Six Questions About Six Pixels of Separation

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Mitch Joel shouldn’t need an introduction, but in the event that you haven’t heard of him, he founded a successful Canadian based agency called Twist Image, is a well known participant at the intersection of business, social media and marketing and speaks on these topics often. When Mitch reached out to me, I promised no softballs, and his thoughtful replies make a great case for why you might want to investigate his new book, Six Pixels of Separation.

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1. The market is currently being flooded with books on business, marketing and social media. Why should someone read yours?

I think the market has always been flooded with books on business and marketing, but that’s another discussion. I know the books you are talking, and those books tend to be written by people giving their perspective of the new online channels either through the lens of a Marketer, Consultant or Technologist. I wrote this book as an Entrepreneur for businesspeople. Using real business language and case stories that really illustrate how business can grow (and yes, that includes making money). This book is the strategy, tools and tactics my business partners and I used to grow our business (as Entrepreneurs) from no employees in 2002 to nearly 85 full-time team members with multiple offices. Basically, by taking part and engaging in the many online channels, my company, Twist Image (with me as “the voice”), was able to build this multi-million dollar business. We continue to grow by still using the same channels. This book is much more about how to think strategically different and engage in a much more human way in this new world. It’s also not a book written by a pundit. It’s from one businessperson to another.

2. Which case studies mentioned in your book are the most relevant to business today, and why?

There are many business examples from people like Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post) to BlendTec (Will It Blend?) to Gary Vaynerchuck (WineLibrary.TV) and even some different ones like Christopher S. Penn (PodCamp and the Financial Aid Podcast), Hugh McGuire (Librivox) and the musician, David Usher. Again, this is not about how they used the Internet to create or further their celebrity… Six Pixels of Separation looks at the business side of it. Why did Huffington use the online channels and not publish a printed newspaper? How did she use the channels to market herself and spread her gospel? The amazing thing about all of these stories (and there are many more) is that the Internet was a platform, a marketing tool, a lead generation tool, a CRM backend, a focus group, a community and much more. We tend to look at the Internet at think, “how can I market my business online?” It’s the wrong question. The Internet can be the place to do business, play with innovation, deal with customer service issues and communicate. Basically, the book demonstrates that all businesses – B2B or B2C and those with low-cost impulse buys versus multi-million dollar ticket items that have a long sales cycle – need to better understand and use the Internet to connect their business. It can be as basic as research and as complex as trying to build your own online social network.

3. You and I were introduced in a way through Joseph Jaffe, you sent me an e-mail after hearing me on his podcast. Are we separated by less than six pixels, and if so how does this benefit people like ourselves?

Obviously the notion of Six Pixels of Separation is a play on an existing saying. We no longer live in a world where there are Six Degrees of Separation (where any one person is connected to anybody else through less than six degrees of separation). We are all intrinsically connected through technology, the Internet and our mobile devices. These digital channels break down the notion of, “it’s who you know,” because we all now live in a world where we can know everyone… and everyone can know us. And, we’re not connected by degrees anymore… we’re simply connected. I don’t need an introduction to you through someone else and you no longer need one to me. The trust of the matter is that I was following and commenting on Logic+Emotion long before that Jaffe intro. By just clicking on your “About Me” link or your Facebook profile would have done the trick. We are all a click (or pixel) away from one another. This means a change for business. This means a change in how you sell people your products and services. This means that building relationships and turning those relationships into a community is more powerful and more important than ever before.

These new online channels give you the full power to make this happen. It’s no longer about how much budget you dump into advertising and PR. These new online channels will work for you as long as you are working for them by adding value, your voice and the ability for your consumers to connect, engage and take part. This new economy is driven by your time vested and not your money invested.

The benefit comes in both social capital and self-actualization. We tend to be attracted to like-minded individuals, so instead of me needing to find people in Montreal (where I live) who are into Digital Marketing, etc… I can now be connected with those like-minded individuals anywhere in the world (like, say, with you David Armano!). I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a game changer (as they say).

4. A reviewer on Amazon said the following after reading your book. What’s your take on being compared to Seth Godin?

"One of the other reviewer headlines calls the content "snackable" and I completely agree–I read this book a few pages at  a time over the course of several days. It’s not a chore to read, it’s not boring–the writing style somewhat reminds me of Seth Godin, and certainly the content is of that nature–accessible, trendy, and yet practical and applicable."

I don’t think there is much higher praise. I love and have been following Seth’s work from day one. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him many times over the years and have had him speak at events I was helping to organize. I have spoken at events where we were both being featured, and he was kind enough to provide a very nice testimonial for my book. We are even represented by the same talent bureau in the US. He makes himself very accessible and approachable – it’s a trait many of us could learn a lot from. I think the one thing Seth does overly-great is this: he makes it all simple and easy. Some people may scoff at that, but I think it’s a gift. Business can be challenging and complex, and Seth has this amazing gift of not only explaining it, but he also uses really interesting examples and case studies to highlight his points in a way that everybody can understand (plus, he doesn’t talk down to you – as a reader).

If I’m being compared to that, I’ll take it with a smile on my face from ear-to-ear. The funny part about the book is that I did not write it the way the reviewer above explained it. It was actually written as traditional book chapters. Somewhere in layout/editing, my Publisher highlighted those headers and broke up the chapters into smaller bites. I didn’t like it at first, because I was worried that people might think it was just a bunch of Blog postings slapped together into a book (which it is not), but now that I have a final copy and after reading some of the other reviews, it seems like this format works for the businessperson in 2009.

Now, all I have to do is sell as many books as he does. I’ll take that comparison happily as well.

5. There’s a feeling right now that social media has been hyped to the point of irrationality. How is your book relevant to those looking for some grounding in a space filled with opportunists?

Just yesterday, I wrote a Blog posting titled, Attention Radio DJs: There Is Still Hope. Basically, a local talk-show DJ lost his gig after doing his show for 20 years. I know the guy (his name is Peter Anthony Holder) and he is very talented. In his Blog post, he  wrote: “broadcasters are like professional sports coaches – they are hired to be fired. And firing is all they can do. They can’t kill you. About the only thing I’ve been surprised about, as this whole situation unfolded, is just how other people who are in the business seemed to be… surprised! You’d think after seeing this type of thing happen time and time again, they’d realize, it’s just  radio!"

The basic premise of my post was this: Peter does not need a radio station or any other mass media channel to give him permission to broadcast his talk-radio show to the world. We have this thing called, "Podcasting" and anyone can do it for free (or close to it).

I think people like you and I may think that Podcasting is very 2008. And, that’s the point. We may be over-hyping it, but we’re over-hyping it to one another. The average Entrepreneur or professional in an organization is still on the sidelines waiting to see who does what and how it will work.

The whole point of the book was to be pragmatic. Both in what these channels and platforms means to business and also in terms of speaking to those people in the media they are accustomed to (a hardcover business book). Also, writing the book as an Entrepreneur who used these exact channels to build my own business I think grounds it in reality from the outset.

Lastly, the more informed clients become, the harder it is for the opportunists to sell their snake-oil. The book brings them right up to speed.

6. What’s the core business benefit to having everyone connected? How does a business benefit from friends talking to each other on Facebook etc.

In a world where everyone is connected an idea spreads because like-minded people share them, versus the world we’re used to where marketers place ads in various positions and places in hopes that those interested parties catch a glimpse. In a world where everyone is connected, products and services have to work (or exceed) expectations. In a world where everyone is connected, it’s hard to make false claims or try to screw one specific group of people. In a world where everyone is connected, people talking to one another about it on Facebook can make, break or help a product innovate.

Marketing and Communications professionals have been trained to listen to what a client wants, figure out a smart, clever and/or impacting way to deliver that message and then go forward, create the campaign and do everything within their power to get that message out there. When we apply this as the overarching strategic imperative, we are all missing one core point: no matter how targeted that messaging is, it’s still going to hit a bunch of people who really don’t care all that much about it.

Even the best of the best in advertising and communications doesn’t get 50% success rates on any of their campaigns (targeted or mass). This means that the majority of the people we are targeting are simply not all that interested in what we have to say. 

Digital professionals need to demonstrate that we can get to that mass people by focusing on “who” those people are instead of “how many” people we pump a message in front of. It’s a big promise, but digital media can deliver on this.

I think these channels demonstrate real value for business today. Value is all about focusing on the small few who can really help your message spread. It’s definitely not as fun or as sexy as a billboard in Times Square or a 30-second spot on the Super Bowl, but that stuff does click and groove when you have laid a strong foundation of building, providing and communicating value. It may sound pedestrian, but seriously think about the last time you really focused on delivering value first and then spreading the message far and wide.

Thanks Mitch for taking the time to answer these questions. 

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