As I was reading Gail Z. Martin’s book 30 Days to Social Media Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Blogging, LinkedIn, and Facebook, I couldn’t help but to find myself becoming bored, logging into my own social networking sites to check in. Her mundane explanations of SNS and their purposes seemed made for my grandmother, someone who literally doesn’t know how to use the internet- at all. Her book is written for small business owners and she stresses that not only is social media beneficial for small business owners, but essential to success.
Firstly, 30 days seems a very impractical time to achieve “social media success.” Martin is telling us to log in for 30 minutes each day, but with all of the steps she guides us through, this success would take much longer. Her book gets a self-help feeling throughout, she is constantly addressing the reader and asking us questions. For example, in an early chapter she asks us to write down a list of our imagined audience, and a few chapters later, asks us to refer back to that list in an annoying way.) Gail Martin’s book applies to two of Nancy Baym’s discourses of new media, which she discusses in her book Personal Connections in the Digital Age. The first is social shaping- we influence technology, it responds to use, and we respond to it. In this discourse, we see the ways technologies get used as a coproduction between what technology allows us to do and what users want to use it for. Martin acknowledges this, clearly stressing the importance of SNS in this day and age. However, her book can also oppositely seem technological deterministic- conveying to the reader that social media is the end all to small business problems and essential for its success- attributing power to the technology itself.
Martin stresses throughout the book the importance of the True Voice, “Intentionally using the True Voice of your business will make your social media message unique, compelling, and natural,” (49)- one of the few things I think she gets right. In conjunction to Hugo Liu’s article, “Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances,” she endorses the authenticity taste statement for everyone on SNS. Liu describes this as, “breaking from norm, atypical details, moderately coherent to incoherent, and disingenuous mistakes,” and while Martin stresses authenticity, she gives a rigid formula for it that may diminish the genuineness of these small business owners. It is also important to note that while Martin is a “best-selling” fantasy author– but she does not take her own advice. When examining her own social media presence, she doesn’t convey any authenticity. She should have used herself as an example throughout the book, especially because she includes zero case studies as well.
Another thing Martin does well is addressing to the reader the importance of understanding your audience. On page 15, she says, “Many marketing efforts fail because they are focused on what the business wants to sell instead of what the target audience needs to solve an urgent problem.” On page 25, she discusses narrowing down your audience from “everyone” to “college educated men between the ages of 18 and 30” (for example). She helps to set up an imagined audience for the reader, but fails in mentioning something important. She never addresses context collapse- the idea that your audience can be split into groups who interpret your posts and ideas differently. As danah boyd and Alice Marwick say in their article, “I Tweet Honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter Users, context collapse, and the imagined audience,” you must avoid this context collapse by making an effort to appeal to the right demographic that will be most successful for your business. Even in her discussion of audience, Martin never addresses an social stigmas that can come along with SNS in which we have discusses in class, such as race, gender, and sexuality.
If you really were clueless to the internet (and maybe a computer itself), Martin does teach a step by step use of each function of each site. But learning about these sites and how to use them comes down to really familiarizing yourself with them by practice, which Gail fails to see. (And I think we can all agree- pictures are always nice.) Also, Gail should consider updating her book for 2012, with SNS like Instagram, Pinterest, and Foursquare. (She can also leave out the things I’ve never even heard of… Squidoo?) So, all in all, if you are of our technology-centered generation, this book will teach you nothing you didn’t already know.