A book I really enjoyed reading recently was “Engage” by Brian Solis, (you can click here for the previous post in this two-part review.)

This book is meant to help executives understand how the internet has changed the world of marketing, sales and customer service. Solis argues that because we socially engage on the web now, that companies need to re-engineer themselves, treating social media as a channel for serving individuals, not just as a passing mass-communications fad that occupies their marketing team.

The Challenge Ahead

To take part in the social web, we must first understand what Web 2.0 has done to how customers interact with their peers and with potential vendors. The book’s first part reviews this territory, which has also been covered in books like “Trust Agents” and “Six Pixels of Separation.” Solis shares the belief that markets are conversations, saying we must be “Fusing the Me in Social Media and the We in the Social Web” in order to be part of the action.

Book_engageWhile Solis says that it’s critical to create an effective presence in existing online communities via social media, he wants us to do it in an intentional way, rather than just nosing in on every conversation that’s taking place. He acknowledges an unpleasant reality for B2B companies that want to engage with clients and prospects, which is that they must kick-off the conversation. But he holds off from giving specifics at this stage of the book, instead posing questions that make us realize how inadequately prepared our organizations are for these interactions. Questions like:

  • How do we foster and manage social customer relationships?
  • How can we develop social media teams in an organization and create a model for social participation?
  • How can a brand pay its way into social communities without appearing crass and overtly commercial?

 

On this last question, we should follow the example of TNT Sports Channel, which sought to attract a young, male audience to watch its “NBA on TNT” basketball programming. Many in this demographic are gamers, so they partnered with World of Warcraft, giving NBA on TNT in-game placement in this popular MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game). World of Warcraft fans responded so well to the placement, that the makers of WoW eventually reciprocated by advertising their MMORPG during NBA on TNT broadcasts. This sponsorship worked in both contexts because the companies were genuinely engaging a community of sports/gaming enthusiasts – they created an affinity in the community for their brands.

Finding Answers

At the midway point in the book, we dig into social media details like handling multiple channels. Solis, who runs a consulting group, even covers implementations with regional nuances. People in very large enterprises who contend with global marketing challenges will appreciate Solis’ insights here – this is clearly something he’s used to doing.

The book’s second half tells organizations how they can realize the potential of social media. One section of this is “defining the rules of engagement,” which defines new roles and responsibilities. Some of these are intuitively obvious, some are not. The book places strong emphasis on getting “likes,” which could stem from the time it was published (early 2011), when Facebook’s offerings for company pages was coming on very strong.

Overall, I felt that Engage puts out a good argument for social media skeptics. It should convince them that leads can be generated through engaging online. Those who are already on the social media bandwagon are probably using most of the best practices he puts in the book. Though some will wish for more specifics, the framework he gave in its second-half is a good start on using social media strategically.