Book Review Understanding Social Media by Damian Ryan

I review the brand new book, Understanding Social Media, by Damian Ryan. hot off the press. I share with you some major takeaways in using social media to create a plan for your business that works.

The landscape for social media is ever changing because the platforms are growing all the time. Social media Platforms are always changing their offerings to you, new ways to reach out to your customers, new ways to reach out to your audience, even if they’re not your customers and just your followers.

I was sent an advanced reading copy by the publisher of a book, Understanding Social Media (Affiliate Link) . The publisher is Kogan Page, and I was sent an awesome book to review for you and I’m really excited to share it with you. I really did enjoy this book and I think there’s a lot of hot tips to share with you on this book.

Damian Ryan is a digital media and marketing expert. He established the first digital agency in the U.K., in Ireland, in 1997. Understanding Social Media is like a companion guide to his first book, Understanding Digital Marketing.

Ryan doesn’t just author with his own thoughts, but he curates. This book has over 60 digital marketers sharing their experience, their expertise, and their tips with you to give you a broader sense of social media, and I think that’s really valuable.

In this book there are case studies, successes and failures. It’s really a truly terrific guide to using social media for your business.

Now in his intro to the book, he has a couple of statements that really hit home for me. I believe it’s the human desire to be heard as well as seen.

When distribution and community was mixed into the cooking pot, with affordability and speed to market, well, the rest is just history. That’s what it’s all about, our need to be heard and seen, and that’s totally what social media is all about. Now if you’re in social media and you just think that you’re going to use it as a platform to be heard, get your message out there and you want to sell, sell, sell, well, you’re totally wrong, and this book is going to prove that to you.

He also has another statement that really drives it home for me, “I believe that social media is at the heart and will be front and center of this technical revolution in the coming years. Whether or not Facebook will offer implants remains to be seen, but they and other leading channels have sparked a mind shift in what media will mean and what consumers will want from both media and marketers in the years ahead.

I really think that marketers will be able to connect with people and communicate more and more when the social platforms get better at delivering tools to us so that we can communicate effectively with our customers.”

Chapter 1 – Getting Started – How to Create a Compelling Social Media Program.

Now if you’re already in social media, I don’t know how many of you have sat down and really thought about what you’re really doing in social media or if you just said, “I’m going to get on social media because all my friends are, all of my other business competitors are in social media.” Just take a look at what you’re doing in social media, and if you really want it to be compelling, then here are some ways to go about it.

He has some rules that he lays out which I kind of like, rules on owning your own social media output.

Rule #1: Understanding Your Audience

Really know how they use social. It’s kind of like the psychographics and how your product or service can be part of that discussion in a positive or proactive way. You want to figure out how you’re going to use that media. A lot of people just jump right in. They say, “Oh, I’ve got to be on Facebook.” They don’t even think if their audience is on Facebook. Say they’re a very technical audience or very professional audience, maybe they’re on LinkedIn. Maybe they’re not on Facebook. It’s definitely something that you have to consider. Just really understanding your audience is a very, very important rule.

Rule #2: Test Everything.

Test everything and really see what works. Start small and always just keep testing. Look in your analytics, see what’s hitting home, what people are really talking about and engaging with you on.

Rule #3: Give it Time.

Don’t just think this is going to happen overnight. Nothing happens overnight.

Rule #4: Make sure you can Measure Success.

If you want to measure success, make sure you can, otherwise repeat rule 3, which is give it time.

Understand Your Objectives

Really understanding your objectives is crucial to creating this compelling social media program that you’ll need for longevity for your business. Do you want to drive awareness to your product or service, drive traffic to your website? You want to optimize conversions? What is it that you want to do in social media? You need to understand this audience and you need to know what’s working with them, testing it over time, and just understanding what your objectives are.

Chapter 2: The Rules Governing the Relationship Between Search and Social.

It’s like optimizing your content to be found in search. One of those ways is to really get people engaged in what you’re doing, because if nobody’s really talking or sharing or liking your content, then your stuff is really not going to be found in search. There’s going to be this algorithm on Facebook or whatever platform it is that you’re on, and they’re never going to pick you up because they’re not going to deem you as a valuable content creator if you don’t have enough engagement.

What he says in this chapter is that as well as producing great pertinent content that’s timely and on message, you have to create genuine engagement. Again, that goes with comments, likes and shares to get to the top of the search results. Not just blanket e-mails to bloggers and, “Hey, look what I’ve got,” but really engaging and getting involved in conversation, which is social, and that’s the media that you want to get involved in. It’s all about social media. Make sure you’re getting your audience engaged, and that’s directly related to search. They are very closely related, and it’s important to understand that. This was a really good chapter, just covering some rules about that.

Chapter 3: Budgeting for Social Media Activities.

With this chapter, it really starts with kind of the process of looking at how to budget. You’re going to look at your tasks first, the tasks that you have in social media, what you do, the content that you create, and the community management tools that you have, and also social listening is very important. You really have to take a look at the tasks that are involved with the level of social media activity that you’re comfortable with having. Again, depending on who’s managing it.

There’s also a section in this book that talks about different models, like Hub and Spoke model where you start with a centralized way to manage all of your activities and then the spokes go out from there or it’s kind of decentralized. There’s different ways to manage it, but it’s crucial that if you want to set up a budget for it, especially if you have a higher-up that’s looking to see your ROI, it’s all about ROI with your social media.

Is it worth the effort? Are you getting return? Are there conversions? Should we be here? It’s always about that. It’s important to really structure your costs and to define your objectives.

Free Social Media Tools

There are free tools that are going to give you a lot of benefits, because they’re going to free up your time to do other stuff that might cost you a piece of your budget, so it’s definitely justified if it’s free, but remember your time is not free. You can spend all day on something where you could have just spent a little bit of money on someone that is better equipped for a particular task. Here’s some budget lines that Damian lines out for us in the book, community management tools, and he talks about some free tools. He mentions Tweetdeck. And I’m a big fan of Hootsuite.

Paid Social Media Tools

There are also some paid tools that you can use to find influencers in the fastest way. There are also social listening tools. This is something that you might want to budget for. There’s a Pro version of Hootsuite where you can pay. It’s nominal. I think the last time I checked, it was like $20 a month. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t be quoted on that, but it’s definitely not … It’s a team that you’re paying for to look at all of your stuff and to see what’s working. It’s tools that you can pay for to do it yourself. That’s why it’s a little bit cheaper than Radian6, Socialbakers.

Those are some tools that you want to think of when you’re budgeting, how you’re going to manage your social media audience, your community, and how you’re going to listen so that you can jump in on the conversation. There’s also some editing tools where you might want to edit your images or videos or just some visual marketing content that you want to share. There’s some free stuff that you can use with your apps on your phone, like I do all the time. I use Word Swag. You have some editing tools that are free, but also there’s video material that you might want to use. Google Hangouts is totally free. If you want to record your Skype interviews, which could also be free, there’s a paid version too.

You could have a video editing program where you might want to put titles underneath the people who are on the interview. You can use that. Maybe Camtasia might be a video editor that you want to choose. There are tools that are devoted to creating the content. There’s community management, social listening, and content creation tools, maybe your presentation software, all that kind of good stuff. Just think of those costs that are involved when you’re budgeting for your social media.


Hiring a Team

Then when the time comes that you want to grow, you have your team. There are skills that you need to spread across your organization, and depending on how big you are or small you are, sometimes you can collaborate and allocate these tasks. Depending on how large or small your business is, you might just need to hire professionals and have a team on your side who’s going to create content for you and maybe even to spread it out. Let me just take a look at some of these that I can share with you.

Digital Strategist

The digital strategist is responsible for the global coherence of the project. They really understand what your business is, your brand is, and they lead the whole process. That’s the strategist. That might be for a little larger organization, but it’s definitely somebody that you could hire and bring on board.

Content Strategist

A content strategist creates the voice.


You have your creative team, your copywriters and your designers who are creating the stuff that you’re made of, that visual marketing, the SEO-ready articles and blog posts that you need, and maybe even the social media posts for you.

Social Media Analyst

Now there’s also what’s known as a social media analyst. They look at what’s going on the web. They analyze your presence and they measure impact. Especially if you’re going to need to justify your ROI to somebody up the chain, that might be necessary for you. You have coordinators making sure everything is going okay. These are important to think of.

You might want to have them on your team, managing them yourself, or you can outsource it to agencies, freelancers, you name it. You can do it yourself or have somebody else do it. It’s up to you. That’s just really crucial to understand. If you want a budget for social media, you’ve got to know the tasks that are involved for your particular brand, the skills necessary to get those tasks finished and knowing where they’re going to come from. If you want to build a strong team, you really have to have somebody on your side that knows about the strategy, graphic design, copywriting, community engagement, posting, the data analysis and reporting.

That’s just the free social media activities that we’re talking about. I’m not even touching paid social media activities, which is also discussed in this book, your advertising strategy, direct response. You’ve got A/B testing, all that stuff. It gets a little bit more complicated, so I just wanted to start on the ground floor today. This is a really great chapter if you want to delve in a little bit more to the budget that’s involved with your social media campaigns, which is definitely something that I think is crucial. If you’re doing it all yourself, maybe you don’t have a budget. Then you’re just going to have to know what skills are necessary on your side. If you need to hire somebody, a freelancer, say, where do you go?

Chapter 6: Why Social Media is Central to Customer Experience.

It’s really important to understand that your customers are going to be more and more involved with your brand the more that you make yourself available to them in social media, whether it’s Facebook messaging your brand, just posting something to you on Twitter. There’s always a way for a customer to reach out to you now. They don’t have to search on your website for an e-mail to see where they reach customer service and hope that they’ll get an answer in a timely manner. It’s all about “I want an answer, and I want it now. I am your customer and I am so worth it.”

In this chapter, Damian Ryan discusses some scenarios with you where social and customer experience cross. Now there’s 3 different scenarios he discusses where you have a customer that had a very poor experience. They go to social media and they blast you, they express their frustration. Then you have a great customer experience. Customer uses social media to tell everybody out there that they had a really great experience with their brand. They’re proud and they’re looking to share it with everybody. Then you’ve got this promotion on social, and that’s an ad. It gets customers’ attention and it takes them off social onto some landing page or website.

You’ve got those 3 scenarios. You got a bad experience, you got a great experience, and you got an ad. It’s very important to understand that these are the 3 types of scenarios that you can have when you’re talking about social media and customer experience, the 3 ways that people can be involved with your brand. They’re either very, very happy, they’re pretty pissed, they can have a poor experience, or they’re involving themselves and engaging with some ad that you have to drive traffic to a website or a landing page. It’s just important to really understand how they’re using social. These are the 3 scenarios that they’re pretty much going to be part of if they’re going to take an action to reach out to you.

There are some great experts that he has throughout the book, kind of sprinkled throughout the book. In this chapter on why social media is central to customer experience he has a great expert, Ellie Mirman, who is the director of marketing over at HubSpot, with a piece on 30 Terrible Pieces of Social Media Advice to Ignore. It’s a nice piece in the chapter, but there are some pieces of brilliance in this and I just wanted to share one with you. You can automate all of your updates. This is a terrible, terrible piece of social media advice that you really have to ignore. Don’t automate all of your updates.

Social media is going to take time. Whether it’s going to take money and time, that depends on your business, but automating your stuff is really not cool. It’s crap, especially automated crap. It tells people that you just don’t care, “I don’t have time to be here, so I’m going to automate my junk and I’m going to push it out to social media platforms that I’m not even involved with at this time.” It may start from Twitter. You may have your Tweets coming into your Facebook page. What happens is you talk in the language of Twitter, the 140-character limit that you have, and you’ll have RT, you’ll have tons of hashtags, and then you’ll even have abbreviated copy, like instead of your, Y-O-U-R, you’ll have ur. You know what I mean? You don’t want to do that. You want to talk the language that people are expecting on that particular social media platform.

Facebook people will give you a little bit more time. You have more characters in your social media posts on Facebook, and if you abbreviate those and push them to Twitter, you’re not going to get everything that’s necessary for someone on Twitter to be engaged. I’ve seen people push their Facebook photo album posts to Twitter as well and it comes out or something like that. People know that that came from Facebook, obviously. If you don’t spend the time to devote to your audience on that particular social media platform, your messages are going to fall flat. It really tells you, as Ellie says, “I don’t care about actually being here. Just come and read my content.” You can automate some stuff, but you really have to support that with conversations and interactions on your network, because you’re really going to need that engagement.

Chapter 9: The Future for Social Media and the Vastly Changing Landscape.

It reminds me of when I wrote my book. You talk about the different elements in a particular topic, but then you just roll it out to the future and what’s going to happen. This is an excellent chapter and look at what’s going to happen in the future. It really makes you think about integration and how it’s all going to pan out. You go on social media, you may go on your phone, may go on your tablet. You might even go on your desktop, probably not because more and more people are using mobile devices so they can go wherever they want to go and stay connected.

I saw a funny cartoon. I was on Facebook. It said that all these social media platforms are going to be combining, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, and they’re going to make a new social media platform called YouTwitFace. I thought that was awesome, so funny. Definitely, everything is just going to be integrated. I don’t think that you’re going to have everything separate anymore. I think we’re going to be having it all together, especially on your television. I think it will be really, really easy to just be connected to the Internet on your television.

Right now, it’s a little difficult to have Chromecast. I have Apple devices, so I have an iPad. My smartphone is my iPhone 5s. If I wanted to watch something on my iPad from YouTube or see something on Twitter, only if that app was Chromecast-enabled and integrated with Chromecast could I see it on my television. Now if I had an Apple TV or a device to see that, I could, but I’d have to make another investment. I think that everything is going to be more and more integrated in the future. Social media is not that old. In this book it’s about 10 years old, and it’s really going mainstream. Think about it. In another 10 years, how do you think that it will look? Very, very interesting look at the future of social media.

Chapter 10: Risk Assessment and Risk Management in Social Media.

Going through this chapter, I came upon an expert that was quoted in this book who writes for Huffington Post, and he’s a security and identity theft expert. His name is Robert Siciliano. Now when you read this book, he and I are not related. My last name is Siculiano. You could pronounce it Siciliano, it’s fine. Robert Siciliano and I connected I think back in 2011, quite awhile ago. He now is an expert on how security is affected by social media, and he talks about how security issues come up. I think this is important to think about if your company might be at a risk by being out there in social media and what you can do if social media is going to have a negative impact on your brand’s reputation.

Now although social media can spread a company’s message, it also has the potential to create bad PR and offend customers. Just talks about risk management, and in this chapter is a really great case study on FedEx, so there are some brands in here that are really big. Got IKEA, FedEx in this book. I really think that this is a great reference guide for you to see how you can make your company and your brand a success in social media and have a guide to creating a plan, because it’s all about understanding social media before you jump in head first.

At the end of this chapter it discusses that the better prepared your company is to tackle any risks that social media could pose, the safer you’re going to be online, making sure that your employees are prepared, especially if they’re going to be involved with you, they’re going to want to be eyes and ears especially, and you want to stay safe. Just keep building your powerful, positive message in the medium that is powerful and positive itself, social media. It’s going to be increasingly integral to every business strategy.

What I really loved about this book

Understanding Social Media is very academic. I love to learn. I’m a natural born learner. That’s just my style. I love a very academic look at things. I’ve written academic papers published in the International Journal of Media Management. I love it. He’s really awesome, Damian Ryan, and he really speaks to a lot of classes. I’m sure this is going to be a textbook that’s going to be required reading, as was his other book previously, before this one.

My Background

Let me just tell you a little bit of my background. When I was at Baruch College getting my bachelor’s in marketing, there was no social media, there was no such thing. It’s only 10 years old. I don’t mean to date myself, but I graduated in ’97, so there was no Internet marketing, nothing was talked about then. In advertising class we looked at magazine ads and just dissected them for their message. It really gives you a good foundation into visual marketing, but this is the way to go, Internet marketing. Everything is digital now. Then when I went on for my master’s and graduated in 2007, 10 years later, there was Internet marketing right there. I got to take my first Internet marketing class, my God, ’97 now? Wow, we’re in 2015, so, yeah, this is another 10 years coming up in 2017. Oh, my God.

Again, the landscape vastly changed in marketing. It’s really a way to take a look at how quickly the landscape is changing; ’97 there was nothing, 2007 there was Internet marketing. We didn’t really talk about Facebook or Twitter so much yet. We were talking about Internet marketing and Web 2.0 and Wikipedia and crowdsourcing ideas, but now, 10 years later, my God, it’s going to be so wild to see what’s going to happen in just 2 years.

I love this book because there are great collaborations and you can really see others’ opinions. It’s a holistic look at social media. From my experience, I’ve worked with different size companies, in different industries since I’ve been out of school in ’97. It really gives you a solid approach to planning to create your own social media campaigns, not just how, but why you should do it. Tools might change, but really understanding your audience, preparing content and communication is never going to change. People are always going to want to stay connected, even more so now.

Even if we all seem disconnected on the outside, we might have tons of followers and customers online. We can all do it from our own table, with a little cup of coffee in our hand, sitting at our own Starbucks table. It’s a great look at really understanding social media, and I loved it. I definitely recommend it. Check it out on Amazon (Affiliate Link).


Understanding Social Media: How to Create a Plan for Your Business that Works by Damian Ryan (Affiliate Link)


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