Latest social-media books are long on evangelism, but a bit short on balance

A quick look at “Trust Agents,” “Twitterville” and “Crush It!”

Regulars in the social media space won’t gain a lot from the books cited in this post. All 3 are penned by SM evangelists and tend to target the late majority in the space. They sing the praises of social media, but the evidence is anecdotal and the outcomes nearly always positive. Nonetheless, newbies in the 2.0 world may find 2 of the 3 books useful.

Trust Agents, by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

Had Dale Canegie lived in the digital age, he would have liked Chris Brogan. For me, “Trust Agents” is a digital rendition of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The authors take Carnegie’s relationship-building concept and translate it for the online space.

If you’re looking to expand your influence in social media, Chapters 3, 4 and 5 may help you get there. Brogan and Smith call it “becoming a trust agent.” I call it networking. But it comes back to the relationships that Carnegie wrote about in 1934. People haven’t changed all that much, but thanks to technology, the sociology of networking has.

Old wine, new bottle? Maybe. But I’m recommending “Trust Agents” to my students and newcomers to social media. Even though the millennials are immersed in social media, few use it effectively to to enhance their business and professional networking. “Trust Agents” may help them do that.

Twitterville, by Shel Israel

“Twitterville” is a pretty decent case book. So if you’re looking for stories about companies that benefitted by using the microblogging site, you might want to check it out. Last I checked, you’ll find this book at some Amazon booksellers for less than $3.

The cases in “Twitterville” include the usual suspects: Dell, ComCast, H&R Block, et. al. The B2B and small-business cases are less well known and do offer some ideas for folks who don’t counsel the Fortune 500. I was familiar with at least half of the cases, having read about them on blogs or in media reports. So for me, “Twitterville” offered no “Aha!” moments.

The author admits that he’s a big Twitter fan, and his book reflects that evangelism. You won’t find balance in this book. For a more thorough review ofย  “Twitterville,” see this excellent essay by Richard Bailey.

I’m disappointed in the book’s editors, who didn’t work hard enough to smooth the rough edges and purge the passive voice. But that’s the way of things in business publishing today. Speed seems to trump quality.

Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk

If you’re a fan of “Gary Vee” and his Wine Library TV, buy this book. You may enjoy reading Gary’s success story about how he used social media to grow the family wine business. I’m guessing entrepreneurs will pull some inspirational from Gary’s message, but it didn’t work for me.

If you’re looking for real insights on the social-media world as a marketing platform, “Crush It!” probably isn’t for you. Vaynerchuk’s advice on using SM is pretty lightweight stuff and unlikely to be much help to PR or marketing professionals. At 140 pages, “Crush It!” is mercifully short. So I’ve decided to apply that same lesson to this post.

12 Responses to Latest social-media books are long on evangelism, but a bit short on balance

  1. Cameron Barry says:

    Thanks for your helpful reviews of three very popular books. I’m actually writing in response to your comment about millennials and social media. I’m teaching a college course on PR writing this semester. Although the students often look at me quizzically, it was the class I gave on creating a digital presence — for themselves and beyond Facebook — that seemed to genuinely surprise them. The surprise to me was that they had obviously never considered the idea that digital tools might actually help them get a job (or hurt them if not used properly). Perhaps I should add Trust Agents to my syllabus!

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Cameron. I’ve identified a half dozen books on the whole “personal brand” thing, but haven’t had time to catch up with all of them. But I suspect I’ve heard most of it before, since bloggers have been writing on the topic for 5 years.

    In a class on Face-to-Face PR tactics at Kent State, we include a sizable component on building one’s online presence with an eye toward entering the job market.

    Most students know how to “keep in clean” on Facebook. But few have considered uses for LinkedIn, Twitter or blogs as a way to eliminate the degrees of separation between a “college kid” and a working professional.

  3. Thanks for this social-media-savvy-skeptic post. I especially liked its “merciful shortness”๐Ÿ™‚ Not having read any of the three, this review helps me decide whether and which I might want to see.

  4. Bill- thanks for the very thoughtful reviews. I would’ve probably liked Dale, too. I admire your work and always learn from your perspective, so I’m grateful to have landed on the reasonably warm side of your opinion. Keep doing what you’re doing.๐Ÿ™‚

    • Bill Sledzik says:

      I just call ’em as I see ’em, Chris. Your book can bring real value to folks who haven’t thought about how to use the 2.0 space strategically. And I especially like that it isn’t about technology, but about the sociology of the social media world.

      But we have to point out — and you know this well — is that the importance of conversations and relationships didn’t begin with interactive media. The new media simply gave us the chance to expand our relationships beyond F2F.

  5. Rich Becker says:

    Thanks Bill,

    I was considering a few of these (once some others are off my desk). And now, you’ve certainly helped me kick a few out of the might read pile for precisely the reason you mentioned: a re-polishing of the past as if the past never existed.

    All my best,
    Rich

  6. Kimba Green says:

    I have read all three and I agree with you 100%. I thought it was just me but now I know I have support!

    To everyone that is writing a book about SM please use some new stuff!

    • Bill Sledzik says:

      It’s not just the books that have gotten a bit stale, Kimba. Came across this post today from a young professional, Amy Mengel, who says she has deleted most of the SM bloggers from her feeder. Maybe it’s time to see social media not as a revolution in communication, but a step in its evolution. But that’s not a new idea, either.

  7. Andy Curran says:

    I still get a laugh when these SM “gurus” write good old-fashioned paperback books and travel hundreds/thousands of miles to speak
    at an conference in front of a live audience. HELLO! If they are experts on communicating digitally, why don’t they spread their gospels that way?

    I don’t believe the majority of them know how to produce dynamic media content. Even at a low production level, one can create some professional-grade video/audio with some training. They think that just turning the camera or microphone on and letting it roll with no script and no editing is “edgy.” PLEASE!

    I have to stop now. I’ll max out out all of your WordPress storage space if I keep going.

    • Bill Sledzik says:

      Your comments echo those of another guy named Andrew. He wrote a book that outlines many of your concerns. Keen was pilloried in social-media circles back in ’06. Not so much these days.

  8. Bill Handy says:

    As usual your reviews are dead one. Great job! You plan to tackle Engage soon?

  9. Bill – I think you are bang on here. I think most of the books in the SM space are fantastic for people who are new to the space (the majority of business book readers), but not so good for people who are deeply involved in the space. Books are written for the masses because that’s how publishers make money – although that’s certain to change sometime soon.

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