“Likeable Social Media” written by Dave Kerpen has been given a lot of thumbs up by “big guys” such as The New York Times and USA Today. According to the front cover, the book promises to teach you “how to delight your customers,” “create an irresistible brand,” and “be generally amazing on Facebook (and other social networks).” In the book, Kerpen speaks from two perspectives: both as an expert social-media marketer (he is the CEO of his own social media consulting company, Likeable Media); and, more importantly, as a consumer with feelings and first-hand consumer experiences. Rather than lecturing on big ideas, vague suggestions, and cliche terms, the conversational prose of the book invites and inspires readers to make the most out of social media, one step at a time. With each chapter introducing a successful social media marketing strategy, accompanied by related case studies and action items at the end to assist you to put his words into action, the book is practical in its structure to help implementing social media strategies into your business.
“Listen carefully, be transparent, be responsive, be authentic, tell great stories – the qualities that would make you the hotshot at the party – they’ll make your organization a likable one on social networks.” – Dave Kerpen
There are rarely marketing books out here that teach you to follow the moral of being real and authentic. Most social media authors do not go into details telling you how to actually utilize media tools, respond to comments (good as well as bad ones) and create a “likeable” public image on SNSs. The practicality of this book is what separates it from other social media books.
Although the book succeeded in providing us with rich information on the “hows”, it failed to explain the “whys”. Social media is no magic and do not guarantee success. Kerpen’s failed to talk about SNS on a comprehensive level. Furthermore, a lot of the strategies he provided, for example, the very idea of being “authentic” in online presentation is no news to SNS “practitioners”. In Marwick and Boyd‘s article, “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience“, the authors already took notice of this common practice of balancing expectations of authenticity among Twitter users and stressed the importance of it: “This consciousness implies an ongoing front-stage identity performance that balances the desire to maintain positive impressions with the need to seem true or authentic to others” (124). It is, after all, an online identity performance that involves what Erving Goffman would call, “impression management“. As a company, having an authentic online identity means having a coherent and trustworthy narrative that can be built into a good online reputation – in marketing terms, it means good publicity.
Being in the business himself, the author truly believes in the marketing power of Social Media: “We believe that social media, used well, is nothing short of transformational, not only in marketing, but in public relations, sales, customer service, and operations”. Kerpen’s optimistic and somewhat Utopian view of SNS reminds me of the “social shaping” perspective on technology Nancy Baym has talked about in her book, “Personal Connections in the Digital Age“. The “social shaping” discourse argues that technology can influence the construction of society while people also have the power to create and tailor technologies to their needs. In the context of marketing Kerpen portrayed, 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. The book serves as a guide for marketers to maximize the potential of social media technology as a form of marketing power for branding, customer service, and sales.
“The good news is, people are already talking about brands like yours more than ever before, and thanks to social media, word can spread faster than ever before – so all you have to do is listen, respond, and harness that word to allow consumers to drive the action.” – David Kerpen
Throughout the book, the author kept emphasizing on how “monetary capital” can be generated from SNS’s “social capital”. Being “likeable” is the strategy, but at the end of the day, selling products is the goal. It is all about getting the “likes” and making the money. In the eyes of a marketer, social networking sites have lost its original purpose of connecting people together – it has become a money-making machine. Our interests and likes listed in our online profiles are now commercialized and turned into brands and ad targets. In Marwick’s article, “I’m More Than Just a Friendster Profile: Identity, Authenticity, and Power in Social Networking Services“, the author identified this problem explaining that SNS gives commercialism a platform to impose its consumerist ideas onto its users and sees them “not as a citizen, but as a consumer” (9). In Kerpen eyes, social media users equate consumers.
It is true that social media is now the “promising land” for marketing. However, as media scholars, we need to not only acknowledge the practicality and honesty of this book, but also be aware of its limits in conceptualizing the complex reality, morality, and social consequence of having a “marketized” social media environment.
[Likeable Media’s Campaign]