I’ve seen a few other blog posts about the best “social media” books to read this summer so I thought I would chime in with my thoughts. Before I disappoint you let me clarify, none of the books I list are about social media but I assure you they will help with your social media efforts. They will give you a foundation of knowledge to build upon which is critical for effective communication, one-way, two-way asymmetrical, two-way symmetrical, etc.
Why is this so important? Think about it, you wouldn’t try to build a home simply by purchasing a hammer and reading how a hammer works would you? Nope, you have to understand the fundamentals of architecture, construction, landscaping and more.
So with that I offer you five books to enhance your social media efforts (in no particular order):
Theories of Mass Communication (5th Edtion by DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach) – At $123 this is the most expensive book on my list but if you want to understand how we communicate this little gem covers it all. I will admit its dry and the author’s love of parenthetical phrasing gets old after a while but I learned more about communication theory from this book than probably any other book I’ve read. Yes, I know it was written in 1989 and if you don’t think social media existed back then I would encourage you to check out Chapter 7 which covers Social Differentiation Theory and Social Relationships Theory (which includes one of my favorite theories, Adoption of Innovation) and Chapter 8 which covers Socialization and Theories of Indirect Influence.
When Old Technologies Were New (by Carolyn Marvin) – This is an amazing book which walks right up to the line of being a dissertation but never looses site of the fact that its audience is much more broad than a bunch of academics. I would argue this book provides more insight into what is going on in the world of social media than any other I have ever read and reinforces the message that history repeats itself over and over. Read it and you will understand why folks like Solis and Brogan play a critical role but that role is short lived – yes, there were telegraph and telephone gurus in the day (don’t get me wrong, I read these guys religiously and they ad huge value to the conversations taking place today) and how the debates over how best to use communication technology (e.g. twitter) is nothing new. For example, many times you could swap the word “telegraph” for any new social media platform and it would read like any blog posted today. From the Amazon review, “Quotations and anecdotes from the popular press illustrate how professionals struggled to control the new media and preserve the social order by excluding ‘outsiders’…”
Public Relations Strategies and Tactics (9th Edition by Wilcox and Cameron) – Yep, another text book but one which will walk you through the history of public relations. Bottom line, social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum – understanding public relations is a must. If you are looking for a bit more advanced book than this I would recommend Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Edition by Wilcox) which has a heavy emphasis on the tactical elements so often used in public relations.
The Cluetrain Manifesto (Levine, Locke, Searls, Weinberger & Jake) – I read this book first back in 1999 when it was published online. These were the true leaders in internet communication and each author has followed up with their own groundbreaking work and blogging (google them all and add them to your daily reading list). The irony of this book is much of what is being said today as groundbreaking ideas were presented by these guys more than ten years ago. The other irony is folks still aren’t listening – or jumping on “the cluetrain” as the case may be.
You Are Not a Gadget (Jaron Lanier) – Okay, this one is about social media but it’s a contrarian view written by one of the first visionaries of Silicon Valley and when Jaron Lanier says to watch out for something I assure you I am listening. You can read it for its face value or dig a bit deeper and look for was to avoid the pitfalls of social media.
Well, that’s all I have. What books would you recommend?
p.s. what’s on my radar? Brains on Fire: Igniting powerful, sustainable, word of mouth movements