Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

Chris Brogan’s Social Media 101 Needs New Syllabus

Chris Brogan's Social Media 101 book is a collection of his best blog posts, but falls short as a true primer.

I’m a huge fan of my friend Chris Brogan.  His is one of the 10 blogs I read most regularly. He’s a great blogger, a willing teacher, a smart entrepreneur, and an all-around good guy. Hopefully the next time I run into him at the airport — where we both spend too much time — he won’t hold this review against me.

Brogan’s latest book, Social Media 101, collects some of his best blog posts into book form. On its surface, it is designed as a primer for those who need to “get” social media. Unfortunately, the great standalone blog posts don’t really translate into a great book. What worked really well online at the time they were written simply doesn’t come through on the printed page.

In fairness, I had high expectations. I know the quality of work that Chris turns out on his blog, and I felt there was lots of good thinking rolled into his Trust Agents book.

But by the time the blog posts were rolled together to create Social Media 101, it really felt like the professor needed to create a new syllabus.

Here’s why it didn’t work for me:

  • The level of organization falls short. A good primer needs to look less daunting to a novice. That means organizing things in a logical fashion, using appropriate grouping headers, to help communicate the questions it will answer.
  • The updating seems spotty. Some posts were clearly updated to reflect the time when they were written. But in some instances it seems a bit slapdash. For instance, one post notes the price of a cell phone — “in 2008.” Why not just update that so you can omit the year?
  • There’s a lot of redundancy. Many of the posts address overlapping topics, and while some repetition is valuable in any book — especially a primer — this book feels as if it goes beyond repetition and into redundancy.
  • Lots of great points get buried. There is a lot of great advice in the book, but the lack of strong organization often makes the nuggets harder to find.

Perhaps Social Media 101 fell victim to my high expectations. Or maybe my general dislike of collections of previously written material shows through.

But I’d like to think that a little better organization, some more updating, and a stronger thread throughout would have made this book a home run. As it is, I recommend you read Chris Brogan’s blog for lots of great material, but don’t expect Social Media 101 to be the true primer it could be. (Or buy the book anyway and let me know if I’m wrong!)

Photo credit: I took this picture a couple of years ago when Chris and I were horsing around at some event. He’s not really mad at me — at least then!

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  1. My mom hates those pictures of me. : )

    I think you’re right about your criticisms. I really do. The more I read it, the more I see how I could do it differently.

    The repetition was intentional. I was trying to say things a few different ways to make it sink in. It might be over the top. I could see instances where that’s true.

    The “back in 2008” kinds of stuff? Well yeah. I could’ve tidied it more.

    You’re not wrong.

    And yet, I’m thinking it’s a decent reference. I made it to be something of a “give to the people who need to get it” book, and I think it holds up reasonably well. Tidy? Not as much.

    : )

  2. Like I said, there’s lots of good stuff in there — and it’s very snackable which is good for beginners. And if a beginner read it, they would get real value out of it. So consider my critique to be constructive criticism not a rejection of your work.

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