Mark W. Schaefer. 2014. Social Media Explained: Untangling the World’s Most Misunderstood Business Trend. Schaefer Marketing Solutions.
The rapid pace of innovation in social media continues to evolve and reshape how we communicate both socially and commercially. This innovation brings new opportunities, but it also challenges businesses to evolve with these changes. This evolution requires awareness, reflection, and response. Because time and money are involved, it is helpful to get advice from time to time from industry pros. Mark Schaefer’s Social Media Explained (SME) provides such advice.
Schaefer states his purpose: “This book explains how social media marketing works in plain English” (5). In this case, plain English includes graphical illustrations by Joey Strawn (135) which provide the text with themes and pictures that mirror the points being made. The text clearly targets busy business leaders who don’t necessarily want to know all the details, but need to be able to ask informed questions (5). More than once, Schaefer chides the reader to turn off distractions, sit up, and listen—an interesting commentary on cultural trends. Between the cartoons and the commentary (and the all black outfit in the photo), one gets the impression that he is targeting a millennial, not a boomer, audience. OMG!
Schaefer describes himself as an (best selling, globally recognized) author, marketing consultant, and faculty member at Rutgers University. Other books that he has written include: Return on Influence, Born to Blog, and The Tao of Twitter. Schaefer divides SME into 3 sections:
- The 5 Most Important Things You Need to Know about Social Media Marketing.
- The 5 Most Difficult Questions You’ll Face
- A Social Media Primer (2).
These 3 sections are followed by biographies of the author and illustrator and an index.
Section 1. As alluded to above, Schaefer’s introduction is actually aptly named—may I have your attention please? —because while his is not verbose, he does choose his words carefully and knows what he is talking about. In chapter 1 (Humans Buy From Humans), for example, he uses a rather shocking analogy—social media is a lot like an ancient bazaar. The point is that people buy from other people—personal contact and feedback remain important. People want to connect with other people (8-12).
Schaefer’s point mirrors my own business experience. Although my book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality, is available worldwide through Amazon.com, I generally sell about 10 books through personal appearances for every 1 book that I sell online. Even when I make online sales, I generally have a good idea of who the online buyers were because of recent interactions with people.
For those of you new to Schaefer’s writing, chapter 3, The Social Media Mindset, provides an important interpretation of how to understand social media. Schaefer makes 4 points:
- Target your connections,
- Provide meaningful content,
- Be authentically helpful, and
- Reap business benefits (23).
Point 1 is less than obvious—in the entire world of possible contacts, you want to reach people who are most likely to be receptive to your service. Point 2 defines the task at hand—provide content useful to your connections. Point 3 speaks to motivation—being truly helpful is something rare, remembered, and, ultimately, rewarded. Point 4 answers the why question—being available and helpful to your connections makes it more likely that your connections will stay in touch and consider your service in their purchases. Taken together, these 4 points speak about the need to develop relationships—social media is social in the sense of providing unique networking opportunities.
Section 2. Among the questions that Schaefer fields, chapter 6 was the most eye-opening for me. What is the value of social media and how do we measure it? Schaefer starts with a brilliant statement of the obvious, for those of us who live in the real world—we have to measure our progress (51). He give 4 reasons:
- Everything has an implied value.
- We have to justify what we do—if we want to continue being employed.
- Measurement helps us determine when we are making progress.
- With so much data floating around, there is no reason not to measure (51-52).
Having said this, Schaefer sees the benefits of social media as primarily nonfinancial, intangibles—much like networking. Listing his own benefits in a recent year, he cites these items: increased customer loyalty, free advice, a job offer, greater awareness, and a book contract (55). The big question is how do you learn in a fast-paced, changing environment? Learning is a non-financial, intangible, yet it is often critical for firm survival. No one wants to become, so to speak, the next high-quality, buggy-whip manufacturer.
Section 3. Keeping up with social media innovations is the source of a lot of my anxiety about social media—which platforms do I need to pay attention to and what tools are a priority to learn? Schaefer’s comment gave me great comfort: “Blogs are among the most important sources of ‘rich’ content—the real fuel for your social media engine” (124). My comfort arises because, contrary to other advice, my social media strategy focuses on blogging on a regular basis. Schaefer goes on to mention podcasting, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ , YouTube, and SlideShare (125-132). Personally, I probably need to spend more time developing my presence in Facebook; SlideShare is one media that I had not considered but probably should.
Mark Schaefer’s Social Media Explained provides a helpful overview of the current status of social media and why firms need to be aware and involved. SME is also very readable.
 Read my review in 2013: Schaefer Works Twitter; Brings Business Sense (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-3S).
 I am surprised that Schaefer did not mention Google’s preference for Google+ in its SEO algorithm. This was a motivator in using Google+. Has this advantage gone away?