Book review: The Science of Marketing

Dan Zarrella, the social media scientist who authored The Science of Marketing: When to Tweet, What to Post, How to Blog, and Other Proven Strategies, wants you to toss out much of what you’ve heard about social media marketing and focus on what his research tells you instead. 

In his introduction (which is a must-read), he refers disdainfully to this oft-repeated social media advice:

  • “Be awesome.”
  • “Engage in the conversation.”
  • “Have a personality.”

The definition of “awesome,” according to his research, depends on the social network. Twitter users like and retweet links, while Facebook users favor photos and blog readers like videos.

And do you really need to chat it up? Not on Twitter, according to Zarrella’s data. Before reading this book, I heard time and time again that I should engage with people on Twitter. We’re told to reply to comments on tweets and thank people for the retweets. It’s the opposite, according to Zarrella’s research, which shows that Twitter accounts with the largest followings have the lowest level of engagement. What they lack in chatter they make up for in links: The highly followed accounts tweet more links than accounts with fewer followers.

If you show a personality — yours or your company’s — make sure it’s a positive one. Across all networks, people like positive perspectives and information more than they like negative commentary. But, interestingly enough, they’ll take negative over neutral. Neutral is boring.

Conclusions, advice come from research

Zarrella’s book is based on data accumulated and analyzed in part through his job as a viral marketing scientist at Hubspot, Inc., a company that sells marketing software to customers using the Web to generate leads. He leads us through the dos and don’t by focusing our attention on the numbers coming out of research about how people use social media. The book is loaded with graphs showing us how often people click on paid search advertising or the relationship between the time you tweet and the click-through rate.

Of particular value to authors is the first chapter on e-books, with its statistics on reader preferences for genre, format,  and length. (I’ll share more on this in the February 12, 2014 issue of the Build Book Buzz e-newsletter; subscribe at https://buildbookbuzz.com.)

The Science of Marketing also shares data and advice on SEO (search engine optimization) and devotes chapters to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blogging, and e-mail marketing.

Data changes my behavior

Here are just four of the many things I’ll be doing differently after reading Zarrella’s book:

  1. Scheduling blog posts for the morning, not afternoon.
  2. Adding more photos to marketing-related status updates on Facebook.
  3. Losing the guilt over not having the time to interact more with Twitter connections.
  4. Adding “new blog post” to my new blog post tweets.

I found the book extremely useful and recommend it to anyone using social media for marketing purposes, but it does have one flaw: the lack of attention to LinkedIn. Considering it’s the third largest social network and much larger than Pinterest, I would have expected a chapter on that social network.

Fortunately, it’s not a fatal flaw.

What’s your favorite book on how to use social networks effectively?

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  1. Wish I had an answer to your question of what’s my favorite book on how to use social networks effectively. I actually have several titles on this subject on my Kindle and in PDF format on my computer, most of them downloaded for free during promos or as a reward for something I signed up for. The fact is, I have yet to make it all the way through any of them.

    Regarding The Science of Marketing, I jumped over to Amazon to take a look at the details and discovered that this title, even though it was published back in April 2013, has only 16 reviews on Amazon. Which makes me wonder. Does this author practice what he preaches? Or maybe he’s done research on how reviews affect sales and discovered that tons of reviews are no more effective than a few, as long as your average is 4 stars or better. That would be interesting to know.

    While at Amazon I read the bullet list from the inside flap and discovered I was doing several things right, and my intuition was correct about other points he made. That lifted my spirits!

    Thanks for this post. It’s been interesting, to say the least.

    1. Donna, I noticed the relatively low number of reviews when compared to the sales rank, too, and gave it some thought when I left a reader review yesterday.

      I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t practice what he preaches — he’s a social media scientist, not a book marketer. I suspect that he hasn’t made marketing his book, and securing reader reviews, a personal priority. It takes effort to ask for and get reader comments, and he probably hasn’t made that effort. (Because he doesn’t need to.)

      It’s also quite likely that he wrote the book to share his research and to have the credential and credibility that comes with authoring a nonfiction book, not to make money from the royalties. The goal, then, was the book itself, not reader reviews on Amazon or to supplement his income.

      It’s also possible that his employer is an underwriter for this book so it can be used as a marketing tool. Again, in a situation like that, the objective isn’t sales — it’s credibility and prestige.

      Just some thoughts…!


  2. Sandra
    Thank you so much for all the information,
    you send me on how to market my book.I had put it on face book and Twitter, but get no response as yet. My sister and her family are the only ones who bought any. My publisher have it in their book store. But so far they haven’t sold much.

    1. You’re welcome, Monica. I’m glad you’re reading about how to market your book effectively — that’s smart.


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