Posts Tagged book review

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: 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.

Book Review: Shift Your Brilliance

Posted by on Tuesday, 13 May, 2014

Now this is my type of self-help book. Last week, Simon T Bailey released his follow-up to Release Your Brilliance — Shift Your Brilliance.

To be honest, if I didn’t hear Simon speak at the American Marketing Association Leadership Conference, and receive a free copy of this book, I probably wouldn’t have read Shift Your Brilliance.

My life would have been worse for it.

You’ve read my thoughts on self-help books. I still can’t understand how anyone can think by following a script, there’s a guaranteed result. I digress, but it leads to why Shift Your Brilliance is different. Simon doesn’t tell you what to do. At one stage he even says to think INSIDE the box.

So what does Simon say?

He asks questions. He tells stories. He leads you to your own answers and actions. This is done through worksheets and quizzes mixed with anecdotes from both his experiences and those of his readers and friends. Occasionally he will add tips, but they are general, like having an accountability buddy to help you stay on track.

The goal of this book is for the reader to realize they are “O Brilliant One”. How you define that is up to you, the reader. I think that’s why I like Shift Your Brilliance. Everyone does have brilliance within, but often can’t see it. This book will walk you through looking at these issue differently to help you refind your brilliance. Thus the section on thinking inside the box.

The writing style is very conversational, making this a quick read. I had it half read by the time I got off the flight from Chicago. If I wasn’t overtired from three days at a conference and a busy few weeks beforehand, I would have finished it. That said, I didn’t do the exercises. I’m actually holding them off until a time when my brilliance is muted and I need to refocus. I didn’t learn anything new from Shift Your Brilliance or from hearing Simon speak. For me, it was a good reminder of what I need to do to keep a good attitude.

Who is Shift Your Brilliance for?

Anyone who’s feeling a bit trapped or despondent. This could be work, or life, or relationships, anything. Simon will take you through a self-evaluation to encourage you to look at the situation differently and help you decide how to act. Hands up if you’ve never needed that kind of help. No one? I thought so.

I’m already making a list of who I need to buy this book for, because I’m not giving up my copy. And if you ever get the chance to hear Simon present – go for it! You’ll be energized from his interactive presentation and amazing laugh.

As mentioned, Shift Your Brilliance was a gift from the American Marketing Association. They didn’t ask for a review, and these are my thoughts.

Book Review: The Networked Nonprofit

Posted by on Sunday, 27 April, 2014

The-Networked-NonprofitYou’re probably wondering why I reviewed a four year old social media book. It’s so social media that Randi Zuckberberg wrote the foreword. Why did I review The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Allison H Fine? A small part opportunity; a large part curiosity. It’s been on my Amazon Wishlist since it was published. OK, maybe I read it because I could and to clear it from my Wishlist. Four years is a long time.

Now we’ve discovered my reasons were a tad nebulous, what did I think of The Networked Nonprofit? I loved it. This four year old social media book is current, topical, practical and under-rated. Yes, that’s right. I have just used those terms to describe a four year old book that’s essentially about something that changes faster than your underwear.

The Networked Nonprofit is less about social media tools and more the behaviors. There are tools named all through, but if you’re wanting that level of learning check out the Power of Visual Storytelling. Surprisingly, even the tools mentioned have endured. Apart from MySpace, the first defunct tool is on page 97. I’ll let you decide if you think MySpace deserves to be the first.

In this book you’ll discover lots of whys. Why getting online is no longer optional. Why the millennial age group won’t support your organization (but will support your cause). Why your governance model has lost its effectiveness. And how to become a networked nonprofit and be successful.

The book is an easy read, even with its deep research. Case studies show how organizations have used social media and digital marketing techniques for their causes. Tips and quotes come from outside the nonprofit world too. I love the breadth and willingness to learn from all.

My favorite model is the Ladder of Engagement. Everyone should be using this to understand their supporters. It helps classify between donors and evangelists and wallflowers. Knowing these segments helps to target existing supporters to change their segment/behavior, or to reinforce positive behaviors with a thank you. Oh, and when I said everyone, I meant everyone. Which leads to the question:

Who is The Networked Nonprofit For?

A big mistake is to assume this is only for struggling nonprofit marketers, or even just nonprofit marketers. There is nothing in The Networked Nonprofit that can’t be applied to any organization type. Just switch the word “supporters” for “customers”.

Definitely a book that should be read by all. Even if it is a four year old social media book.

Note: Thanks to Jeff at Casey Family Services for letting me raid your bookcase. Not that you know about it yet.

Book Review: Brand esSense

Posted by on Sunday, 20 April, 2014

Brand-esSenseI actually finished Brand esSense by Neil Gains a few weeks ago. I’m glad I fell behind with reviews though. Last week a friend and I chatted about the popularity of a branding session at the recent Market Mix conference. We couldn’t understand why marketers are confused by branding, when it’s essentially unchanged since the 1940s. That’s when brands were first described as anthropological concepts.

Without that discussion, I would have deemed Brand esSense an overly academic, deep read in a short book. It is an academic deep read in 232 pages, but it’s also an excellent bridge between the sensory aspects of brand and how they are used with current marketing tactics.

Who is Brand esSense for?

This needs answering a tad earlier than usual. Brand esSense is for the experienced marketers, like the ones at Market Mix. The ones with brand theory knowledge. This book skips the basics and jumps straight into the psychology behind the components of brands. It’s a heavy book.

Does it Really Go That Deep?

Yes, it does. After reading this book you’ll know which colors elicit anger, why to use smell, and creating archetypes, among others. See, I said it’s detailed.

The detail makes it a hard hard read. It’s also not linear so concepts jump around, which can be confusing. Archetypes is one. While this sounds nasty, especially when you look at other books like Seth Godin’s lighter reads, I recommend Brand esSense, just for a more academic read or experienced marketer. The detail includes some amazing research. Both scientific research and case studies explain and show how each concept helps form a brand.

And if Brand esSense gets too dry, skip to chapter eight. It’s a great summary of the book and gives enough detail to stand on its own.

Note: Being an Australian in the US meant the play on essence really confused me. I’ve been i the US long enough now to confuse Australian/UK English and did actually check spelling before posting this. Tangent, but I hope you weren’t confused too.