Building a social business is easier when you know what you’re getting into.
There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty around diving into social media, especially for business. The perception that these tools, communications methods, and communities are either for kids, or a waste of time, has caused many businesses to either misuse the existing social networks of their time, or worse, to ignore them all together.
Connection between businesses and the clients who support them has never been as important as it is now. The planet’s as small as it’ll ever get; if you’re not using every tool appropriate to connect with existing clients, you’ll lose them. If you’re not using every tool at your disposal to find new clients, you’ll never find them.
The following Units of Study are intended to give a broad overview of social media tools, the architecture of a social business, and provide some insight into useful systems of self-management for strategic social media usage.
There is no exam or accreditation, but I’d love to know what you think of the list, and if you’d like to add anything to it. Get in touch.
Curator’s Note: This course was originally published in 2011. Much of the content is still perfectly appropriate, but does not represent the current state of social media, much less social marketing. Tools have changed significantly, the public’s perception of what’s acceptable has changed with it – and marketers’ practices need to come up to speed. As such, this course will need some polish, and a follow up with specific tool-related reading very soon. If you have anything to suggest – books, ebooks, online learning courses – let me know and I’ll review the information.
Unit One: Social Commerce Theory
Module 1: Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
The industrial revolution convinced us that the place we worked would take care of us in perpetuity. If you’re a company man, you’re cared for. This is no longer the case, and we’re really mad about it.
Outliers is the story of how hard work, done with meaning, can change the world. Gladwell studies a number of stories all centered on the idea that a single person doing something they have absolute conviction in has immense power; this lesson is one of the key ingredients to understanding why people communicate as they do in social media, and how influence grows across channels.
Module 2: Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone is Connected, Connect Your Business to Everyone by Mitch Joel.
Mitch’s book acts as a primer for the mechanics of social business. While there is a good mix of theory and practice in Six Pixels, the real lesson of the book is finding out what works for you in which channel and addressing the problem of “half of my marketing is working, but I don’t know which half.”
The major lesson of Six Pixels is learning how to learn, when it comes to social media channels. Being able to dig into a channel and make sure the people you connect with are appropriate to your business is tantamount to success in connected commerce.
Module 3: Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.
There’s no way at this point to divide business from human relationships. Trust Agents talks about the changes in habits of individual people, and how the new “trust agents” will be able to work within some systems, and change others, to the benefit of broader cultures and bigger businesses.
Employing the tools of the trust agent can, as an individual, help you build an understanding of social media communication methods, and will begin to lay the groundwork for how those mild superpowers can apply to businesses, rather than your own individual benefit.
Unit Two: Social Business Culture
Optional Workbook: Lessons My Customers Have Taught Me by Steve Bryant.
This is the kind of short, snappy read that should be required feeding to every client-facing person in the world. Contrast this old-school salesman’s manual with Trust Agents, and you’ll begin to see where the lie of recency is in the tools Trust Agents presents really is.
The lessons in this small book (the copy I have is 78 pages in 14 point Comic Sans) still apply, by and large, to current business. However, with the things you’ve seen in Unit One, the things this book teaches will act as an easy bellwether for discerning the differences between classical retailers, and new media sales agents of all flavours.
Module 4: What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis
No study of the metamorphosis of business would be complete without Jarvis’ epic on the culture of Google. While Google is not a perfect indicator of how every business should run, when taken with the foundational books in Unit One, What Would Google Do? can be seen as a case study for the three primary components of a socially enabled business; scale-ability, innovation, and agility of focus.
Module 5: The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter and More Social by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund.
It’s not enough just knowing that things have changed and enabling individuals within your organization to take up the mantle of social media; it may be appropriate, or in some cases mandatory by way of the market, to change your entire business culture to reflect social ideals.
Building a framework for business in realtime, with zero distance between yourself and your clients, is difficult. Baer and Naslund’s book address the pros and cons of building your business way from a practical, no-nonsense angle. With the tools and information in The NOW Revolution, it’s possible to assess your current business culture and begin to envision a new, faster, leaner, more communicative organization.
Unit Three: New Media Production and Publishing
Module 6: Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, eBooks, Webinars (and More!) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business by CC Chapman and Ann Handley.
It’s not enough to just be in a channel and know how to act – the next step is to create really engaging, powerful, relate-able content to put into these channels. Blogging is a start, but powerful, high-converting blogging takes time, practice, and a high amount of media savvy. Content Rules provides the frames many of the current content marketing tactics need to be truly effective right out of the gate.
Whether you’re just about to write your first blog post, or you’ve been producing content for a long time, Content Rules provides the base framework to address the most pervasive problem many content marketers have; developing a personal voice in their work, that represents them as well as possible, while being perfectly appropriate to the channel they’re in.
Module 7: Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah
Any content you produce needs a platform on which to be housed – Inbound Marketing teaches what kinds of content fit best in which platforms, diving right into the specifics of production, information architecture, and publishing on a number of scales.
Whether you’re building a platform for yourself, or creating a corporate voice for your business, knowing what kinds of platforms have what benefits is key to ensuring the success of each piece of information you publish. Building your library well, is as important as building the right library.
Conclusion and UnExam
Hooray! You got through the slog, and if you’ve read each of the books on this list, you’ll have a pretty thorough understanding of where the current tools are going, and a little bit about where they came from.
This reading list may well change. The goal is to keep it under 10 books, but as this course and others develop, individual books may have increased relevance for other subjects. And, naturally, as reviews are written for each of the remaining books on this list, they will be linked here.
Now, for your assignment: If you haven’t already, build yourself a platform. It might be a blog, a Facebook page, or a following on Twitter. It could even be as simple as becoming a respectable Redditor. In any case, build your platform, and let me know if the books on this list have helped. Feedback on individual books and the list as a whole will help improve the list over time.