In Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand and Be generally Amazing on Facebook (and other social media networks), Dave Kerpen informs his readers how they can create a successful and likeable brand on social media, accomplishing the marketing objectives they have, in a society where traditional forms of marketing are in decline. He compares the “qualities that would make you a hotshot at the party” – listening carefully, being transparent, being responsive, and being authentic- to becoming a likeable and irresistible brand on social media. This mission involves delving deeper into these concepts, following 18 steps he lays out in 18 chapters.
As the CEO of social media marketing firm Likeable Media, Kerpen’s target audience are those with a business and goal to “reap the rewards” social media has to offer for your company, big or small (209). He makes each chapters mission seem so simple, “just be real” or “be authentic,” often using how to be likeable in your offline world as a microcosm to how you should act online, but is it really that simple? Kerpen seems to think so. He ends with case studies, usually of large companies he’s previously worked with (how convenient they fit into each chapter), and action items for the reader to easily follow. Yet, he never separates big businesses and small business and I would assume each business would have a different marketing strategy than the rest. It seems as though he is writing to the lowest common denominator, making sure the book can be applicable to anyone.
Dave Kerpen’s “likeable mission” hits on some of the key concepts we tackled in class. By addressing the marketing objective each company wants to parlay in their campaign, and using social media affordances to do this, he speaks to Nancy Baym’s social media discourse of social shaping. In Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Baym defines the discourse surrounding social shaping as “…the consequences of technologies arise from a mix of “affordances” – the social capabilities technological qualities enable- and the unexpected and emergent way that people make use of those affordance ”(44). Kerpen dedicates a whole chapter to finding your target audience using Facebook’s targeting applications, or affordances, which allows you to find your ideal audience by imputing basic demographic criteria, specific interests, and workplace. We also can’t forget that Facebook formed for maintaining relationships with college students; the fact that we even have fan pages is a result of companies using the affordances to their advantage.
When using these affordances, Kerpen urges us to be authentic. Liu writes how our tastes preferences, such as being authentic, communicates who were are and where we fit in the social world. Kerpen discusses the advantages of being authentic. According to the author, it’s not just advantageous; it’s the only way to sustain a likeable and therefore successful company on social media. Kerpen defines authenticity on social networks by saying “…you have to be human and demonstrate personality. No one wants to feel as if she is talking to a machine or dealing with someone who cannot empathize with her situation” (1471). One way you can be authentic is in how you respond to a comment on your Facebook page. He writes it’s important to not give the generic “thank you” response, but to add your personality. So if you were a young hip brand, you may respond with a “Thanks! You rule!”
If you’re a new company, you may not know who your consumers are and therefore what your brand’s personality will be. However, Kerpen does not focus on the possibility of not knowing your target audience or personality, but Nardi‘s method used in her Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft article can help a new company. She had to immerse herself in the different guilds of World of Warcraft to see the different social norms. A company should use her ethnographic method to study their audience to learn and engage with them. They will eventually develop social norms finding the appropriate way to relate to their consumers.
While many of the authors we read in class can be supplemented to give this book some extra authority, there are some authors, Kerpen may not have thought of mentioning. In Mark Andrejevic article on Surveillance and Alienation in the Online Economy, he argues that data gathering on social media sites constitutes as exploitation, which is defined as “the extraction of unpaid, coerced, and alienated labour” (278). Kerpen doesn’t even mention privacy or lack thereof, but that may have to do with his target demographic. Kerpen would argue that this marketing technique is better for the consumer because they are only being targeted ads that they would want to see and that he’s “yet to find an organization anywhere whose target audience isn’t on Facebook.” But he fails to mention the digital or participatory divide of those who don’t use or have no access to social media sites.
While he fails to mention a portion of the population, Kerpen does a fine job at explaining the benefits of social media compared to traditional marketing, which this segment may not obtain. The big difference is that social media is a place to engage in conversation. The book stresses the importance of maintaining, managing and responding to feedback, which Marwick and boyd do as well in their piece. The goal is to keep the consumer engaged, and generate likes that will lead to sales. Kerpen would agree with the argument made in Mangold and Faulds‘ article, where social media is a “hybrid element of promotion mix” (357). It allows companies to talk to their consumers, like traditional media, but different in the sense that now companies can talk to consumers and consumers and converse with each other as well. Considering that the Kerpen’s sole focus is to grow a brand online, he would disagree with Clemons that social media sites are “extremely difficult to monetize online communities through advertising…” (46).
This book would be relevant to a small start-up company that needs the initial how-to steps to grow their brand. If you’re looking for simple steps, surface ideas, excellent case studies and action steps to follow and grow your brand and generate likes, this is the book for you. Now go out and grow into a Likeable brand.