10 Books That Best Explain Social Media

Thomas Crampton, Global Managing Director of Social@Ogilvy, has compiled a list of the 10 Books That Best Explain Social Media (and a few bonus books). The following appeared on his blog on January 12, 2015.

Tropical rain forests have been felled for trite tomes on Social Media hyperventilating how “everything is different”.

It isn’t.

People are still people.

Rather than look for a book on “How To Snapchat”, I seek insight from great thinkers around sociology, behavior change and influence.

The below list of books was compiled with much input from the global Social@Ogilvy team with a view to helping people not so familiar with social media understand what is happening.

Which book would you add to the list?

1. Not surprisingly, one of the most recommended was a classic written before the advent of social media: Robert Cialdini on Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Influence, the effect that one person’s actions have on others, is a key element to thinking about social media. Cialdini identified the key drivers of influence before Facebook was born. His principles remain true today, though the tools have evolved. This is my desert island book for social media.

2. Also in an older vein, in my discussions with SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg about the roots of his company’s mission, he cited Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Published in 1970, it is an excellent guide to the operational sensitivity that social media can bring to companies.

3. For a more recent book, danah boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens offers a great view into how teens are using social media. Historically, they have been early indicators of the direction social media takes. Among her insights: The Facebook era of social media (open sharing) may have been an anomaly as people move into more private networks.

4. Although a bit dated, I still think the The Cluetrain Manifesto approach has echoes today. The core idea – “Markets are Conversations” – was well ahead of its time and still stands up. Last week, two of the original authors updated their work with New Clues.

5. As companies move towards telling stories across social media, they have an ever greater need to understand the principles of memorable stories. Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die is a great guide to storytelling. Good book for anyone looking to create compelling content, from journalists to content marketers.

6. People behave irrationally, but predictably. What are the triggers and touchpoints that allow us to identify what is Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions?

7. Signaling theory masterclass: Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate.

8. Former Facebook product designer Paul Adams, an industry superstar, wrote Grouped: How small groups of friends are the key to influence on the social web.

9. Clay Shirky, a leading thinker based at Columbia, wrote Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. All of his work is worth a read.

10. You could argue that, in the sweep of human history, the era of Mass Media was an abheration sparked by the steam press and electronics. Humanity is now simply reverting to the norm, thanks to the Internet and social media, according to Tom Standage in Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years.

Rounding out the list for some bonus books are:

11. Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less

12. Search and Social: The Definitive Guide to Real-Time Content Marketing

13. Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy

14. The Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy

15. Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation

16. The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly

17. Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator

A ‘follow’ on Twitter: Flattery. An ‘add’ on Facebook: Stalker

Understanding the subtle behaviour differences and norms that exist on different social platforms is interesting to consider. It’s long been established the mask of social media allows people to present themselves differently ‘virtually’ than how they are in ‘reality’. However, analysing people’s behaviour on separate social media platforms hasn’t been considered to the same extent.

Sometimes, people behave in different ways on different social media platforms. Presenting themselves differently. Interacting with other users in different ways. However, as users of these platforms, people are also the shapers of these social media spaces. Therefore, as much as the social media spaces’ influence our social behaviour, we influence the social platform – creating a socio-spatial dichotomy.

Twitter vs Facebook

A perfect example is the subtle difference between how a random person who ‘follows’ me on Twitter makes me feel versus a random ‘add friend request’ on Facebook. A ‘follow’ on Twitter we feel flattery, excited and complimented. A random ‘add’ on Facebook from someone you don’t know and it’s – ‘do I know you?!’ #stalker! Apart from the language used of friend request versus follow, and the established norms that have developed organically on these platforms, it is the very users of the platform and their behaviour that in turn shapes the way we use and feel about the platforms. A 2012 report by Legal & General into the habits of Facebookers in Europe showed that 90% of users have received a Friend Request from someone they do not know. Of that many, only 15% accept the request with the majority feeling suspicious about a random add. This reaction shows that people in Europe behave privately on Facebook and have a sense of fear and invasion to this space of having a random ‘add’. Whereas a ‘follow’ on Twitter can evoke a different emotion.

And these different behavioural responses are evident across all the platforms we use – Instagram, LinkedIn, Google Plus and popular dating app Tinder.

LinkedIn vs Twitter

An example to demonstrate how I behave with regards to sharing information about myself can be shown by what I share on LinkedIn being substantially different to what I share on Twitter – despite having both platforms ‘public’. This is partly due to the differences in the interface and user experience of these platforms. However, as human behaviour studies show we mimic each other’s behaviour – this also helps to explain why I share certain things about myself on Twitter and not on LinkedIn. It is estimated that 2.5 million gay males share their sexual orientation through Twitter, in contrast to less than 100,000 on LinkedIn. This ‘socio-spatial dichotomy’ of the social media platform shaping user behaviour and our own user behaviour shaping that very social media platform is a good way of explaining why behaviour differs across different social media platforms.

Why this is important for brands

For brands this information and insight is crucial for effective marketing. Behave outside of these established norms and you can irritate. Behave within these norms, and respecting these social media spaces, and you can fully engage with consumers.

It has been recommend that a brand post on Instagram be different to a tweet on Twitter – not just because of the interface differences, but because of the established norms and different behaviours that people can exhibit on these platforms. In November 2013 Michael Kors was the first advert on Instagram – this resulted in backlash as it went against the established norms of this social media space being an artistic and free-spirited community.

I believe applying behavioural economics to social media has never been more important in order to understand how your brand should behave in these different spaces and best engage people.



Social Mobilized and Mobile Socialized

Imagine if you woke up this morning and didn’t have a mobile…

Would you wake up on time or does your mobile double as your alarm clock? How would you check your emails on the train so you were a bit prepared before you got into the office? You wouldn’t be able to take a photo of your lunch to post to Instagram! What if your friends are late to dinner – what will you do in the 10 minutes while you wait?!

As consumers we are ever-reliant on mobile devices.

As marketers, we need to adapt to this changing behavior.

Our webinar/presentation shows how mobile is changing the way the world works is below.

Social Mobilized and Mobile Socialized from Social@Ogilvy

Don’t Bother Building Belief in Social Business


I am torn. On the one hand, I sincerely believe there are real teeth in this idea of social business. That the collaboration and communication that comes with applying social practices and technology to business will change how our businesses work and create value. There are many experts, especially in the marketing and communications field, who see all things ‘social’ as a subset of a grander topic of digital transformation. I see social as bigger than digital and the next evolutionary step for business. I would rather work towards creating a social business powered by all sorts of digital technologies than a ‘digital business.’

On the other hand, most C-suite executives can’t get very far by trying to sell the concept of a social business into their next tier leadership.

I have written a plan describing a simple and practical way for business leaders to think about gaining the benefits of social behaviors (and the technologies supporting those behaviors).  I am not suggesting that I have broken new ground here. Rather, I wanted to simplify.

In many ways the promise of a ‘social business’ is to get us back to what we care about — people working together to create something of greater value than they could have if they had remained unconnected and apart.

Building Belief in the Basics

The plan doesn’t ask business leaders — especially those in the next tier beneath C-suite leadership  — to believe in social media. Let’s get back to basics and apply social behaviors and technologies to what builds value within an enterprise.

We need to build belief around enduring fundamentals:

  • Paying closer attention to customers will help us understand their needs and behaviors better
  • Earning people’s attention and advocacy (and their business) will increase the value of our customers and our business
  • A new set of influencers may impact our business in significant ways and we had best know who they are and how to engage productively
  • The customer journey is complex and requires all the data — including social data — and understanding of human behaviors in order to affect business
  • Marketing agility increasingly hits the bottom line as crises and issues rapidly accelerate across the social Web
  • Social tools can improve how we produce value and innovation from collaboration with employees, partners and customers
  • Driving up customer satisfaction and intervening earlier when problems arise can improve reputation and the bottom line

Time to Trade Up to A Social Business Strategy from Social@Ogilvy