“Engage” is a most suitable title for the book Brian Solis wrote on social media. After all, social media is all about engaging with people. Solis does a great job in justifying this argument and offers brilliant ideas about how to do exactly that.
From listening practices on social networks to the creation of compelling content and to the empowerment of what already exists, e.g. fan pages, Solis convincingly explains why, in order to survive in the social media universe, you need to engage.
From all the above, I cannot stress enough the importance of listening. It’s not just so you know what your audience says, feels and wants. You also need to be sure of what you are listening to. Let’s see an example: Twitter – for which Solis presents a comprehensive list of tips – is a great listening tool. But it can trick you if you are not careful enough. The disaster stories that have taken place on Twitter may give us a good laugh but they certainly have made some people lose their sleep. For instance, just because a keyword is trending does not mean that you should use it. There are always surprises for the sloppy Twitter managers. I can’t help but remember the Aurora incident.
On the day following the shooting in Aurora, Colo., an online boutique store posted a promotional tweet with the Aurora hashtag to take advantage of a trending topic. Obviously, nobody bothered to check why it was trending! As one would say on Twitterverse: #Fail. For more Twitter disasters, click here.
But the book goes well beyond offering practical tips on how to successfully manage social media. Essentially it is a book about how to be a social media leader. Especially in the first chapters but also throughout the book, Solis tries to inspire the reader and empower him or her to become a true online leader. One of the words he often uses is empathy. He claims that engagement is rooted in empathy.
In his own words:
“Don’t speak to me in messages! Stop trying to market at me! Give me something to believe in. Give me something to let me know that you know whom you are talking to and why.”
Still not convinced?
What about now?
The book also emphasizes ground rules that should by now be self-evident for every social media marketer. Like Groundswell, it talks about the necessity to listen, talk and energize, it reiterates that social media is one component of a broader communications strategy, that it is less about technology and more about relationships, and also less about demographics and more about psychographics.
In that respect, he insists on transferring elements from the fields of ethnology, anthropology and sociology into the social media field to explain how relationships are being forged online. It was the first time for me to see such a scientific approach to social media, and I was positively surprised. In fact, I think that what he is trying to do is promote a social media theoretical basis. This intention is apparent throughout the book. For example, he talks about “aggregation” and “syndication” to categorize functions of popular social media, like Facebook and Twitter. Those functions are known to most social media managers simply as “the newsfeed” or “the timeline.” In his attempt to theorize social media, which is absolutely legitimate and probably well overdue, he is offering a framework for more effective social media management.
On the other hand, Solis’s theoretical approach sometimes dominates over the practical insights he has to offer. For the latter, I still prefer the Groundswell, which I think can serve as a social media manager’s pocket guide.
Final note: returning on my comments about viral videos in my previous blogpost, I was very happy to see that Solis plainly states that there is no such thing as viral marketing. Instead he uses the term Word of Mouth Marketing. In his blog Solis elaborates on this statement underlining that “content, no matter how brilliant, creative, abstract, or controversial, is not inherently viral. Content doesn’t make something viral; people are the primary source of powering social objects across the attention nodes that connect the human network.”
PS Forward by Ashton Kutcher? Impressive!