The explosion of social media can present daunting challenges to marketers. How have the rules of advertising changed? Are there specific rules for various online communities? Which networks best reach the widest audiences? Tamar Weinberg addresses these issues and more in The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, the latest O'Reilly guide to navigating this territory. By reading this book, companies and individuals wishing to enter this new world will gain a great deal of knowledge and ideas for utilizing social web tools.
Weinberg, an Internet marketing consultant and blogger, thoroughly explains the history of social networks, and describes key elements to a successful online marketing plan. Business owners and marketers with just a passing familiarity with sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and YouTube will find her descriptions clear and insightful. She provides numerous tips on using hidden tools on these sites to promote brands, enhance reputations, and network with customers. Even freelance writers and other individuals looking to develop a strong online presence should find her hints useful. Weinberg cites numerous case studies from companies illustrating how social media marketing can help — or potentially hurt — sales and customer relations.
The book's structure moves from the general to specific, the first four chapters introducing the concept of social web marketing and providing advice as to goal-setting and devising online marketing plans. Weinberg then proceeds to specific social media tools, painstakingly describing blogs and microblogs social networks, wikis, social bookmarking, social news sites, and other media such as video and photo sharing sites, and podcasting. Drawing from these tools and definitions, she concludes with concrete advice on determining strategies (as well as continuing face-to-face networking). Everyone should read the appendix, “The Ultimate Social Media Etiquette Handbook,” a concise guide to correctly using social networking sites (and not offending fellow users).
The New Community Rules's greatest strength, however, lies in its definition of social media marketing. The traditional paradigm has shifted, and Weinberg accurately describes the new: namely, companies and customers have a closer relationship. “Companies need to acknowledge that they can no longer easily control their messages,” she writes. “Marketers now have the ability to influence and cultivate the message through their own communication channels...but they are now contending with hundreds of thousands of customers who have a soundboard to articulate their own thoughts about the company and product offerings.” In other words, companies must consider online marketing as a two-way street, and must expect and encourage audience feedback and participation. Potential customers avoid direct sales pitches and instead search for “newsworthy content that the community as a whole believes is relevant to a wider audience.” Therefore, she concludes, the PR consultant must think of herself as a “community participant” rather than simply someone hired to craft press releases.