It’s probably no surprise that over 500 books have been written about social and digital technologies over the past 15+ years, and that many of these focus on social media marketing. What’s more intriguing are the topics that have not received much attention yet from thought leaders and authors. This post offers a brief introduction to a research project that explores the Digital Era literature and (in true 2.0 fashion) invites people to participate in its ongoing development.
Last year, with the help of Marci Stewart and Genifer Snipes, I embarked on a project to identify all the books that had been written about social and digital technologies. It was a naïve quest that has turned into a very ambitious undertaking. Although I was aware of the most well-known books from the past five or so years, I had no idea how many other publications were out there, or how far back they stretched. We’re now at 520 – and counting!
In this post I share some project details, the initial high-level results, and what we plan to do next. More importantly, I’d like to invite folks to participate in the development of the project by sharing the questions, analyses, and information they’re most interested in. And of course I welcome recommendations for books lists, titles, and authors, to make sure our final list is as complete and accurate as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you!
- Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD
Here, in a nutshell, is the approach we have used to create the database:
- We selected Goodreads as our primary source of information, primarily because it’s vendor neutral – and of course it’s a social media platform in its own right!
- We seeded the list with titles from “best of” lists like The 25 Best Social Media Books of 2011, 10 Best Social Media Books, and Top Social Media Marketing Books.
- For each book we collected the publication data, Goodreads rating information, title, author(s) and book description.
- To expand the initial list we checked the titles listed under “Readers also enjoyed similar books” and “Lists with This Book.” Once we had exhausted those sources we conducted 40+ searches using all the potentially relevant terms we could think of, including general terms like social media and big data as well as specific terms like Facebook and Tumblr.
- In an effort to make the data collection effort more manageable, we only included books that were written in English and had at least one review. Yes, that’s somewhat arbitrary – but we needed some kind of cutoff! We also tried to limit the database to books that were targeted to non-technical readers.
- Throughout the process we added relevant titles as they were brought to our attention if we hadn’t already identified them.
Using the book descriptions, we created a three-tiered coding scheme to reflect their focus:
- Perspective: conceptual (focused more on conveying information or discussing topics at a high level) and tactical (“how to” oriented).
- General focus: categories ranged from macro to micro and included society, commerce, marketing, workplace, individual, and data.
- Specific focus: used to indicate if a book was specifically focused on a single topic (e.g., cloud computing, Twitter, mobile, LinkedIn).
To convey a general sense of what these 500+ books are all about, we have created two Wordles using the books’ titles (after cleaning them up by deleting unnecessary words and combining similar terms).
The first Wordle includes all the relevant terms (click to enlarge):
Because SocialMedia, Guide, Marketing and Business dominated the results, we created a second Wordle without those terms to dig a bit deeper into the books’ focus (click to enlarge):
The initial results may seem “no duh-ish” to some folks, especially early adopters. There’s nothing particularly revelatory about the fact that the books published to date have had a heavy emphasis on business, specifically social media in the context of marketing. The “how to” focus of many of these books, as well as the promises of success, are also not surprising.
But some of the emphases are less obvious. For example:
- Blogging (which has been declared “dead” at least twice in the past 5 years) remains a primary topic.
- Even though Facebook is a significantly larger platform, Twitter and LinkedIn have received relatively more emphasis as book topics.
- Although people are still wrapping their brains around what to do with data, there have been a relatively substantial number of books focused on the topic (e.g., analytics, metrics). Similarly, cloud computing has also been a fairly significant topic of discussion.
And perhaps most importantly, we need to think about what’s not been addressed, as those are the areas in which there is perhaps the greatest need – and the greatest opportunity for thought leaders and authors. These include:
- More discussion and guidance about topics like gamification and mobile technologies.
- How social and digital technologies can and should be used in non-commercial sectors, including in non-profit and religious organizations, public sector entities, and academic institutions. In a similar vein, there’s probably a need and opportunity for more focused discussions on digital communities and community management.
- Applications and implications of new technologies inside organizations (e.g., enterprise 2.0, social business, social enterprise).
- Leadership-oriented discussions, especially in terms of what it means to be a leader in the Digital Era.
- The human-capital management implications of new digital technologies, as well as legal/policy issues and risk management considerations.
- Applications and implications of new technologies for individuals, including digital competencies, jobs, professions, and careers.
We are conducting more in-depth analyses of the data (including a formal text analysis in conjunction with Silverman Research) and plan to share more results in the coming weeks/months, including:
- A slide deck of Wordles that reveal emphases by year, category, etc.
- An infographic, which will include things like the first time Social Media appears in a book title and most popular buzzword(s), as well as various representations of general and specific categories.
- A white paper that offers a more formal treatment of the methodology, results, and implications.
What’s on Your Mind?
To enhance the value of this project, we’d love to hear from you. Specifically, we’d like to know things like:
- What books would you like to make sure we include? Are there specific “best” lists we should double check? Favorite books or authors? Your own tomes? We’re especially interested in hearing about recently-published books, as we are more likely to have missed them.
- What other topics, categories and/or questions do you think are important to explore?
- What questions do you have? What would you like to know? What are you curious about?