Fundamentals of your online presence

six pixels of separation

Book Review
Six pixels of separation:  Everyone is connected: Connect your business to everyone.
By Mitch Joel.
Business Plus/Hachette Book Group, 2010. 288 p.

If you communicate on behalf of an organization, it’s understandable that you might assume that just about everybody is online now. But that’s evidently not the case. Mitch Joel aims Six Pixels squarely at those still considering establishing an online business presence.

By day, Joel runs TwistImage, a digital marketing agency that develops websites, customer relationship management initiatives, micro-sites, and online promotions for its clients. Joel sees his job as “helping people navigate the complex world of new marketing.”

This book lays out the decisions one should make before jumping into social media for business. Its title deliberately recalls the phrase “six degrees of separation” and takes it a step further. In today’s digital world, Joel says, “there are no degrees of separation between you and your customers. You are connected.”

“The big idea in a world of Six Pixels, Joel says, “ is to embrace community as the new currency.”

Six Pixels walks the reader through the online conversational channels where your business might become an important source of insight, information, and community in its niche. These channels include blogs, microblogs, podcasts, online social networks, sharing sites, user-generated content, wikis, and widgets.

Joel explains the importance of using search engine marketing, news readers, news alerts and watchlists, and Google Blog Search and Google Trends.

He points to Arianna Huffington as someone who has used online publishing not only to connect and get her voice out to the masses, but also to build a substantive media channel that generates significant revenues and competes successfully against major mainstream news organizations. Huffington has created her own personal brand. In fact, Joel says, the best way to build your personal brand is to give away your expertise. He cites as examples Robert Scoble, Steve Rubel, and Chris Brogan.

The book’s most up-to-date chapter addresses mobile technology and its growing potential as a marketplace. “Mobile is going to be much more disruptive to your business than the Internet,” Joel says. “If it was causing you a level of grief that people might go online and read a negative review about you, or see a search result that led to your competitor, imaging having consumers stand in your physical space and check online for prices and how close your nearest competitor is at the same time.”

Joel emphasizes the importance of innovation, of seeing market needs and jumping in with your new idea. “All new business models look weird and act weird,” he says, “because they are weird.” He points to several examples of innovation that changed rules of the game:

  • While the big mobile carriers were worried about voice and churning consumers to other carriers they were blindsided by the companies offering data: RIM with the BlackBerry and Apple with the iPhone.
  • While the music industry was charging high prices for plastic CDs and ignoring consumer interest in the single-song format, iTunes came out with songs for $0.99 by download and changed everything.
  • The online publisher Lulu has sold thousands of books, but it doesn’t publish one book for 10 million people; it sells 10 million books to 10 million people.

Joel asks his readers to consider the following: Given that we’re all intrinsically connected, the bigger question is, How are you going to spread your story, connect, and add value to your life and the people whose lives you touch? How are you going to explore your network to grow your net worth? How are you going to add tremendous value to a brand, product, or service that can always be made cheaper and faster by someone else? How are you going to connect and stay connected?

Six Pixels is among the latest in a number of books about creating an online presence to grow your career and your business. Many of the ideas here can be found among titles including Chris Brogan’s Trust Agents (2009), Shel Israel’s Twitterville (2009), Paul Gillin’s Secrets of Social Media Marketing (2009), Dan Schwabel’s Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success (2009), Jim Tobin’s Social Media Is A Cocktail Party (2008), Amy Shuen’s Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide (2008), Charlene Li’s Groundswell (2008), Martin Thomas’s Crowdsurfing (2008), John Cass’s Strategies and Tools for Corporate Blogging (2007), Shel Holtz’s Blogging for Business (2006), and Gerald Baron’s Now Is Too Late (2006).  If you’ve read a few of the titles above, you won’t find a lot of news in Six Pixels. But if you are new to social media for business, then I can certainly recommend this book.

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