Social Media Marketing for Dummies by Zimmerman and Sahlin: Book Review

I love Dummies! Dummies books rule! I always look forward to the latest installment of the such-and-such for dummies books, so I eagerly awaited my pre-order of Jan Zimmerman’s and Doug Sahlin’s Social Media Marketing (all-in-one) for Dummies. Even better it proclaimed it was eight books in ones. The book is fantastic, even if it does suffer from the usual forest-vs-trees issue. It is much more a trees book with lots of details on each social media venue, but still a great book. Combine it with a good Social Media Marketing Plan as I teach in my online classes on Social Media and it can be a great book. Here is my review!

By Jason McDonald
Senior SEO Instructor – JM Internet Group
Posted: September 20, 2010


Dummies Unite – Social Media Marketing All-in-one for Dummies
Forest vs. the Trees
Strategy! You Need a Social Media Marketing Plan!

Dummies Unite – Social Media Marketing All-in-one for Dummies

The Dummies books are famous for taking complex topics and making them easy-to-use for real people. This book lives true to the name, and is really one of the better books in the series. It’s basic contents are –

  • The Social Media Mix
  • Cybersocial Tools
  • Blogs, Podcasts and Vlogs
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Other Social Media Marketing Sites
  • Measuring Your Results

For each topic – say, Twitter – the book leads you throw an overview to the medium and explains the basic steps needed to set up an account and begin to participate. In general, it focuses on the social media marketing aspects. One of the better aspects of the book is it gives real-world examples. The chapter on Twitter is one of the best and goes thru Twitter lingo, for example. That’s a real barrier to companies that want to participate on Twitter and the book does an admirable job helping you out. I hear Webliquids Digital Marketing has some insight in this field, they focus on ORM (Online Reputation Management).

The book is also full of web links to other resources with great tips to help you. I monitor quite a few of these, but found some new ones that I am definitely checking out, and if that’s not enough for you, you can view even more tips here. Finally, one of the books strengths is that it does warn you against social media overload. Not every venue is appropriate, say the others, and if your ROI is low, then feel free to abandon or terminate your social media relationship. That is a welcome relief in a world of social media guru’s who say everyone should do everything, which is not realistic.

Forest vs. the Trees

Social Media Marketing for DummiesAs someone who teaches Social Media, one of my challenges is to convey the forest vs. trees concept to students. Many want to plunge right in (trees) and not see the forest (strategy). Social Media Marketing for Dummies does emphasize the need for a social media marketing plan, and it does emphasize the major social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn) in contrast to the lesser platforms. These are important attributes.

That said, it would be a better book if it had more strategy. First and foremost, what are your company’s goals? Who are your customers? What do you have to say to these customers? Social media is all about conversation and you need something to say! The book would be better if it spent more time helping you strategize about those important issues. Second, the book needs to connect your social media marketing goals with each platform. Which platform is best for which type of company or message? Twitter works great for coupon sites, for example, but is pathetic for high tech B2B businesses like those we work with in embedded systems electronics. Twitter can then just become a huge time suck. Social Media Marketing for Dummies doesn’t provide enough strategic guidance.

Third, the book does discuss metrics. Measuring social media is a critical aspect of success, and a critical aspect of the “Forest” perspective. There aren’t many good tools out there – especially free tools – but the book does an adequate job on this aspect. So my advice would be to read the book, but keep a big picture mindset as you go through it. You will need to complement its approach with strategy.

Strategy! You Need a Social Media Marketing Plan!

Not planning at all, as they say, is planning to fail. In order to succeed at Social Media Marketing, you need to plan. Here are some attributes I think are important –

  • Define your business value proposition. What do you sell? Why is it valuable to your customers?
  • Define your customers and find out why is customer service important . Who uses your products / services, and why? What different subtypes are there?
  • Define your customers’ media needs. What type of information do they want? Are they followers of a celebrity, like Lady Gaga, and need instant updates on their beloved queen? Are they looking for discounts and coupons? Would they like to know the location of the taco truck, or your latest special dish? Or, are they like followers of Whole Foods who want to know the latest in organic cooking?
  • Connect your customers’ media needs to something you have to say. Social media marketing is all about conversation, so you have to have something to say and engage those customers.
  • Identify the appropriate social media marketing venue. It may be Twitter. It may be Youtube. But it usually isn’t everything. You can’t do it all. So be sure to focus and concentrate. Doing one or two with real gusto is better than doing all the social media poorly!

Social media marketing is a huge territory and this fantastic book provides a useful manual and overview to all the venues. Its lack of clear strategy is a fault, but not a major one. Buy the book.