Author: Dan & Alison Zarrella
Publisher: O'Reilly, 2011
Aimed at: Companies with products and services to market
Pros: Clear, well-illustrated and readable overviews
Cons: Insufficient practical help
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
I have to admit that the first time I encountered the idea of companies using social media to promote their brands and services I was skeptical - surely Facebook and Twitter were for personal interaction? Well that was a mere year and a half ago. Now I take it for granted that Facebook and Twitter are relevant to any and every entity in the commercial world and that anyone who has a message to disseminate can take advantage of these tools. On the other hand social media marketing is not an easy or straightforward prospect and success is by no means guaranteed.
There are already loads of books on using social media marketing, including Dan Zarrella's recent title also from O'Reilly - can this one add anything?
This book has a distinctive format that was introduced by Tim O'Reilly's The Twitter Book.
It worked for that book which is a very practical guide with information on the right hand page of a each spread accompanied by a full page screen shot on the left hand side. The same screenshot of the left, text on the right is used for this book - but there isn't always a close tie up between the two and the overall effect isn't of a hands-on practical guide, more of an illustrated discussion.
The first chapter, Introduction to Social Networking has charts to illustrate Facebook's adoption and impact and refers to examples of both large and small companies that are using it. It concludes by showing us Facebook's own Facebook Page.
Before you can create a Facebook Page - which is the only type of exposure on Facebook that an organisation can have, an individual has to create a Facebook Profile. This is because a Facebook user has to be a person - even if in reality a Facebook page for an organisation will have multiple people generating content for it. So Chapter 2 goes through Facebook Profile Basics - but at an overview level. If you need help in setting up a Facebook account then this not going to be enough.
Chapter 3 is on Facebook Page Basics. Again it's an overview - but if you are already familiar with Facebook this may be all you need. On the other hand Facebook's interface is often messy so help with commonly required procedures, such as setting up a Twitter feed, would have been welcome.
Chapter 4 looks at the difference between Facebook Pages and Groups and when setting up a Group might be advantageous. Chapter 5 covers Facebook Events and how to integrate them in a Page.
It is at Chapter 6, Facebook Application Basics that I would really have liked some additional content - but the authors are up front about the fact there isn't any saying:
This chapter details what you need to know to brainstorm an idea for a great application ... Any competent developer can learn to work with the Facebook API, but it is not with in the scope of this book to teach you to program.
OK but a few details of the API might have been nice. Instead we get a diagram illustrating the idea that the development of a Facebook application should be "an iterative, cyclical process" and at the end of the chapter the form that you have to complete to add your app to the Facebook Application Directory.
Chapter 7 is on Customizing Your Facebook Page and starts by looking at examples pf page icons, Facebook Tabs and goes on to talk about exclusive content.
There are just two sections in Chapter 8, Developing a Facebook Strategy. They are: Competing with Other Content on Facebook and Optimizing for Both Facebook and Search Engines. Chapter 9 looks at Cross-Promoting Content on Facebook and demonstrates how to promote your blog and website content so that it gets shared on Facebook. It reminds the reader that Facebook has a much more mainstream audience than Twitter. On the whole the chapter gives advice about what to avoid - although it does suggest that stories about sex and video content appeals to Facebook users. Another message was to use simple language - once an article is "tougher than grade school level" it will not appeal to Facebook users.The chapter concludes with a look at social plug-ins - Share and Like buttons - that are simple to integrate and tend to be effective.
Chapter 10 is a useful reminder of the need for Facebook Management. It covers deals and promotions as well as monitoring and moderation. It introduces the topic of advertising which is covered more fully in Chapter 11 and the book rounds off with Chapter 12, Analytics and ROI, where the Facebook Insights platform is covered in some detail, along with Google Analytics. At last there is some practical help for marketers - and it tends to point up how this has been missing in some earlier chapters.
Overall this is an interesting read and it is bound to spark some ideas and provide some leads to follow. It will also alert you to the many pitfalls and challenges that are associated with trying to use Facebook to promotional purposes.