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Book Review: The Social Media Marketing Book by Dan Zarrella

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Recently I reviewed Tamar Weinberg's The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, and mentioned that while the book provides copious information, it may be too complex and lengthy for the average user. A companion text, The Social Media Marketing Book by Dan Zarrella, serves as a concise, easy-to-follow book for companies interested in social web marketing.

One major issue for businesses is navigating this relatively new landscape. Like traveling to a foreign country, this world has its own language, rules, and etiquette. Therefore Zarrella devotes a majority of the text to defining various types of social media, such as networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn), media sharing services (YouTube, Flickr), blogging, Twitter, social bookmarking (Delicious, Digg), forums, virtual worlds (mostly Second Life), and review sites such as Yelp. For those who are largely unfamiliar with such services, Zarrella clearly explains of the pros and cons of each site and how they can benefit particular companies. The social bookmarking section, in particular, explains the sites' purpose and how businesses can use them to generate buzz about a product or service. Befriending a power user who bookmarks frequently can assist in promoting an article, perhaps achieving a high readership.

In addition, Zarrella includes helpful guidelines about etiquette — for example, when participating in a forum, simply hawking a product is frowned upon. The author even labels forums as "cultures" that must be learned before posting any messages. For instance, users should think of themselves as contributing members of a community, working for the public good. He urges transparency, and suggests emphasizing "your unique skills and knowledge that will be useful for the community."

The last part of The Social Media Marketing Book details strategy and practice, offering tips on monitoring an online advertising campaign's success, responding to criticism, and integrating various types of media into one site (an extremely helpful graphic shows how Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, Facebook, and other services can be merged into a WordPress site). Zarrella also advises setting specific, reachable goals within this new world instead of trying to conquer every type of social media. In other words, which services will best market your product and reach your target audience?

Numerous screenshots illustrate websites, giving a broad idea of their layouts. While these graphics are in black and white, they still provide useful information that will allow users to immediately understand how various sites work. "Takeaway Tips" at the end of each chapter list the major points just discussed, offering concise recaps for the reader. While Zarrella states that he interviewed various social media experts (including Mashable's Pete Cashmore), he never quotes them directly. Instead, he mentions that he "talked to" Cashmore, and paraphrases what he said. He interviews some impressive people in the field — why does Zarrella not quote them? They must have had interesting stories to share based on their own experiences. More specific case studies would have further identified the benefits — and pitfalls — of social media marketing. Finally, frequently Zarrella acknowledges that he works for HubSpot, which sells Internet marketing software. While he refers to HubSpot in various examples, he does not blatantly promote his own company within the book.

Overall, The Social Media Marketing Book serves as an overview of major social marketing sites and services, and provides a basic education for those looking to enter this new world. Think of Zarrella's text as a companion to the tome The New Community Rules — both would vastly help someone considering online promotion techniques. Perhaps nothing sums up social marketing rules better than Zarrella's words: "remember that the best promotion doesn't come from you, but from your fans."

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About Kit O'Toole

  • Scott Stone

    I recently picked up a copy of the book after reading your article and I have to say, I was very impressed with the content. Too often people forget that Social Media has another name – Consumer Generated Media and what could be better than that! 🙂

  • Scott, thanks for commenting, and I’m glad you enjoyed the book! It does indeed provide interesting information about Social Media, and your point about “Consumer Generated Media” is well taken. 🙂