Can any new entrepreneur become a successful business owner via social media after reading Gail Z Martin‘s 30 Days to Social Media Success – The 30 days Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Blogging, LinkedIn and Facebook? Probably not – if they follow the guidelines Martin offers in her book. The author tries to introduce her audiences with the basics of the different social media sites and how business owners can incorporate social media into their business plans to achieve greater success. The first few chapters explain how the business owners can plan a new business plan incorporating social media and Martin goes on to decode the various social media sites and offers tips of how each site can be used to promote one’s product and business. Martin attempts to provide a the basic structure and analysis of the popular and most-used social media sites – such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn – but her knowledge on the nature of social media and the Internet culture seems narrow and outdated, as she only concentrates on social media related to achieving business motives.
The intended audience of 30 days to Social Media Success is mostly likely new business owners who are completely new and oblivious to the social media scene. What Martin offers the audiences is the very basic structure of each social media sites and how to access the sites. It does not go beyond anything more than how to create a profile for yourself and how to add friends and followers to your network. Her interpretation of some social media sites and the details of some sites are outdated and inaccurate. For instance, RT button has been installed on Twitter since 2009, but the book is unaware of this update. LinkedIn is used more between professional individuals creating networks to seek career opportunities then local businesses trying to expand its presence over social media. Sites such as Squidoo and Digg are also outdated, and the more recent and dominant social media such as Instagram and Pinterests are not covered. Though the book definitely needs some updating, Martin does understand that the various social media sites have their own social norms and rules. She also places an emphasis on building up a “reputation for providing useful, interesting content” on social media sites (66). She definitely incorporates Hugo Liu’s idea on taste performances, as she focuses on presenting a professional and truthful profile on LinkedIn (what Liu would call a prestige performance). And in contrast, Martin states that when blogging, you should “let your personality shine through” so that you can make more personal connections, which would fall under a more authentic or differentiate performance, according to Liu’s definitions (73).
Martin understands that different social norms on social media sites will effect the presentation of your profile. However, she only recognizes that these sites have “distinct personality and culture” and each draws “somewhat different audiences”, and ignores the possibility of context collapse, a concept presented by Marwick and boyd (49). In their article “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience”, Marwick and boyd discuss the concept of imagined audiences. They explain that because Twitter is a “heavily-appropriate technology, which participants contextualize differently and use with diverse networks”, there is multiplicity of imagined audiences, and therefore context collapse happens (122). Martin is not aware of this concept when she recommends linking all your social media platforms with each other, so that all your followers and friends from the various social media can access your information and message more easily. She fails to understand the consequences of context collapse, and is almost promoting the idea instead of giving out tips to avoid it.
Martin continuously urges her readers to connect and reconnect with all of their friends, acquaintances, mentors, families, and mostly strangers who seem interested in their businesses. However, according to boyd and Ellison’s study, most people do not use social media to connect with strangers, but to present a “public display of connections”. Boyd and Ellison argues that creating a profile on social media is an “implicit verification of identity”, which allows users to confirm their identity claims through their connections made visible on social media. Therefore, only focused on utilizing social media for promoting businesses, Martin inadequately interprets why people primarily use social media.
Overall, 30 days to Social Media Success is a book for those who are completely new to the social networking sphere, and have never created an account on any of these sites. Martin is not the most qualified social media expert to right about social media marketing, since she specializes in writing fantasy fiction novels and her social media presence is not prominent or well known compared to many other social media scholars. There is no question that social media can be utilized as a marketing tool, but this book does not provide any scholarly analysis of what social media ultimately is, other than a tool to connect with a bigger network of people. It lacks insight and does not give any specific examples where her approach to social media marketing was successful, weakening the whole argument of the book. If a new business owner wanted to achieve marketing success using social media, Martin’s guidelines are definitely too inadequate and outdated.