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Book Review: The Social Media Strategist, by Christopher Barger

I recently had the chance to read and review a book titled The Social Media Strategist by Christopher Barger. Even though such a title normally conjures images of secret agent adventure, hidden treasure, and possibly romance, I was not looking forward to actually reading this book. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

My interest was initially piqued when I read the foreword and noticed it was written by Scott Monty. Wait... Barger is (was) at GM and Monty is at Ford. Can that be right? Then, somewhere in the first twenty pages, he's using characters from the movie Bull Durham to make an analogy. He was already winning friends and influencing people, and I was starting to like this Christopher Barger guy.


If I could only say one positive thing about this book, it would be that Barger doesn’t waste time getting to the point. Right off the bat, he brings up how important people are, not technology, a theme to which he clings throughout the book. Thankfully, there wasn’t just one positive thing.

I will interject, however, that most of this didn’t apply to me. By me, I mean me personally, at this juncture. He spends most of the book examining what needs to be in place in an organization for a social media department to be successful. If you happen to be one of those social media directors, you need a copy of this book, like, yesterday. Me? Not so much.

So, a great deal of this book is strategy, a whole lot of high-level, big brain things. The kinds of things which people get paid a lot of money to put into action. But Barger keeps all this really light and readable, and most of it’s in plain English. This guy practices what he preaches, because marketing jargon was really kept to a minimum, and someone like me notices and  appreciates that. Even though it didn’t apply directly to me, I still consumed it, filed it away, and backed it up for later.

And then, he threw in a chapter just for me, or people like me. It’s speaking to smaller organizations, and Barger discusses how it’s still possible to win without a huge marketing budget and a social media team. He references the book (and movie) Moneyball, and draws the analogy of how important creativity and basic principles can be. He concludes the chapter by saying “It worked in baseball, and it works in social media.”

After a nice gossipy section of “other people’s mistakes” case studies, the grand finale is, of course, about General Motors. It includes a fascinating (and I think pretty candid) behind-the-scenes story of what the GM social media team was doing before, during, and after the bailout crisis. Barger didn’t seem to be afraid to share, and I could tell from this chapter that he is very serious about sincerity.

I’ll wrap up this review with what I think is an important note. Barger spends more time talking about people than he does tools, and for one very good reason: the tools like Twitter and Facebook don’t matter. Not one bit. He quotes Dell’s Richard Binhammer: “If you don’t have a culture that wants to listen with big ears, social media won’t change that.”

So just keep in mind that while Barger's book is a wonderful (and probably indispensable) handbook for those people who find themselves hired to run a social media division, it’s probably not an instruction manual for how to actually get corporate or executive buy-in. If you don't have (or aren't able to find) the key people described in his book, you may need to just keep your eyes open for a while. You don’t need the best players, you need the right players.

**Social Media Club members (Open/Pro/SMB/Corporate) are welcome to participate in a free webinar hosted by Social Media Club featuring Christopher Barger, Author of The Social Media Strategist on Tuesday, February 28th at 2pm EDT. Register here!**

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