“The Zen of Social Media Marketing” Book Review

In Shama Hyder Kabani’s The Zen of Social Media Marketing, she examines and breaks down four of the most well-known social media sites. The purpose of the book is to “build credibility, generate buzz, and increase revenue”. The book is well structured, and covers Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, Social Advertising (Groupon, LivingSocial, Facebook Ads), and video online. Each section has a chapter devoted to it, and each social media site has a detailed description of how to set up an account, navigate your account, and utilize it in the best way possible for your personal brand or product/company.

The book begins with a short lesson on online marketing basics. Recalling traditional marketing concepts, we learn how marketing has evolved through the use of social media and how successful online marketing is now based on the ACT methodology: Attract, Convert, and Transform. Kabani then discusses the basics of websites, blogging, and search engine optimization (SEO), providing a need to know understanding for the reader before they delve into the actual use of social media to market. Through the four chapters on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google +, we can get a feel for who the book’s target audience is. Each chapter gives an in depth description of what the site is, how it works, and why you should be using it to market your product. Most importantly, Kabani tries to deal with proper “etiquette” for each of the four sites, and what you should/ should not being doing to build up your base of followers (and ultimately customers).   She then finishes her book with “Social Media Marketing Case Studies: Highlighting Real-World Best Practices” (203). Each case study is a firsthand account of how various people have utilized social media marketing to increase value in their particular brand.

Benefits of book:

–       very comprehensive breakdown of technical aspect of each social media site

–       Case studies at the end can provide more real-world examples of all the concepts talked about in the book, and they can help readers see how these social media work in reality

 

What book is missing:

–       Shama doesn’t do a good job of explaining the user culture, and how to exploit that

–       No sources for random statistics. Example: “Did you know that the average annualized value of a Facebook fan is $136.38?” (69). Where does that number come from? There are no sources to back it up.

–       I have a problem with using Google+, because while she talks about how it provides great visibility “for you and your brand identity”, I literally don’t know anyone that uses it. Just because Google has been successful with many of its endeavors, does not mean that Google+ is one of them.

 

Book analysis:

–       A majority of this book is simply about how these social media work, and how to use them and modify them to your needs, but its doesn’t talk a lot about the user culture and demographics, and a lot of other factors that shape the way social media actually works besides the basic technological level

–       This book is for social media beginners, people that could be familiar with tradition outbound marketing, but now need to utilize social media and inbound marketing to draw in more potential customers and clients

–       For college students or young adults who are already extremely well versed in the practices of social media and how to create an image of yourself (even if its subconscious knowledge), a majority of this book is not super relevant. There are, however, some good basic strategy tools about marketing on the internet that can be helpful to people that aren’t already familiar with marketing strategy

–       Book seems to be very self promotional, and would be best used by small businesses, and doesn’t work for large corporations

–       Social media for dummies

I’m a mature young adult because I use social media to get my news!

In the past few weeks, The Kony controversy has spread like wildfire across facebook, twitter, and other social media. You would have to live under a technology-free rock to have not heard about it. Or maybe, it took you a while to hear about it because you aren’t on facebook! While there remains controversy about the Invisible Children group and what effect the Kony video should have upon its viewers, and what action it should spark among its viewers, there is no question about the effectiveness that social media has had in proliferating the spread of the video and its message.

More importantly than the rapid spread of the video, is the overwhelming demographic of those who are spreading it: young adults. In this article, the difference in news sources used to watch and share the video is emphasized. Most teens and young adults watched the Kony video on facebook, while adults would be more likely to watch the video on youtube after learning about it on television from traditional news sources. Also, “the Internet was three times more important as a news-learning platform for young adults than traditional media such as television, newspapers, and radio”. Very few young adults learned about the video from these traditional news platforms (like TV news and newspapers) – showing a widened generational gap between how we get our news compared to how our parents do.

But what does this say about how our demographic uses social media? Like in boyd’s article, “Why Youth ❤ Social Media”, she established that social media had become the place for us to “hang out” instead of going to the mall. But, as we have domesticated the use of social media in everyday life, its use has gradually evolved for us, and it is now much more complex than being just another place where our social life exists. We now use social media as a platform for not only sharing news, but participating in activism as well.

By using social media as a place to enact change in the world, we are making a statement about the ability of youth to have an effect on issues that, pre social media, would have been out of our reach. We can know be educated about issues halfway across the word, for example in Africa, and find a way to connect  ourselves and get involved in some way. It’s almost as if, instead of making a statement about using a certain SNS (like the youth in Willet’s Bebo example) because we are old enough, we are making a statement about how we connect with each other and now how we get our news. We consciously choose which social media sites to use, and what information we want to share on them. We are sharing news in particular on facebook because we are mature enough to talk about important issues and know that we can make a difference. Perhaps we so quickly (and naturally) gravitate toward not using more traditional news outlets like television and news papers because we never became as comfortable with navigating them like we are with social network sites. We know facebook like the back of our hand, so where else would go to spread a message as quickly and effectively?

As social media and our generation have grown up simultaneously, social media’s ever (and rapidly) changing norms have hardly ever been noticed by us. We have grown together, growing pains and all, and the changes often seem seamless to us. It’s pretty much impossible to remember life without the internet as it is now, and we are one of the first generations to not ever know life without internet. Internet use has become such a natural part of our life, as we use it for socializing, getting news, school work, playing games, and so much more.  So now as we near adulthood, we use our social media to show that we are growing up, by using it in more adult ways. For example, we use social media as a platform to show our maturity in being able to fight for certain causes, like Invisible Children and the fight against Kony. Generations past may have held protests in person, but we now have the ability to protest from anywhere in the world, and we are using it to the fullest. We are making a statement, whether we are aware of it or not, about what social media has become to us: both a place for a social life and for our transition into adulthood.

Facebook causing the downfall of all relationships?

We’ve all experienced the diminished boundaries between our friends that facebook allows, but facebook has quickly become a new way to keep tabs on our significant other – whether good or bad. We can make sure our boyfriend or girlfriend is behaving by keeping tabs on the pictures they are tagged in, or we can find out the hard way that they aren’t behaving they way we’d like them to. In “Facebook relationship problems: How social networking and jealousy affect your love life”, the scenarios that cause problems or fights in relationships are discussed. Little things like over or under-sharing, friend requests from old exes, and facebook secrets can quickly transition from cyber problems to real world fights, maybe even leading to breakups. Ultimately, the article says that facebook is causing people to react strongly to what they see in the online behavior of their partners, and online behavior is also negatively affecting the trust level between partners in relationships.While the article is clear about the idea that “facebook itself isn’t to blame for the demise of domestic bliss”, it makes it clear that facebook can create a need for much better communication between people, in relationships or not.

In my opinion, the story claims to present us with a fair evaluation of the role facebook (or other social media) can play in our lives, but realistically it misses the mark on many points. I think that article uses facebook as a scapegoat for people with relationship problems, and gives the impression that without facebook these relationships would all succeed. In Donath and boyd’s article, they talk about the difference between becoming friends online with real close friends vs. becoming friends online with acquaintances. They explain,”the number of strong ties an individual can maintain may not be greatly increased by communication technology… but that the number of weak ties one can form and maintain may be able to increase substantially” (Donath and boyd 80). Using facebook may increase the communication and ties to people we would otherwise not be very close with, but it shouldn’t be affecting our close relationships, like those with a significant other.

To get closer to the truth, I think the article should have discussed the connection between online and offline relationships with a person, and how that line has become more and more blurred as facebook use increases exponentially. The article should have touched more upon how, “part of what makes the negotiation of friendship on social network sites tricky is that it’s deeply connected to participant’s offline social life” (boyd 18). What you write on someone’s wall on facebook can translate to real life conversations – whether that causes laughter or anger. And in this articles case – jealousy!

Like Life 2.0, the article provides some real life examples of how jealousy has seeped into relationships through facebook. Some marriage counselors are gaining new clients as couples seek therapy to deal with the rifts and jealousy that have been sparked by facebook use, but in contrast to second-life, marital issues due to facebook have more to do with types of interaction, instead of hours logged on the site. The non-privacy of facebook can even cause problems for couples after they break up, like fighting over pictures still up of them together, or even causing asthma attacks for a jilted lover.

While some blame social media for relationship problems (for example caused by jealousy on facebook), some are grateful for social media to bring people together that would have never met otherwise (couples that meet and start relationships on second-life), it seems clear that social media is affecting our relationships with everyone around us. The article tries to maintain that facebook isn’t simply the cause of breakups and jealousy, and that these problems existed without the help of facebook, it seems clear that facebook is definitely speeding up and exacerbating issues that relationships already suffered from, acting as a highlighter of sorts, pointing out things we may not have noticed as much otherwise.

To continue this research, I think that researchers definitely need to try to maintain intimate relationships over facebook or other types of social media to understand fully how real emotions are affected by virtual actions. We can’t effectively study and understand the role of social media unless we participate in it – especially in a negative way. There is no way to completely understand how a relationship can be jaded by jealously on facebook unless we experience it – but participatory observation certainly seems to be the only way to truly research social media as it constantly evolves and changes, especially since the types of social media and the way we facilitate our relationships on it evolve faster than we can test and research our theories.

The blurring lines of online and reality

In Beer’s article, he offers a continued analysis of social network sites that so far “have not received little in the way of sustained analytical attention” (Beer 516). He focuses his response on the definition that Boyd and Ellison construct of the difference between ‘social network sites’ and ‘social networking sites’, and how that difference should be renamed under different terms. Beer wonders, “why not use a term like Web 2.0 to describe the general shift and then fit categories, such as wiki’s, folksonomies, mashups and social networking sites within it” (Beer 519). Boyd’s and Ellison’s definition don’t do the vast amounts of social sites (whether that be network or networking) justice.
Beer also takes up discussion with Boyd and Ellison’s separation of ‘online’ and ‘offline’ living, and how each consists of a separate group of friends. He brings up the point that, “it is possible that SNS, as they become mainstream, might well have an influence on what friendship means, how it is understood, and, ultimately, how it is played out” (521). As more and more people use SNS, they become more integrated and normal in everyday life, and there is no clear distinction between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ friends. It becomes harder to separate the technologies we use daily from the interactions with real people around us as they become more and more intertwined.
Beer then transitions to the future of analysis of social media. Keeping in mind that while social media is often free, there is an economic aspect to it due to the extremely high exchange rate of “information, cultural artefacts, personal details, links to products and commodities, contacts, friends, and details about events and meetings” (524). And as research continues, Beer and other academics should learn from everyday SNS users and their integration of SNS into daily life.

One of the issues that both articles discuss, the idea of online vs. offline friends and SNS influencing the way friendships function, is something that I think is constantly evolving. Especially with the rise of smart phones and nonstop connectedness to the internet and social media, we almost cannot escape this increasingly mediated world. Social media have seeped into every aspect of our life – everyone is connected through networks like Facebook and Twitter and we are constantly using them at home on computers as well as checking up on them through phones when out and about. I especially like Beer’s comment, “without wanting to sound Baudrillardian, we might even want to think if there is such a thing as an online and offline in the context of SNS” (522). How can we tell the difference between the two anymore? Websites like google are expanding their social media into many different platforms, like google+, and in short periods of time can already attract over 90 million users. And when these 90 million users are constantly connected, there is a blurry overlap of the line between real life and virtual life. They are quickly becoming one and the same.

Also, I can agree with Beer’s criticisms of Boyd and Ellison’s article. While Boyd and Ellison set up a solid framework for the analysis of social media, the large bulk of it being historical leaves some room for them to be able to continue their analysis. Beer’s article does continue and refine their analysis, but both articles were written in 2008 and are already outdated in some areas (for example some of the social network sites have a completely new role in society, or on the other hand don’t even exist anymore). A lot of Beer’s more detailed points, however, seemed to have aged better. For example, Beer realizing that the future research of social media should take advantage of the participatory knowledge of regular SNS users is something that can continually help. As social media evolves, so do the users, and by learning first hand experience from those users will provide the best insight into how and why SNS work they way they do.
As research continues into social media, there seems to be a never ending supply of different social media outlets, and an exponential amount of users. If a website like google can add 50 million users in a three month span, and facebook can accrue over 845 million users over its lifespan, there seems to be no end in sight for what social media can accomplish and how connected it can make the world. These SNS users are they key to understanding why social media has become the phenomenon that it has, seemingly unstoppable.