Thursday, June 03, 2010

Engage or Die: The Impact of Social Media in Business

Years ago, when bloggers were first earning worldwide attention and influence, Technorati was among of the first major efforts to organize the millions of blogs and related conversations into a useful directory. Over time, Technorati became the hub that connected bloggers with wider audiences and eventually advertisers.

But blogs were just one part of the social media revolution. Social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the like, expanded the ability for anyone to publish, share, and discover information. Along the way, social media became a focal point for businesses, and any organization or cause really, as social media champions realized that the ability to connect directly with people could have positive and even profound effects.

And that’s where things went completely haywire almost overnight.

Expert advice poured in from everywhere. Technorati Tags were covering social media went from a humble beginning to a dominant category within months. But even with all of the advice, discussions, and communities dedicated to helping one another, the steps from asking and answering the right questions to getting started to determining success were hazy at best. Many books have since hit the shelves to help us figure everything out. But very few have given us clear and practical instructions to do something beyond the obvious. A new book just hit the streets and it was written to do just that, provide direction in order to make social media work for any business.

Written by my good friend Brian Solis, who also contributes to Technorati, Engage! sets out to become the “complete guide for brands and businesses to create, cultivate and measure success in the new web.”


The book kicks off with a bang. “Engage or die!” he exclaims. His point is that we either figure this out and take a leadership role or as he suggests, we’ll find ourselves out of touch and inevitably, out of mind.

Written in two parts, Engage begins with taking us back to school. By enrolling us in the New Media University, Solis resets all we know and think we know about social media tools, networks, and services so that he can introduce new concepts and methodologies that he builds upon throughout each chapter. Starting with 101 and working our way through an MBA program, I was surprised by just how much new details emerge. Perhaps, we just took these networks at face value as they’re intended to be easy to use. But Solis, introduces us to the sociology and psychology of social networks and how consumers are using them to find and share information and in turn, also earn authority that deserves consideration into all of our marketing, sales, and service programs.

The second half of the book explores everything needed to start programs, determine the resources needed, how to sell it internally, and most notably, how to measure ROI and success.

Solis provides worksheets to help us begin planning. He also introduces exercises that help businesses introduce personality and character into their brands, a step that Solis believes, is crucial in social networks. He also tackles a subject that is becoming increasingly important as more people dabble in social media marketing. He outlines how to separate personal and professional interaction and profiles to create an online persona to excel as brand representatives, while also defining business and personal boundaries.

Engage goes far deeper than I could possibly write about in one post. The book also delves into strategies for social CRM, organizing workflow around conversations, how to create and build communities, and also how to find influential customers and prospects to spark word of mouth.

Perhaps this is worth noting.

The book is dense and definitely has a thud factor. If I had any criticisms it’s that Engage requires a significant intellectual and time investment. It’s not a quick read nor is it written for everyday people. It is long and covers scores of topics, strategies, and program ideas and it is wordy. Solis himself makes no apologies for this stating at the beginning of the book, that there are no shortcuts for doing this the right way. I guess that’s why he calls it a “complete guide.” In fact, the manuscript was far more inclusive than what made the final cut. The “deleted scenes” as Solis refers to it, is available online at along with new information that continues the learning.

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