Jason's Reviews > Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business

Socialnomics by Erik Qualman
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's review
Sep 28, 2009

did not like it
Read in October, 2009

The ShamWow guy writes a book!! Socialnomics is terribly written. Erik Qualman has the resume to write a book about social media, but it seems that Socialnomics was rushed to market, slanted entirely to shine a positive light on businesses that use social media, and makes wild, almost giddy, claims about the potential for social media to enhance the business of love, life, and prosperity in the near future. The overriding problem I have with this book is that it's completely unbalanced. If social media was a single company, then Qualman would be its chief salesman and cheerleader, and Socialnomics its quarterly report. Some good ideas within, yes, but a strong bias.

The book outlines how a business can leverage the power of social media to compete in rapidly changing economies. The book was written for business purposes, so I'll only review it to that single topic, but think of the important, interesting topics he's left off the table. The use of social media to produce healthier profits is probably the easiest measure of its effectiveness, but he never goes near thorny ethical questions, how social media could change our culture in negative ways, indeed, he never mentions any nefarious results of the world's transition to social media that will necessarily occur, that always occurs, with a complete, worldwide, revolutionary shift to new technology.

This book was rushed to market. It had to be. Any book that details social media is almost completely outdated within 9 months. A generation in social media is probably 18 months. So, to compete with other books on the subject, Socialnomics had to be current; to be current, it had to be on bookstands within weeks of the last edit. I appreciate that the book was available in September 2009 and included data from early summer 2009. However, with that speed, it skipped a few crucial rounds with an editor. It's written at a fourth grade level with, maybe, a few compound sentences, multiple spelling errors, and many paragraphs throughout that end—not start—with a topic sentence. He overuses the superlative to sell the benefits of social media. If you want to read a better book on social media's potential, I recommend Groundswell, even though it's a generation older, published in 2007.

The author's voice has an almost childlike eagerness, full of wonder, a pervasive salesman's tone. Qualman's message is like a carnival huckster, like the ShamWow guy. I envision him with a boom mike dictating his book to an iPhone while exercising at the gym, updating his Tumblr blog, buying airline tickets, and laughing at photos on Failblog. He makes outrageous claims like social media causes less internet confusion (20), makes you a better parent (52), and makes for a richer workplace experience (232). Sure, that may be true for some people some of the time, but that's merely an usupported hypothesis with no hard data. Qualman almost 'wills' these claims to be true, just by sheer force of Wow, Qualman can make social media answer the economy's problems.

Qualman also uses screwy, unsupported logic to prove a point. He claims that the average voter spends 2 hours voting, when instead, if they used social media (a voting capability he considers right around the corner), they could remain at work making an average $16/hour. He then multiplies the number of voters by $32, and extrapolates a savings of millions and millions of dollars (84). He makes an error of sunk cost. Are all voters taking time away from work to vote? Are all voters on a clock or salaried? Would all workers necessarily be at work during those 2 hours? Another scenario finds him describing how Ebooks will make tracking library inventory easier, lead to fewer lost books, ultimately saving taxpayers millions of dollars a year (17). Qualman also claims that if you burn your finger, you could blog your network, secure a remedy, and be on your way (100). Come on folks, if you burn your finger are you going to blog it or put ice on it?

Social media is new. It's still virginal, and relatively innocent. Users are still having fun with it. Socialnomics does not address the eventual misuse of social media; the exploitation, the photographic extortion, the stealing of personal identity, the soft, pallid, underbelly of crime that eventually invades like contagion all new technologies. Instead, he describes nothing but positives. He's determined to prove that Obama was elected president entirely because of his prowess and control of social media (61-87). He states that voter turnout for 2008 was higher than anytime since 1908—all because of the use of social media (79), surely not because of a historically fractured political tapestry, an 8 year war, or the energy surrounding the first black man and the first woman as potential presidents, etc. No, it was ostensibly because social media excited the voter. He makes the absurd claim (239) that the ubiquity of social media will force people to lead 'cleaner lives' as humans, adults, and citizens, and that social media rewards first class behavior and punishes improper behavior (240). Huh? Has that been the trend so far with porn, online gambling, and identity theft?

I don't recommend Socialnomics. However, I highly recommend the 263 second video that Qualman created to advertise the book, http://socialnomics.net/2009/08/11/st.... It's a hard-hitting video that basically distills the most important points in the 265 page book. Watch the video, and there's no need to read the book.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Lee (new)

Lee Thanks for saving me the purchase price. I saw the video and checked reviews first thing. Glad I did.

Jason Lee, thankfully I didn't purchase the book either. This had the potential to be so much better, something more academic that could have lasted longer and been more pertinent years from now. Instead, it really was 'rushed' to market, and will be quickly covered by so many other dozens of books that are published each year about social media.

Glad I could save you $19.95.

message 3: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Does that "2 hours to vote" stat include the time you're supposed to spend reading the material about the issues ahead of time? Because I don't otherwise see how it could take that long. And you really shouldn't be doing that reading at work. It takes me about a half hour to vote, and that includes the optional time spent walking to the polling place; if I drove it would be 10 minutes. And I've never missed work to vote.

Jason See, Miriam, exactly.

Funny you mention 'reading at work.' I had to read this book for work, as we're placing more emphasis on a social media presence--heck everybody is. So, I went to the conference room, and burned through this book in a couple afternoons.

Erin I would trust your review more if your photo wasn't Clint Eastwood.

message 6: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Erin wrote: "I would trust your review more if your photo wasn't Clint Eastwood."

Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel, is involved in state politics, and has a production company. Presumably he possesses at least an average understanding of economics.

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