Archive for category Book Reviews

Book Review: Dataclysm

Posted by on Sunday, 31 August, 2014

DataclysmDid you hear? Dating site, OKCupid has lied to you; just to see what happens. This headline hit just days after Facebook tried publishing user behavior research in an academic journal. What the journalists seem to have missed was that OKCupid’s co-founder and President Christian Rudder wrote the blog post about some of their findings just before his book, Dataclysm¬†was released. I actually suspect Christian wrote the blog post because of huge backlash Facebook received. After all, a blog post worth of user behavior data is easier to stomach than an entire book.

So what’s Dataclysm like?

It’s an informative, educational look at people and what they do. Is it a scandalous expose? Not really. Will you be surprised by the results? Probably.

Christian takes what comes across as a math nerd’s hobby and turns it into an insightful profile. He has access to gigabytes of offered and acquired data. I know I wouldn’t be able to resist.

I suspect this book has two aims. One, to show what data is available for analysis, and two, to research some behaviors that are difficult to accurately measure. For instance, do men search for gay porn more in liberal states? By the way, no they don’t. Search rates are equal across the country.

Other little snippets are reported from data that extends to Google, Twitter, a job site and more. Academic research also supplements the OKCupid sample, giving a more robust story than just that from a dating site. Some snippets are useful for marketers, such as the fact that people are more likely to reword a Tweet than use abbreviations. However, most of the data is general and an interesting anthropological view.

Christian’s story telling tends to be more pop sociology with simplified English. He does drop just enough research terminology to keep the data nerds happy, but always with translations. Chapter titles like, “Death by a Thousand Mehs” helps grab those who detest math.

The book could be tightened a little with some setting the scene paragraphs being dropped. I do especially like the “end of book philosophical chapter”* that explains how web data analysis is here and should be useful for consumers, but of course needs to be treated cautiously. He quotes the Target case where their data modeling was so accurate they predicted a pregnancy before the woman told her family. Unfortunately the woman was a teen. He’s right though, data analysis is here and really we should embrace it.

Who Is Dataclysm For?

Dataclysm is more of a sociology book than a marketing book. If you’re a marketer wanting to understand the applications of big data, then definitely read this. It won’t help a marketer do their job better. If you’re worried about online privacy and want to understand what is recorded, then definitely read this book. Finally, if you’re just a curious nerd, buy it. My copy was an unedited proof courtesy of NetGalley, without the graph formatting. I now have to wait until it’s released next week to buy a full copy.

Book Review: Human to Human

Posted by on Wednesday, 6 August, 2014

Human-to-HumanThere was nothing profound in Human to Human: #H2H. There was nothing even new, and that’s the way it should be. Human to Human: #H2H by Bryan Kramer is the hot business book of the summer.

For the few of you who haven’t heard about Human to Human or seen the #H2H tweets, it’s a book dispelling the B2B and B2C sales concepts. After all, we’re all humans.

Those who know me are familiar with my rants on this. I can’t recall if I’ve mention it on here, but I kind of, may have, rudely called people out-of-date when they’ve suggested we need to have B2B or B2C focuses. Now I can just send them the link to this book and be done with it.

For an example, here’s the introduction:

“Communication shouldn’t be complicated. It should just be genuine and simple, with the humility and understanding that we’re all multi-dimensional humans, every one of which has spent time in bot he dark and delightful parts of life.

That’s human to human.”

In a short 68 pages, Bryan explains why. Using recent and public cases, and even one of his own projects that went astray, he describes human behavior and what we need to do as communicators and marketers to appeal to our audiences, regardless of their segment.

Short videos embedded through the ebook have experts explaining their experiences. If you’re like me and don’t like video, you won’t lose anything by skipping them, but you will gain a lot from watching them. I didn’t make many notes through #H2H (it is rather short and reinforced my existing beliefs) but these did stand out:

  • “we all need to speak more human”
  • lines between B2C and B2B are blurred (paraphrased)
  • context and understanding your audience
  • rules of social context

Yes, once again my notes make no sense on their own.

Who is Human to Human: #H2H for?

Any marketer or communicator that needs a reminder that they’re appealing to humans, irrespective of the purchase context. Oh, and all who need a kick up the butt to get up to speed.

Go, read it now. You’ll regret it otherwise.

Book Review: The Digital Mystique

Posted by on Sunday, 13 July, 2014

the-digital-mystiqueRemember that little disclaimer on the Marketing Book Reviews page that said the definition of marketing was a little loose? The The Digital Mystique by Sarah Granger is one of those.

What is the Digital Mystique About?

It’s a quick book to help you understand social media and everyday online technology. It covers the main social media networks, but also kids online, seniors online, online dating, running a business, and even social media when you pass away.

Who is the Digital Mystique For?

I think it’s clear already that this book is not for you (assuming you’re a regular Tap Dancing Spiders reader). But it is a book that you would purchase – several times. Buy it for that annoying aunt who keeps peppering you with beginner questions about Facebook. Or buy it for the grandparents wanting to chat to the grandkids online. Buy it for the parents of Tweens who think that because they don’t use social media their little darling never will.

This book covers all those demographics and more, possibly a bit too much so. It’s a little jumpy with covering so many people and this may change in the final edition. I have an unedited prerelease copy and in some parts it’s very unedited, so I’m sure there will be more changes. Get around the jumpiness by marking the chapters applicable to that recipient, and directing their reading.

Another reason why your techno-curious aunt will love this book: she’ll feel a connection with the author. Despite being active on BBSs as a young teen, social media and the technology behind it seems to still be a novelty to Sarah. The same as it is for the book’s audience.

Save yourself from the frustrating questions this Christmas and put this under the tree. In the meanwhile, if you have a NetGalley account and are curious, head over and request a prerelease copy, like the one they generously gave me in the hope of a review.

Book Review: Understanding Digital Marketing

Posted by on Thursday, 26 June, 2014

Understanding-Digital-MarketingWhen I started Understanding Digital Marketing by Damien Ryan I thought it was a text book. It has 399 pages and multiple editions. The Kindle edition was 15% in before I realized it’s a very long business book.

What makes Understanding Digital Marketing so long? It’s detailed and includes all digital marketing tools. I was surprised, but impressed by podcasts’ inclusion. This is definitely a book to teach you a lot. I was recommending it (with a caveat) before I was half-done reading it.

Who is Understanding Digital Marketing For?

In each review I decide to add structure to the flow, but then the book takes over. Once again, “Who’s it for” jumps to the start.
This a relatively junior book. It’s very tactical and even covers theories and models such as the 4Ps and a BCG grid. Both things I learned in my first semester of marketing at college. However, the information for a couple of tactics is out of date. I’ll touch on it more in the “not so good”, but … and I’m struggling here … it does need some knowledge to understand what’s current, inferring a mid-level marketer, or with at least a year or two of digital marketing experience.

The Good

The chapter on content. Really, I noted it twice. It’s practical, realistic, and includes a lot of mentions of engagement. The book is worth it for this chapter alone.
I also loved the detail. Sure, a marketer doesn’t really need to know the different web server options, but having an overview makes it easier talking with engineers. And marketers will be talking with engineers.

The case studies are also excellent. They are recent, and global.

The Not So Good

SEO. Really, that entire chapter is that bad. I don’t know Damien’s background, but whomever advised on that chapter is not an SEO expert. There have been two major Google algorithm updates in the last 18 months, and with the case studies being so recent, there’s no excuse for this chapter being at least two years old.

There are occasional other parts that are out-of-date too, thus the caveat. I recall hearing of videos in email as a hot topic last November, but it’s a no-no here.

Overall, this is a very useful book, and one I recommend as a starting point to digital marketing tools.

Book Review: The Social Media Gospel

Posted by on Sunday, 25 May, 2014

Social Media GospelAre you one of the few who still doesn’t “get” social media? Meredith Gould’s book, The Social Media Gospel will help you understand why it’s important, and gives you some tips to get started for your Church.

Meredith is a professional communicator, predominantly advising Churches and clergy on digital communications – including social media. She’s very open with her begrudging start to social media, and this is definitely a strength for The Social Media Gospel. The fact that she’s not a digital native does show all through the book. I don’t think it’s intentional. For me it’s off-putting but it will appeal to her target audience.

What’s the Social Media Gospel about? It’s a book to help you be a better digital communicator for your church. Meredith describes all the arguments churches present against using social media as a comms tool, and counters them, fairly and well-researched. She will help you understand the behaviors behind the choices, and I especially love the chapter on different learning styles and which social media platforms relate to each. Meredith doesn’t really touch on the how of social media, but is thorough on the why – sometimes when she’s trying to explain the how. It’s a good starter, to then get you looking more at the specific techniques for each platform.

There are two changes I would make to this book. One is a major one, the other a personal irritation. The major one is that the Social Media Gospel doesn’t explain that communications is all about your audience. Meridith is right with saying that you should pick and choose which social media platforms according to your time and resources; not take it all on. What she missed though is getting the reader to examine where their audience is playing. The communicator may feel more comfortable on Pinterest, but if their audience isn’t there, it’s wasted time. The second is the cheesy inclusion of scripture and praise messages. It feels a little over-the-top and unnecessary. But then again, maybe I should have expected it from a social media book with gospel in the title. Exodus 20:3-4 comes to mind. Is this book really a gospel?

Who is The Social Media Gospel for?

Clergy who are uncomfortable with social media and digital communication techniques. There are terms that make the book appear older than its 2013 publication date: web 1.0 (and subsequent generations), and age-based demographics, as well as the term digital native. It works well for the audience. Meredith originally shunned computers for anything more than word processing, and the readers who’ll get the most of out The Social Media Gospel likely did the same.

Thanks to Kerry Allman of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia for the loan of the Social Media Gospel.