As the fall semester is approaching, I have taken some time this summer to review what textbooks and additional readings I will want my students to review during the course. It seems that either the list keeps getting longer and longer, and I am going to be adding two new books to the list for my fall semester. The two books I will be adding to my reading list for my students includes “Youtility” by Jay Baer and “What’s the Future of Business” by Brian Solis. Both are very strong books not just on social media platforms, but the strategy and trends we need to be aware of as we move forward as professionals. Here are my reviews of both books:

“Youtility” by Jay Baer:  I had the pleasure of hearing Jay speak at the first Social Slam in Knoxville in 2011, and I was excited to see his latest book out focusing not on what companies want, but focusing on the actual customer. This really connects nicely with what Brian Solis and JESS3 have done with their latest updated version of the Conversation Prism focusing on you. I really liked how Jay presents his insights in Youtility in a real but approachable manner. Meaning, you get an insight on what best practices and stories he has learned in his years in the business and how it can be applied to you as a person. He starts at the very beginning by focusing on having a particular state of mind when it comes to first approaching the strategic use of these emerging media today, which is key to focus on from both a research and practitioner point of view. Jay does an excellent job in providing clear examples (ex. Hilton Suggests, McDonalds, Meijer, etc) as well – these are great to share with students on how each of these principles are applied and what we can learn from these particular cases.

The three facets of Youtility as Jay presents in his book include: self-serve information, radical transparency, and real-time relevancy. Jay does a great job in my opinion in explaining each of these throughly as well as provide current and relevant examples of each of these. The remaining chapters focus on how you can accomplish this for your company, organization, or even your own personal brand. Overall, the message of identifying the needs from your audience, being relevant and transparent, and formulate strategies to accomplish these goals and objectives were clearly presented in the book. It’s a process for sure, so you have to have the culture and sustainability power to maintain it for your particular organization or brand.  I was very pleased when I finished reviewing this book and make sure it was on my reading list for my social media class this fall.

“What’s the Future [WTF] of Business?” by Brian Solis. I have read Brian’s blog for many years and he is truly one of the innovators and thought leaders in the social media business. I got his first couple of books (“Put the Public back in Public Relations” and “Engage”), so I wanted to make sure to get his latest book to see if this would be another book to include in my social media class. The answer is absolutely yes.

What I like about this book is the fact that Brian discusses what are the current trends we are seeing now, but like Jay, really focusing on the changes from the consumers point of view and why brands need to be aware of these. Disruption trends were raised here as well, which is important to note since this is how the field and technology evolves. The focus on new ways of thinking with innovative perspectives and ideas is enlightening and was discussed at length in the book, which I appreciate as a professor since this is what students need to be aware of. I also like the fact that everything starts with a vision – which a lot of times is forgotten when you are looking at new media since everyone has the “new toy” symptom when it comes to a new platform, tool, etc. Instead, we have to focus on the strategy, rationale, and application of these new ideas – which takes vision, so I am glad Brian brought this up here in his book.

As a researcher, one of the key points in the book that really made an impression on me was when Brian discussed medium-alism equals faux engagement. I was intrigued by this, but it made me think – what do we do to really provide authentic and meaningful engagement that makes an impact on our audience? Are brands saying they are “engaging” with audiences just for the sake of having a presence, or are brands really applying consumer behavior research and analyzing the emotion of their communities to determine what they want and don’t want?  This was interesting to think about. Brian says it starts with intention and aspiration, but technology along with creativity serve as the vehicles to deliver these messages to the audiences. This really stood out to me and allowed me to start brainstorming ideas on how to apply this into research and practice.

What do Jay and Brian do well? There are a few things I noticed while reviewing both of these new books:

  • Lots and lots of case studies: This was great to see – we got to learn about what McDonalds, Charmin, Hilton, Burberry, etc. All of these cases were current and well presented in each of the books.
  • Good use of visuals: I liked the fact we got to see some visuals – whether they were screen shots or graphs discussing the ideas being discussed and proposed in the texts, these were wonderful to see (especially for those who are visual learners, like myself).
  • Best practices outlined and discussed thoroughly: Both Jay and Brian did a great job by taking the time in both of their books to highlight the key points the reader needed to take away from the book.
  • Good online resources: Both Jay and Brian also provided the reader with websites focusing just on the book as well as official presentations (such as the one Brian has for WTF) and videos (like the one Jay has for his book). This is good to share with students as well so they can look at these as additional resources.

Overall, I have already decided that these two books are going to be on the reading list for my social media class at the University of Louisville for my students. You want to make sure to let them know where they can purchase a hard copy as well as ebooks (which I have done and have on my iPad). Amazon is good as well to share as an option – Youtilty and What’s the Future of Business.

Congrats to both Jay and Brian on producing great books and thank you again for sharing your expertise and insights with all of us.

Hope you all have a great day!

Best Wishes,