If you think Gail Z. Martin doesn’t sound like the name of a person who would know everything there is to know about social media, you’re pretty accurate in your assessment; for confirmation, just look to her book, 30 Days to Social Media Success.Martin seems to have a certain fixation on the number thirty— she tries to convince her reader that by spending 30 minutes a day making 30 connections across different SNSs, these small, independent business owners can “tie [their] business goals and social media strategy together with other marketing actions for best results not just for 30 days, but all year long.” (Martin, 16). She then goes on to explaining (in rather vague terms) “how to make sure your marketing is reflecting your true business goals,” by introducing the reader to each and every single prominent SNS in 2010. But after one read through her book, it seems almost incomprehensible how much work one would have to put into their social media presence— suddenly “30 minutes a day” seems more like 30 hours a week. While Martin is able to outline the basic affordances and “netiquette” of each SNS, it’s likely that Martin isn’t fully aware of how misleading her time allotment can be. And when you’re a small business owner, time is money.
I personally had quite a few misgivings about that contradictory and oversimplified summarizations of various SNS that Martin overviewed. In general, it wasn’t as though Martin differentiated any different plans for different types of business owners— rather, she took one flat, unwavering and bland social media formula, and claimed it to be applicable to all businesses. She rarely took into account the fact that certain sites generally aren’t ideal for certain businesses, nor their customers.
For each of the different sites, Martin is correct in indicating that tone and netiquette formalities should waver from site to site— LinkedIn is “all business” (71), but Twitter “is the cocktail party of the social media scene” (75). She also establishes that, “What bloggers lack in professional reporters’ credentials, they often make up for it in access and passion,” because it “is a way to let your personality shine through and create a more personal connection.” (85). So, in encouraging small business owners and managers to tackle the full range of SNSs, from Facebook and Twitter, to Flickr and YouTube, even right down to Squidoo, Martin is requesting an enormous about of work, and a vigorous effort by the creator to navigate nuanced, minute shifts in tone and voice, all while producing loads of content, reaching out to potential customers, and networking and negotiating with partners. This work by itself is its own career. How could to owner of an auto repair shop tackle this social media work and still have time to fix cars? Would the owner of a cane and walker store have much luck on social media sites, even though most of their clients are over 60 years old?
It leaves me questioning: Is this book accurate? Practical? Useful? Anything at all?
I think one of the major issues at stake her is that Martin is taking one, gigantic, broad social media formula, and trying to force it to work for any independent business in need of a “free” marketing makeover. Like trying to put a square peg in a round hole, Martin is essentially recommending useless tools and skills, not truly honing in on nuanced specifics or variations of this “no-fail” plan.
Furthermore, a major issue is the somewhat contradictory nature of her explanations. When describing YouTube in the most introductory, simplistic of ways, Martin says, “If your idea of sharing videos is sitting through an interminable travelogue [Author’s note: that is an incredibly dated reference] as a child, think again. Today’s online video world is funny, irreverent, home-grown, surprisingly professional, and powerfully viral.” What the heck does that even mean? It’s like saying, “Paper can be useful for writing, eating, or for starting fires!” Just because YouTube can be considered one of those things with the proper work, needs, and skill sets, it doesn’t mean that the network can serve all of those purposes to a person, especially when they’re something who needs YouTube to be explained to them. Generally speaking, things can’t be simultaneously “irreverent” and “professional”— that’s just asking for a disastrous video that can only complicate matters.
So perhaps all of these issues here boil down to taste statements. When it comes to online personas, Martin herself even admits that consistency is key:
The Internet complicates this disconnect, because it’s easier than ever for prospects to hop from site to sire, and if your company’s personality seems to change between your Website, blog, online brochure, articles, and social media sites, your prospect will start to wonder who the ‘real’ you is.”
So, in a major way, Martin is advocating for what Liu would consider to be a consistent “authenticity statement,” in that the company or business thoroughly and accurately represents their cores values and mission. However, by also recommending that companies operate through so many channels of SNS, is it truly possible to manage a totally consistent image through multiple social media sites? Especially when someone is beginning as an entry-level member of every SNS out there?
And should you really be trusting someone that still capitalizes the words “Internet” and “Website?”