Book review: “The Real Truth About Social Media” by Eric Harr

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I recently finished reading Eric Harr’s energetic new book, “The Real Truth About Social Media: Confessions of a Social Media CEO.” The book details how the social media revolution has permanently changed the dynamic of modern communications and the theories behind why businesses should embrace the shift to help modernize their strategies and tactics to match the shifting tide of customer culture.

I found it to be an excellent summary of the core social media ideals that businesses should understand and adopt to help their transition into a communications era that is widely considered essential to thrive in for business. The book is mainly geared towards skeptics, naysayers and those reluctant to try social media, help them understand just how important the platform is to leverage and how it simply can’t be classified as a “passing phase.”

I immediately became enchanted with Eric’s approach after he mentions Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” as the foundation of his principles and purpose early in the preface, a book that I myself rank in the top three of all time best business books ever written. Eric sought to write a book that would resonate with readers years after its release and not become outdated as quickly as new social media platforms and philosophies can sometimes come and go.

Eric starts the book by outlining what are perhaps the most important social media channels for businesses to explore and connect with – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogging, and company Web sites. What I like about his review of each channel is that he mixes in real life success stories of companies and individuals who have successfully capitalized on these channels to grow their business or broadcast their message to the world. He also mixes in business and personal actionable insights after each platform summary which offers tangible steps to establish a presence on each channel and how to effectively get results. Eric deftly points out in one section at the beginning of the book:

“Social media as a form of communication is not only tectonic, it’s timeless. While the specific platforms (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) may be ephemeral (just look at Friendster and MySpace), the technology itself is enduring.”

In the next section of his book, Eric intelligently outlines what businesses stand to gain (brand awareness, customer service, word-of-mouth marketing, customer loyalty, engaging evangelists, countering critics, market research, free publicity, and driving sales) vs. what they stand to risk (time,  money, market share and relevance) by jumping into the social media arena.

His arguments are strong and once again mix in actual business case studies helping to articulate his points and prove his assertions that businesses simply can’t afford to sit back play the “wait and see” game with this new super-charged communication opportunity.

Eric then dedicates the rest of the book to debunking 8 myths about social media and offering 8 timeless truths that counter the preconceived notions that most have about using it to cultivate their business. His truths are well laid out, for example he dedicates a chapter to trusting data as the beacon for action, measurement, and adjustments in social media policies and procedures instead of relying solely on instinct and gut reactions. He also touches on the power of listening vs. using social media as a megaphone and the importance of transparency when engaging with customers and creating content for community consumption.

Overall, I found this book to be a very easy read and chock full of meaningful insights and real life examples of social media successes and failures to help demonstrate the power and relevance of the medium. The most meaningful insights that I derived from the book can be encapsulated by the following points:

  • Social media as a viable communication platform is here to stay. It is not a passing fad. Embrace it or be left out in the cold while your competitors reap the rewards.
  • Social media requires a significant investment of time and resources. If you can’t allocate each of these, it’s not prudent to get involved.
  • Don’t define social media as a way to secure earned media. Define it is a way to build and nurture relationships.
  • Begin with the end in mind,” as Eric points out. Make sure before you dive into the world of social media that you have a strategy in place and you clearly define your Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). Measure the “metrics that matter.”
  • Understand the permanency of social media. Once something is said, it can’t be taken back.
  • Social media is built upon the laws of reciprocity.
  • Never underestimate the power of an individual. Isn’t that right United Airlines?
  • Don’t just create content. Create awesome content that moves people to act. Just ask Blendtec.
  • Transparency is paramount in the social media world. If you can’t adopt a transparent approach, modern culture is astute enough to figure out who you really are in about 5 seconds.

Since the book mainly focuses on core social media fundamentals, strategies and platforms, I don’t think seasoned social media pros can glean much new insight from this book as much as anyone interested in participating that has yet to jump in.

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