UPDATE: All right, time to eat crow. Somewhere below, a midst the mix of genuine praise and sassy criticism, I suggested Kabani’s four chapters on social media sites should have been condensed. As you can see in the comments below, Kabani found the review and was extremely gracious. Wanting to jump on the opportunity, I used LuteTimes’ Twitter account to show our followers the good news. What did I do when Twitter asked for 140 characters and I had so much to say? I opened up to “the zen of social media marketing”‘s chapter on Twitter, and found everything I needed. Realizing the irony, I felt the need to post this update. The four chapters on social media are in fact the appropriate length. Shout out to Mrs. Kabani and her impressive online skills at finding me on LuteTimes.
The introduction reads in bold: “Traditional marketing rules cannot be applied to social media because social media is not a marketer’s platform. It belongs to consumers.” “The zen of social media marketing” by Shama Kabani offers an introductory explanation on different forms of a business’ online presence.
This book is for beginners looking to build their online presence. The most appealing aspect of the book is the relaxed and joking tone Kabani writes in. Kabani covers the basics of online marketing, provides the reader with specific examples and then works her way into the advanced subtopics. Though the author is well-accredited and the subject is relevant, all I could think throughout the reading was that the book would have served as a better online resource than published hardcopy, considering the ever-changing subject.
Chapters one through four cover the basics of attracting, converting and transforming a company’s online presence. Plenty of headlines, sub-headlines and “fun facts” kept me engaged throughout the book. The 246 pages were a surprisingly fast read. Chapter three included a step-by-step search engine optimization with Google AdWords, complete with screen shots of what to click.
Kabani stresses that social media is the key to a successful venture. I particularly like her explanation of why companies need personal websites. “Can you imagine a business that doesn’t have a phone number? No telephone? How 1800s!” wrote Kabani. “No website? How 1900s!” She goes on to explain why websites are necessary, beyond the fact that it’s expected. But what makes this book excel is that after she explains something’s necessity, she explains how to achieve it. Chapters one through four are slow to get through if you know the basics, but I learned several tips and tricks to achieving a higher customer pull online.
Kabani then launches in to specific sites. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ all get their own chapters. Most of this content was already self-explanatory. I still can’t decide if I’m impressed or annoyed by Kabani’s implementation of her own business into her group. When she shows readers the basics of promoting a fan page on Facebook, she uses her own company, the Marketing Zen Group, as her example, complete with ways to connect to her sites. In the LinkedIn chapter she shows users to her personal page. Overall these chapters seemed like an self-promotion section. The four social media sites are all relatively user friendly. While it was helpful to have her spell out some of the details of the sites, the four chapters could have been condensed into one, without the personal content.
Which leads to my second gripe with the book: It’s a book. “The zen of social media marketing” was originally published in 2010. As Kabani explains in the introduction, “Two years later, I knew the vast world of social media had changed enough to require an updated guide.” Social media is constantly making new revolutions. For this book to be relevant, it will need to have new editions published annually. It’s already had three editions in three years. This information would have served better if it were an online help site. Kabani and contributing authors could then update the site whenever the newest online force comes into power. This is a hard copy of an online how-to. Putting the information online makes much more sense, considering the subject matter. In addition, many of Kabani’s step-by-step “how-to”s include website addresses and links one needs to access. If this were online content, hyperlinks would make the learning process easier. In the chapter on Twitter Kabani even spells out long web addresses for online Twitter tools her audience should use.
Still, I loved Kabani’s bottom-up approach to social media marketing. I learned things, especially concerning search engine optimization, that I plan on applying to my own promotional projects. In her later chapters, Kabani delves into the more advanced social media platforms. Once a website starts generating traffic, Kabani explains how to track progress and sell advertisements. Her explanation is explicitly not a get-rich-quick promise. She warns readers that creating an online presence takes time and asks her audience to be patient with the process. She makes all aspects of social networking, which can seem overwhelming, seem easy and manageable.
I’d also like to note two features of the book I was particularly fond of. At the end of the new edition, Kabani answers specific questions readers of the first edition sent in. Here she brings up interesting points of social media language and expectations I hadn’t considered. After the Q&A she interviews 12 entrepreneurs about their websites and businesses, asking about online strategies. A list of discussion questions for groups studying social media was listed in the back of the book. These additions are great conversation starters and apply the theories taught throughout the book to real life.
Most enjoyable is the language Kabani uses. Her sarcastic questions, humorous examples and albeit overused at times, generous use of exclamation points show her enthusiasm for the topic. She dumbs down the complex economics of group-buying and price-sensitive buyers, all the while joking about Groupon’s pizza deal. The human qualities she put in to the book made for an enjoyable read.
The other aspect I especially enjoyed was the chapter by the guest author, Dave Kaminski of WebVideoUniversity.com. Kabani recognized she could not dim down video production the way she did other tools of social media, and handed the reigns over to someone who could. I appreciated Kabani’s commitment to include all forms of media in the book.
Kabani is an accomplished young entrepreneur. As the CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, Kabani has been featured in BusinessWeek’s Top 25 under 25 entrepreneurs in North America. Her company was recently featured at the White House as a Empact100 business run by a young entrepreneur. This was Kabani’s first published book. All her personal online sites are up to date and flawless, though I would expect no less from the “online marketing shaman” (from a review by Fast Company.com).
Overall, “The zen of social media marketing” gets four out of five stars. Easy enough to read, logistical processes were made entertaining and I learned a few dozen tricks. Shama Kabani is one to watch, considering she’s just starting out in the business world. A great book with great advice, I just wish it were all online.