Book Review: SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate

Joel Postman’s SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate may be lightweight in terms of pages (it’s under 200 pages), but the contents pack lots of good content for companies trying to get on the Social Media wave.

As the title suggests, the book is targeted to corporations who would like to put a Web 2.0 spin to corporate communications. The tone of the book is not technical– as a matter of fact, there is no code anywhere in the book. This makes it accessible to managers and executives that know something about the internet and marketing. One theme the book touches on is “Going for it,” that is, allaying some of the fears most corporations about social media (e.g. lack of control, unauthorized information, chaos, etc.).

There are easy to read case studies of how companies implemented social media to their advantage. From corporate blogging, Twitter, and social media ethics, Joel Postman showcases the wide array of online tools in a practical and concise manner. Also, the book touches on the fudgiest part of social media: measurement.

If you’re looking for a play-by-play guide forimplementingSocial Media-powered corporate communications, this book may disappoint. Postman gives a pointers approach to showing the way to the promised land of SocialCorp and chooses his words carefully to to avoid confusion. But if you ask me, SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate is a great starting point to begin the Social Media journey for companies.

Book Review: Presentation Zen

Presentation Zen

I’ve been doing several presentations and talks in the last couple of months (such as the last few Mini Web Design Conference), and I realized I needed to sharpen my presentation skills. That’s why when I got a hold of Prezentation Zen by Garr Reynolds, I was quite pleased.

But I was more pleased after reading it, because the contents are really, really helpful and inspiring– to the point that I look forward to making presentations the same way there are Los Angeles Lakers games on TV.

The book is divided in to three major parts: the preparation for the presentation, the design of your presentation materials (powerpoint & keynote slides, etc.), and the delivery of the presentation. All three major parts are tied together with the Zen philosophy and approach. This approach is all about simplicity and absense of noise. The book is very good in imparting these points in all the three parts.

The book was also able to give me a new mindset when it comes to designing my presentations, like the importance of integrating the appropriate images into the presentation and the use of space and the simplification of points for the audience’s easier understanding. There are also sample presentations slides for additional reference.

Presentation Zen is definitely one of those books that won’t gather dust on my bookshelf because I’ll always refer to it whenever I’ll make presentations. 🙂

Book Review: Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences

Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences is a book about understanding and crafting meaning customer experiences for businesses. So what am I doing reading this book?

Well, for starters, I’ve been taking an interest in web user experience lately in what I’ve been doing, but my research and exposure had been primarily on the usability aspects. The book puts things in a broader perspective because the experience it is talking comes from a broad gamut of products and services. That approach put brought things “back to basics” because I felt I skipped the part about user & customer experience that on those levels.

Case in point: I’ve been quite a stickler for the functional and satisfying dimensions of user experiences. I’ve learned from the book that there are more granular components to the term “user satisfaction.” When you think about it, what does it mean when our users are “satisfied” with the website you developed? Are they more happy? Do they have a sense of accomplishment? The book tries teach the reader to make those connections.

Since the book is grounded on the corporate setting, it also talks about how experience design fits in a business enterprise. For the authors, customer experience is designed deliberately and is a part of the innovation processes of a company. The authors also present easy to understand frameworks and case studies to help people implement their own experience design activity. However, this is the point in the book that I found the least interesting, perhaps I have more or less been doing web projects with smaller teams (and little resistance :P)

Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiencesby Steve Diller, Nathan Shedroff and Darrel Rhea is a good read for usability folks and web product managers who want to broaden their appreciation of user experience design.

Book Review: Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide

I find Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide by Amy Shuen a very interesting take on the Web 2.0 phenomenon. From what I’be been used to reading about Web 2.0, it was all about the technical aspect of it– web services, AJAX, web application architecture, tagging & tag clouds, etc. But this book puts Web 2.0 into a level where decision makers and business folk can appreciate it.

The book utilizes case studies of companies that have leveraged on Web 2.0: Flickr, Netflix, Google, LinkedIn, Amazon, and IBM, to mention a few. Citations of contemporary classics like The Long Tail, Tipping Point, The World is Flat and Small is the New Big give some business credence to the work. But the high point of the book for me is the very good exposition of business models that take advantage of Web 2.0. The strategic and tactical questions after each chapter kinda make this a nice business school textbook.

Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide is a very interesting primer for creating value using social media, social networks and innovation. The even concludes with a business plan on how to launch your own potenital Web 2.0 business– a timely read if you want to make use of Web 2.0 in your business or company.

Book Review: Search Engine Visibility, 2nd Edition

Search Engine Visibility

Shari Thurow’s Search Engine Visibility is a very good foundation reference for web professionals. I read the book and after reaching the midpoint, I realized the book could actually be a very good source material for training people who are in the IT or marketing industry to learn about search engines and basic search engine optimization.

Thurow’s approach is very methodical and deliberate– She first creates a framework for understanding search engines and tackles each component is a very thorough manner. If you ask me, the book strives to make the reader more educated on information architecture, web usability, web copy and general search engine strategies. This edition is also more relevant with content pertaining to Web 2.0 fixtures: blogs, podcasts, online videos and Adobe’s PDF format.

Another thing, the book is good explaining common SEO terms that would scare away the newbie internet marketer. SERPs, CPC and click thrus’s are just some of the SEO terms folks take fro granted, but are explained here well.

If you are looking for a hard-core SEO book that will instantly land you the top spot in Google or Yahoo!, this book may not be appropriate for you. The book spends a great deal in making the site work for people first, search engines second. That’s the thesis of the book– people-friendly sites are naturally search engine-friendly.

Book Review: The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design

Amazon

The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design

I read Marty Neumeier’s Zag before I read The Brand Gap. And after reading The Brand Gap, I would say I appreciate Zag more– The Brand Gap paved the path to what could be one of the more practical contemporary marketing strategies encountered.

What makes The Brand Gap a pleasurable and enriching read is that it doesn’t reach out to you like a normal book would. It uses visual imagery and interesting layouts to drive a point. The explanations are deft and nimble, but sometimes could frustrate the reader looking for a treatise in branding. The books is also not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, especially on the marketing research side of things. Neumeier slams quantitative market research and focus groups.

To a web professional, branding should be a familiar concept. With design moving towards commoditization in my opinion, creating a strong web brand add value to the gradients, drop shadows and reflections in the web graphics.

The Brand Gap is highly recommended to web designers, web developers and website owners who would like to know more about branding and learning how to overcome challenges in creating a differentiated brand.

Book Review: Web Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads

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Web Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads

A book melding design and marketing/business is a tall order and Web Design for ROI is a good omnibus for creating usable, satisfying and most importantly, earning websites.

Return on Investment (ROI) is an iffy topic, especially for websites. Like most marketing vehicles, the question is: If you are investing X amount of Dollars in to this site, how do you know if it is effective or not? The book presents several key metrics to know if your site is in a good conversion position or not. Authors Lance Loveday and Sandra Niehaus also consider the different types of website and contextualizes the analyses.

The book focuses on design, usability,and business on the web. The assumption of the book is that it the visitor is already there– it posits there are two ways on how to increase ROI: get more traffic or get better designed pages. The authors bet on the latter.

In summary, the book gives good practical usability tips and guidelines and very easy to grasp for an intermediate web professional.