The Social Factor by Maria Azua isn't so much a "how to" guide to social media as it is a "why to" guide. While Ms. Azua covers many how to topics, they are more of the nature of best practices, than an in the trenches manual on how to deal with your FaceBook fans. The Social Factor is aimed at businesses wishing to leverage social media as an addition to their already established business practices.
The book starts off with a sweeping historical overview of the impact of social communications on business and society that stretches all the way back to the telegraph age. As one who firmly believes in knowing the history of a thing, I found this in-depth perspective both enlightening and instructive in furthering my understanding of the impact these technologies can have on our day to day lives. This approach also sets a firm foundation for the rest of the book as we journey through the social media landscape, learning the best ways to leverage these technologies.
As the author is the vice president of Cloud Computing Enablement for IBM Enterprise Initiatives, it is understandable that there are many references to the IBM experience with social media throughout the book. Despite this, all the references to IBM initiatives, experiments and technologies do not come across as a glorified sales pitch for the company, but rather serve as real world examples of what can happen when companies begin to truly leverage this new medium for the benefit of their customers.
The end result is a content rich, insightful look at what Web 2.0 is good for, and what it isn't. Perhaps more importantly, Ms. Azua gives a clear and concise look at each of these social platforms, each in their turn, leaving no doubt as to what a wiki or a blog or tagging is all about. She then follows this description with an overview on the best use of each, with real world (IBM) examples of the media in practice.