Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The social media survival guide (book review)

The Social Media Survival Guide is the second edition of Deltina Hay’s previous book entitled, A Survival Guide to Social Media and Web 2.0 Optimisation. The title this time is much snappier and the book is a substantial update to the previous edition.
Having read the first edition, I was keen to read the second to see what had changed. The answer is, a lot. One of the challenges with any book that incorporates technology is that it quickly becomes dated, not so much the principles, but certainly the examples. The author has done a very thorough job in updating these areas and it really is worth investing in the latest edition. I was particularly pleased to see a section dealing with web 3.0, the semantic web and cloud computing, all of which are becoming hot topics though aren’t necessarily discussed within the context of social media. There’s a lot of hype surrounding these areas so it was nice to see the author present them in a straightforward, practical, no-nonsense way. In fact, this is very much the style in which the whole book is written.
The book is comprised of 15 chapters, 4 appendices and a CD containing additional information (more on this  below). It’s important to mention that this is not a book about theory. This is very much a ‘how to’ manual, though it’s grounded in a an overall strategic framework.
The chapters are:
  1. Creating your social media strategy
  2. Preparation
  3. RSS feeds and blogs
  4. Building a WordPress powered website
  5. Podcasting, vidcasting and webcasting
  6. Social networking and micro-blogging
  7. Social bookmarking and crowd-sourcing
  8. Media communities
  9. Widgets and badges
  10. Social media newsrooms
  11. More social tools
  12. Pulling it all together
  13. Looking to the future
  14. Measuring your success
  15. Conclusion
The appendices are:
A. Installing WordPress
B. Creating your own RSS feed
C. Building your own widget
D. Preparing for the semantic web
The book covers a lot of ground but there are plenty of example screenshots and everything is explained simply and clearly. Just about everything you could possibly want to know about social media is presented in sufficient detail to give you the confidence to get started, or, if you already have, to improve on what you’ve already done. This is one of the strengths of the book, it can be taken on many levels from absolute beginner to the more experienced.  The chapters each cover a specific topic and are sufficiently self contained to stand on their own so it isn’t necessary to read everything, but having said that, I found myself reading the whole book to ensure I didn’t miss anything important! There’s a real symmetry and cohesion to the book which does warrant reading it in its entirety so, perhaps while not absolutely necessary to read from cover to cover, it’s my guess that most people probably will.
There are a couple of really useful features that set this book apart and make it a good investment for anyone serious about creating a rich social media presence. Firstly, there’s a couple of chapters that cover the importance of having a strategy and getting prepared. This might sound obvious but I wonder how many people are so keen to jump right in they overlook the importance of planning what they really want their social media presence to do for them?
The other really nice feature is the accompanying CD which is crammed with useful  additional resources to further help the reader (a list of relevant resources appears at the end of each chapter). The CD contains a Companion Materials pdf eBook containing bibliographic details of further reading material, a list of user fillable forms and additional resources. This is a mini book in itself and contains a wealth of material. By completing the forms, the reader will soon be able to create their own unique social media strategy. The author and publisher have also given permission for the forms and spreadsheets to be used with a purchaser’s students, business and clients provided full copyright attribution is preserved. I think this is excellent and can see many consultants and trainers using it in this way.
The author has a very comprehensive social media presence, which you would expect, so there are plenty of real word examples here too which you could see in operation to further consolidate your exploration of social media.
This is one of those rare books that you wonder how you ever got by without. If you do want to know what the whole social media thing is about, how it works, what it can do for you and how you can get up and running, there really is no better book.
A couple of minor gripes.
  1. I do think the book could benefit from the inclusion of a glossary which gathers together in one place all of the terms used e.g. RSS, Wiki, Cloud computing, Micro-blog etc. When you’re getting to grips with new terminology, it’s nice to be able to look up definitions quickly without having to use the index.
  2. A better sleeve for the CD. The first edition of the book had a better CD sleeve which was easily removed from the book. I like to copy the contents of the CD onto my hard drive and then store the CD in a drawer. The pages of the book turn much easier without the CD case permanently attached inside the rear cover.
But these really are minor points and should not detract from an otherwise excellent publication.
To sum up, this is an must buy book which is thoroughly recommended to anyone serious about creating and developing a social media strategy. It will be useful to online marketers of larger organisations and consultants who work with businesses helping them develop their social media presence. It will also benefit smaller businesses who are limited on time and resources.
While many individuals and businesses already have some sort of social media presence, it’s often very piecemeal and disjointed. This book will explain how you can create a unified social media presence by joining it all together. It’s not difficult, but it does take time and requires some forethought if you want to get it right.
For more information visit www.socialmediapower.com

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