I was chatting with a colleague during the long commute home the other day and he noticed I was reading this book. “What’s it like?” he asked.

“Clay Shirky lite,” I replied.

And that’s about right. In Six Pixels of Separation, Mitch Joel comes to grips with the effects of social media on marketing, media, sales and promotions, he covers a lot of the same ground as in Clay Shirky’s classic Here Comes Everybody (review). Glib, conversational, fast-paced bite-sized — an easy read for sure — Joel does a solid job of translating Shirky’s more scholarly approach to a business audience.

Which is more or less the message I tried to convey to my commuting colleague above — that Joel really doesn’t cover much new ground for anybody that’s more than passing familiar with the highways and byways of social media. If you even have a couple of vaguely similar books under your belt, most of the material in this one will be familiar.

But, that’s not entirely the point here. While mostly not original, this book does a terrific job of bringing it all together in a readable, fun package, a package that really focused on concrete strategies and shorter-term tactics that can really make a difference in an entrepreneur’s or organization’s efforts to promote itself and it’s message in the modern marketing context. And by organization or entrepreneur, I mean libraries and librarians too. While you have to be careful in translating strategies for the commercial world into the non-commercial, there’s a lot here that’s interesting and relevant.

On the down side, Joel doesn’t quite manage to avoid the worst pitfalls of most business books — relentless self-promotion, over-hyping or over-selling ideas and constant repetition of ideas in every chapter as if the author expects readers to only catch the occasional paragraph in between Tweets. Even though Joel emphasizes authenticity so much, there are a few places where he gets kind of carried away with congratulating himself and his friends for doing such a good job that he sounds a bit fake at times. These points are largely quibbles.

However, If you’ve read more than a couple social media books or if you follow a lot of blogs on the topic, this book might not be for you. As I said, it covers a lot of ground well and does a good job of bringing a lot of ideas together, but you might not find it original enough. For those that haven’t dipped more than a toe or two into the social media world, this would be a good place to start.

As for library collections, this would fit well in any collection supporting a business or entrepreneurial community, be it an academic or public library. There’s not enough technology content per se to make it that appropriate for scitech libraries, although it wouldn’t be too out of place and may be interesting reading for the more IT oriented.

Joel, Mitch. Six pixels of separation: Everyone is connected. Connect your business to everyone. New York: Business Plus, 2009. 288pp.

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Ok, now that the main part of the review is done, for those that are interested I’m going to list in point form a lot of the main ideas in the book. Think of this as notes for the My Job in 10 Years book that I’m sharing with you. And apologies for the great length.

  • In terms of using social media channels for self-promotion: “if I can do this, so can you” p11

  • Online channels focus most on self-actualization. p19
  • “how you build trust in your brand, your business, and yourself is going to be an important part of how your [organization] is going to adapt and evolve”
  • Participate to build your brand. p23 Patience is a virtue when building trust. p32
  • Add value to the conversation with an authentic voice. p39, 43
  • Ask why you really want to participate in the global, social conversation, what do you want to get out of it p50
  • 5 C’s of online engagement: connecting/creating/conversations/community/commerce (er, ok, not so relevant)
  • Blogging (and being involved in a blogging community or community of bloggers, commenters and readers) is a great way to connect to customers, connect customers to each other (p77, 80, 84)
  • You don’t control your brand. (p93)
  • Our job as organizers of online communities can be to facililtate real-world meet-ups (ch. 6)
  • Create your personal brand, your organization’s brand (the library brand), create reputation both within the profession and within your organization. Building our personal brands as professionals within the library organization also builds the brand of the library organization. (p126, 132)
  • build a brand: give abundantly, help others, build relationships. (p135)
  • Online presense needs to evolve and add more aspects, evolution favours the content creator. Offer a holistic brand experience (p163-64)
  • Build community: be sincere, be helpful, be credible (p168-72)
  • Take advantage of the wisdom of the crowds of your patrons (p190-91)
  • We are going from mass media to “me” media. (ch 10)
  • Find your niche — what do you do best. p194
  • Embrace the digital, there’s no going back. (p200)
  • Strategies to embrace the digital (p208-): centralize all your information, there are multiple sides to every story, connecting in not engaging, be responsive and fast, let people steal your ideas, go out on the fringe
  • Engagement is almost as tough to create and nurture online as trust. (p210)
  • What works? Not advertising, but content. Content is everything. (p216-218, 232)
  • Everything is mobile now, we are digital nomads. The key thing is to deliver content and engagement, targeted, to mobile devices. Think how we need to be less intrusive in mobile marketing, not more so. New device = new rules. (p236-8, 249-52)
  • The only thing that we really know about the value of digital content is that it’s not the same as traditional. Can’t charge the same. (p256, 259)
  • “the problem is that all new business models look weird and act weird because they are weird” (p.260)
  • Pushing out the horizons, ten trends: personal brands rise, attention crash, micro social networks, levels of connections, analytics and research, content as media, consumer generated brands, virtual worlds, web and mobile connect, openness …will make us very private. (p264-272)
  • “Six Pixels of Separation is not about how you can connect your [organization] more efficiently in these online channels to be successful. It’s too late for that. In this world of interconnectedness, 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” (p273)

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