and Social Corp, by Joel Postman. David Phillips is a senior professional who also lectures about online PR at two universities. Philip Young is at University of Sutherland where he focuses on social media and media ethics. Postman, a West Coast practitioner, has long show an affinity for social media, but also a willingness to take the critical view.