How to Fight Social Media Book Fatigue

I had the pleasure recently of reading two books by people I know. Two *more* social media books by people I know quite well.

So, how am I supposed to do an objective review?

I’m not.

How am I supposed to drum up enthusiasm for social media books when it’s probably much healthier to step away from my day job once in a while?

I’ll wear my fatigue on my sleeve and still recommend the books.

First of all, the two books in question:

Content Rules, by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, and;

Social Marketing to the Business Customer, by Paul Gillin and Eric Schwartzman.

(Oh right, disclosure- I was given copies of each book with no obligation, though I am prone to buy these types of books on occasion as well if the mood strikes and I just-just-just-just-juuuuuuust got paid).

I’ll just say now: go buy and read these books if you are interested in online content strategy or social media for the business-to-business (B2B) world- or more importantly need information on either of these subjects to make the case for such at your company, because these folks know what they are talking about. Simple enough for a review?

I’m not going to critique writing styles or nitpick about content, though both books are full of anecdotes, case studies (especially in the case of Social Marketing…) and practical advice (more the province of Content Rules). I’m also not going to get into the tired “I’m not the audience for these books” – that’s part of what the “fatigue” is about. You not the audience as well? Then give the books away to someone who could use them (yeah, I should do that).

The main reason I don’t want to get into picking apart writing styles is I don’t want to go down the road of reviews like this and get into a pissing match where authors are defensive and.. well who cares, anyway?

By the way, if you choose these books for writing that sings, you are probably reading the wrong kind of books- but I will recommend a couple of fairly recent books where the writing flowed really well for me: Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel, and Twitterville by Shel Israel, who I found to be an excellent storyteller (yeah, I know those guys a little too- occupational hazard).

The real value of Content Rules and Social Marketing… to me is that they represent a positive, evolutionary move to more niche oriented books, rather than “Social Media is Good” books of the first wave (Groundswell, Join the Conversation and yes, Six Pixels…).

Both books hit specific concepts within online social media – content and B2B, natch – and therein lies their usefulness. Both books also manage to future-proof themselves to the point that is possible in this industry, meaning they rely heavily on ideas and strategies rather than tools (Content probably had the tougher line to toe in that regard). The disadvantage is that practical advice can be blunted by generality, while the advantage is that it prevents a book from being obsolete not long after it hits the shelves (an example might be- though I hope I’m wrong – Steve Garfield’s Get Seen, a wealth of practical information for creating videos, but so laden with equipment, software and website recommendations that the first edition is probably already out-of-date).

You Could Have Just Skipped to This Part

So what value can I bring writing about these books other than pimping out and linkbaiting my friends? I think these books (and others) are better enjoyed by exploring the wealth of dynamic online content that these authors are creating on a weekly, even daily basis. You cannot judge books without knowing where the authors come by their subjects, and you certainly can’t judge the review without knowing the reviewer’s point of view.

In fact, I would go further to say dip into the authors’ current online content and root around as you use the books- it tells you more about where they come from, and where their thinking may have evolved since publication.

First, Content Rules; this book would have no authority if both authors were not knee-deep in content.

I knew of Ann Handley dating back to her days at ClickZ, and now through the amazing marketing content she oversees at MarketingProfs. She also occasionally (that is, not often enough) commits a more personal style of writing on her personal blog, Annarchy.

C.C. Chapman, for his part, adds to the book’s ideas, deliberately and otherwise, through a variety of podcasts, video and written posts. Home base is http://www.cc-chapman.com/, but definitely have a poke around the Digital Dads content.

For Social Marketing to the Business Customer:

Paul Gillin writes a regular column in BtoB Magazine, and has built credibility on years in the industry based on leading roles at Computerworld and TechTarget. Also, he often uses his blog at http://gillin.com as a workshop to test-drive chapters of upcoming books, and take in comments and contributions from others. What is a social media book without collaboration?

Eric Schwartzman I first got to know through his podcast, On the Record Online. Each episode is an in-depth interview with communications professionals and journalists, a rich backlog of material that of course informed much of Eric’s contribution to the book.

My point, put briefly: bring life to any of these books by incorporating the living content that feeds them. They may be dead tree books, but you don’t have to read them that way.

Will I be reading the bunch of new social media books coming out? Maybe, I don’t know. The next issue of MOJO Magazine is on its way, though, and my bedtime reading is reserved for the next several nights.

Social Media Top 5: The Present and Future of Disconnecting

I just returned from a vacation in which I was somewhat successful staying offline—or, at least kept myself from being immersed in my personal Web 2.0 multimedia world at my usual ridiculous level.

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Returning home, I got to thinking; how might different types of New Media makers disconnect on vacation, assuming they were capable of it? For my back-from-vacation edition of the Social Media Top 5, I took a stab at some guesses, as well as some possible future solutions (some of them admittedly extreme).

  1. The Blogger:
    • Current Method: Letting the blog lie idle while you vacation, perhaps letting a guest blogger fill in if your blog actually has regular readers
    • The Future: “Idea Free” zones, where blog post-type thinking is discouraged, perhaps even punished. Want to relate Disney customer service to Web 2.0 marketing methods? Stop it!
    • Choosing which rides to go on remind you of life-altering career changes? Cut it out!
  2. The Flickr Fiend:
    • Current Method: Self-discipline; waiting until you return home from vacation to post pictures online
    • The Future: “Image free” vacation spots where there is absolutely nothing interesting to photograph, and your family is forced to wear drab clothes
  3. The Twitterer:
    • Current Method: Actually doing things, which tends to keep most of us too busy to tell other people about it—for the most part, anyway
    • The Future: EMP resorts, in which focused electro-magnetic pulses are periodically unleashed to knock any Twitter-capable devices offline
  4. The Video Seesmic/Qik/Ustream “Artist”
    • Current Method: You know something, I can’t figure out anything that has kept people, especially Qik video streaming users, from live-streaming at the drop of a hat
    • The Future: Hiring extremely ugly people to follow you around and remain within Webcam view at all times to discourage audiences, the fuel for any video artist
  5. The Lifestreamer:
    • Current Method: Disengages from social media by not doing anything; i.e., not having anything to stream. In all but the most extreme cases, breathing is allowed
    • The Future: “Hypersleep” hibernation as vacation—with complete sensory deprivation and REM sleep (which may be deemed life-streamable) optional

Ok, so I wrote this blog post on the plane home. That doesn’t count towards “disconnecting,” does it?

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Buck Rogers book brings back memories

When I was a kid, my big nerd pleasure was getting big books of classic comic reprints out of the library: Superman, Batman, Flash Gordon- and this one, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. My mother-in-law picked this up for my son at an estate sale, unaware that I would go crazy for it myself.

The books spans the life of the daily- and color Sunday- comic strip from 1929-1946. It doesn’t include the 1950’s strips by Ray Bradbury, but he does write the foreword.

I look forward to reacquainting myself with Buck, Wilma and Killer Kane, and showing my son as well.

Any other Buck Rogers fans out there?

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Michael Jackson is Dead

The one and only Michael Jackson has died. I was sad to learn this, two weeks after the fact, from the great WhiskeyCast.*

As a Scotch drinker, I maichaeljacksonscotchfound Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide to Scotch an immense help in learning about the different Scotch regions, and the subtler differences among the individual whiskeys. He is, I suppose, to scotch what Robert Parker is to wine.

With no small assist from Mr. Jackson, I discovered that I prefer the Islay malts, with their earthy, peaty qualities– hey, I’m a savory kind of guy.

In fact, I hold my slightly weathered Third Edition Guide (1994) in my hands. Yes, I am the kind of geek who read it cover to cover when I first got it.

I don’t remember too many factoids from it, but I did get a sense of the variety of whiskeys out there.

“Whiskey,” by the way, comes from the Scots Gaelic word “usquebaugh,” meaning “water of life.” Fitting. So, “whiskey” = “scotch.” Everything else needs to find their own names.

My favorite Scotch? I did state my preference for savory scotches, particularly from the Islay region–Lagavulin and Laphroiag are frequently in my glass, as are the various Bowmore varieties and the occasional splurge of an Auchentoshan 21-year-old.

However, I am often drawn to the Balvenie “Double-Wood” — a Highland malt that takes its name from being aged in bourbon and sherry casks, giving it a bit of a sweeter flavor that is a bit different from my usual dram. Michael Jackson gave it an 87 in the Third Edition.

What’s a real shame is that Michael Jackson is a beer authority as well, and I haven’t gone through his writings on that topic yet. I will have to do that, I am sure to learn a thing or three.

And yes, I did title this post the way I did in part to be obnoxious. I like to be transparent about this stuff. Welcome to my blog, fans of the King of Pop.

* Hat tip to Chip Griffin and his Cork and Knife blog for pointing me to the Whiskey Podcast.

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Watching old movies with your kids; yah, I gotta do this more

As a lifelong movie fan, part-time art-film snob, and dad, I had a great time reading Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr’s new book”The Best Old Movies for Families: A Guide to Watching Together.”

Ty BurrFirst, I should disclose that I know Ty– we live in the same school district, and my son is slightly younger than the younger daughter he references so frequently in this book.

I think it is a wonderful idea to watch old movies with your kids– to open up enjoyment that is not solely dependent on dull kids’ TV and video games.

Ty is exhaustive in explaining why you should–or should not– sow different movies to your kids, what might need explaining, and what companion movies you should seek out for further viewing.

When my son was a bit younger, I showed him Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin films– which he ate up, and still likes, and this may give me the excuse to explore a bit more with him, starting with my own library and perhaps rambling over the nearby Brattle Theater in Harvard Square, Cambridge, or the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, Massachusetts for a revival show.

Now that I have praised the book, it’s time to get snarky. I need a list of films not to watch with your kids– or Old Movies Guaranteed to Mess with Your Youngster’s Mind:

  • Blood of a Poet” — Ty Burr recommends Jean Cocteau’s “La Belle et La Bete,” and rightly so as it is fantastic. But Cocteau’s earlier, surreal mind-f**k of a short film should be good for a little bed-wetting and nightmares. (Also look for: “Un Chien Andalou” by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, especially if your child has been naughty)
  • Any film by Ingmar Bergman — I was a little surprised Ty could not find at least one Bergman film to include in his book, until Bergman died this week and I was reminded of his subject matter. Try the Seventh Seal, especially if your young genius is a budding chess champion.
  • Godzilla” — This is an old movie, from 1954, so it should qualify. No excuse for not including this in the book; I refuse to acknowledge this omission. It’s a classic, especially the American version with Raymond Burr inexplicably shoe-horned in.
  • Catherine Deneuve — Ty included the beautiful ribbon-candy of a film “Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” but could have dug deeper for follow-up films. I think “The Hunger” would be great. It’s not so old but it co-stars David Bowie; don’t kids still love Bowie?

Just a few helpful suggestions for the next edition of the book.

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Harry Potter 7: Best reason to buy it at Costco

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Originally uploaded by douglashaslam
Why buy “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” at Costco? Because you can get these sweet boxes to carry your booze.

Also, I scratch my head at the people who line up to buy the book on the first night. One Twitter friend told me that at Porter Square in Cambridge MA, there was a 500+ line at the Barnes & noble, while the CVS next door, also stocking the book, had no line.

I understand the appeal of joining a Harry Potter party and joining in the celebration, but if you just want to buy the book… well, I don’t do lines.

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That summer camp you went to: what if they wrote a book about it?

WTC Book

*Edited to bump the Key Foundation URL to buy the book

Speaking of keeping up connections, and nurturing relationships:

Many of you have a summer camp or other institution you went to as a child, youth, or young adult; for me, it was Wah-Tut-Ca Scout Reservation in Northwood, New Hampshire.

I was fortunate that the group I grew up with at that camp has stuck together for the last 25-plus years. Through high schools, colleges, marriages, children, and even a loss of one of the gang on 9/11, we have remained a tight-night gang.

Now, think about someone writing a book about that summer camp and publishing it. That’s what our group did for Wah-Tut-Ca. The Key Foundation, a fundraising group we started 20 years ago, has just published “Wah-Tut-Ca Scout Reservation,” part of the Images of America series through Arcadia Press.

This book is written by some of our own, and preserves the memories of this great camp, back to its founding 70 years ago. Best of all, its sale is being used to raise funds for a new boathouse, which will be named after our departed brother, Andrew Curry Green, another kindred spirit who passed–on 9/11–way too soon.

We have high hopes for the project– and our looking forward to the book I haven’t even got my copy yet! If this sort of thing– the book, the cause, or both– intrigues you at all, you can buy from the Key Foundation Website, which nets more charity money than Amazon.

So– how have you nurtured your childhood relationships? There is a lot of value in keeping them going…

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Star Wars, Nothin’ But Star Wars…

A few years ago, there was a lot of talk about how Harry Potter books got kids into reading. True enough, but for my 9 year old son it is Nothin’ But Star Wars, and the dozens of novels it has spawned, from Boba Fett’s adventures to the “Last of the Jedi” tales and everything in between.

He can’t wait to jump into bed every night and read himself to sleep– perfect!

Most recently, he had to do a book report, called “Book Report in a…” by his teacher, who must not think the students have older siblings that watch Saturday Night Live. The idea? Use a container to express something from the book. Here is my son’s San Pellegrino space ship (“It’s not a rocket!”).419587740_e33201a2f7.jpg

Best part, is he made it himself, no help from us. I can’t stand seeing “perfect” projects that have the parents’ fingerprints all over it.

The other best part was that the students each had to pick 5 strange words and define them as used. This being Star Wars, it was hard to avoid words unique to Star Wars, so when he chose “Transparisteel,” a Google search took us to “Wookieepedia.” I approved his use of the definition found there. I’m ambivalent about using Wikipedia for school research, but Wookieepedia? Go for it!

I’m just glad he didn’t try to look up “Storm Trooper” in Webster’s.

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