Mitch Joel social media EdmontonOn my way back from an all too short vacation in Vancouver this May long weekend, I wandered into the airport bookstore before my flight. Mitch Joel’s “Six Pixels of Separation” caught my eye. He had unknowingly become my social media mentor at and long after one of the most informative, engaging, and inspirational workshops I have attended on social media, or any other subject. It was hosted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau in Calgary in May 2007 (“Social Media Marketing + 2.0″). Social media and Marshall McLuhan’s observation that the media was (would become? has always been”) the message was just emerging as a force to be reckoned with by mainstream media, book and magazine publishers, music and film producers and baby-boomer communication professionals like me, and I was eager to learn how and why.

According to Joel’s handouts that I still refer to now and then, back in 2007 Facebook had close to 20 million users total (now 500 million users with 16.5 million users in Canada alone and gaining 11.8 million users a month), Apple reported that 90 million iPods were sold since its first release in 2001 (25%  of the units that were sold in the first quarter of 2011 alone) and YouTube had over 10 million users (they now have 176 million viewers in the US and Germany is soon to exceed this number.

Facebook Users  2004 - 2010

A lot has changed in the last four years!

Who would have thought that during the four years that followed his presentation in Calgary in 2007, that I would build and rebuild again three Joomla! websites myself — countless others for community organizations, authors and entrepreneurs — earn my living coaching (and hopefully inspiring) others to expand their communication skills and be sitting here in my pjamas on a rainy Father’s Day Sunday afternoon writing about Mitch Joel’s latest book for my own blog hoping to get the article finished and posted before my father shows up for dinner.

A few days before I started writing this article, another coincidence happened. As a publisher, educator and a publicist myself, I typically prefer to curate, comment upon and share Alberta media related news stories that I find interesting from or about other journalists and media makers in Alberta. Having been inspired by Joel’s book which recalled my newly born enthusiasm for social media in 2007, after twenty five years of working in and with mainstream media and traditional book and magazine publishers, I thought it would be a fruitful exercise to practice what Joel preached and write about my take on his book on my blog. However, I needed a little more encouragement, so I registered for a social media webinar at MarketingProfs called “Content creation for the Social Web” on June 16 and lo and behold, who do you think was presenting the webinar? You guessed it. Mitch Joel.

Here’s my take on his book “Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone” within the context of his presentation: “Writing for the Social Web: How to Become a Content Juggernaut.”

There’s no doubt of Mitch’s infectious enthusiasm and awesome thirst for knowledge on the subject of social media. I can’t read his book or listen to his presentation without wanting to do something about it. Right now! It inspired me to write this article, change my workshop schedule, and finally update my Facebook business page with the new features they launched on March 14, 2011. (It’s not quite finished yet but will be by July 1.) Mitch Joel is truly an inspirational mentor and social media advocate. At least for me.

Six Pixels of Separation Mitch Joel social mediaIn his book and again during webinar Joel talks about the “rise of personal branding”, and the importance of creating (and forever leaving) your own personal footprint in the digital landscape. In summary he says that what you write about and what others write or say about you, both good and bad, influence your personal brand and your personal brand is not what you think it is, it is what others think it is.  The response to the potential pitfalls that result from others determining your personal brand is to focus on quality and not quantity, to write about your passions and the things that interest you. According to Joel, you won’t get rich publishing a blog but you will gain knowledge, clarity and connections by writing about what interests you and thus attract the people that share your interest, even if it’s only an audience of one.

He talks and writes about Seth Godin (who connected him to the literary agent for his book as a result of reading his blog), about Squidoo (a social media site Godin developed now in the top 25 rankings on the internet), and The Domino Project that Godin is working on with Amazon. If you’re wondering how and why digital and social media are overhauling the traditional book publishing business models like they are overhauling newsrooms and the music and film industries (and governments!) around the world, you’ll want to follow Seth Godin, and the Domino Project. According to Godin, Joel and others, this project heralds the future of publishing.

And yet another coincidence happened while I began writing this article on June 19. I  came across, Mitch Joel’s  first column as a media analyst for the Huffington Post at HuffPost Canada. True to his own advice of closing your posts strong, he closes his with:

The traditional journalist saw the last period of the last sentence of their piece as the end of the story. The modern journalist sees the last period of the last sentence of their piece as the beginning of the conversation.

After you have read Joel’s column, whether you agree with him or not, I encourage you to share, like and comment on it. He’ll more than likely reply. When I’ve published this article, I’m going to offer my own comments, confess my admiration and congratulate the Huffington Post for their wisdom in attracting someone of his calibre to their lineup.

I am proudly pleased that Mitch Joel lives in Canada (Montreal), not just because he’s a fellow Canadian but because I can count on him to present an interesting, informed and intelligent Canadian perspective on social media data, sentiment, and users. He is also an ardent podcaster having creating 258 episodes focused on some aspect of social media every Sunday for the past year or so (likely also in his pjamas.) and a serious blogger. See his “Six Pixels of Separation” blog.

While reading his book, like most journalists who like to cut to the chase, I kept my eye out for a pithy quote or a passage that best crystallizes the book’s pulse (to quote a word Joel uses to describe the first of his 8 keys to a great blog. Others are: consistency, relevancy, tenacity, curiousity, personality, passion and commitment). For me, the pulse of the book was distilled in this passage on 257:

Here’s the future business challenge: This is all so new that most companies would rather hold on to what they know with everything they have than dip some toes into the brave unknown that is partly the present, but mostly the future. Getting better and refined with your business can shape that future. You need to focus, accept this new reality, and get much more efficient with your analytics and industry trends. If you do this, surely you will be able to help shape not only just your own company, but the industry you serve as well.

In his presentation, he refers to this business challenge/opportunity as “bigger and more important the advent of the Guttenberg Press.”

Here’s the YouTube trailer for “Six Pixels of Separation.”

Here you’ll find a free audio book excerpt from the book.

Although Joel’s book and the “Writing Content for the Social Web” presentation focused primarily on building a personal brand and the importance of reading good books (not necessarily bound and on paper) and following others that share your interest, he did have some specific things to say about blogging:

Quoted from his presentation slides:

  • A blog is the best resume you can have
  • A blog is the best portfolio you can have
  • If you write…you need a blog
  • If you don’t write…you need a blog
  • Writing leads to wealth
  • Blogging leads to wealth

Paraphrased from comments during his presentation:

The process of blogging becomes a process of critical thinking about the topic you’re blogging about. Social media is about selling your ideas and the feedback that it enables — and in particular the commenting facilities built into a blogging platform — helps writers, reporters , educators and communication professionals refine, clarify and sometimes better express their ideas. While writing itself won’t make you rich, writing and publishing a blog “creates a platform that attracts people to you.” He demonstrates a fine example of how publishing a blog and sharing ideas for free can lead to fame and fortune.  That’s how he met Seth Godin and his publisher and now he’s blogging on the mostly highly ranked news site in the world.

But Mitch Joel isn’t the only one who thinks that publishing a blog would improve everyone’s interpersonal communications, ideas, reputation and finances. Check out where a Hype Curve places blogs on the plateau of productivity.

Hype Curve Social Media

and the short discussion about the value that Seth Godin and Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence place on blogs.

If you’re interested in learning how to publish your own blog for under $350 including 10 hours of training, check out our newest workshop on blogging.