Where Gail Fails

Gail Z Martin wants to get you RESULTS: Recommit to marketing, Expect Success, Seek partners, Understand your audience, Look for win-win scenarios, Take strategic action and Stay visible. Martin therefore aims and in many ways succeeds, by employing key themes of our course, to provide a comprehensive view of social media in business. However, she fails to note its larger implications.

The structure of her book “30 Days to Social Media Success” focuses on larger marketing ideas and then, about a quarter of the way in, begins to address social media’s role in these goals. She then goes through various platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogging sites, Squidoo, Youtube, Flickr) and explains them in a clear, basic, easy-to-understand manner. This shows that her intended audience consists of non-netizens: people who are unfamiliar with even the basic aspects of these sites. These sections of the book then become somewhat mundane for anyone familiar with these sites—let alone people like us who grew up with most of them. Furthermore, despite bringing up good points, her claims lack any really evidence: she should have employed some of the research methods discussed in the course. Case studies and examples would have greatly strengthened her argument. Overall the discourse of the book would fall into Baym’s social shaping category—we influence technology and technology influences us. Therefore she is focused on how we can productively use technologies influence to further our business strategy.

One concept that she effectively addressed was that of audience (the U of her RESULTS plan is understanding you audience). Throughout the course we have discussed the notion of context collapse and the implications of an invisible audience and Martin, realizing the diversity of the people online, urges her readers to narrow in on their audience as specifically as possible. Martin is then providing a tactic, discussed by Marwick & boyd, of responding to context collapse: you need to pretend you don’t have an invisible audience so you can form your messages around an intended audience. She also realizes that the best way to do this is by employing taste statements that reflect, what Liu calls, authenticity, prestige and differentiation. Her intended technique is very similar to Gidden’s idea of “reflective project of the self”: trying to sustain a coherent biography. We are not just deciding how to act; we are deciding who to be.  She pushes the idea of creating a “Real Story” and using social media to share it. This means talking about the owner’s story, the products story, the story of the business and the stories of customers. She feels that “ Telling the Real Story of your business makes a powerful connection with customers” and using your “True Voice” avoids sounding “contrived, generic or insincere”. Using your True Voice also allows for differentiation “ because the words come from your strengths and from the tangible benefits you have provided to your customers” (363 of 1598). Another concept she properly describes is that of social capital and the various ties. She clearly understands that you accumulate resources through your relationships and notes the ways you can further your ties. She focuses on using strong ties to get to latent ties and then form weak ties. This involves networking both on and offline.            

            However Martin fails to, or incorrectly addresses, some characteristics of communities. She doesn’t talk about how in communities there are interpersonal relationships and it is not always easy to enter these spaces. She says to look at comments and have these guide you towards the conversations you want to start, but she doesn’t address the difficulty in doing so. Nardi discusses how, in trying to enter a community, one needs to get respect from its participants before they can become just another member. There are certain social cues that are constantly changing and tell you about the person sending the message—if you don’t learn these cues you will easily be identified as an outsider and therefore you information will not be received.

Martin also doesn’t discuss what platforms, forums ect. are best left alone. This course saw social media from a cultural perspective and while these platforms have the potential for consumer markets they are also important in identity formation, creation of communities and activist movements. This is to say that while some of her tips can bring you success, it is also dangerous to overlook the established cultural importance of these sties and how impeding on them can cause brand deterioration. I think a section on social media and its cultural importance would have greatly strengthened the readers overall understanding of this new form of communication.

Ultimately the larger points of the book tie in nicely with the course: audiences, taste statements, brand imaging, authenticity and the overall social shaping of technology. Yet the social importance of these sites, that extend beyond her business model, are not fully noted and this is where the book lacks a larger perspective: yes social media can be used to business and brand strategies but ultimately it is about communication and communities and perhaps some social spaces are better off without a business presence. 




One comment

  1. […] my peer Julie also points out, Martin fails to effectively warn her new social media users about the potential […]

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