Review: The Tao of Twitter

[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. Opinions are my own. Links to Amazon are affiliate links. Here is my review policy.]

book cover

The Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time is by Mark W. Schaefer, published by McGraw Hill (2012). The book’s intended audience is business owners who are new to Twitter. It’s a slim and inexpensive volume that explains the uses and benefits of Twitter from the perspective of growing business and networking.

I wouldn’t suggest that anyone who has been using Twitter for a while bother with it, but for the absolute newbie, it is full of things you need to know. Some of the information is out of date, but it remains a good guide for the business man or woman who wants to take on social media.

For current Twitter users, it may seem strange to imagine that there are still people out there who know nothing about Twitter. But I see such folks in my continuing education classes all the time. My classes are filled with people who are retraining with an eye to working on the web or people who want to do something to improve their business or business web site. Yet many of them are not using Twitter. I could suggest this book as a resource to those students with confidence.

I was put off by the glowing examples of the benefits of Twitter that the author provides. They were personal and anecdotal rather than based on statistics or any hard data. The results for others would certainly vary.

Summary: A very basic guide to Twitter for the new user.

A review by Virginia DeBolt of The Tao of Twitter (rating: 3 stars)

Review: The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue

book cover

The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue is by Shama Kabani, published by BenBella Books (2013). This is the 3rd edition of this popular book. The author is the CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a successful marketing firm – and does a lot of speaking on TV and in training and conference talks. Kabani’s success as a marketer adds credibility to the tips and advice contained in the book.

I’ve never heard Sharma Kabani speak, but I can almost feel her voice reaching out of this book: an enthusiastic and very present voice that inspires listeners to make the leap into social media marketing. She’s full of encouraging quotes, examples of success, and tips to help marketers understand various social media sites and how to use them to best advantage. The book feels as if it was created from her speaking engagements and carries a vibe that feels like she’s right in front of you with a set of slides.

Kabani begins by explaining basics like the need for a website and/or a blog. She talks about SEO and what social media marketing is and is not. Then she goes through a series of chapters about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. These chapters about specific social media sites are all organized in the same way. She explains,

  • why the site is important
  • how to set up your presence on the site and how to use the site’s various features
  • how to build your presence on the site
  • dos and don’ts of marketing on the site

The chapters about individual sites provide both basic how-to information and tips on marketing that are valuable and specific.

The book also has chapters about using video, about creating a social media policy, social media case studies from real businesses and advertising on social media.

Kabani made occasional statements that seemed a bit arbitrary to me, for example, you should blog twice a week, or you should synchronize all your social media efforts with I think she would certainly be more nuanced than these statements appear if you could engage in a Q&A with her.

Summary: A helpful guide for marketers who are unfamiliar with social media marketing and strategy.

A review by Virginia DeBolt of The Zen of Social Media Marketing (rating: 4 stars)

Disclosure: The publisher provided a review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Review: Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Think Like Zuck

Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Ekaterina Walter is from McGraw Hill, 2013. The book was a surprise in many ways. The biggest reason was the way Ekaterina Walter explained all the things about Facebook that felt annoying over the years and painted them as part of Mark Zuckerberg’s brilliance. The book is about business, not technology, and talks about the vision, passion and principles that have driven Facebook’s growth. The lessons Walter learned from watching Zuckerberg she then discussed in relation to other businesses such as Zappos, Amazon, TOMS, Apple, Threadless, and College Humor.

Walter discusses the “Five P’s” of Zuckerberg’s business style and Facebook’s day to day operations. She organizes the book around these concepts and her examples explain them. They are:

  • Passion: Zuckerberg’s passion is to connect people through technology in a way that is authentic and transparent.
  • Purpose: Facebook’s purpose is “to make the world more open and connected.”
  • People: Zuck has found great people to execute his vision.
  • Product: You have to build something great.
  • Partnerships: No one person can make a dream into a reality.

We’ve seen the results of Zuck’s passion for using the Internet to connect people around the world – using real names. There are a billion people using Facebook, creating a worldwide web of relationships and conversations that gives new meaning to the term worldwide web. The web of connection facilitated by Facebook has created global change. That change is a revolution started by a college dropout who had a vision for how to connect people and executed it from his dorm room when he was 19 years old. It’s remarkable that Zuckerberg stuck to his vision through all the growth, through all the offers to sell, and through all the criticism from outside his burgeoning company.

Facebook’s purpose is “to make the world more open and connected.” To make that happen, the culture within Facebook encourages risk, hacking, and moving fast with boldness. This is all part of the dedication to give Facebook users more ways to connect with friends. Many of the things I’ve written about in complaining tones in the past about Facebook are explained by the the Facebook working culture: the constant changes, the frequent additions to the interface, e.g., the Wall, the News Feed, the Timeline. Much as I may have whined about each new change, I have to admit that they quickly became the thing about Facebook that I most depended on to stay connected.

Mark Zuckerberg is first to give credit to the team that builds Facebook. The people who work there have to believe in the value and importance of Zuck’s dream. They must be dedicated to the execution of that dream. People are hired for attitude rather than skills.

Facebook places people and their connections at the center of its product. Facebook is a technology company but it isn’t about technology or content – it’s about people and their social needs. The passion, the purpose, and the people combine into a product that became part of people’s everyday lives.

The partnership with Sheryl Sandberg explains much about Facebook’s success. Walter talked about how Sheryl Sandberg was a perfect business person to team with Zuckerberg. Walter calls them the Visionary and the Builder or the dream architect and the value architect. Walter pointed to teams at other companies with equally effective but differing skill sets. Examples from Warner Bros., Disney, Hewlett Packard and other businesses are included in the discussion.

I learned a great deal about Facebook from this book. I learned a lot about Mark Zuckerberg and why he’s a phenomenal success. More importantly, I learned about how business culture and attitude can make or break a company. You can read the book to learn about Zuckerberg in the same way that you read the biography of Steve Jobs, but I suggest you read the book to absorb the lessons about “the Five P’s” and apply them to your own business efforts.

Summary: Business owners, tech innovators and entrepreneurs of all stripes can learn valuable principles from this book.

A review by Virginia DeBolt of Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg (rating: 5 stars).

Disclosure: The publisher provided a review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Syndicated on

Reading the book vs. hearing the speaker

Which book on web design or web standards or some related topic has been the most influential on your thinking? Or maybe it wasn’t a book at all, but a speaker at a tech conference?

I was thinking about reviewing Ekaterina Walter’s new book, Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It occurred to me that I was interested in what she had to say because I’ve seen her speak and thought she was a knowledgeable speaker. I’m predisposed to be interested in her book.

Back in the early days of web standards and efforts to achieve some sort of standardization in browser behavior, I attended talks at conferences by people like Jeffrey Zeldman, Eric Meyer, and Molly Holzschlag. They convinced me to be a believer in web standards before I’d ever read any of their books. Designing with Web Standards, Zeldman’s book, now in it’s 3rd edition, is the foundational volume on the topic. It’s a book I’ve purchased 3 times and recommended to hundreds of other people. Does that reflect my early buy-in to the idea of web standards while at a conference, or does it reflect the power and message of the words on the pages of the book?

Are you buying and using and recommending tech books by people that you don’t find on the tech conference circuit? Or do you stick with books by people you’ve seen in person at an event? In my case, I can say that I read and recommend more books by people I’ve heard speak in person. The takeaway to me is that you can sell more books if you get yourself on the speaker’s platform at a tech event.

Useful links: top 50 books, form validation, Windows 8

Here’s what .net magazine thinks are the top 50 web design books. I haven’t read them all, but it is interesting that the titles they picked range from fairly technical to practical good sense to broadly philosophical.

Accessible form validation with HTML5 from Deque Systems uses HTML5, adds ARIA, and finally adds jQuery validation. This is the first of three parts.

Jakob Neilsen joins the list of critiques of Windows 8 for poor usability. Here are some early reviews of Windows 8 from several other sources.

Review: The Cross Browser Handbook

The Cross Browser Handbook by Daniel Herken is an ebook that takes a narrow focus. I think it would be very helpful to have around. Many books talk about cross browser issues as they cover topics like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and cross-browser testing. However, that information is mixed in with all kinds of other information about things like new HTML5 or CSS 3 features. This book tackles those HTML5 and CSS3 features, but only in relation to browser support. That sharp focus makes the book a mere 118 pages long. Here’s a screen capture of the table of contents.

table of contents

Daniel Herken developed a cross browser testing tool, found at BrowseEmAll, prior to writing the book. Part of the purpose of writing the book is to get you in the habit of using his browser testing tool, of course. As a reader of the book, you can get a deal on the cost of using the tool. To his credit, he describes several cross browser testing applications in the book, in addition to his own.

Once you build a cross browser testing web app, you have all the information about each browser and what it supports at your fingertips. It is only logical to share it in a book. That makes the information useful to many more people. You can use the ebook without using the BrowseEmAll website. In addition, the book’s site has a knowledge base that will be updated as new browser information becomes available.

The book details each feature of HTML, CSS or JavaScript that might cause you grief. It explains which browsers will contain the problem. And it gives you the exact information you need to make the browser do what you want – namely render your page according to standards. If no one has yet come up with the appropriate script or whatever you need to make the browser work as if it knew the standards, the book tells you that, too.

Besides the Knowledge Base, which comes with the base book price ($29), there is also a password protected set of templates for the cross browser code examples at the book’s site. The price for the book plus access to the code templates is $59. The book has not been released yet, but there’s a sign up form on the site that will generate an email alert for you when it launches. Release date is November 28, 2012.

Summary: Focused information on a single issue. Very useful.

A review by Virginia DeBolt of The Cross Browser Handbook (rating: 5 stars)

Disclosure: The author provided a review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.