Why does the online auction eBay work? Why do most people buy from someone they do not know, based on a bunch of positive peer reviews and ratings from people they do not know? The answer, as Mitch Joel writes in ‘Six Pixels of Separation’ (www.HachetteBookGroup.com), is that we have an inherent trust in those who have taken the time to publish their personal feedback.

“There is a ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ at play here (to quote best-selling author James Surowiecki) and an overriding faith in groups of individuals who have never met. The online trust economy is a powerful force that favours the crowd over companies.”

Joel finds that those who are part of the participatory culture (and give abundantly) tend to build powerful and respected personal brands. “They are connected through intricate networks based on information and content as the currency, and their ability to provide value translates into their status in the disjointed hierarchy online.”

To him, the two pillars for building business through the digital channels are permission, and content. The first is about ‘having consumers give you their explicit permission to connect,’ and the second hinges on ‘your ability to create compelling text, audio, video, and images.’

Contrary to popular thinking, digital marketing is about being slow, says Joel. “Yes, you can make fast decisions, see fast results, and optimise and change things on the fly, but real, tangible results take time. You can’t quickly start a blog and get results right away. It takes time to build your content, find your voice, develop a community, and earn trust and respect.”

Digital marketing is not a one-night stand, he instructs. “The digital channels we’re looking at in today’s world are about building real relationships both with your consumers and with your potential consumers.”

An example mentioned in the book is of how over half of all traffic to Wired magazine’s website, Wired.com, is to the archive. Even as the magazine includes ‘the latest and greatest in terms of editorial content and visual design to stay ahead of the curve at the magazine rack,’ pieces of content that could have been created and posted online a decade ago are attracting the attention of ‘online searches for random tech and geek terms.’

The older the content, the longer it has been online and searchable through the engines, the more people who have linked to it, shared it, and tagged it, the more valuable it is, explains Joel.

“Content that ranks at the top of Google does not get there because of how new and fresh it is. Content rises to the top of Google based on how long it has been available and how valuable it has been to the online community. It’s a slow and steady process that makes content rise to the top of search engines.”

Imperative addition to your shelf.

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