I had the great honor of being forwarded an advance copy of Geoff Livingston’s new book, which is called Welcome to the Fifth Estate. I’ve been watching Geoff work on this book for as long as I’ve known of him, which traces back to last year when I met him via Beth Harte’s IMCChat. Of course, being the history nut that I am, I immediately thought, “I wonder what this has to do with the French Revolution!”

In fact, that wasn’t such a bad question to ask.

See, the French Revolution was about people through and through. It wasn’t 100% like the American Revolution, which was a lot about people but was also about taxes and colonialism. The French Revolution was the 3rd Estate, the common people, looking at the first two estates, the royalty of the country, the clergy, and the like, and saying, “Hmm, I don’t really think you guys should get all of the good stuff anymore.” Journalists, whom Livingston refers to as the Fourth Estate, arose and really helped stir the fire (how do you think Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake” got around?).

So now, hundreds of years later, we’re talking about a Fifth Estate. And who is that?

That’s you and me.

Try to get welcomed, don’t try to conquer

A lot of books that treat Social Media talk about the technology a lot, even getting down to specifics on how to use platforms like Twitter and Facebook. These books also tend to focus on how a business can become bigger and better in the Social Media space. The Now Revolution (by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund) took a slightly different approach from other books I’ve read by noting that your company is going to have to make specific shifts to adjust to this new reality.

What Geoff Livingston does is more different still, though. In trying to pinpoint the essence of this book, I think this quote that Livingston includes fairly early on sums it up. The quote is from Manish Mehta, VP of community at Dell,

“who likened it to Nicolaus Copernicus’ 16hth-century revelation that displaced the concept of the Earth as the center of the universe.”

The difference here is that we are not talking about how you can win over “Social Media.” Rather, we’re talking about the fact that there is a new group of people whom you can access via Social Media. They want to communicate with you, but they also want to be heard. They want to be able to change their opinions, and they want to be able to verify that you aren’t blowing smoke. They want to report things that the Fourth Estate doesn’t get to or doesn’t get right. And you can only grow when you understand how this new Fifth Estate works.

Another fantastic point to think about comes from a quote from Greg Verdino:

“‘When a company attempts to interrupt the stream, the stream is bound to shift course, or simply flow around the interruption. But if a brand can actually become part of the stream, it will be carried along in the flow itself.’”

Whereas The Now Revolution teaches you why your business needs to know more about the stream and learn more about how to make the stream do what you want, Welcome to the Fifth Estate talks to you from the peoples’ perspective. It’s their revolution. They’ll buy, click, follow, or fan if they want to.

What can you do about it?

There is of course a rather large share of good advice about how to enter the stream and become of the people while still accomplishing your objectives. There are numerous case studies showing how various organizations learned the system and accomplished some pretty amazing things as a result. There is also a phenomenal chapter just focused on measurement, which was written by Kami Huyse.

The biggest thing you can do, though, is to make sure you are focusing on the people, not on the technology. Facebook will not exist one day. Twitter will not exist one day. But the Fifth Estate will still want to be reached the way they are asking to be reached now. The tools you use to get that message to them may change, but the new relationships are going to stick around for awhile.

Two complaints

I really only have two complaints about this book. First, there are a fair number of typos, which does not detract from the value of the book, but it makes my grammar OCD button blinks more than that cursor on Lost (personal problem, duly noted). The only other thing I would say is that the “chapter snapshots” at the end don’t really do much for me. I’ve seen those in a few different books now – a kind of Cliff’s Notes for the chapter. I suppose it’s convenient for going back and referencing things, but I don’t know, I could live without ‘em.

And those are the only 2 things I could say anything other than 100% positive things about!

I highly recommend you check out this book when it becomes available. It’s an extremely interesting snapshot of communication and society as they both exist today, right now.

Plus, I’d really like to talk to you about it when you’re done reading!

Image by Svilen Milev. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/svilen001