I spent a couple of hours yesterday hanging out in Harvard Square waiting for my older son to finish a Boy Scout merit badge “camp.” I did what I usually do when I have time on my hands, headed for the bookstore. (In this case, the Harvard Coop.) I had a list of books that I have been meaning to pick up and random browsing in a bookstore is one of my favorite hobbies — not an inexpensive hobby. I picked up Chris Brogan’s book, Social Media 101, which I knew from reading his blog was a collection of blog posts. The book is (supposedly) intended for people who are still a little unclear about social media. But I still bought the book. (There’s another blog in my future about the book itself.) Why? Because I read books for inspiration.
I also bought Seth Godin’s book, “All Marketers are Liars.” I’ve been doing branding and messaging for various companies for several years but with a number of messaging projects on my plate right now, a little inspiration never hurts. The book now has a number of “stickies” stuck to it with various random thoughts and in one case, a breakthrough thought. (At least I think it is and the company I am doing it for is going to love it too!)
I’m not sure why I prefer book reading for inspiration over my online ramblings. Maybe it is the sense that I might not ever find my way back to my source of inspiration. (I have used Webnotes to track my wanderings and I love the tool for allowing me to show clients what I am talking about and point out different things online.) Or maybe I feel compelled to write something down and can rarely locate later the little scraps of people I write on. (I tend to tuck the stickie notes into the book and I try to leave the books in the same place at home so I know where they are. Have you ever noticed that when you live in a two story house, whatever you are reading tends to be on the wrong floor when you want it?)
How do books inspire?
- It might be the organization imposed upon the writer by a good editor. I am pretty sure that the pieces in Social Media 101 aren’t in the order they appeared online. And while the Contents make it clear the book is comprised of 87 different little stories, they all fall in a logical order. And that logical order starts to lead my brain down a path. I might choose to take a left turn while the author goes straight but the sequencing helps.
- Tell me a story. Give me an example. My favorite marketing books tell stories, lots of them. Lots of examples — some I am familiar with and some I am not. (I tend to be disappointed in the books that tell stories I already know. I lived through the Tylenol scare myself, please don’t make me read another PR book mentioning it. Or dig out some little known insider information. Give me the behind the scenes story.)
- Make me think. Ask me a question. I like putting questions at the ends of my blog posts. A lot of bloggers do. (Although I have noticed that today more people put comments and responses in Twitter and on LinkedIn or Facebook, where my blog posts also appear, than on my actual blog.)
- Provide additional content. Once I am done with reading the actual book, give me somewhere else to go. A blog, a website, a video, a Twitter account. Let’s extend the conversation. Once I have had time to mull it over, I might have more questions or more insight.
What books have inspired you?