The New York Times and USA TODAY best-seller Likeable Social Media, by media master Dave Kerpen, sets out to help eager business owners develop a social media presence online. As Kerpen describes, social media can be an incredible business tool, providing customer insight, direct communication channels and engagement on an unprecedented level, but there needs to be a strategy in place in order to properly leverage it. The “winning” strategy that Kerpen outlines involves listening to customers, being transparent, responding to everyone, and providing engaging material in order to please customers and create an irresistible brand.
Likeable Social Media aims to help business and marketing executives expand their brand into the online realm via social media. This is tricky because the book targets people in their mid thirties – people who are probably on Facebook and Twitter socially, but don’t know how to leverage the affordances of these networking sites for business purposes. Kerpen resolves this issue in an appropriate way. He recognizes that these people don’t need a basic “how to use Facebook” manual, so he writes about how to shift from using networking sites socially to economically. For example, Kerpen assumes his readers know about “liking” content, but he explains how “liking” works within Facebook algorithms: “Facebook’s algorithm determines the level of interest or relevancy of an object based on the number of comments and likes it receives” (44). Ultimately, the more likes something gets, the more likely it is to show up at the top of a users’ news feed. This piece of information is crucial for business owners but not so crucial for everyday Facebook users. Ultimately, Kerpen illustrates how to make the most of social media affordances. This social Shaping approach, as described by author Nancy Baym in Personal Connections in the Digital Age, shows how new communications technologies can affect interpersonal communication and relationships. As Lulinyu points out, “while social media is essentially built and shaped by the socially constructed user-contents, the consumer decisions can still be heavily influenced by the marketer’s usage of the technical affordances of these websites.” Facebook was created for personal purposes and based on its primary mission, it excluded businesses.” It wasn’t until 2010, when Facebook implemented “Pages” that businesses started to capitalize on the Facebook platform.
One overarching theme that Kerpen highlights throughout the book is authenticity (he even has a whole chapter dedicated to this). Kerpen writes, “The more you try to regulate brand conversations, the more impersonal you’ll make them, and the less customers will respond. Worse still, the less flexible and authentic you are, the more it will show, and the less you’ll be trusted. Remember, online, your trust and reputations with customers is everything” (99). In line with this view, Kerpen recommends concentrating on the authenticity of your brand page through your voice, relationships, and presentation, rather than obsessing about perfectly manicuring every status update online. Here, we see a connection to both Marwick and boyd’s ideas that authenticity is crucial for successful interactions as well as Hugo Liu’s theory regarding taste performances, in which he argues that the content one puts on his/her profile shapes his/her performance online. Not only does Liu’s framework for applying taste performances apply to individuals’ pages, but for businesses as well. And as Kerpen points out, authentic pages are essential for a brand to be successful in gaining the trust of its customers.However, as Amm792 points out, “Kerpen devotes an entire chapter to authenticity, but fails to grasp that not all social media users subscribe to the authenticity taste statement. In fact, he outright denies other taste statements’ existence when he discounts Aaron Sorkin’s claim that ‘social networking is more of a performance than a reality’ and states ‘social networking, done well, is authentic and real’ (97).”
While Kerpen seems to describe and agree with the five characteristics that Nancy Baym labels as the defining characteristics of communities – sense of space, shared practice, shared resources, shared identities, and interpersonal relationships – he fails to stress the importance of creating a community online. Even though Kerpen urges businesses to “find fans, connect them, and inspire them” in order to create a powerful word of mouth movement, I think Kerpen could have expanded on this idea and created an entire chapter dedicated to describing the value of creating an online community (153). The importance of online communities, as Baym points out, is their ability link people of similiar interests, ideals, and values. This is crucial for businesses because it unites customers and promotes positive word of mouth marketing.
A key element of Likeable Social Media is that it highlights the difference between traditional and new marketing techniques. While traditional broadcast media imposes a unidirectional communication model, social media encourages conversation between consumers – individually and as a group (hence why the notion of community is important). Kerpen writes that TV commercials no longer dominate the conversation because the conversation is happening on social networks. He explains that by engaging customers on social media, customers will engage with a brand and are more likely to employ word of mouth when promoting a service or product. With this, it is likely that Kerpen would disagree with Eric K. Clemons’ article about the inability to monetize social networking sites and would agree with W. Glynn Mangold and David J. Faulds that social networks act as a hybrid within the promotion mix. In line with Kerpen’s argument, Mangold and Faulds point out, “Consumers feel more engaged with products and organizations when they are able to submit feedback” (361). Kerpen would add to this point and argue that if a customer feels engaged, he/she will speak positively about a brand, get others involved, and spread awareness – ultimately leading to more business sales. Sorry Clemons!