Oh Gail!

So I was on Squidoo last night and ….

-Said no one. Ever.

I’m sure Squidoo has some users, and these people are privy to some of the most precious information on earth: what squidoo is. In our Culture and Social Media Technologies class, we’ve had some fun poking that squid with a stick to see if anyone had heard about it. And trust me, if no one in a class of 30+ twenty-year olds knows what squidoo is, it’s not working as well as it should. Why am I bashing the squid you ask? This @$%#ing book:

oh you

In 30 Days to Social Media Success, Gail Z. Martin tries to explain how to “create a strategic social media platform for your business, focused on reaching your best target audience in pursuit of your top business goal”. A respectable endeavor  surely but once you open the book, things go a special kind of wrong. This might be my ageism showing but this book was written for people who have never spent more than ten minutes on a Facebook page. Now let’s stop the bashing and get into the thick of things.

The book takes the approach that technology gives users the ability to do take advantage of it in whatever ways they wish. Martin explains that a user can, and should, use all of the affordances of Social Media in order to get a well-built social media platform. Also termed Social Shaping of technology, this type of social media discourse has been discussed by Nancy Baym in her book as such:

If technological determinism locates cause with the technology, and social constructivism locates cause with people, a third perspective sometimes called social shaping, emphasizes the middle ground.

The following is a table from 30 days, explaining how social media technology should not be thought of in a deterministic sense by the readers of the book:


Martin makes it clear, social media platforms are not I/O switches to success, but they pave the way. I imagine this book picked up by a small business owner in his/her mid-fifties, trying to give his/her business a push.  But 30 minutes? 30 minutes happens on an easy day months after spending hours crafting a viable social media profile through hours of writing and editing. This book is a beginner’s guide to your first social media platform 101.

The main problem of this book is the fact that it is a physical book, published when Facebook was just three years old (the public version of it), Twitter was four, and Etsy was still struggling to get on its feet. Why Etsy? Because I have heard Etsy mentioned by friends and had links shared on my timeline, but never ever heard anything about Squidoo. Also, NYU Pride. The problem with trying to write a book about specific social media sites is how fast these sites change and how abruptly some of them die out. Digg even had the time to die and come back to life, and some, like Squidoo, never make it into the limelight. The reason why Nancy Baym’s book Personal Connections in the digital age, for example, stay relevant is that they address concepts supported by specific examples. Gail Martin’s book however does not. The book painfully lacks examples in terms of stories, and the author definitely knows the importance of stories (given the fact that she has now fully reconverted into being a fiction writer):

The story format is especially powerful for sharing this information because human beings, even in the Internet age, are hard-wired to listen to stories. Stories sell. Social media is a perfect vehicle for telling stories, and it offers you a global audience.

Too bad she cannot apply it in her own book about social media success. Oh irony.

She does did not write a book void of sense though: she makes the point that, when writing on certain platforms such as blogs, the reader/user/business owner should let personality “shine through”

Blogging is a way to let your personality shine through and create a more personal connection.

If the target market for this book is the target market I think it is (old, technologically stuck at VHS, business owners), the advice is a good one- but not a great one. Hugo Liu wrote an article about taste performances in social media, and in that article he defines four types of taste statements: prestige, differentiation, authenticity, and theatrical. Letting your personality ‘shine’ through as Martin suggests is a good idea if the nature of the business is the customer-focus heavy type: like a corner store, a small coffee shop, or a personal business like novel writing (as an idealist, I tend to think an author does not want to think of their work as a business but I digress). That type of blog writing would be an ‘authentic’ blog, letting the potential consumers see the business owner for who they really are. But does Martin want that? Or does she want a blog that presents the product/store/novel as something with its own carefully crafted personality– a theatrical persona?

Just stating ‘let your personality shine through’ can lead to many different interpretations. Which is better for business? Who knows, she never tackles the question.  How about we look at her own twitter to see how she implements her own advice. OH GOD KILL IT WITH FIRE BEFORE IT LAYS MORE TWEETS. Let’s see what she writes about blanket blasting sales pitches:

[don’t] barrage strangers with sales pitches they don’t want (which you’re not supposed to do anywhere).

Do your twitter followers want to know you’re doing a book signing? Sure. Do they want to know about it every single day, four times a day? If the answer is yes then you’re in the wrong business (and she was). And where’s the personality in “Come say hi and chat this Saturday, Dec. 15 when I’ll be signing books at Books A Million at Concord Mills Mall from 1-3 pm.” Tweets are time-stamped, you can just say this Saturday, and if you were excited, put an exclamation mark at the end? No? 😦  Gail, your twitter feed is filled, filled I tell you, of constant self-promotion: personality level: 0. I hate to come off mean but the Bronx Zoo’s Cobra’s account  has more personality than your twitter account. The book can be summed up by its cover: if twitter could tweet money, Martin would have shaken that bird senseless. 30 Days to Social Media Success has no edge, no boldness, and the tactics sprawled safely on the page fit neatly in the first pages of much better books about social media marketing. I hate to be this negative Gail, but if you ever come across this, feel to judge me (but not too soon, I don’t even have 30 minutes to myself in the coming two weeks).


One comment

  1. davekerpen · · Reply

    Though you didn’t review my book, this is my favorite review so far on this blog. Kudos, you had me on the floor.

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