Author, speaker and entrepreneur Gail Martin delivers a well-rounded strategy for small businesses to understand and succeed in today’s social media landscape in her book 30 Days to Social Media Success. Divided into thirty short “bite-sized” sections, Martin is determined to help her reader “rethink, reenergize, and restart” their social media marketing endeavors. Her RESULTS approach (recommit to marketing, expect success, seek partners, understand your audience, look for win-win scenarios, take strategic action, stay visible) drives this how-to book, highlighting that only YOU can be your most valued resource. Martin helps you focus your business goals, understand the anatomy of social media sites, and debunk social media myths – all in an effort to showcase the beneficial technological affordances.
Although the book is targeted at the small business owner or solo professional, anybody who is interested in gaining social capital from the popular sites (Facbeook, Twitter, LinkedIn), can benefit from her rather basic strategies. For those who are versed in the ins-and-outs of social media, her language and ideas may seem oversimplified and novice. But she isn’t talking to them. Her readers are small, busy business owners who don’t want to pay for a marketing company to devise an expensive plan. They have a solid presence offline and for various reasons (scared, unfamiliar, unwilling, too busy), haven’t fully committed to the virtual world. She wants us to be successful netizens, who view social media as a networking tool that can deliver business success.
Martin admits that social media can’t do everything. It isn’t going to make us millionaires over night or sell a poor quality product, she says. The platform provides the backbone, but the business (YOU) has to do its part. The nature of her book suggests a domestic approach to technology. She warns the reader that an absence in social media reflects poorly on the company. She constantly draws analogies between physical world actions and virtual actions, suggesting how interconnected the two worlds are. For example, going on Facebook is like walking into a business luncheon and joining a new site is like becoming the new kid on the block. These references help bridge the gap for people who are hesitant or fearful about being active online, and encourage people to view social media as just another stepping stone towards increased profit, customers and awareness.
When a seemingly full bag of chips is actually half full or a shirt marked on “sale” was overpriced in the first place, marketing ethics becomes a problem. It’s the same for social media. Should companies falsely promise their clients value when it’s not there? Martin tackles this in Chapter 6, where she offers tips for pinpointing your story and true voice. I wish she had discussed the competitive nature of social media marketing. As much as authenticity is a desired outcome, the technology itself sets limits. A strong, confident personal story is a start. But learning how to navigate the platforms as well as understanding how your competitors perform their identities, is key to positioning your own. Is there happy medium between Goffman’s front and backstage displays? Is social media changing our story? Gail never delves deep enough.
In her enthusiasm for social media (and who doesn’t like a passionate author!), Martin lost touch with the 30-day idea. The title alone is misleading; it’s not about getting suddenly successful in 30 days as much as it is grasping a firm grip on how social media can fit into your personal business. After all, she notes that “insufficient patience” is one of the reasons marketing fails. Martin’s ideas would have benefited from pictures and detailed stories about successful/unsuccessful case studies. At times, it feels like a bunch of great ideas but no execution on her part as author. What makes company B better than company A? What does a strong tie vs. a weak tie look like online? Recognizing our audience is the first step, but communicating effectively with them is another. How do we achieve that? Martin spends too much time on general business/marketing goals instead of the nature of the social media landscape – it just isn’t as similar to a “luncheon” or “cocktail party” as we wish it were. What happened to context collapse?