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A readable overview but too ambitious and at the mercy of the pace of technology
on 18 March 2010
Social networking is a complex topic, For those who are immersed in it, it seems as natural as breathing. For those on the outside, it can often seem bewildering or even just a little silly.
There is a need for a guide to social networks for businesses and this is a good effort but it's flawed not by the author's approach but by the vastness of the topic. Trying to teach people about social networking in one book is about as easy as teaching someone six languages at the same time, without actually using any of the languages.
In other words, the best way to learn about this stuff is by doing it, ideally with a guide.
I'd have gone for more case studies and less chatter - indeed I think the audience this is aimed at would probably appreciate a slightly more formal approach with more evidence. Reading this is like listening to someone down the pub who's had a few more beers than you. Enthusiastic but a bit overpowering.
The book suffers from the pace of technology. The new service Blellow gets a mention (sorry, not heard of it) and MySpace is proposed as somewhere a business should be active. Well a straw poll of 160 18-20 year olds I conducted last week resulted in a grand total of zero hands going up when the question "who here is on MySpace" was asked. They may have accounts, but they're dormant. Why it's featured here I'm not so sure - even its owners don't know what its future is. The iPhone is dismissed as not being suitable for business (so heaven knows what I've been doing with mine for the past two years!) - ah technology, why won't you stay still? It's the death of many a book.
There's another problem with the book. I got quite miffed at the throwaway paragraph on dealing with designers which seemed to paint a picture that they're all money grabbing amateurs who will lumber you with a Flash-based site that can't be read by a search engine. Two problems: that argument is about 10 years out of date and "you get what you pay for". No discussion of budget, no discussion of using professionals rather than doing what a lot of businesses do, paying next to nothing to someone who's downloaded a pirate copy of Adobe Creative Suite. There's much more to be said about the need to use professional services - after all that's what the readers of this are presumably trying to push for themselves.
So, in the absence of other books on the topic, this is a good buy. But it tries to cover far too much, is hampered by imminent transformations in technology, and is no substitute from working with an expert on the topic. If you're the sort of person who does your own plumbing, changes your own oil and rewires your own home, then this will appeal to you. But if you're sensible and like to use the experts, then do the same here: there are many people out there who can work with you. That's what's missing here: how to use professionals to help with your online marketing efforts. But if it had been in, I worry the topic would have been dealt with as flippantly as the section on working with designers.