Published in 2009, Mitch Joel’s book on business strategy in the age of social media titled Six Pixels of Separation is a laudable effort to tie in the disparate threads of the online world for those keen to experiment in this space.
Covering a broad expanse of concepts and ideas – from crowdsourcing, community building, content creation, to platform specific strategies – the book provided a good introduction to the world of social media and digital engagement.
Quoting liberally from new age thinkers like Seth Godin, James Surowiecki (The Wisdom of Crowds), Malcolm Gladwell and Chris Anderson, the founder of Twist Image offered advice and insights on topics such as starting a blog, developing a community, and extending one’s business in the age of “Participation 2.0”.
Regular followers of social media gurus will probably be familiar with many of the strategies proposed.
Burgeoning of Social Networks
The building of social networks through either major platforms like Facebook or niche ones like Ning came across as a “must do” strategy in the book.
Businesses can ill afford to depend on the power of mass media and the old broadcast based model to get their messages out there. Rather, they should cultivate their followings on a variety of platforms and work through consumer advocates and their connections to spread the word.
Here, readers are given a short introduction to each of these platforms – Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Ning and so on – and what they can do with them.
Growth of User Generated Content
A key part of the book talks about the growth of user generated content, and the shift from mass media to mass content.
In the age of social media, users are putting up more stuff online – text, audio, images, videos – on a variety of channels. With everybody empowered by the democratisation of media (the whole concept of Web 2.0), companies ought to work with their commmunities to engage them rather than advertise and push products and services.
Rise of Personal Brands and Tribes
The rise of personal brands and tribes are the other heavily cited concepts.
According to Joel, the age of “Me” Media has given resulted in individuals – employees and consumers alike – becoming more and more empowered. Through blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, and Youtubing, these digital denizens could carve out niches and brand names for themselves.
Digital and Mobile Behaviours
Of the chapters in the book, I particularly liked the section on the mobile web (Digital Nomad).
Here, Joel suggested that building huge feature-rich website with all its bells and whistles may not necessarily work. Instead, businesses venturing into this space should provide utility and simple solutions to consumers navigating a tiny 4 by 6 inch screen.
Quoting from Andy Nulman, he cited that Mobile Marketing (not Advertising) is about the acronym N.O.W. ie:
- Nearby: Customers need to be in your radius, close, local
- Only: There has to be a limit to the offer. For example, “only 29 left” or the offer is only valid for the next two hours.
- Wow: Make a compelling offer that can grab your audience’s attention. For example, you may want to offer a free trial (without credit card) to get prospective customers to use your product first before buying it.
Limits to Digital Democratisation
Unfortunately, certain concepts may have changed from the time the book was published to this present age.
Some of the ideas suggested – like podcasting – may be difficult to implement unless one has the wherewithal to provide stimulating audio content. While the platforms are mostly free in the digital domain, the production of interesting quality content isn’t and therein lies the challenge.
The mass adoption of social media channels (almost everybody is now on Facebook) also means that companies and businesses venturing into this space now will find competition a lot steeper.
While the concept of finding your own micro-niche and loyal following is a nice novel idea, making it work profitably for you could be a challenge in volume-oriented businesses.
With the strapline “Everyone Is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone.”, Six Pixels of Separation provides an easily readable introduction to the world of social media marketing.
Those who are new to the world of social media and mobile marketing would find it a useful guide.