Social media books: Can they stay relevant in a fast-paced industry?

Some even recent books are dangling near irrelevance due to the lightning speed at which the industry moves. Look for books that are timeless, some of which are listed here.

In the iconic movie “Swingers”, Jon Favreau’s character “Mikey” laments about his erred perception that television shows were being handed out to comedians as they passed through the airport. His comment was reflective of a time when sitcoms starring comedians were almost instant hits, and networks couldn’t wait to tap the next raw talent to create the next cash cow. These days, publishers appear to be handing out book deals to social media brains as they pass through the airport, as it’s hard to walk into a book store without getting smacked in the face with a new one.

Case in point: Do a search for “social media in books” on Amazon.com and the results will show more than 110,000 books tagged with social media. If you have time to kill, which clearly I do, dig through the pages and determine how many of these books promise to teach users how to use Twitter, market with Facebook, and do almost any other type of task with the social web. Some of these books were published last month, others within the last four to five years. The problem I found was that even some of the more recent books are already dangerously dangling near irrelevance due to the meteoric speed at which the social media and social marketing industries move.

A few years ago I contributed a foreword to a great little book called “Twitter for Business: How Microblogging Can Help or Hurt Your Company.” At the time that it was written it as a gold mine for businesses – large and small – that needed to figure out what Twitter was about and how it applied to their future success. The book covered the basics and featured some of the then social media darlings who were fast and early to Twitter use. The problem now isn’t necessarily with the book (there are a lot of gems) but with the way the social media industry has evolved. This book helps users base a social media strategy around one specific tool, but nowadays Twitter is only one small component of a company’s web strategy, let alone social media strategy.

My concern with the fast and furious publication of social media books is this: Social media is not an industry that sits still for long. It’s currently in its heyday and there are new facets to learn almost every day. By the time a book on the topic is finalized and published, the industry has changed. I concede that this is a challenge across all areas of business and is not unique to social media. What’s daunting is the pace at which these books have been published, and the confusion that sets in for the reader trying to determine which ones are best for them.

Have no fear. I’ve spent a good portion of the last few months reading social media for business books and have developed a list of three recommendations on books that will stay “classic” regardless of how the tools change. The following authors understand that while the communication methods (social networks) will shift, the baseline for good business will stay the same:

Perspectives on Social Media Marketingby B. Bonin Bough and Stephanie Agresta looks at matters of social media from both the agency and in-house angles and focuses on the engagement and communications necessary for a successful social marketing strategy. It’s addressed in a way that will allow the content to stay fresh as the industry progresses.

The Executive's Guide to Enterprise Social Media Strategy: How Social Networks Are Radically Transforming Your Business by Mike Barlow and David B. Thomas is a book that social media champions need to buy and place on the desks of their executive decision-makers. It looks at social media from the top level down, versus the usual perspective of bottoms up, and explains to executives the benefits, challenges and risks of engaging in social media.

The Now Revolution by Amber Naslund and Jay Baer looks at social media from the customer perspective, in terms of how brands need to respond in real-time to customers’ needs and the balancing act that occurs when addressing customer issues via the social web.

The key to finding the right social media book isn’t necessarily the newest one; it’s coincidence that the above are newer books. It’s also not necessarily buying the books written by social media’s biggest names or those focusing on specific tools, either. It’s about finding the books that expand upon the basic principles of business as they have always existed, and will always exist, and that can tack on valuable lessons from there.

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