I’ve noticed that most social media books are written at one of three levels:
- 30,000 foot view — The General
- 15,000 foot view — The Captain
- Ground level — The Private
Books at the ground level, that is, the Private’s level, are how-to books. They detail the step by step process you need to follow to execute a strategy. Follow those steps, and you will have done the right thing. Write a weekly blog post using these 12 steps. Add 1,000 people to your Facebook business page by using this tool. Feed your blog post into Twitter with this plugin. They touch on strategies, but they’re mostly just books on execution.
Books at the 15,000 foot level — the Captain’s level — are the strategy books. They show you how to create the plan to give to your Privates, with some statistics to back it up. They tell you to blog, because 77% of American Internet users read blogs. They tell you to use Twitter, because 150 million people are on Twitter. They tell you to use Facebook because Facebook has 600 million users. They may touch on the why, and they may cover a little execution, but they’re by and large books on the what and when of social media
30,000 foot level books — the General’s level — are the why books. They tell you to use social media, because social media is more popular than porn, or because more people use social media than any other form of entertainment out there, including television. They tell you why you need social media, maybe even tell you what you can accomplish with it, but they’re short on strategy, and they never, ever discuss processes.
A General’s book explains why you should “Take that hill,”
A Captain’s book shows you how to “Take that hill by outsmarting your enemy.”
A Private’s book explains every step you need to “Take that hill in 30 days.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because I’m trying to decide the next stage of my development. I’ve spent so much time on the ground, telling other people how to do processes, and that’s working well. Those blog posts are some of the most successful I’ve written. Those talks are some of the most well-attended at any conference. But, just like the army, there are thousands of us.
I like creating strategies better. I like being the Captain. I’ve created enough marketing strategies over the last 18 years, because I get the most enjoyment out of it. Of course, with an army of two here at Pro Blog Service, I’m also the Private, carrying out the strategy I just created.
But I hate being a General. I don’t have the patience or world view to tell people how to see the big picture. I can’t even see it that clearly myself a lot of the time. I know enough to explain to a client why we need to take that hill, but once that’s done, and they’re convinced, I can’t add any more value, unless I can put on my Captain’s bars and create the strategy.
However, it’s the Generals who are seeing a lot of the success in this industry. A lot of luminaries in the business world are Generals. A lot of rock stars are Captains, but they don’t get the glory. Or the keynote speeches. Or make the New York Times Best-sellers list.
But I also know myself enough to know that I’d much rather give up that stuff if it meant liking what I do. Still, I’m wondering if I can create a new niche for myself. Maybe I can be a Major, or even a Colonel. I can tell people why they need a strategy, and then I can create it. Sort of the 22,500 foot view. I don’t want to hang out out 30,000 feet above the earth, and I’m tired of slogging in the mud.
So who are some good Majors to pay attention to? Who are some of the business leaders I should be watching, and what books should I be reading? What have you been reading lately, and why should I read it too? Leave a comment, and let me know.
My own book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link) — a true Captain’s book, if there is one — is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy, another Captain, who’s been eyeing a Generalship lately.
Photo credit: Virginia Guard Public Affairs (Flickr)