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eBook Reviews – A Reading List for Social Media and Small Businesses

The rumours are true – not all ebooks are created equal. Some are more suitable than others, depending on the audience. This time around, we checked out and rated the following ebooks according to their usefulness for small business owners.

We’re doing a little quantitative rating, for folks who like numbers – and a little qualitative rating, for the philosophers.

Here's how we broke it down:

Readability: 1 – 5 All writing is not created equal – what is the tone of the writing? Does it keep my interest, or does it feel like I'm slogging through a quantum physics textbook?

Layout: 1 – 5 Are there screenshots? Will you go cross-eyed? Do the visual elements add to the understanding of the content?

Interactivity: 1 – 5 Is there or isn't there content designed for the reader to interact? Worksheets, sample plans, reading lists etc.?

Kool-Aid Test: How much social media kool-aid must you have ingested prior to reading – is the book geared towards the absolute beginner or a brush up for the already savvy. A thimble-full? A shotglass? A pitcher?

Letstalk eBook: Let's Talk: Social Media for Small Business

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing

Price: Free

Readability: – 4 – Written in a fairly conversational, easy to read style, the content comes at you at manageable pace – not too rushed, but neither is it pedantic. The author maintains a clear, consistent voice and overall, it's a nice light read.

Layout: – 3-
The layout relies pretty heavily on a lot of subtitles and lists, but as the reason such formatting is so popular is clarity of information, you can't fault it. Plus, there are even a few pictures and diagrams thrown in for illustration, including a nice little one of a social media take on Maslow's Hierarchy.

Interactivity: – 1 –
Not so much, on this point. There are a few references for further
reading, but no solid list of suggestions for continued reading/learning.

Kool-Aid Test:
A shot glass – Taking care to do a quick explanation of each technology before getting
in to the usage of it, Let's Talk definitely makes itself accessible to
the beginners – fitting, as it's specifically aimed at small businesses
looking to get their feet wet in social media.

Final Word:
This may not be overly innovative, but it does what it sets out to do – provide a social media primer for small businesses. The value here definitely lies in it's clearly laid out, easy to understand introductions to the various types of social media tools out there.

Artists eBook:
Getting Started with Social Networking for Artists and Arts Organizations

Rebecca Coleman

Price: $19.95

Readability: – 5 – I've got to say, one of the things I liked best about this book was the voice of it – it somehow manages to make me feel as though someone's actually talking to me. Rebecca manages to cover a pretty broad range of principles and technologies (in a comparatively shorter format) without rushing it.

Layout: – 3 –
Perhaps I'm simply too close to my years of history text books, but I find myself longing for more visual interest. It's laid out nice and clearly, and there are some good screenshots to illustrate the references, I just wish the vivaciousness in the writing came through a little more in the design to make it a little bit easier on the eyes (41 pages is a lot of text to take on the screen)…but ah well. It's organized, and the writing makes up for it.

Interactivity: – 5 –
Here's where it shines. The ebook comes with 10 pages of
worksheets, sample plans and examples for multiple social networks,
complete with a fill in the blank social media plan template. Very
pretty, very handy.

Kool-Aid Test: A thimble
– Another one written for beginners, but from a different angle. As
Getting Started is aimed at artistic types who may or may not have a
business background, it starts right down at basic marketing principles
and works its way through social media from there, focusing on
networking. Even for non-artists, it provides a solid intro to the

Final word:
The originality here lies in the well thought out worksheet section. While most ebooks on the topic have suggestions, Getting Started literally gets you started, even for those no background whatsoever in marketing. A great little starter kit!

Firstbase eBook:
Getting to First Base: A Social Media Marketing Playbook

Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo of Capulet Communications

Price: $29.00

Readability: – 5 – This ebook falls on the more colloquial end of the spectrum of instructional texts, and is likely more successful because of it (for the same reason blogs are more fun to read than white papers…generally). It's the longest of the pieces I read, but it doesn't dawdle – it takes the time it needs to cover each topic and then moves on…there's simply a lot of content. Thankfully, its length doesn't make it heavy – even 100 pages on, I wasn't bored. I also quite liked the quotes (you'll see).

– 5 – I would like to maintain(/create?) the illusion of being a hard-bitten, tough to impress review girl…but you wouldn't believe me anyways. So, I'll just say it – this thing is pretty. Who doesn't like pretty? The layout is intuitive, there's plenty of visual interest, there are no pages with the balance so far off I need to tilt my head to one side. On a technical note, I appreciate that the visual unity (colour, repeated elements etc) helps save the reader from getting lost in the admittedly long text. I can't be the only one with a challenging attention span, and for my compatriots, I thank you.

Interactivity: – 2 –
Ah, not so much. There's a quick and handy reading list at the
end, and plenty of sources to check throughout, but it's not asking you
to pull out a pen and get creative.

Kool-Aid Test: Anywhere from a shot to a big gulp
– While Getting to First Base may be reasonably beginner friendly, it
strikes me as having more to offer someone who's at least been sipping
the kool-aid. While the basics are discussed in certain detail, that
same level of detail and sheer mass of information also have the
potential to overwhelm the uninitiated. Still, could be very handy for
small businesses who have already tested the waters a bit.

Final Word:
Well…it's extensive. There's simply a lot there, and I'm sure there will be more when the hard copy version comes out (October 2009) – the nice thing is, there's probably something in there for everyone. It goes beyond the usual suspects, which is actually quite cool.

Jumpstart eBook:
Jump Start Social Media Guide for Small Businesses
Author: Digital Brand Expressions

Price: $19.95

Readability: – 3 – The organization of information is easy to follow, and the explanations are clear and extensive, but it reads a little like a brochure. Not that there's anything wrong with brochures, particularly not when they're as packed with useful information as this one. It is a touch easy to get lost part way through a marathon read, though, so taking it section by section might be a wise approach.

Layout: – 4 –
This is another ebook that makes use of design and layout to better itself. Not only do the images look fancy, but there are a great number of specific pictures detailing what's being discussed on the given page, a boon to someone who may not know what a LinkedIn company screen or well branded twitter page look like.

Interactivity: – 2 –
Another brief reading list, but the sheer number of specific
illustrated examples help out in guiding you in the right direction in
regards to a social media plan.

Kool-Aid Test: A thimble, with a caveat –
If you're an absolute raw beginner,
you'll need to be an ambitious one to work your way through. The
coverage is exhaustive, but highly specified for small businesses – for
that fact, said ambition could be rewarding.

Final Word:
Jump Start has a specific advantage in that it goes into a lot of detail about specifically small business-centric tasks (ie. LinkedIn company profiles), so in that, it sets itself apart. Potentially a very useful read for small business owners.

360i eBook:
2009 Social Marketing Playbook

360i with contributions from Jeremiah Owyang and Pete Cashmore

Price: Free

Readability: – 5 – Well, this one reads like a magazine article. In a really good magazine, that is. The organization of information is exacting, the narrative strong and in general, the whole thing is engaging and enjoyable.

Layout: – 5 –
The magazine-style layout goes a long way towards orienting the reader within each section of the text, pulling out specific examples and creating a dynamic interest throughout the ebook. The division of the sections, and the subdivisions within each chapter, keep the read from becoming stale.

Interactivity: – 2 –
Nothing overt, though the Keeping Score section towards the end gives a
nice, basic guideline for measurement and comparison for those
interested in gauging their progress.

Kool-Aid Test:
Somewhere between a thimble and a pint – I can see the 360i ebook being highly useful for a small business
beginner, and I can also see the benefit for those a little more
immersed in the culture. It goes through the basics and expands on them
to a level slightly ahead of the standard intro texts, without veering
into information overload.

Original Insight:
The 'guest spots' throughout not only provide colour, but offer some specific perspectives from people succeeding in the field. They contribute a valuable range of expertise to the piece.