Thursday, 8 September 2011

Book Review : Online Marketing: A User’s Manual by Murray Newlands.

The use of the words ‘user’s manual’ would seem to set the tone for this book, positioning it as some kind of reference piece for those of us involved with the practicalities of online marketing. Indeed, the quote from Chris Brogan on the front cover, “This book is actionable. It’s useful…Murray’s given you all you need to get started”, would back this up.

The book tackles what in the author’s opinion are the basics of online marketing: social media, digital branding, company websites, blogging, online PR and blogger outreach, email marketing, video marketing, affiliate marketing, SEO, digital advertising, with each chapter aiming to cover these various elements. It was inspired by the experience of the author being asked to go away and write the digital strategy for the organisation.

Murray and indeed Chris Brogan both suggest that the book can be read in one or used as a reference book. I decided to use the latter approach to start and dipped into two areas – one where I like to think I know a fair amount, email marketing, and the other where my knowledge is a little more sketchy, video marketing.
The chapter on email left me not really understanding if the book was meant to be a practical guide or a planning guide. There were good ideas on how to use email but they actually didn’t leave me feeling confident that I could give this to someone new to email and let them get on with it. Some of the real basics are missing, which reduced my confidence in the rest of the content.
The idea of having a ‘Tools and Resources’ section at the end of each chapter is great. But that then leads me onto another couple of issues. This book is obviously aimed at the US market so the reference points are American and actually limited in number. There are more useful reference points but they are kept within the main body of each chapter.
So, to video marketing. Again the chapter swung from needing a strategy for your video marketing to making sure your smartphone is charged ready for use to make a video. Reading this piece confirmed another view I had from the chapter about email – that the book lacked consistency in what it was trying to do. Even the flow of the basics seemed a little off, with Strategy third in a list of three after Video Hardware and Software.
Following on with a more traditional reading of the book from cover to cover, it is an easy read and does give a good introduction to all the areas of online marketing. I’m sure the reader would be more confident to approach each subject in more depth after taking in the whole. That is particularly true if you are a complete novice to the areas of online marketing. So its audience is probably restricted to individuals in very small organisations who are just venturing into the world of online. I would say that in larger organisations the level of knowledge already held in the marketing, PR and IT departments already surpasses what is in this book. The real trick missed here is how you actually pull all these online strands together to create a single online marketing strategy for your organisation.

Of course, the other issue with any book that covers the digital space is that it will be pretty much out of date as soon as it hits Amazon. A way to overcome this would have been to create an online version of the book that could be regularly updated as the world moves on.
This is a good start but probably not as useful as reading up on the topics online or investing in books dedicated to each section. There are good examples in some chapters but these are lacking in others. For me the topics are covered in too little detail and not in a consistent manner. It would seem to be Murray Newland’s blog set down on paper.

This review first appeared on the Marketing Society Blog

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