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When I heard that a second edition of The Facebook Era, by Clara Shih, was planned I literally gushed at PM Magazine HQ to let me review it. Words such as “revelation”, “life-changing” and “enlightening” were bandied about, as I attempted to justify my excitement.  You see, the first edition really was all of those things. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is the first book about social media that I have ever felt really inclined to recommend to those working in the professional services sector.  Its simple approach draws you into the field, not only teaching you (at a practical level you can actually use), but leaving you with ideas that you actually want to try.

When the book arrived my first impression was that it was thicker… never a good sign when you’re looking for a common-sense guide.  Unfortunately things went from bad to worse as I started reading and plunged head-first into sections about the different social networking platforms you can create and the benefits of having your business on Ning (or whatever…). I was just about to give up, sob and head for the pub when… all of a sudden… the old Clara Shih came back.

If you ignore the first thirty or so pages, this book is a wonderful development of an already brilliant book.  It takes the basics covered in the first edition and brings them up to date, adding in the plethora of developments that have happened over the last year.  Shih’s understanding of the social media world is literally boundless and her ability to strip out the fluff and take it down to business needs is impressive.  She has a real talent for instantly getting to the point, and for understanding the right level at which to pitch her expertise.

The second edition introduces some practical improvements as well.  “Take aways, tips and to-dos” at the end of each chapter are perfect for the forgetful or those disinclined to read everything properly.  In addition to including more information about Linkedin and Twitter, Shih adds in a practical path through the “what’s in it for me” and “what’s the point” questions… and all of this in her recognisable, softly convincing, way.

Those wanting more than a simple introduction are not disappointed either.  Shih discusses ways to use social media for business development, including linking it to CRM and strategic planning.  Her sections on advertising, hypertargeting and client care are similarly insightful and helpful.  Her tips for using Twitter and Facebook pages are, in particular, inspired and utterly relevant to processional services. What clinched it in the first edition, and does again, are the final few chapters, tackling how to structure a social media strategy (including sections on why you need one and measuring ROI).

This book is unashamedly about social networking, warts and all. It doesn’t pretend to be a business text-book. It recognises that, irrespective of whether we’re looking at B2B, B2C or professional services, we are, at the heart of everything, talking about one-to-one human relationships. It is this plain English speaking that makes The Facebook Era one of the most convincing guides to social media out there. In short, I think that there is much that the professional services sector could learn from Clara Shih.

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