I have to apologize for recent passive-aggressive blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts referencing “GRAMMAR.” I stopped logging in to my LiveJournal account a long time ago, and I am fully aware that at 26-nearly-27, being emo is becoming of no one. I started this post before the middle of December. Hopefully the rest of it is sound in tense.
I’ve been reviewing a book that was graciously sent to me, and I haven’t been able to take it seriously since page ix. (Page 1 of the Preface.)
I’m a little bummed about this. I had originally set aside all this time to finish the book right after Thanksgiving, but as I trudged along, it just became easier and easier to get distracted by How I Met Your Mother on On Demand, the December arrival of Giant Robot, and tea. I was initially excited because this is basically a business book that is specific to my industry, and as one who regularly avoids business reading, I took it as a sign from above that this offer for a free copy of Barry Libert’s Social Nation was meant to fall into my hands. Here was Business Reading, at my door, with a bouquet of roses hidden behind his back, and it would be rude and naive of me to turn him away.
So I said yes, I would love to read a professional’s take on this ever-now and interesting industry. Maybe Business Reading and I can spit some game, learn a thing or two about each other, drink some tea.
The stain on Business Reading’s shirt.
So Social Nation comes in and I’m all stoked. I read the subtitle, How to harness the power of Social Media to attract customers, motivate employees, & grow your business, breeze through the jacket blurbs, and crack open the hardcover spine.
And there it is. Page ix. First page of the Preface:
They talk about the number of tenured faciulty, their research grants, and almost everything except the community of students and their interactions.
Faciulty. First page of the book, quoting Libert’s wife Ellen, then the dean of students at Harvard Dental School, and “i” finds a way to come in and fuck things up for “faculty’s” first scene in Social Nation.
Wow, oops, okay. This is hard for me to ignore because a large portion of my attention every day is applied to catching typos and making my company look like we come from educated backgrounds. Typo on the first page? Ow, that hurts. Must turn a cheek, Mayka. Business Reading may just be nervous. Ignore the stain on the shirt.
After quickly circling “faciulty,” I keep reading. But then the third page of the Preface (xi, for those of you testing your Roman numerals) comes up, and so does a random double space within a sentence, the sudden introduction of serial commas where AP Style was favored before, and then the impolite ordering of “me and my siblings” instead of “my siblings and me.” Ballpoint Pen goes flying again.
Eventually I got about through the Preface, but at an increasingly slower rate. It was difficult for me to stomach any of Libert’s chatty writing and social media theory in the face of missing apostrophes and rogue commas. Though I was able to nod along to the core of Libert’s proposals, I couldn’t get over the fact that this book which was already published and currently available on Amazon didn’t seem to be professionally edited. It was entirely distracting, but I did my best to move along.
I reasoned to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe something was wrong with my copy. Maybe I received a sort of hardcover draft instead of the real thing. I wrote to the publicist and asked as politely as I could,
Nice. Kevin took that well.
But copy editing isn’t a service that I dole out for free. The typos didn’t stop after the end of the Preface, and though my pen continued to run circles round new egregious finds like “sentimennt,” I was not about to catalog all of Social Nation’s grammatical inconsistencies line-for-line in an e-mail. I wrote Kevin back and pointed him to a couple of typos and the reoccurring wishy-washy state with commas, and tried to diplomatically state “I’ve been circling and noting all the typos I’ve come across, but honestly, it’d take me a while to capture them all in here and we’d be moving into a level of copy editing that I normally do as a consultant.”
I didn’t hear back about the typos.
I’ve now had this book for over a month, and I simply cannot finish it. I’m at the break between Chapter 6 “Principle 3: Mind your online and offline manners” and Chapter 7 “Principle 4: Monitor and measure your communities’ contributions.” The last thing that got my ink? Page 119, a continuation of the list “Prescriptions for applying manners online:”
3. Don’t Ignore Spelling and Grammar
Last line of the tip: “Make your communications mistake-free.”
So as a reader I’m supposed to take publication advice from this guy? Here, Libert’s basically saying that even in 140-character spurts, and even in highly temporal Facebook posts, we should watch our language and style. Again, I give you, Exhibit A: faciulty.
How is social media, as an industry, supposed to build upon its own credibility, when the people who write social media’s literal, physical books cannot get their stuff together?
I battled with writing this review because I didn’t want to completely demolish a book that was essentially gifted to me. Silly feelings of obligation flitted through my heart. I should be grateful, as a random un-themed blogger, to even receive such an offer, right? Clearly Libert’s team gets it there, that not only should you hit up the big names for publicity, but also the unknowns. But just as clearly, the mini-nation behind Social Nation falls short in making sure its package is actually ready to be wrapped up, sent to, and opened by potential readers who don’t feel a duty to feign positivity about its contents.
Let’s even entertain for a moment that I was sent a draft version of Social Nation to review. Simply put, it was never communicated to me that way. Another critical breakdown of attention.
Call me Captain of the Grammar Police, roll your eyes at my inability to just move on. But lemme guess, you’re one of those people who can’t define the specific uses for each of these phrases: their, they’re, there. They’re all homonyms, and you probably just got a look of “Thafuck is a ‘homonym’?” when you read that, didn’t you?
Social Nation’s complete lack of grammatical standards is an embarrassment to publishing. Perhaps it’s indicative of the industry that Libert writes about, that social media is concerned more with relationships than it is with professionalism. It certainly seems like it is written by a team who does not see a great deal of worth or value in such an archaic medium as a physical book.
And that’s why I’m having a hard time getting through this 200-pager. At least the abnormally large font makes it super quick to read. (There are a number of points where just six words fill up a line.) Libert kinda hits you over the head with the accessibility of everything by making lists within Top Five tips and compartmentalizing through subheadings. So basically, I feel like I just got suckered into reading a really long social media blog. An unedited blog, at that.
Worth an off-the-shelf flip-through at Borders.
The heart of Libert’s work is sound, and I think it absolutely needs to be embraced by business and thought leaders of today. The successful companies of tomorrow are going to be social, not just in interacting with customers over Twitter, but also in their leadership and infrastructure. The social revolution that Libert predicts for business is going to require environmental change within every office. I, for one, eagerly look forward to the adoption of more social communication.
If you were to borrow Social Nation from a library that only allowed rental periods of thirty minutes each, I’d say skip to the online, free Social Quotient Test at socialnationbook.com and start figuring out how to get your company onto the social train. The test is a questionnaire that returns your three strongest social skills. If you agree that a more social company (and I’m not talking “socialite” or “frat boy” social) is the way to go, the test results will help a great deal in mapping out what’s missing in a complete social team. (It’s listed as the Social Business Skills Assessment in Resources, but the test is still the Social Quotient Test. Hark, another inconsistency? Yes. Don’t even get me started.)
Through the test – It took about twenty minutes to finish because I was distracted and kept putting it on pause – I learned that my social strength is adaptability. Whether my coworkers think that’s true or not, I feel it’s definitely been stretched and tested over the last couple of months. And was adaptability necessary in the ever-changing decisions on sales and public interaction with customers during the holiday e-retail season? Yes, absolutely.
I’ve gotta say I miss all those multiple-choice quizzes from YM and Seventeen. You can learn so much about yourself! Now just imagine if all your team members went through the same social skill evaluation. What a team you could build! And in the right flow of steps, too: From the inside out, instead of from a lawyer-advised list of guidelines set upon its internal customers. (That’s “employees,” for all you who’ve never worked electronic retail for a high-end corporation.)
I will not be proactively looking for another date with Business Reading.
The last time I consumed anything so business-oriented was Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness. DH and SN do not make me fall any more in love with Business Reading. Social Nation is very much a marketing tool for Libert’s company, Mzinga. (Swahili for “swarm.” Yes, you should pronounce it like the Facebook gaming juggernaut, “Zynga.”) I noticed that mini bios of Mzinga’s team are appended to the end of the book, and that just makes me laugh. All those teamsters to make your company look social and none of them were involved in the editing process? Or, worse, they were?
I don’t have any goals to start my own company any time soon, but if I ever do, I hope I do run it as a social environment with ultimate transparency. May overcommunication be our worst communication issue, and may Business Reading stick to publishing only that which is fit to print.
One final note on page 15.
Are people seriously still saying “Web 2.0?” I haven’t heard that phrase since 2007.