The tag line of this book, written by Gartner Inc. analysts Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald,  is “how to use social media to tap the collective wisdom of your customers and employees”. At the JBoye Aarhus conference this year I was struck by an insight from Claire Flanagan (CSC) that you can’t plan to go viral with social media, but you can’t go viral without a plan. This book, published by Harvard Business Review Press,  is about the process of planning. Too many books on social media are largely a collection of anecdotes about social media from the perspective of a particular company.  Here the authors are able to capitalise on the outcomes of client engagements with Gartner clients, and the benefits are quite substantial.

There are eleven chapters in this 200 page book, but to me the core of the book is around the development of a strategic approach to community collaboration that is set out in Chapter 5. I’ve seen too many companies rush headlong into social media just because everyone else is doing so, and then find it very difficult to assess the impacts and to build on the initial offerings.  The key message of this book is that it is important to target a specific group of participants, understand the nature or focus of their collaboration, understand what is in it for the participants and then consider what the value is to the organisation.

One of the methodologies suggested by the authors is a ‘purpose roadmap; that identifies the target community and how it may change over time. This roadmap then forms the basis of the rest of the book, which covers topics that include launching a community, guiding from the middle and adapting the organisation. The book includes a good glossary and a very good index.

This book takes a very sober view of social media and the development of social organisations, with a good balance between identifying the value and yet taking a realistic view of how much vision, time, resource and patience will need to be invested if there is to be a measurable impact on the organisation.  The writing style is also sober – it does read more like a Gartner report than a book. One  thing that did annoy me about the book is the way that every telephone conversation the authors had with their clients is listed out in the Notes section with a time and a date. Who cares? Very Gartner but of zero benefit to the reader!

Martin White