Brian Solis' Engage is Bloated, Boring, and Not Worth Your Time

This is a positive blog and I don't take cheap shots. But when I find a book so disjointed and frankly unusable, I have to mention it.

A lot of people love Brian Solis and I'm sure he's a good guy (this isn't personal). But that makes his recent book, Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultive, and Measure Success in the New Web (whew!), all the more disappointing.

Engage reads like a few reheated blog posts tied together with twine and gum. Here are a few reasons I don't recommend it:

  • We've heard it all before: I could insulate a house with each book that's been written as a social media primer. Solis offers only rote, near-impossibly-simplistic suggestions in the intro, manifesto, social media 101, 201, 202, 203, 203... Well, there's a lot you've heard before.
  • We've heard it all again. And again: Repetition is useful if ideas build on each other. Solis has few (if any) ideas that build on each other. (Just skip part 3 altogether.)
  • Shotgun, not sniper rifle: This is the most untargeted book I have read on marketing. There's no real audience. This book includes reams of information to the n00b and expert alike, but in such close proximity as to be confusing to both groups. Solis doesn't identify a target and hit it; he loads up with buckshot and prays to hit something.
  • Doesn't add value: There's just very, very little here that is useful to you in any way. For instance, chapter 20 - the "Human Network" chapter - merely collects lists of marketing frameworks without Solis explaining their relevance or reason for inclusion. We hear about McCarthy and Kotler's 4 Ps. Lauterborn's 4 Cs. Shimizu's 7Cs. Heuer's 4Cs of a social operating system. Armano's 4Cs of community. Mishra's 4 Cs of social media. Not to be outdone, Solis ends the chapter with his own 12 Cs of community cultivation. Why? What's the connection? We'll never know.
  • Unusable: Solis provides prisms and compasses and all sorts of visuals. These visuals have tiny elements that make them look well-researched. And while he sometimes gives an outline (chapter 21), there is little explanation of how the heck you can use these poorly-copied visuals. Unlike other books, Engage doesn't appear concerned with being usable.

The Good Stuff

That's not to say there is nothing good about this book. The hidden gems are certainly hidden, but they are there.

If you do read Engage, here are the pieces not to miss: socially-based business (pg. 106), importance of syndication (pg. 114), targeted landing pages (pg. 123), listening (pg. 209), and conversation audits (pg. 222-223). Sure, you have to dig for them, but they are good.

For Reals

Let's be straight: Solis makes way more money than me, people seem to love his advice, and he travels around the world to promote his books. Check out his Amazon and Barnes & Noble reviews - barely a critical word amongst them.

Maybe I'm the only one. Does my cheese stand alone? Or has no one had the balls to mention that the emperor has no clothes?

I'm not trying to start a fight or make this personal - but I truly do not understand the appeal. Engage is a dense, disappointing, unenjoyable slog through the new media landscape. Just avoid it.

Feel free to explain it to me or just tell me how wrong I am in the comments section below.

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(Photo courtesy of thekenyeung via Flickr)