BOOK REVIEW: Social Media Marketing by Stephan Dahl

This is a great new book for anyone seeking a social media marketing theoretical frameworks.

The book is split into four sections: Actors, Media, Content and Context. There is an excellent introduction giving the history of social media from the early social networks such as Boston Consultancy Group and Usenet through to Mosiac, WWW and Bulletin Boards. Many theories are crtitiqued i.e. Technology Acceptance Model, Consumer Culture Theory, Individualism, Sub-Cultures, Post-Modern Consumers and Tribes where “consumers self-ascribe to communities of meaning and belonging.” Dahl also talks about how geographical distance in the 70s and 80s made it much more difficult for people to belong to tribes and how the internet has completely changed this. Dahl argues that consumer-tribalism significantly pre-dates social media and that social media has merely accelerated rather than instigated it. The ease of which consumers can now communicate about and with brands has created a democratisation of the marketplace. Brand Managers no longer control the brand, they facilitate the brand ‘prosumers’ who are actively involved in the brands evolution through co-creation.

One of the sections I found most interesting was a brief history of how internet technologies were used as ‘revolutionary tools’ much earlier than the Arab Spring. During the USSR military coup in 1992, the US media relied on Usenet reports from the USSR to inform the public, and Internet Relay Chat was heavily used during the first Gulf War as a way for journalists to communicate with people on the ground.

Each chapter also has a case study. Of particular interest to me was the World Humanitarian Day – I Was Here and the Amnesty International – Trial by Timeline. Chapter 11 about ‘Cross Cultural Aspects and Implications’ has a good engagement with the digital divide debate. I am fully aware of different social media being more popular in different parts of the world largely to do with accessibility, censorship, language, relevance and government rules and regulations, but I had not thought about how particular social network services are used in different countries. Dahl cites an example from the BBC in 2010 which reveals that in Japan the average number of Facebook friends is 29, compared to the average Malaysian user who is connected with 233. This indicates that Japanese Facebook users share information mainly with people whom they have strong ties e.g. intimate friends and family.

There are many books available on social media marketing but they are mainly written from a practitioner perspective. This book is an excellent resource for both students and scholars seeking existing theoretical frameworks to further research knowledge of social media marketing. From why people adopt technology (Uses and Gratification Theory) to the differences between ‘engagement’, ‘participation’ and ‘involvement’ and indeed the various types of engagement: emotional, behavioural and cognitive.

 

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