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Book Review: Socialnomics by Erik Qualman

Posted on Nov 17th, 2009
Written by Lee Odden
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    socialnomics “It’s a people driven economy stupid” and “Online word of mouth has made many traditional marketing strategies obsolete”. Those are powerful words and central to the theme in “Socialnomics” by Erik Qualman, Global VP for Online Marketing for EF Educatio, the world’s largest private educator.

    I appreciate Erik’s characterization because it’s how I’ve viewed social media since our digital marketing & PR agency started blogging and using social news/bookmarking sites in 2004: as technology that facilitates word of mouth. At conferences, I often say to audiences that if a company has strong word of mouth in the offline world, then Social Media may be a powerful option for them. If not, perhaps social media can help them get word of mouth started.

    While many companies are “doing social media” as many marketers put it, most are shooting from the hip. Socialnomics explores the impact social media is having on the way companies are developing and marketing products that reaches consumers directly and eliminates middleman waste.

    Here’s the chapter breakdown:

    Word of Mouth Goes World of Mouth – Social media beats porn? Wow. Social media can seem like information overload, but the reality is that your network can filter the noise as can search engines that increasingly rely on social signals. News is push and bloggers are news. Publishing business models need to adapt as do marketing departments that want to best leverage social media communication channels.

    Social Media = Preventative Behavior (What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube) – Social media enables people to be open about their interests and lives attracted by the notion of being part of something. Individuals and companies realize this openness and are adjusting what they publish accordingly. Once something is published on the web, it’s forever.

    While some companies work to drown out negative sentiment and commentary about their brands, products and services, others see the opportunity to engage with customers about their concerns and leverage that insight to create better solutions.

    Social Media = Braggadocian Behavior (It’s all about me, me, me) – Social media is becoming a bigger part of people’s lives involving relationships, communications, and entertainment. Both Gen Y and Z aspire to changing the world around them using social media, maybe because their interpersonal skills in the real world are hampered overuse of social tools.

    Obama’s Success Driven by Social Media – Great breakdown of the Obama campaign’s use of social tools like video and what companies can learn from it.

    I Care More about What My Neighbor Thinks than What Google Thinks – Social what? Socialommerce – the transactional, search and marketing components of social media. This is more about the pull of social. Instead of us going to what we want via search, what we want comes to us via social media. 76% rely on recommendations from others vs 15% that rely on advertising.

    Death of a Social Schizophrenia – The initial popularity of representing different personas will give way to real transparency of character as social media participants mature and realize the difficulty of maintaining different identities.
    The best marketing investment companies can make in a social media world is in the quality of their products and a focus on being the best. Quality and focus facilitates word of mouth and referrals vs traditional push marketing, so marketers will need to adopt new roles that involve listening, engaging and reacting.

    Winners and Losers in a 140 Character World – Great mix of good and bad examples of social media use by companies. Being honest is appreciated by consumers and the future of social media advertising means including both advertisers and audiences in the content creation process. SEO and social media go hand in hand, a topic that TopRank could write an entire book about.

    Next Step for Companies and The “Glass House Generation” – The last chapter focuses first on putting search agencies out of business, PPC agencies that is, through a socialnomic model where search engines get paid for sales, not clicks, by advertisers. At the same time, Google’s efforts with social search (the Google and Bing deals with Twitter and Facbook post date the book) are important and warrant marketers’ attention. YouTube after all, is the second most popular search engine, not Yahoo.

    Companies should consider carefully, whether to build their own social network vs using a social network platform that already exists, such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Social media will play a huge part in jobs and recruiting, especially for those job seekers and employees that successfully use social tools.

    When writing a book, you have to pick your battles with a topic like social media since there are so many angles, approaches and topics that could be covered. I guess that explains why there are so many books on social media.

    Socialnomics does a good job of presenting high level analysis and practical impact sandwiched by stories that marketers can appreciate. The key points bulleted out after each chapter are handy and I recommend reading them before you read the actual chapters.

    I appreciate the nod to the SEO value of social media content, but my heavily biased opinion is that there’s a lot more to be said. Search Marketing agencies that speak social fluently (like TopRank) are distinct from PPC or advertising agencies.  I don’t think advertising is going away, but it’s certainly going to change and adapt according to advertiser shifts in budgets. Some of that may go to social advertising and some may go to something new not covered in the book.

    To round out this review, check out this Social Media ROI video:


    You can get the Socialnomics book on Amazon, visit Erik’s blog here or connect with him on Twitter.