I happen to be a strong advocate of Mitch Joel’s “Six Pixels of Separation” for businesspeople and entrepreneurs who are relatively new to the world of digital marketing. The book is unmistakably intended to be used as a catalyst to get a very specific audience involved in a newer area of business that is increasingly necessary. Consequently, rudimentary details of social media use are largely omitted and replaced with the emphatic repetition of bigger-picture concepts. Thinking like a businessman or an entrepreneur does, Mitch Joel employs numerous somewhat cliché, yet catchy and inspiring catchphrases and stories in order to deliver his readers a compelling call to action.
Although “Six Pixels of Separation” is from 2009, the vast majority of the concepts featured in the book still hold true. Joel’s primary goal is to demonstrate to businesspeople that there is unlimited business potential in the online world, that if they don’t take advantage of the opportunity then their competitors will, and that the leap can be made somewhat seamlessly—as long as they have a proper understanding of what a successful online presence looks like and can develop an effective strategy accordingly . A few major concepts about social media are broached multiple times throughout the book; these primarily include concepts of content, trust, commitment, and community. These are, in actuality, fairly complex concepts, so Mitch Joel simplifies them and infuses them with powerful and inspirational messages. For example, he gives a very good, concise list of do’s and don’ts for content creation, but he doesn’t delve into the intricacies of how these can potentially affect SEO. Why? Because for someone who is reluctant and/or fearful about venturing into social media, it is reasonable to assume that they simply would not be able to understand those concepts in their full capacities. I have had significant exposure to digital marketing and I still don’t understand all of the nuances of SEO. However, that is one of the primary intentions of Mitch Joel’s incessant encouragement for businesspeople to be mindful of their content. And the book does tie this in rather well; in the very beginning there is a chapter that states “your business is not what you say it is, it’s what Google says it is.” This bold statement is the simplest way that people could understand the power and business opportunities represented by search engines. Later on, the book comes full circle when Joel explains fervently about how and why people need to maintain quality content.
Joel’s explanations of content are entirely appropriate for the target audience at hand. He explains the potential range of content from text to images to audio and video, and then he explains the value of content diversity. More importantly, however, is that he wraps that up by saying that not all of these potential content forms are fit for everybody; this is where the anchoring subject of strategy is tied in. Although Mitch’s audience may be new to the online business world, they are likely not unfamiliar with business and strategic planning. Mitch gives them the tools and information they need to assess on their own whether or not and what kinds of content would be worthwhile investments for their respective business goals and purposes. Similarly, he presents an array of the opportunities for social media outlets businesses ought to consider venturing out into (which, naturally are somewhat outdated since this book is from 2009), and then gives the readers ample information to decide for themselves which of these outlets would best fit into their strategies.
On the note of social networking sites, which are perhaps some of the most daunting digital marketing concepts for unknowing businesspeople, as previously mentioned, Mitch Joel does not give the specific how-to’s of each website. He does, however, tie them into a bigger picture message about online communication strategy. Particularly effective for the marketing dinosaurs who are used to the mechanics of traditional marketing and advertising, he explains these outlets in a context of integration as well. Integration, as it turns out, is a significant way that Mitch Joel connects to the audience; he provides a bridge between what is familiar and what is unfamiliar for the audience, and gives it an optimistic appeal that excites and makes sense to them. So instead of explaining how each member of a company should tweet, Mitch Joel explains that online presence is further solidified and made more impactful as presence grows across various social media outlets—that is, assuming the content is diverse and valuable in all of them. And this online presence can mutually reinforce the offline marketing and advertising efforts. Advertising online is another concept that Joel touches on with regards to PPC and other options, but only in minor detail. From what I gathered, the point of mentioning online advertising was more to spawn awareness of its existence and potential, as well as bridge the online and offline gap, rather than to delve deeply into the deepest technicalities of it.
The next, and indubitably one of the most important takeaways of Mitch Joel’s book is regarding trust. Mitch Joel significantly writes that “trust + community = ROI.” Return on investment is the one thing that is guaranteed to invoke the attention of conscientious businesspeople, and this is a concept that they can grasp. Social media can often come off as fake or pointless to spectators who are unfamiliar with how it functions. In fact, even people who are familiar or moderately familiar with it can maintain this perspective. Mitch Joel’s goal here is to emphasize how important it is to see the value of a genuine attempt to put your business out there, give it a voice, interact with consumers, and grow a community. He gives several powerful examples of how the cost of advertising is lowered tremendously when your loyal consumer-base advocates and advertises on your behalf for free. Studies show that user-generated reviews and peer recommendations are supremely influential in purchasing decisions, and this is the very apex that defines the necessity of an online presence for businesspeople. Not only is it a relatively low-cost investment (considering the price of advertising or generating content online versus offline—notwithstanding the costs of investing time and effort into social media campaigns), but it generates strong community-based sales effects. Hence, we arrive at the very notion of “six pixels of separation;” whereas in the past, we could all be linked through a multitude of connections, now we have the capability of being instantly connected to exactly who we need to connect with.
In essence, “Six Pixels of Separation” is an empowering book that calls upon businesspeople and entrepreneurs who may not understand digital marketing to embrace it for the endless business opportunities it provides. The inspirational narratives are intended not to instill false hopes in readers, but rather to speak to them in a language of empowerment and success, which undoubtedly resonates well with them (as evidenced by any business convention that has ever happened). They don’t want to hear about theories and they don’t want to see empty speculation; they want to hear the facts, they want them to be corroborated, they want to feel inspired and they want to get a return on their investments. This is how Mitch Joel’s book functions so beautifully. It is not the only step, but it is a remarkable first step for newbies venturing down the digital road to success.