Social media’s ever growing importance in everyday life has resulted in brands paying increasing attention to social channels and in a fair amount of writing on the subject being produced. A rather nagging problem with that corpus of writing is that it’s not ageing well. Because social platforms pivot so easily and frequently, pinning down social media marketing principles and how-tos that will stay true for a long time appears a fools’ errand. This is where Julie Atherton’s new book “Social Media Strategy, a practical guide to social media strategy and customer engagement” should definitely fare better. Atherton’s writing is as accessible as it is well-argued and her approach, which bases all social media strategies in business strategy, means that her book, while still suffering from some of the above mentioned “ageing”, remains a compelling guide to how to think about social as part of a bigger picture.
By providing simple and solid rules and showing their theoretical underpinnings, Atherton creates not just a manual of tips & tricks for social media, but a system of thinking about digital marketing. This is incredibly useful for those beginning to think about digital. At times, however, it appears to somewhat expand outside the scope of the book, i.e. social media into overall marketing best practice. While it’s true that the overarching principles of digital marketing do apply to social media, some of the more tactical observations around brand presence and campaign building can appear out of date to a specialist’s eye. This is primarily due to the changing nature of the platforms themselves. However, Atherton offsets this shortcoming through a well-structured approach and numerous and applied examples. The book may not directly appeal to the seasoned social media agency strategist, but it will definitely serve as solid reading to anyone wanting to understand social media beyond it’s day to day specificities. While being less concerned with categorising types of social media, the book does provide enough tools and methodologies to empower both practitioners and business owners to take control of their approach to utilising social platforms.
Atherton covers some of the core methodologies and processes that social media practitioners would be familiar with, but which can be unusual in a more traditional comms setting. Her chapter on audience segmentation talks persuasively about social listening and its applications, and throughout one can find sufficient examples to make most of the advice fully actionable.
It was particularly refreshing to see a point of view on the role of social media in building brand communities. While current thinking has shifted in favour of using social media platforms primarily as an engine for paid content, there remains significant value to be had in considering the role of [branded] communities on social platforms. Atherton covers the subject at length with considered examples and tactics.This section of the book turned out to be my favourite, as it raises important questions on the ownership of branded spaces on social platforms.
Another important topic that Atherton does not shy from “attacking” is the contentious role of influencers and brand ambassadors which the book covers in Chapter 8. This is a very controversial topic at the moment and Atherton addresses it in a structured and applied way, cutting through the controversy and outlining simple tools to engage and gain value from working with social media influencers and celebrities alike.
You can purchase this book here.