Riley's Reviews > Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web

Engage by Brian Solis
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Jul 17, 10

Read in July, 2010

I was very skeptical of this book, but not until I started reading the introductory pages. It felt like the author wanted you to join a cult to embrace social media, now! (complete with multiple “Engage or Die” graphics) I was prepared for this to be a very LONG journey through a lot of puffery. But once past this introductory hype the book was a complete, and welcome, deviation from that notion. Well though out and immensely insightful.

The first few chapters really introduce you to what social media is, and isn’t.
“The secret to successfully navigating the new landscape of marketing and service is understanding that socialized media is about anthropology, sociology, and ethnography and less about technology and social tools that captivate and connect everyone today.” Social media usually results in a few names that come to your mind (Facebook, Twitter, etc.); just the tip of the iceberg. The more important question is what outlets are important to your brand and business. Understanding this one can observe the cultures and navigate to the appropriate person.

I hadn’t really though about it, so I was surprised to learn that Nielsen has now ranked member communities and blogs #4 as the most popular online activity AHEAD of email. (Searches #1, general portals/communities #2, File storage #3). Another interesting study said that only 16 percent of online consumers who read corporate blogs admitted to trusting them. This is attributed to corporate propaganda, and a blog with out a strategy only contributes to this distrust for your brand.

After this general introduction the book transitions into a type of “university class” structure where it delves into building – and further exploring – social media. From wigits to content distribution, the book does get into a lot of detail, but none of which seems overwhelming.

Chapter 12 was the most pertinent for what I was looking for regarding establishing an online presence and defining the brand persona. It was not by far the most detailed, but it shouldn’t have been. This was a book on social media application, not branding.

From here the book graduated you to more insight into where social media is and where it is going. I found this interesting so I’ll include a few key takeaways. Now and in the future, information will be finding you. Power is shifting from tightly controlled publishers, broadcasters, and corporations. Yet with this power, if it is to be used to better human life remember that this virtual information space is not a world unto itself, but merely a supplement to life. (“How many of our most joyful memories have been created in front of screen?). It is the goal for business to tap into these opportunities to “earn awareness and more importantly, build relationships with those who share affinities for the information products, and services they represent.”

Now it gets into the topics of how to listen to customers via social media. This introduced the “conversation prism” concept referenced throughout the rest of the book. It goes into more detail on classification of social media sites. The author’s theory is that it is more important to look at the groups. Given the rapid change social media sites, some may not be there next year and new ones will be; don’t just look at the usual suspects. This prism can be used to “discover social news and conversations that are relevant to defining and positing the sentiments, perceptions, and resonance of the brand in the Social Web. It is the cornerstone of the bigger discussion as to where, why and how to engage. The purpose of the prism is to inspire action and research that leads to earned relevance.” This sift from top down broadcasting (press releases, trade journals) to embrace the consumer directly is a good blue print to shorten the gap between brand, personification, and the ability to listen and respond to input through adaptation of product and services. Interesting, every social network has a search box, but those results are often not included in from the monitoring services of web data!

Next we move on to what the demographics of a social network look like. A 2008 study said that 1% of are creators, 9% are editors/intermittent contributors, and 90% are an audience. From there it gets into the real details of developing a Social Media Plan Outline (page 277). Another tid bid, Whole food has more than 50 twitter accounts based on product topic!

So what does social media mean and why is social media important? Looking at a 2003 loyalty and profitability study found that not all loyal customers are profitable, and not all profitable customers are loyal. The author claims that the social customer is, becoming more prominent and influential than ever before. But it also discusses more tangible ways to measure ROI on social media from companies. (See page 328 for list of possible measurements).

• Best buy measure the ROI of its internal “Blue Shirts Nation” community in terms of lower turnover rates.
• The National Association of Manufactures measures the ROI of its blog in terms of greater access to the halls of Capital Hill
• Dell measures the success of its IdeaStorm community both in terms of lower support costs and the number of new ideas generated.
• Seaworld reached out to roller-coaster enthusiast with its social media program and measured ROI in terms of lower out reach costs as well as tickets sold.

In conclusion, not only was this a great read, but I would put it up there with some other great business books. True to the secondary title, this book truly was “a complete guide for brands and businesses to build, cultivate, and measure success in the new web.” Or maybe I just had a few too many sips of the Koolaid and support the “Engage or Die!” introduction mantra.
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