A Social Media Marketing Handbook

by Eric Tsai

In an effort to keep up with the rate of change in the marketing landscape, it’s important to understand the tools available to drive results.  Social media is the fastest growing tactic according to a survey by virtual events provider Unisfair, “Marketers’ top priorities for 2010 will be customer acquisition and retention and the most common tactics marketers plant to increase was social media, selected by three-quarters of marketers polled, followed by search (51%) and e-mail (49%).

It’s indicative as the internet gets more social, the speed at which information is shared through platforms like Twitter and Facebook will continue to expand.

There is no argument that social media can benefit a brand but the problem is most companies are operating with a limited supply of resources.  And with TMI (too much information) flowing around the internet you can easily lost yourself in a sea of information resulting in analysis paralysis.

fiends_w_benefits_bookIn order to utilize the time on hand, it’s important to maintain focus on what’s relevant and wrap your head around a resource that walks you through the social media maze. Rarely is there a silver bullet that can solve all the marketing challenges so the key is to research and learn as much as  you need before you jump in.  However, research can be the source of wasted time so it’s better to approach experts within their respective disciplines or pick up a book like Friends with Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook, by Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo.

I had the opportunity to read a preview copy so I’m going to go straight to the highlights from the book:

Chapters 1-2 provide an excellent overview on the history of social media and how it has evolved today.  I believe this is important for marketers especially those that are looking to transition to the web2.0 platform.  Without knowledge of the social landscape as a whole, it’s difficult to decide what you should use and why.  Furthermore it paints a picture on the opportunities that exist on the social web and a step by step guide to prepare your blog and leverage RSS.

Chapters 3-6 focus on the strategy behind building a community and networking with the right bloggers as well as communication tactics.  I consider these chapters the “meat” of the book, where most marketers failed to understand the meaning behind using these tools, Friends with Benefits nailed it.  In addition, it’s got use cases from the perspective of business, product and measurement to illustrate the impact of each tactics.  If you’re operating without reliable metrics and measurement, you’re essentially operating blindly in social media. Although chapter 6 does a good job on performance tracking, it could use more financial models to further the topic of social media ROI (return on investment). If you are using social media but aren’t sure about the tactics, strategies, and practices to get them right, there are some good case studies on what to do and what not to do.

Chapters 7-8 are guides to deal with scenarios from pre-launch to post-launch of social media campaigns.  They’re good resources for damage control in social media marketing and explain the risk implications during crisis.  Particularly the “Rules for Making Social Media Work for You in a Crisis” provides 6 valuable resolutions even for experienced marketers to quickly put out fires and can serve as reference to develop corporate social media policies.

Chapters 9-12 goes into details on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube (and other video marketing tools), and Twitter.  These sections are essential case studies to the leading social media platform which is a good beginner’s guide.  As for people already using those tools frequently, it’s just common sense nothing you shouldn’t already know.

The take away: This is not a Twitter or Facebook for dummies, or how to setup your social media account.  What’s different between this book and other social media guides is that it tends to focus on the outcome rather than just the features and benefits.

It’s a resourceful book for those wanting to hop on the social media marketing train to learn this new viral platform and to leverage word-of-mouth tactics.  You will find plenty of answers to why and how as well as what’s in it for you.  For experienced marketers looking to keep up on their own industries as well as learn the intricate details of social media, I recommend adding this book to your reading list.

For your information, this book is scheduled to be published in next month (November) and you can pre-order the book now from No Starch Press.