It's summer, one of those times when even the most ardent worker hits the road for a vacation, cools off under a shade tree or tans by a pool.
But what to read during that elusive time off? If you can scrap the latest thriller, now's a great opportunity to relax from the daily pressures of business and focus on bigger-picture issues for your company. Among the most exciting and evolving topics is how to incorporate social media into your enterprise.
Below is a list of books that provide a good understanding of how social media may be used for public relations and marketing, as well as how you can encourage resistant employees to grab on and not treat it like "shiny object syndrome."
There's no special order to the list. All are good and highly recommended. I asked the authors to share their recommendations for business books, which they gladly did.
Now Revolution by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund (Wiley, $24.95): The Internet and social media have allowed for unprecedented real-time interaction and feedback between customers and businesses. Simply put, they have changed how companies do business.
Baer and Naslund provide a seven-step plan to assist businesses in shifting to this real-time culture. Their book covers how to create cross-functional teams, make business practices more nimble, hire and then empower social-media literate employees, and respond in a human way to customer inquiries.
Baer, a renowned social-media strategy consultant who shares his knowledge at Convinceandconvert.com, suggests Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman (Wiley, $24.95). He says it's a very handy book because of its combination of big-picture thinking about the role of content with step-by-step advice and helpful tips about precisely how to create content that matters. How can you create stories, videos and blog posts people will love? How can you cultivate fans and spark devotion? How can your ideas ignite your business? These are posed and answered in Content Rules.
PR 2.0 by Deirdre Breakenridge (FT Press, $26.99): We live in a Web 2.0 world in which the traditional channels of communication are not necessarily the best ways to reach your audience. Breakenridge introduces readers to how public relations and the Internet have converged to create an opportunity of two-way conversation. She outlines a vast array of the best new PR practices such as blogs, social networking and podcasts through real-world examples.
Breakenridge just finished reading Social Marketing to the Business Customer by Paul Gillin and Eric Schwartzman (Wiley, $27.95). She says it's well-organized and provides excellent insight for how businesses can communicate with other businesses through social media. It addresses how businesses can blend the online conversations into their culture, plan marketing campaigns that use social- media channels, and find niche communities then integrate into them to grow sales.
Social Media ROI by Olivier Blanchard (Que, $24.99): Blanchard brings business discipline to social-media programs in this book that analyzes best practices for strategy, planning, execution and measurement.
He tackles a tough topic facing many businesses and makes it easily understandable with specific case studies and examples. Blanchard covers how to align social communications with business goals; plan for effective performance; use social media to customize customer care; and measure FRY, or frequency, reach and yield.
Blanchard suggests Killing Giants by Stephen Denny (Portfolio, $25.95). Denny profiles 30 companies that have taken on the giants in their industries and won. He outlines strategies on how you can topple your giant. Blanchard also suggests Histories of Social Media by Jonathan Salem Basken (Society for New Communications Research, $22.95). The technologies such as Facebook and Twitter might be new, but people have been social since the dawn of civilization. Salem Basken strips away the technology to open up a rich trove of case studies that better explain the complexity of social media.
Welcome to the Fifth Estate by Geoff Livingston (Bartleby Press, $18.95): Welcome to the Fifth Estate is a follow-up to Livingston's first book, Now Is Gone (Bartleby Press, $14.95). That was one of the first books to articulate the revolution of social media. Livingston explains the concept of the citizen journalist and how it relates to marketing. The new book provides needed guidance to build a successful and sustainable social media program including solid strategies, tactics and measurement tips for businesses and non-profits.
Livingston often recommends The Art of War by Sun Tzu because he thinks it is the quintessential book on strategy. It applies to everything, and is benevolent in that it always seeks the least conflict possible. The book is a basis for all of his marketing strategies. The Art of War was compiled in the sixth century and is considered the world's oldest surviving military treatise covering strategy and tactics.
All of these are available in print and e-book formats, so you can read them on your Kindle or iPad. Happy reading.
Ann Marie van den Hurk is an award-winning, accredited public relations professional specializing in small businesses and is principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations. She proudly called Lexington home, but she now lives in North Carolina. She may be reached at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter at @annvandenhurk.