Social Media Book Trilogy

While there are SO many social media books appearing, there are three books on social media that are must read for anyone approaching this as a career or program for their job. What’s interesting is to see the evolution of though as they slowly become part of corporate culture.

The first one was the Cluetrain Manifesto, which was written quite a few years ago. This book is about radicals changing the world, and it uses language that really is something you would expect to see on bumper stickers in Berkeley. It’s a ‘grab you by the collars and wake you up’ type of book that suggests major changes are coming to the world, yet arguably, these changes are happening slowly. It’s available online for free, and if you only have time to read one major section, read the 95 Theses. Secret: I actually printed those 95 theses and dropped them on the desk of marketing managers at Hitachi who were resistant to change –it may have worked.

The next book is Naked Conversations, which focuses on how one specific technology is the change for the culture of corporate communications to change. The timing of this book is what is key, as it moved slightly from the radicalness of cluetrain and gave early examples of how some individuals at corporations were adopting these tools. This book marked the milestone of early efforts of corporations, small companies and individuals and really proved that “hey this is happening”. As you know, I’m close friends with both of these authors, Shel was a mentor, and I ended up working with Robert. At Hitachi, my director gave me budget to buy over 60 copies which were distributed around marketing –and I purchased many more.

Although I’m biased, Groundswell marks the start of a new wave, as corporations now have a process, methodology, and framework to approach social computing. It leads with data, forces companies to have an objective. This book represents a practical response and answers to many corporations that are hesitant “here’s how we do this based off understanding data –and tying to business objectives” I was one of early copy readers and was credited for providing a small amount of input in the book, I know both authors very well, and live, and preach the methdology to clients. This book, and what it stands for, was part of the reason I decided to join Forrester.

Bundle these books up, buy all three, and send as Christmas presents to executives and decision makers in your company.

What’s next? The book that’s missing from this series is one that can show a transformational change among the entire enterprise (beyond marketing) among dozens/hundreds of companies and show how communities change business forever. I’d expect it to have clear ROI and measurement, as well as show budgets, processes, roles, and program management.

I know there are many other great books on this topic, but these reflect my personal preference as a “corporate +social media” focus, feel free to leave comments of other books you reccomend, and why.

  • One that I’m fond of, but I think many are capable of figuring out the details is the “Weblog handbook” by Rebecca Blood. If you’re wanting to blog, this tells the ‘how to’ nuts and bolts.

  • I’d like to add Now is Gone to the list. It’s an excellent primer on corporate social media and also the evolution of communications by Geoff Livingston with Brian Solis.


  • I’m usually recommending people to read a few blogs instead. Usually Chris Brogan’s is up near the top of my list. I try to filter depending on the asker’s industry. Sometimes asking people to read a blog involves me talking to them about a feed reader and getting them on the ground floor of social media tool use.

    Obviously not everyone has the 20 minutes to deal with that (which usually signals to me that they aren’t yet ready to do much with social media). In those cases I recommend Groundswell also. I never recommend Cluetrain unless I give them a copy of Gluetrain as well. 😉

  • I’d second Now Is Gone and also add Join the Conversation by Joe Jaffe. Both do a good job of explaining the basics in smart ways that people not familiar with the space can understand.

  • I’d add Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody.

    Also, not strictly social media but I would highly recommend “The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers” by Prahalad and Ramaswamy

  • I agree on the first and third – the second became outdated too quickly (which is the main issue with many of the social media books).

  • That’s a good start, and a fine set.
    I’d add:
    -Smartmobs. Starts the mobile discussions, and also brings in the large apparatus of cooperation.
    -Convergence Culture. Gets the big media responses, and remix culture.
    -Here Comes Everybody. Fine sketch of current social media collaborations.
    -Wealth of Networks. The major work on the economics of it all.

  • Jeremiah, Ironically, I’ve read all 3-though you’re right about Cluetrain, it’s almost defiant in what it’s suggesting or putting forth.

    I’m this close to suggesting Web Analytics-an hour a day, as a must read, but that’s because I like Avanish and he writes like he speaks-passionately; but it really has zero to do with social media.

  • Factoids

    Amazon indicates there are 48 books that are appear in search results for the keywords “Social Media”

    There are also 48 books in search results in Amazon for “Blog”

  • Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky is another good (basic ) primer for the dynamics of social media and communities.

    I also recommend re-reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. While not directly about social media, the ideas apply quite nicely.

  • I definitely agree with the Cluetrain Manifesto and Groundswell. The first provides the philosophical underpinnings and the second provides a strategic framework for advancing your social media efforts.

    Seth Godin’s newest book Tribes is also extremely thought provoking. It encourages us to tap our inner heretic to be the leaders necessary to overcome the status quo. I’m listening to the free (at the moment) audio version available at: .

  • “New rules of Marketing and PR” by David Meerman Scott is my new social media gem and I believe that deserves a position in your bookshelf. Don’t expect too much ROI discussion either here but it’s full of practical steps ready to be applied in your social media journey. Also spends a lot of time explaining why content remains the king of the internet in a very new and different way.

  • Cory Hendrickson

    I like these but have had the most success when discussing “The Experience Economy” by Pine and Gilmore. This seems to resonate best when answering the Why questions that come about.

    I noticed “The Tipping Point” in the comments and also thought we should bring up “Blink” as it gets to the heart of the social matter rather well.

  • I’d second “Now Is Gone” by Geoff Livingston because it states so clearly and quickly that the rules of public relations have changed.

    The chapter on what criteria to look at to determine whether your organization is ready for social media is worth its weight in gold. It’s a roadmap that shows all the obstacles to groups wanting to jump in the sack with social media tools without checking to see if they are ready.

  • Jeremiah,

    I’ve read two of these as well as Smart Mobs, Convergence Culture, and have scanned The Future of Competition. While The Tipping Point is good, I still think Blink was better at understanding how our brains work and what that means for the new social order coming at us through social media. I just ordered the following books to explore this in more detail at the sociological level – A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation. Then there is of course The Rise of the Creative Class. It is easy to focus on the ‘how to’ books of social media, but I think the real meat in terms of understanding web 2.0 and what it means societally as well as industrially lies in reading books like The Starfish and the Spider.


  • The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, by Ori Brafman & Rod A Beckstrom

  • Wikinomics helps frame the “context”, and bang on with Cluetrain; that was the start, and Here Comes Everybody gets the theory fleshed out very well…looks like

    – Cluetrain Manifesto
    – Groundswell
    – Tipping Point
    – Here Comes Everybody
    – Social Media Marketing (from Twitter comments)
    – Now is Gone
    – Blink
    – Tribes

    Quite the library…great question Jeremiah!

  • LOVE the Groundswell. I have sent copies of it to many people I know who are trying to wrap their minds about the whole Social Media phenomena.

    In fact, I blogged about it a month or so ago:

  • Just finishing up Dave Evans book “Social Media Marketing an hour a day” I would highly recommend it as a step by step for beginners that are trying to get their hands around this thing we call Social Media Marketing.

  • Great stuff. I’m in the middle of listening to Tribes right now, and will be reading a chapter of Blink tonight (about halfway through).

    Secondlife would be great, if people have the graphics cards and highspeed internet, but that population is just too low.

    Tipping Point in one that I would like to catch up on.

    I’ll most likely pick up one or two of these in the coming weeks.


  • Need to order a couple of the ones mentioned above real soon..

    Who can recommend books about social media strategies? p.ex: how to use sm tools to reach the consumer, barriers of implementing a sm strategy: mngmt culture, roi measuring,..

    – Rob –

  • Nice WordPress blog you have here Jeremiah. How come you have no ads on it? (smile)


  • I have a copy of Cluetrain on my desk ! Great book – a blast from the past ;-). I also recommend “Crowdsourcing”, and “Wikinomics”.

  • I was surprised to see that Adobe Systems and Comcast Online were two early signers of Cluetrain. I think of Adobe and Comcast as two of the most aggressive initiators of business models here on the web.

  • I reread the cluetrain manifesto not so long ago and it is still relevant. Not bad considering how the technology, trends and fads have moved since 99, but the whole “markets are conversations” premise is still as true and still needs to be assimilated by a lot of businesses.

  • Hi, Guys!

    Just wanted to share to you another book worth checking out. Secrets of Social Media Marketing from Paul Gillin. I was able to obtain a pre-publish e-book and thinks that this is a worthy read.


  • My recent social media research has led me to Flight of the Creative Class and The World Is Flat. While not directly relevant I think social media technologies will flatten the playing field for businesses … I wonder if there will be an even greater explosion of boutique PR firms from starving artists well versed in social media?

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  • I'd second Now Is Gone and also add Join the Conversation by Joe Jaffe. Both do a good job of explaining the basics in smart ways that people not familiar with the space can understand.

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  • I have read Naked Conversations and I think it gave me a bundle of info…