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Last week I finished reading Twitterville by Shel Israel. Prior to picking it up, I’d heard a lot of positive about the book. So needless to say when Shel came to speak at Third Tuesday in Toronto I felt compelled to buy it.

The good

I found Twitterville gave great, real world examples of how Twitter is working in the business world from big companies to small non-profits. These companies are using the site to engage with stakeholders by gaining trust and developing conversations, not just feeding corporate speak. One of those large companies is Dell.

The book explains how Ricardo Guerrero, an online marketer at Dell, discovered Twitter at SXSW in early 2007. By June of that year, after figuring his way around the site, Ricardo created Dell Outlet. Since then, Dell’s presence on the site has soared and according to the book, earlier this year, Dell announced it had made $3 million in sales, thanks in large part to its activity on Twitter.

The bad

In terms of the book’s organization, “Part 3” along with the “Afterward” could have easily been put at the front. For me this works better because even though the book is great for all audiences, many readers are learning about Twitter and why they should join; having it at the front lets them get comfortable with how the site works. And as someone who knows how the site works, I found having it at the end took something away from the book. There wasn’t that feeling of conclusion because I spent the last while skipping through pages that were irrelevant to me.

The ugly

I can get over the organization of the book to some extent, but failing to fact check is something different altogether. It took a lot away from the book seeing the editors not catch that David Miller is the Mayor of Toronto. Instead I saw in his place,  Sandy Kemsley, a Torontonian yes, but definitely not the mayor. After Googling a bit, I saw she wrote a blog post on the situation; others had noted the gaff and told her about it.

She brings up a great point by saying, “I didn’t buy the book: if it lists me as the mayor of Toronto, who knows what other nonsense it contains?”

That simple mistake could mean the difference from recommending the book to all who will listen, to panning it because people would have doubts if other stuff were truly facts.


In the end, this book is not without it’s flaws (some bigger than others). It is, however, a great handbook on examples of Twitter’s use in business. My recommendation is to pick it up, however if you do, do it soon; the book is completely relevant, but as with anything involving social media, it can quickly become not so.


I recently finished reading Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies co-written by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff from Forrester Research. As I was readinggroundswell it, I couldn’t help thinking it’s a book every communications student should read.

For every school with an Online PR class, or looking to start one, I highly recommend using this as a text for a good chunk of the course. This book isn’t your typical boring textbook; it’s well written, conversational and most important, practical.

Three reasons I found the book so useful:

Case studies:

  • It’s one thing to read about methods that could be taken, and another to see methods that have been taken. The book has countless examples from Dell to Blendtec to draw on.

*Right after I began reading Groundswell, the case studies came in handy. During my internship, I was able to use it to add to a presentation about social media to a client, and draw on an example from a similar company for a separate project.

Method breakdown:

  • The POST Method is a 4-step guide to implement social strategy. Before this, I really had no clue how companies went about figuring out which way they wanted to connect with their audience.

Audience breakdown:

  • Thanks to Forrester Research, Social Technographics Profiles help companies determine what type of social tool their key audience would be more inclined to use.

These three examples alone make Groundswell a worthwhile addition to the Online PR classroom. Add that to teaching students about Online News Releases (and social media news releases)  and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and they’ll have very important tools to take with them should they need them after graduation.

At least that’s how I’d do it. What do you think is needed in an Online PR syllabus?

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I now blog at full time. Please visit me there for movie and book reviews as well as any other commentary that comes to mind.

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