BOOK OF THE MONTH…Learn to Master the Science of Social Media Storytelling

What can I say, I love this line… “Social media is like crack—immediately gratifying and hugely addictive.” And that’s precisely why businesses of all sizes and kinds need to get real and recognize its impact, not only on the here and now but the future of all marketing as well.
Like it or not, social is where your customers are and will be every minute of every day from now on. In fact, one in four people say they are using social media sites to inform their purchasing decisions, and almost half of social network users check in on these sites at least once a day.

And those numbers are growing exponentially year over year.

It’s a whole new world, and we would all do well to learn how to live in and make the most of it.

At the same time, it’s not enough to be simply present on social media. Far too many businesses are learning that the hard way.

To be effective, you’ve got to know what you’re doing and learn how to execute properly, that is if you want to see your efforts translate into brand awareness, customer loyalty and ultimately profits.

After all, isn’t that what marketing is all about?

You Had Me at “Hello”

The bottom line is that businesses that want customers have got to do more than just show up. That’s the upshot of New York Times bestselling author Gary Vaynerchuk’s newest book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, and I couldn’t agree more, especially now that I’ve read what he has to say on the subject.

Truthfully, it’s not often that I run across a book that I actually enjoy as much as I did this one. You see, I’m still one of those people who loves a quality read both inside and out, and this book fits that bill to a tee—somewhat of a rarity these days in my view.

Sure, the book “had me at hello,” to steal a now-famous phrase from the movie Jerry Maguire. How could it not, what with its classic hardback style, intriguing title, clever cover art work and full four-color presentation throughout? Again, something you don’t see much anymore these days, in a business book anyway.

And by the way, yes, I’m still one of those voracious readers who loves books, actual books with pages…not downloads on my mobile device. Although, in this case, I’d bet this book would be an engaging read any which way you choose to access it.

But it also had so many great pointers on a hugely dynamic subject—one that, quite frankly, continues to intimidate the “you know what” out of me—that I’ll need to keep it around for future reference. And that’s saying something too…because in this home office and given my passion for the written word, I’m always trying to pare down my library.

Let’s just say, I only hang on to a precious few reads for lack of space, and this is going to be one of them. I’ll bet it will be for you as well, even if you think you’re the most seasoned social media expert for miles around.

Out with the Old, In with the New

The attention-grabbing power of the older marketing platforms, such as traditional television, radio and print advertising and even digital approaches like email and banner ads is dwindling. Every day that goes by, Vaynerchuk writes, it costs more and more money for businesses to reach fewer and fewer people.

With the advent and increasing popularity of social media, the infrastructure that will usher in the new era of what it means to engage in “successful marketing” has been built. “The plumbing is in place,” Vaynerchuk explains, “it’s time to learn how to use the system to achieve your business objectives, and to put more time, energy and dollars into the places where the consumers actually are, and not where you wish they would stay.”

Now there’s a wake-up call! Like it or not, it’s time to get with the program.

Do It Right or Not at All

If you’re like many entrepreneurs and/or SMB (small- to medium-sized business owners), you’ll acknowledge that this guy is onto something, and you’re already using social media in some capacity, whether for marketing, consumer engagement, research or a whole host of other possibilities. But, according to Vaynerchuk, that’s just not enough

In fact, if you’re like most of the turnkey business opportunity seekers who are trying to make a go of it in this relatively uncharted territory, you’re still not doing it right.

Yes, you heard correctly. You’ve got it all wrong…often.

And by doing it wrong, you could be doing your business more harm than good. In fact, you may not be just damaging your image and your brand, but you’re likely either wasting your precious time, throwing good money away or both.

In order to capitalize on the social media revolution and make it really work for you and your bottom line for a change, Vaynerchuk says, you’ve got to understand how the process works, that there’s a science to it all.

“To do social media right is harder and requires more time and effort than most people realize,” he says. “It is our job as modern-day storytellers to adjust to the realities of the marketplace, because it sure as hell isn’t going to slow down for us.”

And while that may seem like an insurmountable challenge, it’s not. In fact, I feel like it’s anything but now that I’ve read this book. Thankfully, Vaynerchuk has a way of making the whole idea of mastering the social media realm seem not only inviting and doable, but fun.

An Expert and His Analogy

First and foremost, Gary Vaynerchuk describes himself as a storytelling entrepreneur, one whose digital consulting agency works with Fortune 500 companies to develop social media strategies and content that actually work. In fact, Businessweek named him one of the top twenty people that every entrepreneur needs to follow for his expertise and advice.

I can see why. It’s obvious from page one that the guy knows what he’s talking about.

At the same time and while that’s encouraging, I wasn’t so sure he’d be able to hold the interest of a true social media novice like me or that what he’d have to tell me would be presented in such a way that I could really understand it. Plus, to be totally honest with you, I hate boxing.

Good news. My fears were unfounded.

Turns out, Vaynerchuk is right. “Boxing is a natural metaphor for doing business,” especially where effective social media engagement is concerned. It’s an analogy even I can understand.

Oftentimes referred to as “the sweet science,” boxing requires strategic thinking every bit as much or more as does chess, Vaynerchuk explains. Boxers don’t win by stepping into the ring and immediately throwing their best right hook. No, they have to build up to it methodically and carefully, taking strategic jabs that prime their opponent for that final knockout punch.

Now, Vaynerchuk will be the first to tell you that he’s been preaching the importance of the so-called social media jab for years now. You know…the one-engagement-at-a-time give, give, give approach that steadily builds brand awareness among consumers, without asking for anything in return? In fact, it’s been the basic premise of his last few books to a large degree.

But with Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, he’s out to do something a little different by rolling all of the best elements of his past books into a “formula for developing social media marketing strategies and creative that really works” and using the boxing analogy to make sense of it all.

“No fight has ever been won on jabs alone,” he writes. “I realized that I had become so intent on perfecting people’s jabs, I had neglected to pay enough attention to improving their right hook.”

This book changes that.

An Unprecedented Opportunity

But it’s also about encouraging you as someone seeking entrepreneurial opportunities to understand that you have an unprecedented and truly unique opportunity to jump into the social media ring and master the science of social media strategy in ways that larger companies can’t just yet. They simply lack the flexibility and even the ability to do so, given their size as well as other various constraints, Vaynerchuk explains.

Today’s entrepreneurs and SMB owners have a distinct advantage in this regard. They’re not bogged down by red tape and can make decisions quickly, which is what the science of mastering all the various social platforms is all about. “Marketers who put in the effort to really understand the nuances and subtleties of the platforms explored in this book can and will dominate,” he promises.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook not only tells you “how to create perfect and distinct native content for every one of the multiple platforms you now have to use to cross-pollinate your brand and message,” it shows you. In fact, Vaynerchuk describes and evaluates a myriad of examples, presented in full-color, that illustrate social media hits and misses on each of the most popular platforms being used by consumers today, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr.

He then goes on to highlight opportunities in emerging networks, with the assurance that mastering the science of those that are currently dominating the social scene will translate in the future. “As in boxing, once you learn the science of the social media sport, you will be able to apply what you learn in these rings to any platform that crops up in the future,” he assures.

Landing a Strong Right Hook

Whether it’s any number of jabs or that final right hook you’re crafting, Vaynerchuk says it’s all about doing things correctly and with strategic purpose. There’s a science to all of it, starting with the end goal, which is to land a final knockout blow, one that results in your customers actually buying whatever it is you’re selling.

According to Vaynerchuk, those perfect right hooks, the ones that work and result in increased profitability for any business, always comprise three critical characteristics:

1. They make the CTA (call to action) simple and easy to understand.

2. They are perfectly crafted for mobile, as well as digital devices.

3. They respect the nuances of the social network for which they are designed.

Taken as a whole, these three things are driven by content, and not just any content. It has to be content that is strategic in its execution and that is created based on the intense study of what works and what doesn’t, and for that you need to gain a certain level of understanding and tap into the right level of expertise.

That’s where Vaynerchuk’s credentials, coupled with his full-on evaluation of actual real-world examples that turn the theoretical into the tangible, come in and where we can begin to learn more about what sets good or great content apart from bad. It’s also what sets this book apart from so many others as well.

Content Is King

Whether you’re jabbing or going in for the right hook, chances are, Vaynerchuk writes, that your content “sucks.”

Got to hand it to him, he doesn’t mince words. In fact, he says there’s a content quality crisis afoot across all the social media platforms, and that’s why businesses aren’t seeing the fruits of their labors.

They just don’t get it. And it’s not just the little guys…even the biggest and largest companies and corporations don’t get it.

And because they don’t and they don’t even realize that they don’t, “the majority of marketers and business people…are still questioning the value of the platforms, and few respect them enough to fully invest, either financially or philosophically.”

That’s a big mistake.

Businesses can’t create content for its’ own sake and then wonder why their efforts aren’t paying off. “Only outstanding content can cut through the noise,” Vaynerchuk says. And outstanding content tends to adhere to six key rules:

1. It’s Native—What works for one platform won’t work for another. It’s never enough to repurpose content that was meant for another medium for a new one. Would you put a print ad on television? “Native social media tries to enhance the consumer’s interaction with a platform, not distract from it.”

2. It Doesn’t Interrupt—If you want to talk to people while they consume their entertainment, you have to be their entertainment and meld seamlessly into that experience. Remember, “no one wants to be interrupted, and no one wants to be sold to.”

3. It Doesn’t Make Demands, Often Anyway—To put it in boxing terms again, right hooks are about meeting your and your business’ needs and making the sale. Jabs are about what is valuable to your customer. There has to be plenty of the latter before the former can find its mark.

4. It Leverages Pop Culture—Content that tells the consumer you understand the issues and news that matter most to them resonates unlike anything else.

5. It’s Micro—“Stop thinking about your content as content,” Vaynerchuk implores. Rather, think about it as micro-content—“tiny, unique nuggets of information, humor, commentary or inspiration that you reimagine every day…as you respond to today’s culture, conversations and current events in real time in a platform’s native language and format.”

6. It’s Consistent and Self-Aware—No matter what language you’re using or how you’re telling you’re story, Vaynerchuk writes, it is imperative that your core story, your personality and your brand identity remain constant.

Bad News, Good News

There’s no doubt that this book gives all of us a lot to think about, and that it may make it seem like mastering the science of social media is a huge task. It is.

In fact, Vaynerchuk writes, “I have bad news: Marketing is hard, and it keeps getting harder.” But, he says, we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves or mourn the days gone by when guys like Don Draper thought they had it so tough.

Rather, we have to change our way of thinking and change with the times. We don’t have a choice. The future is here. It’s now.

Here’s the good news: With each new challenge comes incredible opportunity. All we have to do is take some time to learn and embrace the science of effective social media marketing from experts like Vaynerchuk.

Oh yes, and we must always remember the basic formula for success in this new arena: Give, give, give (aka Jab) before you ask for anything in return (aka Right Hook).

If you’d like to read Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, we’d encourage you to look for it at your local library, or you can order it from one of these fine online book retailers today: or


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