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August 20, 2010

Brian Solis' Engage and how to use it

by Josh Bernoff

Engage Here's what I think about Brian Solis' book Engage.  You should buy it. And you shouldn't necessarily read it start to finish. But you'll find yourself diving in again and again when you need help with . . . just about anything social.

To be fair, I was intimidated. I had promised Brian a review, but the thing is 382 pages long. And Brian has made some unfortunate choices -- Chapters 3 through 14 (of 25 total) have the titles "The New Media University: Social Media 101," "The New Media University: Social Media 201" and so on. It doesn't exactly invite you in.

And yet, it turns out this book is going to be one of the most useful things out there for anyone social.

Start with the theme. Brian's manifesto is "Engage or Die." This is what drives him to write, and it's a good start. It's a good twist on a theme that's been embraced, in one form or another, by the wide variety of people out there who are trying to build social applications.

This is followed by what may be the most comprehensive, believable book on social media available anywhere. Starting with the social media statistics (Chapter 2) and continuing with the "101, 201, ..." chapters I mentioned earlier, this book hits everything, and I mean everything, that there is to know about social applications. There's a complete list of tools and technologies. There are not one, but two definitions of Social Media, of which I prefer the shorter:

Social media is any tool or service that uses the Internet to facilitate conversations.

There's a list of the top 10 monetization trends for social media and microcommunities. There's a nice discussion of how to separate (or blend) your personal self from your corporate self. In fact, whatever you're looking for, it's here. Not one, but several complete sets of social media guidelines from the likes of Intel and IBM, plus a template for your own.

Brian is not shy about quoting others. For example, the Forrester/Groundswell Social Technographics Profile gets a full writeup here, along with other competing systems.

It's a little difficult to get a read on Brian's position on some issues, since he typically quotes both (or all) sides of an argument. But there is no better way than bone up for that argument than with this book.

So, here's what you should do.

If you're new to social media, I'm a bit surprised you're showing up at this blog, but in any case, read this book cover to cover. It will be worth it.

If you're experienced, buy this book and go back into it when you need help. Use the index, the glossary, and the other tools in this book to find what you're looking for. Because whatever it is you're looking for, it's here. When you're preparing that presentation, looking for that example, or trying to convince your boss, you'll find yourself looking in this book for help.

If you're a professor teaching social media, recommend this for your students.

Brian, thanks for putting this all together, it must have been quite an effort. We appreciate it.


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Derek Belt

It's hard for me to put my finger on why I didn't love this book. I guess I can say it was a difficult read and did not have enough real-world applications. It's basically an in-depth version of Groundswell and serves as a how-to on social media. But at least Groundswell had tangible examples you could point to and say, "Ah, I get what they're saying now."

With this book, I wanted to understand it all (because it covers so much) but there are so few examples to help lead the way. It's a very impressive piece of work, don't get me wrong. I think Brian Solis knows what he's talking about and I respect his passion for social media. I just wish this book was more readable. I made myself finish it and afterwards I had to ask why.


I've never heard of the book Engage before - definitely something I'll have to check out. Thanks!

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