I'd like to start with a disclaimer. Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo, the authors of Friends with Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook, are friends. While I may be biased, knowing them for years also means I know the depth of the their knowledge and experience. And that's the big point of my review of their book - these people know what they're talking about because they live in social media every day and have for years. I've asked myself in the past - What would Darren and Julie do?
Friends with Benefits is very much a handbook. It provides direct, actionable and easy-to-understand advice on getting started with social media marketing. And that's one of the aspects of the book that I think is most valuable. They don't speak in generalizations, like you should blog "often." They say business bloggers should to try to blog 3 times a week. They don't say it takes significant time to do social media, they say to plan on at least 25% of your marketing time. This kind of directness takes away some of the anxiety that people feel about getting started and readers will appreciate it.
Along with in-depth introductions to the Twitters and Facebooks of the world, the book comes with a healthy dose of the realities of social media. The online world brims with supposed "social media experts" who will have you believe that anything and everything is possible. Darren and Julie know better because they've been there. The truth is, social media marketing can be amazingly valuable, but comes with real risks. I was happy to see that along with strategies for achieving the very real benefits, the book is clear about the reality of social media: it's difficult, it takes time and the results can vary widely. This book will keep you from looking foolish online.
If you're ready to get off the sidelines and get serious about social media marketing, you must read this book first. Friends with Benefits is tactical, practical and above all, useful.