Sunday, December 27, 2009

Connecting through six pixels of separation

How to use online tools to expand your enterprise.
Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone Is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone. 
Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone Is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone. Business Plus. 304 pages.

The very first book I reviewed in this space in 2000 explained how the Internet had transformed marketing into an ongoing conversation between and among interested parties.

Since then — nearly nine years later — I've looked at and reviewed an endless stream of books that built on the proposition set forth by the creators of The Cluetrain Manifesto (Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls and David Weinberger), who, along with Seth Godin (Permission Marketing) and Guy Kawasaki (Rules for Revolutionaries), helped define our brave new age of interactive affinity marketing.

Other than subsequent works by those authors and not many others (Dan Pink immediately comes to mind), few proved worthy successors. I'm not absolutely certain that Canadian marketing maven Mitch Joel will join the virtual pantheon, but his new book Six Pixels of Separation has sparked my synapses in ways that only the aforementioned visionaries had previously done.

Like them, Joel quickly brushes aside jargon, pretension and artifice. He's engaging, witty and wise, with book smarts and pop-culture savvy. He's also endlessly inquisitive and employs this peripatetic curiosity to explore the vagaries of human behavior.

Even the better books about online marketing and networking tend to give the view from 30,000 feet (or a comparable number of pixels), but Mitch Joel operates at ground level. So if you're enticed by all you've heard and read about the benefits of deploying online tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, blogs, search engines and the rest for your business or personal enterprises but were not sure what to actually do and where to begin, this tome will help set you straight.

A couple of months ago, I read a book that purported to be a repository all known Internet and social networking resources, so I kept it on my shelf as a reference but didn't crack it more than a few times. In contrast to that work, Joel's practicable and actionable handbook might actually come in handy more than once in a while.

He doesn't just provide directions but also thoroughly explains a variety of things that may seem painfully obvious to the cognoscenti but somehow eludes others. For example, why should newspapers or other content creators continue to aggregate — and not abandon — their offerings? Duh! By archiving their content, it increases their site's value and makes it more available to search engines, thereby building traffic and revenue opportunities. Seems like a no-brainer, but have you ever tried to find an article on some newspaper sites a few weeks after original publication — or later? Oy! It has driven many writers to create their own websites as a defensive strategy to protect their own work (which is not a bad idea, regardless.)

I also liked Joel's invocation of General Eric Shinseki's prescient admonition, "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less,'' a gentle and subtle reminder that those who fail to embrace the future will be stuck in the past.

If there's any criticism of this book, it's that Joel covers a lot of ground and might have divvied the material up among several shorter books. But I frankly like the wide approach, even if it means that he'll have to think hard about what comes next. I look forward to whatever he decides to write about if it's as well presented and provocative as this.
Originally published in The Miami Herald

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