If you are looking for a great book that does a tremendous job of simplifying the social media industry and explaining how to use it to your advantage, I recommend “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Media.”
A friend recommended it to me as I was preparing for my first post-college job as a social media intern.
The authors coined the term Groundswell to describe the shift in power from institutions, corporations and companies to the consumers. It explains how marketers no longer determine their brand identities; their customers do. Customers are blogging about products, recutting commercials on Youtube, defining companies on Wikipedia and discussing consumer experiences on Facebook. All of these elements that make up the social phenomenon have shifted on the way the world operates. While most companies see it as a threat, Groundswell explains how to leverage the Web 2.0 to your advantage.
Not only is it informative and interesting, but it does a great job of breaking down the entire social media movement into five simple concepts for how companies can engage with the groundswell: listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing. It goes on to explain how each of these objectives resonates with the traditional model: research (listening), advertising (talking), marketing (energizing), customer support (supporting) and development (embracing).
Because Groundswell was written in 2008, it does have the obvious weakness of seeming outdated in an industry that is constantly evolving and redeveloping (Twitter was in its early stages of popularity when the book was written). But as the authors point out, understanding every technology in the Groundswell is not how you understand the movement as a whole. The key is to understand the relationships these social technologies help facilitate.
Anyone interested in social media marketing must buy this book.
I’d also like to recommend The World is Flat by Thomas Freidman. It only briefly touches on social media, but it offers an excellent breakdown of the 10 events that transformed the world into what it is today.