Book Review: Going Social
If there was ever a concern that digital media would be the demise of book publishing, the pile of social media books that come across my desk say otherwise. People love to write about social media marketing, myself included, despite the fact that the technology and the subsequent strategies change rapidly. However, it is refreshing when those who get their hands dirty with social media write about their experiences. Not only does it serve to highlight the real challenges, rewards and effort involved in managing social media, over time they will also serve as an anthropological account of our social lives online.

Go Social (or Go Home)

When Going Social: Excite Customers, Generate Buzz, and Energize Your Brand with the Power of Social Media showed up at my doorstep I was intrigued. The author, Jeremy Goldman, had managed the social media for actual brands and aimed to share what he had learned with others.

As a social media strategist, I usually approach these books with a careful eye -- trying not to cringe as they create an air of unattainable goals that can make any regular size business think that their YouTube video will go viral overnight. But this book has very few, if any, cringe-worthy moments and in fact, as I read through from chapter to chapter, I felt my shoulders relax more and more.

Goldman makes it very clear early on that the social media isn't magic and that some types of companies will benefit from it more than others. He also drives home the point that it takes time to cultivate engagement by helping readers better understand how being online facilitates social behaviors. Here are few of the types of stellar advice given throughout the book: 

"..If you ask for feedback that makes clear your desire to improve the customer's experience with your product or service, you'll get honest answers. If you're not confident you'll get enough responses to develop an actionable plan, consider offering a minor incentive, such as a small discount or token of appreciation. The trick is to offer something that will encourage an influx of responses, but not such a juicy incentive that you lead people into giving answers that don't reflect their true points of view or that encourage those who'd never try your product into giving their opinions." (p. 23, Chapter 2)

"Going social is so much more about the soft sell than the hard sell. "Buy this now; it's 30 percent off!" doesn't work nearly as well as "Have some questions? We'd love to help you out." Customers don't want to feel as though they are being sold to our that they are part of your business plan; they want to feel that they are empowered to decide whether, when and how to begin a sales cycle." (p.53, Chapter 3)

"If you're going to let your audience participate in content generation, however, bear in mind that one of the biggest mistakes a brand can make is trying to control the conversation in connected media in the same way it would in traditional media. ...Once you realize you've relinquished some control to your customers, you won't feel as stressed about trying to control something you can't really control." (p.62 Chapter 4)

Not for the ROI-Focused Folks

As you can see this is really practical advice. Goldman speaks to those who may be skeptical of how you can engage customers using social media without over-simplifying it or by promising them lofty rewards. He's a realist and approaches social media from the perspective that your social media marketing will be as good as the effort and strategy you put forth.

I also appreciate his attention to content development, customer care and employee empowerment, which are often overlooked or not properly addressed during social media strategy development.

This book isn't necessarily for CEOs -- it won't promise ROI or pepper you with stats and figures. Going Social is best suited for those who are on the front lines of social media or who may have been tasked with the goal of "figuring out this social media thing". Even if you're not active on social media, you'll have a better appreciation for why some people are and how your company can leverage their engagement.