I did not have the greatest experience reading 30 Days to Social Media Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Blogging, LinkedIn, and Facebook by Gail Martin. The thing that made me suspicious from the beginning was the overuse of capitalization to emphasize Martin’s important concepts and ideas, such as promoting your “True Voice” and “Real Story.” It felt like an A.A. Milne novel, but not in a good way. In addition, the overall attitude of the book seemed condescending – at least initially In class, our group noted that that the book’s tone is similar to that of many self-help books (i.e., vague and sanctimonious). However, as I reflect back on the book, I’ve conceded that perhaps what I took to be condescension is in fact an earnest attempt to help people who are totally technologically illiterate to use social media. The exhaustive explanations on how to use Facebook and Twitter at all, let alone as revenue-generating tools, seem boring, tedious, and prolonged – hardly appropriate for a book that purports to be welcoming and user-friendly. But this is from my perspective; if I had little to no experience with using social media platforms to my advantage, maybe straightforward and detailed explanations would be necessary. Regardless, screenshots of setting up and using these social networking sites would have been clearer and engaging for any reader.
However, when it comes to actual advice about how to move your business or brand forward through social media, Martin gets ambiguous. Very ambiguous. This is ironic, since Martin specifically warns against creating unclear goals. But her more specific directives like are still nebulous and unhelpful (e.g. “social media is here to stay. How can you add value to achieve your goals?” (p. 61)). In addition, her multiple urgings to appeal to one’s audience leave out one crucial factor that we’ve discussed extensively in this class: context collapse. In “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience,” authors Alice Marwick and danah boyd discuss the ever-present issue of what happens when your social media presence is disseminated to multiple groups or types of audiences; because each audience member approaches your presence differently, your message can be interpreted (and misinterpreted) in a multitude of ways, and this can diminish the effect of what you are trying to say. If your social media presence gets enough attention, context collapse is an inevitable issue, and one that Martin glosses over completely. Maybe she has no experience with this being an issue. Which brings me to my next point…
THERE ARE NO CASE STUDIES! How can she leave the question of her ethos unanswered? Setting aside any stylistic or cultural criticisms about this book, the lack of specific examples is totally confounding to me. It is especially bizarre since there is a chapter specifically for independent authors – a profession to which Martin herself belongs. Gail Martin is her own untapped resource. This book would have a lot more credibility if she had presented evidence to support her multi-pronged plans for success. These methods are far from tried and true. In addition, the few examples she does provide are hypothetical and extremely contrived. If I am supposed to follow the detailed plans of action outlined in this book, I would feel a lot better doing it if I didn’t have to acknowledge the possibility that Gail Martin might have sat at a computer and typed all of these “strategies” into a Word document, making them up as she went along. And then decided to sell it as a book that gets put in the business section at Barnes & Noble.
I think it’s also important to note that there are no mentions of race and gender in relation to using and/or accessing social media. Perhaps Martin does not have the perspective needed to offer that kind of commentary, but she should at least acknowledge this. The demographic lines down which social media divide themselves are important to the central points of this book anyway, because knowing your audience means knowing how and why they have access to your product/content.
All this being said, there are some things Martin gets right. She stresses the importance of honesty and presenting a transparent and genuine presence to your audience. In terms of Hugo Liu’s classification of various types of online taste profiles, this falls under the authenticity taste profile. Martin urges social media users to strike a familiar and unpretentious with their audiences – i.e., create a real and meaningful connection. The intentions of this book are obviously earnest, and Martin does not want anyone left in the dark. All in all, her “business goal” is good; her execution is not.