Shel Israel Talks Conversational Marketing In "Twitterville"


twittervilleTwitter has revolutionized the world of marketing. In his new book “Twitterville,” which will be released September 3rd, social media journalist Shel Israel explains how Twitter evolved into the marketing force that it is, and shows companies how to take advantage of the powerful tool.

Israel starts Twitterville with a history lesson on how a startup microblogging service went from being an geek hangout to being the 900-lb gorilla marketing tool. If you lived much of that history first-hand, reviewing it and seeing how the pieces flowed together is an interesting exercise. If you just recently learned about Twitter, exploring its origins helps understand the culture of its community and why it is the way it is. Either way, having some insight into its evolution is essential to truly understanding how Twitter works.

At the core of the book’s philosophy is the transition from the old style of marketing (“broadcast marketing”) to the new “conversational era” of marketing that tools like Twitter are enabling. Twitterville describes the necessary decentralization of marketing activities and decision-making within companies that has happened thanks to social media. Israel stresses the personal element of marketing using Twitter versus the formerly impersonal nature of broadcast marketing. As Israel puts it: “It is a conversation, rather than a monologue. It’s also more personal.”

Much of “Twitterville” is devoted to case studies of how Twitter has impacted business, journalism, government and other communications. The case studies, of organizations like Jet Blue, Southwest, Motrin, Zappo’s, H&R Block and Molson, and events like the crash of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River or the Mumbai terror attacks, examine how Twitter’s involvement changed events and why certain strategies work for certain organizations. The case studies are also used to teach universal marketing truths of the Internet age, such as why PR teams can no longer take the weekend off.

One of the more interesting sections of Twitterville is Chapter 11, about personal branding. It’s a topic we’ve discussed at length here on WebWorkerDaily, and Israel takes a philosophy of it in Twitterville that is very counter to Georgina’s description of herself as being unbranded. But Israel’s view of personal branding goes further than even Pamela’s assertion that it is important for professionals in the Internet age. He believes that personal branding started in ancient times: “Personal branding is nothing new. Our ancestors trusted Og to succeed in the hunt and Guk to build good fires. The tribe knew whom to trust or mistrust based on the tribe members’ past performances. ”

Israel believes that social media has just “accelerated and amplified” the process of personal branding that has always existed. He shares diverse case studies of how personal branding has worked on Twitter for six individuals.

Contributing to the fun of reading the book are the sample tweets scattered seemingly at random throughout the book. They are eminently quotable, and sum up the power of Twitter’s 140 characters. Also, everyone quoted or referred to in the book is identified by their Twitter name if they have one, making it easy for readers to follow interesting Twitterers they read about.

With “Twitterville,” Shel Israel does a great job of explaining how Twitter has developed into a marketing power that is to be ignored at peril, and how to take advantage of its strengths as a platform. Although sometimes the narrative is a little circuitous, it’s a useful book for Twitter newbies and veterans alike. Once again, with Twitterville, Israel proves why he is a thought leader in social media.

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