Joe's Social Media Bookshelf

I subscribe to over 350 blog feeds. These are my window on the world for the news of the day and the current leading edge thinking on social media, public relations, marketing and technology.

This daily reading gives me bite sized chunks of information. But I still turn to books for the broader context and depth that only a longer form study of a topic can provide.

I’ve read some great books. And I’ve read some not-so-good books. To help you make the best of your reading time, here are my recommendations for your social media bookshelf.

Top Shelf

Cluetrain ManifestoThe Cluetrain Manifesto

This book was ahead of its time. It’s authors, Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searles and David Weinberger, laid out the vision for the Read/Write Web at a time when the ability to code html was essential for anyone wanting to enter the conversation. I would recommend this as a primary resource for anyone wanting to understand the spirit of social media. And if you read it, you’ll be able to participate in a conversation when someone is referred to as “clueful.”

Naked ConversationsNaked Conversations

Shel Israel and Robert Scoble‘s book celebrated and documented the popularization of blogging as a vehicle for online conversations among people with shared interests. The book captured the spirit of the blogosphere and lays out the essentials of good blogging. Transparency, authenticity, authority. The examples in this book are classics (e.g. Kryptonite locks, the English Tailor). The principles they illustrate are timeless.

The Long TailThe Long Tail

This book started as an article by Wired Magazine‘s Editor in Chief, Chris Anderson. Anderson explores the notion that the unlimited storage and global reach of the Internet make it possible for businesses to be built on a different model than the hit-driven model of the Hollywood studios and old line music labels. The Long Tail suggests that online businesses based on selling small quantities of a large number of products (witness iTunes, Amazon) can be just as lucrative as the blockbuster-driven businesses that are dependent upon massive sales of just a few titles. The same new economies apply to ideas as well as products. This realization comforts bloggers who set out to write about niches that will never have mass appeal, but will find a specialized audience.

The World is FlatThe World is Flat

Thomas Friedman explores the potential for the ubiquitous Internet to transcend geography and transform the global economy. My children are no longer in competition with the kids in their school or city. They now can look forward to a life in which they compete and share with people on the other side of the globe. Sweeping changes for North Americans and Europeans who have taken for granted an economic order that emerged in the mid-fifties.


Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams bundle up several themes from The World is Flat, Naked Conversations and Cluetrain and demonstrate how they are rippling through corporations. They illustrate how savvy organizations are opening themselves to outside ideas and incorporating notions such as peer creation and open source in order to accelerate innovation and increase their competitiveness.

Everything is MiscellaneousEverything is Miscellaneous

Cluetrain co-author David Weinberger makes a second appearance on my bookshelf with this exploration of a new way of organizing information that has been made possible by the combination of digitization of information with powerful search engines. Weinberger points out that tradtional organizing schemes such as the Dewey Decimal System are rooted in the physical world’s requirement that each object must be in only one place. The place assigned to each object or piece of information reflects the social and cultural perspective of the schema’s author. Meaning and context are shaped and limited by decisions taken by that author. Digitization and search engines instead enable individuals and groups of individuals to assign meaning and order to information as we need it. The same information can have different meaning for different people depending on their context and reference points. This gives rise to tools like and the concept of folksonomies. Individuals sorting, categorizing and sharing information in multiple ways as they need it. A powerful concept.

The New Rules of Marketing and PRThe New Rules of Marketing and PR

David Meerman Scott has written my current favourite practical book for applying social media concepts to communication and marketing. This book is chock of hands-on advice that will help online communicators transform their static sites through a focus on great content and social media fundamentals.

Second shelf down

Other great reads that occupy space on my social media bookshelf include Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, along with Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing. Each is a good read that provides insight into the sociology that underpins social media.

On Deck

New books about social media are published every month. My next read will be Now is Gone by Geoff Livingston. (The only problem is that it’s tough to get in Canada. Chapters doesn’t even list it and Amazon lists it as out of stock. Hnnh. Was it ever in stock?) Once I’ve read it, I’ll decide whether to add it to this list.


Chris Thilk has published his own list of the books he turns to for inspiration and support. His list reminded me of Joseph Jaffe’s Life After the 30 Second Spot. I also keep this one on my top shelf.

Geoff Livingston, author of Now is Gone, offers his own list. Guess which book is his first choice?

Andrew Careaga compiled a list of his readers’ recommendations for books which deal with the intersection of public relations and social media.
Your Turn

Do you agree with my assessment of these books? What other books are you reading that you’d recommend I add to my social media bookshelf?

  • Hi Joe

    Thanks for including “The New Rules” – great company indeed.

    All the best,

  • Brad Buset

    Hey Joe,

    I’m just finishing “Weaving the Web” by Tim Berners-Lee. It’s a few years old, so it doesn’t include many of the post-bust developments, however, it’s extremely interesting and well written. Not a long read, but contains great insight into Tim’s original concepts and I was amazed at the sometime haphazard development of technologies we now consider founding principles. (ie. TCP/IP, URL’s etc)

    The twist here, is that anyone who think web-based social communities are second generation internet discoveries, should read about the geek dinners and social meet-up at CERN & MIT in the founding days of the online world. It’s an eye-opener.


  • Books about social media tend to be dated by the time they hit the bookshelves. However, they’re only dated for people who stay up on the day-to-day happenings in the blogosphere. An idea of how important Naked Conversations really is: the copy I own has never been in my possession for more than a short period of time. I’ve lent it to three or four friends, and recommended it to countless others. It remains a great introduction to blogging.

  • Great list of reads, there Joe. Two books popped into my mind when reading the list. One might be a little basic for social media experts, but still very useful, the other is one I’ve read and recommended enthusiastically.

    “The Corporate Blogging Book” by Debbie Weil is the first mentioned. Since I recommend blogging to a lot of clients, I normally hand a copy of this to their CEO or decision-maker right off the bat. It gives the layman a great feel for what blogging is all about for companies, corporations and CEOs. Plus, when I refer to it, I’m reminded that I have to translate what we do to people who don’t understand it. Great read, good reminders/pointers and a definitive resource to recommend to clients and nubies.

    “Citizen Marketers” by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba is the other. More of a Word of Mouth book, but all of it rounds out the background underneath social media. It’s another book I recommend to folks to want to talk about conversations, not just hocking product.

    Great post!

  • Steve A.

    Joe –

    Thx very much for posting the suggestions.


  • Chamika

    Hi Joe,

    I would add “Revolutionary Wealth” by Alvin and Heidi Toffler. They were the ‘futurists’ who coined the term ‘prosumer’ in the 1970s. Revolutionary Wealth explains the economic underpinnings to the trends and shifts of the wikinomic-driven society we’re headed towards.

    The Tofflers touch upon the consequences of living in a time-shifted society, knowledge-based economies and how some social institutions are being left behind as a result of the availability of information through various means.

    Some ideas are far-fetched, but it’s a really interesting and engaging read.

  • Great list. I’m happy to see that I’ve been reading the right stuff. My list would also include “How to Do Everything with Podcasting” by Shel Holz and Neville Hobson.

  • Brad, Jason, Chamika, Mike,
    Thanks for the suggestions for additions to the list. These all have made good contributions to our understanding. (Alvin Tofler! Wow. The 70s never go away, do they?)

  • Hi Joe,

    Thanks for your list. I’ve managed to read most of the books you’ve recommended. I do tend to subscribe to the theory that some social media books become outdated as soon as the ink is dry.

    Alright, for my recommendation, I’d propose adding Microtrends by Burson-Marsteller CEO and former Clinton pollster Mark Penn. He’s the guy who’s thought to have coined the term ‘soccer moms’ in the mid 90’s as a key voting bloc.

    The book, just released this year, touches on a variety of very interesting micro-demographics. Great read.

  • Please let me know if you don’t get the book through Amazon. It was in stock, but I can send it to your directly if it helps.


  • Hi Brian,
    Thanks for the offer. When you live in Canada, kicks you over to the site. And the book is listed as out of stock on the Canadian site. I’ve an order on wait list. Hopefully, if others join me in ordering the book in Canada, will clue to the fact that they should stock the book. After all, aren’t they supposed to be a long tail company? 😉

  • Good call, John. I’ve heard good things about Microtrends…although I think that might have something to do with the fact that I work at a Burson-Marsteller affiliate, NATIONAL Public Relations.

    And Joe, doesn’t kick you anywhere. You can order from their .com site just as easily as .ca – and cheaper with the Canadian dollar factored in.

  • Hi Joseph (do you prefer Joseph or Joe?):

    Thanks for nudging me over here via Fantastic post! Looks like we have been reading from the same shelf. I haven’t yet read Everything is Miscellaneous (which is a favourite with my librarian colleagues, I note), but I have been reading an advance copy of Strategy and the Fat Smoker by David Maister. I think you would find it a good read. It is more along the lines of discussing customer service rather than social media, but it certainly espouses the collaborative ideas of our 2.0 world.


  • Good list. Glad to see a few of my favorites on there. But I’m often disappointed to see another Weinberger book, Small Pieces Loosely Joined not getting the list love it deserves. It is outdated these days, but it is foundational to a lot of the new stuff.

    With the help of readers, I compiled a list of social-media-themed books earlier this month on my Higher Ed Marketing blog. Feel free to have a look and compare notes.

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  • This is another recommendation for Seth Godin. That’s it, I’m going to buy one of his books. I guess Amazon should thank ‘the long tail’ theory for that!

    Thanks for the advice. 🙂