Friends With Benefits

A Social Media Marketing Handbook
Having Mutually Beneficial Relationships With Social Networks? With a Title Like That, No Starch Was Asking for It.

Friends With Benefits is aimed at people who are comfortable using the Internet but aren’t necessarily a web designer by trade. The format of the book is easy to follow. It’s organized into sections and lists that make skimming for specific topics easy. Along the way, several interviews demonstrate points, such as one with a top Digg-er about the need for something to be relevant to the Digg community for him to want to promote their stories (p.75).

The contents of the book can be summed up as studying the social environment, next learning how to behave with the “natives” and measure results, then finish with advice for specific social websites.

The first chapter talks about the rise of social networks and the shift that occurred after 2000, away from where influential websites tried to re-create how broadcasters off the Internet were able to largely determined what “the news” was for a given day. Primary this change can be attributed to the tools and infrastructure becoming more accessible to non-specialists by lower costs for services like web hosting. New, mostly free, tools like blogging software becoming available and greater access to the Internet in general that occurred after the first Internet crash in 1999-2000. The importance of Free Software to this change, or even if the growth of content created by non-experts is a positive thing, have been taken up by other books. This book doesn’t concern itself with; instead, Friends With Benefits concerns itself with how to navigate the various social networking websites that appeared after the turn of the century.

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The first section is about finding out who you want to communicate within the first place, who are the influential people that you want to help you. A fair bit of this is how to use tools like Google, and others to figure out who has influence.  Not surprisingly, Google has some tools to do just that, and they are covered in the second and third chapters.

Having figured out who will be essential to help get your message out, the second section deals with how to behave on social networks. Most of this section deals with how to approach bloggers without offending them and a fair bit is about how the conventional marketing methods that work in say, print media, have to be adapted for social media. The over-riding message is common sense: don’t try and hide that you are employed by someone to sell something- the adverse reaction if/when you get found out can do lasting damage.  One particular good chapter in this section is how to respond to a crisis of some kind, whether it’s an un-favourable review or something more severe like a product recall. There’s a good set of guidelines and some novel tips (like buying ad-space on Google to get your response on the same page that might have press coverage of the crisis).

The third section is advice for specific social networks. MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube and Twitter each get their chapters from 9 through 12. For instance, the Facebook chapters give a bit of the history of the site, the significant parts of its interface and some examples of using Facebook groups and applications in marketing. Likewise, the Twitter chapter explains some of the lingo, e.g. the “fail whale”, specific to Twitter. Readers familiar with these networks will probably be able to skip the history and interface overviews. Still, the case studies will be useful – plus there are some valuable tip-sheets, and some great cartoons too.

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The humour that flows through this text turns what could be a dry, but still informational, book into something fun to read. The format is simple: understand how social networks work, figure out how to measure results and who the influencers are for a particular social network and how not to offend those same people, then end off with advice for specific social networks.

Date published: 05-Jan-2010